A magic window in time for a storymaking adventure

2nd February 2024

Andy Williams

Co-founder, the wordy 'other half' | Intrigued by good content, and what it achieves | Bit of a nerd, quite creative, loves to write | Father, cyclist, activist | [ he/him ]

Sharon Tanton

Sharon is Content Director at Cohesive, and co-author of Valuable Content Marketing | Fascinated by the power of stories in making change | Loves gardening | Lives in Bristol

The image depicts a room where time stands still. It's calm, still place, perfect for creativity.

If we gave you an extra day in your marketing year, what would you make of it? Consider a magic window in time that opened for 24 hours to give you unlooked-for space and freedom and unhurried creativity. That closed quietly behind you as you carried away only the good things you’d made. The promising things, the meaningful things.

Or nothing at all, except the warm feeling of taking the shackles off and trying out something new. The world is just as you left it. No one even realises you’ve been away. Pick things up exactly where you were, or strike out in a new direction, with fresh clarity and purpose. Your choice.

So – what would you do, if we gave you an extra day in your marketing year?

A storymaking adventure

Here’s an experience you might try. A route plan to interesting thoughts and ideas, tested by hundreds of explorers before you. Coffee and cake on the way. A warm buzz come the end of the day guaranteed.

At breakfast: does my story still serve me?

As you start your day-out-of time, your personal Tardis joyride, your February 29th, you already feel that something is different. It’s like your birthday come early. There are possibilities here for a fresh start, to try on something new, to take on a new posture in the world.

Before looking forward, look inward. Be real. Be you. Reflect – gently, mind – on the stuff that really matters to you and your business. The things that you really care about. You ask yourself:

  • Who do we serve?
  • How do we help them?
  • What does our best look and feel like?
  • What do we want more of/less of in our world?
  • What do we really care about?
  • What’s the change we want to see?

Be curious, and playful. There’s no one looking over your shoulder. The first words that enter your head are usually the most honest. Just jot them down. Be really brief. Don’t create work by writing sentences.

Over coffee: who’s my tribe?

You’ve dipped your toe in some soul searching waters, thinking about what matters to you about your story. It’s interesting, isn’t it, away from the day-to-day of getting stuff done, how your original passion and purpose comes easily back into focus. That’s a great feeling, summoning the energy of those founding moments. Good work!

So, you’ve reconnected with you. But you also know your story can’t just come from your perspective. The best and most powerful business stories are written from that place where your ‘difference’ and world view collides with those of your clients and customers. That’s how connections are forged – and how tribes draw together.

In storytelling terms, the customer is the hero of the story you’re going to tell, and you’re the guide who helps them overcome a challenge and leads them to the happy ever after. So think some more about your particular hero, their wants, needs and feelings. Extra points if you can put a real face and name to it.)

You’ve earned a break

This isn’t a boot camp. It’s a retreat for the curious,  both gentle and unpressured. So give yourself a reward for  – what shall we call this thing – the practice? Meditation? Something like that. Then stop any effort you’re still tempted to make, and do…nothing. Take a break.

Guaranteed, whatever you think you know now, will have landed more firmly on the other side of a walk, a chat with a mate, or even just a daydream. The weather’s always great in our little temporal bubble. Maybe go make something of it.

Before lunch

Feeling fresh? Good. Any firm conclusions or intentions – make a note.  Now, we’re going to exercise some different mental muscles in this next bit. We need you to rest your imagination, and switch on the researcher in your brain. It’s spreadsheet  time. At which point you shout ‘oh shit’; or maybe ‘oh great’ – because spreadsheets are polarising like that, aren’t they?

Anyway, here’s the practice. Create a short list  – say 5 – of actual clients and customers. And then create a second list of questions you’d like some answers to. Your themes will be ‘how did we show up for you?’ and ‘how was your experience of working with us?’

