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When Is A Story Not A Story?

May 5, 2015

The answer is startlingly simple; a story is not a story if it is of no interest to anyone but the person who wrote it.  Unfortunately PR and marketing agencies, including Click2View, are often faced with the prospect of having to turn such stories into press releases, blogs, graphics and videos, which the client just as often finds disappointing.  They read or watch endless drafts with a furrowed brow and demand more “pop” or “wow factor” but unfortunately there’s no polishing a turd!

It’s a truism of filmmaking that you can make a bad film of a good script but you can’t make a good film of a bad script, the script being the foundation of the film.  The same is true of content marketing.  The foundation of any content marketing asset is the underlying story, if that story’s no good the asset will suffer, so how do you find and tell better stories?  Here are a few tips taken from experience to help you:

  1. Keep your ear to the ground.  Stories are everywhere but only if you know where to look, that’s why we employ journalists to help clients uncover those unique tales of innovation and service that might not otherwise find their way to the marketing or communications department.  Official press releases are important but aside from product launches and financial announcements there are plenty of other tales to be told so head down to the coalface and dig them out.  
  2. Show don’t tell.  I was once told by the CTO of a large tech firm how he sent frogmen down after Fukushima to reconnect the lines so that the emergency services could communicate and save more lives.  He asked if I thought this would make a good case study and I said it would be amazing.  We could purchase some news footage of the disaster, interview the frogmen, the emergency services and maybe even some of the survivors to show the human impact of this incredible effort.  “Or…” he said to me “You could come and interview my CEO about it.”  What would you rather read/watch?  
  3. Find an angle.  A good journalist does’t just write up a press release, he or she finds an angle, solicits other perspectives and turns it into what we recognise as a story.  If a brand or corporate intends to publish its own stories (and expects anyone to read them) it must do the same.  For example, we work with Visa to tell stories, not just about payment technologies, but about financial innovation and inclusion in developing nations.  
  4. Associate with a trend.  Trends are always trendy with the press and with audiences so try to find one that chimes with your story.  For example, Boston tech company Sonos wanted to issue a press release about their office move – the very definition of a non-story.  However, they worked out that their move followed a trend of tech companies moving to an old part of town and giving it a new lease of life.  Now that’s a story and the Boston Globe, amongst others, agreed.   
  5. Mind your language.  Storytellers are often also wordsmiths so try to avoid the sort of cliche’d phrases that pepper press releases and corporate videos such as, “We are delighted to announce…”, “We are uniquely positioned…” and my personal favourite “As an innovative market leader…”  

Do that and we’ll all live happily ever after!