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It’s Not Just Having A Story But Telling It Well

January 12, 2015

If you attended as many marketing and communications conferences and exhibitions as I did in 2014 you’ll not have escaped the fact that “storytelling” was the theme that permeated almost every panel and keynote.  It seems that after years of declining ad effectiveness (and revenues) our industry has finally realised that, all this time, we weren’t buying magazines, visiting websites and watching films for the ads…it was for the content!  And so it was that those on the stage advised us on the ground to stop “selling product” and start “telling stories”, using a limited supply of clipart pics of cavemen around campfires to illustrate their point on the modern equivalent of the cave wall – PowerPoint.

As a trained journalist and experienced salesman I agree that telling stories is more effective than pitching products however what many of those experts failed to address is that it’s not just about having a story but telling it well.

We all know people incapable of telling even the simplest story or joke; they include too many irrelevant details but forget the punchline or they wander off down tangential paths and never find their way back to the point. Their story may be fantastic, but if they can’t tell it with panache what good is it?  I once knew a guy who worked security for Guns & Roses and revived a half-dead Axl Rose before a concert. It’s a great story, but the way he told it could put you into a coma.

If story alone was enough a film like, for example, Pirates of The Caribbean wouldn’t cost S$250,000,000 to make – you could just have Johnny Depp read the script to camera.  But would you pay S$15 for that?  Would you sit through all 2 hours 16 minutes of it if it was just Johnny and his dodgy English accent?  I doubt it, because it’s not just about having a great story but telling it well.  In film terms that means employing a cast, sets, locations, costumes, special effects and music to create a powerful, emotive experience.

Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re not trying to make a movie, but you are trying to get someone to engage with your blogs, podcasts and videos and that someone has the choice of literally billions of other options including Pirates of The Caribbean.  So, how are you going to tell your story in a way that grabs them and keeps them engaged throughout?  Here’s 5 tips to kick off your content marketing year, call them resolutions if you must but just try to keep them past January.

  1.   Pick the right medium and work within its parameters.  Your budget might allow for a great infographic or a very average video, if that’s the case opt for the former and save yourself a lot of disappointment.  
  2. Go with the story, not the job title.  There are great stories throughout your organisation and customer base and most of them come from the coal face so don’t just make your messaging about the CEO.
  3. Go broad, not deep.  If you’ve been waiting and wading through legal and PR sludge for years trying to get that one great testimonial or case study off the ground with a huge client…let it go.  How many smaller, more personal success stories could you have put out in that time whilst your customers have been engaging with somebody else’s content?
  4. Don’t forget to entertain.  These days you are not just in competition with your competition, you are in competition with every giggling baby and grumpy cat on the net so throw in some of that old razzle dazzle for maximum impact.
  5. Trust the talent.  Whether you’re working with an agency, freelancer or in-house talent don’t forget they know more about the tools and techniques of their craft than you so let them surprise you, you’ll both get more out of it.  

It’s not an exhaustive list but we have all year and I plan to stick around throughout so if you have any questions drop me a line at [email protected] and a happy new year to one and all.