Why do this? So far you’ve mostly looked inward, and you’ve revisited your own experiences. This is the looking outward part. Creating rich personas can get you a long way, but you’ll get even further if you can get that external perspective from the people you buy your products or services.

You’re not going to get those answers today, obviously. But you can use them to change or elaborate on the story blueprint you’re about to build. They evidence your story, and help confirm the personas you believe you know so well.

Lunch – food for the soul

Yes, the soul. We don’t have any textbook definition for what a soul is, but every storymaker definitely has one. And on this magic little day, yours is strong enough to cast its own shadow. Probably, it wants a sandwich. So you go do that.

The golden hour: putting it all together

There’s that slice of the day, sometime early afternoon, when imagination and creativity come a bit more easily. It varies a tad, person to person and day to day. But for you, in this timeless, peerless workday, it’s right now.

But even now, you’re aiming to keep that relaxed and playful vibe. This is No-Lose Day, where everything has an upside.

Here’s the practice

Guideline Dos:

  • Take it one step at a time – just the way the blueprint is laid out below
  • Keep it brief
  • Write with one person in mind – one of your customer heroes. What do they need to know? How would you want them to feel?
  • Emotion isn’t just allowed  – it’s essential
  • Be honest
  • Time is being tricksy today. Work in short burst – say 20 minutes – then take a 5 minute breather. Every three bursts, take a longer break. That’s how you roll.

Guideline Don’ts

  • Prose is great, but not essential. You’re creating a story blueprint – something to be added to and built on later.
  • You’re not aiming for a strapline – these are the words that strapline explodes into. Mind, if you hit on one, don’t be shy.

Your Blueprint – Take it one step at a time:

Why | Some words that shine a light on your mission.

You could use words like ‘We aim to make <this difference> to,  or ‘We believe that…’

Who | Your intended community or tribe

Tip: Conjure your customer hero here, and assume their needs are typical of your community.

Use words like  ‘People who think that…’ or ‘Businesses that need…’

How | Your recipe for getting it done

This section is about vision, innovation, expertise, experience. It’s also about the aspiration and values that let you do what you do.

Maybe you’ve built a better mousetrap (why not!). The story here is how you’ve built the mouse trap, what makes it better, why is it that only you can do it this way. Telling, not selling.

What | At last – the thing that people get to buy or experience.

Go round it a few times. Be experimental. Remember you’re trying things on. Nothing goes in the waste paper basket – every little ‘hmmm’ gets you closer to a ‘maybe’. And that’s creativity in progress. Talking about paper, one of us swears that making marks with a pen makes the whole process flow. Give that a try.

The Sundowner

It’s been a good day. Maybe even a great one. Perhaps you’ve made something new, worth building on, sharing, evidencing. Perhaps not – but now you’ve done it once, next time will be more instinctive and smoother.. You could do it again in real time, in real company, and see if co-creating is your thing. You make a date to follow up on those research questions with your customers. You’re interested to see if their answers confirm your hunches, or send you off in some new direction. And you notice those lovely people at Cohesive have suggested a follow-on read, for a bit more perspective. Maybe tomorrow.


Our experience tells us that you most likely won’t nail your new story in a few hours, but you can make your start and have fun doing it. You’ll also have set out the framework for your own research journey which – trust us – will be full of surprises and insight.

If you’ve never quite managed to slip through the secret portal in the back of the wardrobe into a timeless realm and doubt you ever will – or if you don’t fancy tackling this practice by yourself – then you can always slip into one of our workshops instead.

We’ll share the questions that have unlocked the biggest ‘a ha’ moments, and talk about where you can take this process next. We’ll test out some of these fledgling, unpolished  stories and see if they’re going to fly. And get a sense if they’re going to land in the place you’re striving for. Creating a story that’s easy to tell in your own words isn’t easy, so these conversations will be illuminating, we hope.

You’ll leave with a plan to follow, and the glow of having used your bonus time to help your business take a great leap forward.


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