#SOTD 22: Two tweets, five story lessons

1. Make me Understand / 2. Make me Engaged / 5. General

#SOTD 22: Two tweets, five story lessons

​I think I have come across one of the most engaging analyst-storytellers on the Russia-Ukraine war.

​This is Paul Poast, an Associate Professor of Political Science in the University of Chicago. (Hat/tip: J Ramanand for the recommendation to follow him).

​Prof. Poast’s tweet threads are fascinating case studies in crafting a narrative from data.

​I decided to take his latest thread (published yesterday, 14-Mar) and break down the story techniques he uses.

​It’s a 45-tweet thread and begins with this one:

Then I realised, hang on. This is TOO much work for one #SOTD.​​

And so this week, we shall do an #SOTD series on this tweet thread by the good professor.​

Let’s start with the first tweet itself. He doesn’t say:

  • I have analysed the Russia-Ukraine issue and come up with some conclusions (too vague)
  • Analysis of Russian economic condition and implications (title, not a clear message)
  • Russia is in dire straits due to the economic sanctions (clear message, but not evocative enough)​

Instead he:

– Looks back in history (norm-variance) and comes up with an analogy for what historical precedent best describes the Russian economic situation.

– States that point well upfront: “Russia seems to be following the British WW1 financial model”

– Adds a ‘So-what does it mean’ to that statement… (“That didn’t end well for Britain … or the world economy”) implying that there’s bad news for Russia and the global economy going ahead.

– And then adds a funny WW1 era cartoon that tells a thousand words in 1 image.​

And finally for the coup de grace – check out tweet number two:

With the first tweet, he piqued your curiosity and got your attention (“Oh really, like the Brits in WW1, how?”).​

With the second, he’s telling you: “I’ll tell you the answer, but let me tell you a story first.”​

What he is doing here is: Controlling the release of information (to manage your curiosity and attention).​

The only useful definition of narrative is that it’s a controlled release of information. The way in which you release that information is all up to you.” – Christopher Nolan

To recap, Prof. Poast uses the following story techniques:

  • Gives a clear takeaway summarising the issue (give BLUF)
  • Delivered using an analogy (Analogy)
  • With an implication for the audience (make the audience care by showing implication)
  • With an evocative image (Show, don’t just tell)
  • And rounded up by piquing our curiosity to read the whole thread (control release of information)

​All of this in just four simple sentences across two tweets.

​This is an #SOTD bonanza.​

And we have just begun.

#SOTD 22

Get Storytelling tips in your Inbox

Subscribe to the 'Story Rules on Saturday' newsletter

Get a free e-book that decodes the hidden storytelling structure used by leaders like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Your infomation will never be shared with any third party