Beyond the Buzz – Storytelling
Written by: Steve White, New Technology Director
Published: April 18th, 2017
In the digital age, brands often use great words and ideas to such an extent that they lose their meaning. They become buzzwords. Storytelling has become a buzzword. In fact, it has made a number of “buzzwords to avoid” lists this year.
Storytelling is now a term of art in the context of content marketing, which itself has lost it’s meaning as a buzzword sometime ago. Content marketing is basically inbound marketing for the digital age.
But what is content?
“We never call anything that’s good ‘content,’” and storytelling is often used to describe the “good content” that stands out from the noise.
So what do we mean when we say we are storytellers?
Lets start with stories. The power of stories, as described by Jennifer Aaker, is that they are meaningful, memorable, impactful, and they personally connect. Stories are perhaps our oldest and most successful method of communicating complex ideas. They create context, simplify complex subjects, communicate values, help people learn, and trigger powerful emotions.
There is science behind the effectiveness of stories. Whether it’s research showing the power of storytelling in advertising, or the research of neuroeconomist Paul Zak that shows stories, especially those that elicit empathy, are especially effective in motivating viewers to take action.
Brand Story is another term of art that has emerged in the context of content marketing and storytelling. Your brand story is a cohesive narrative that encompasses the ideas, experiences, and values of your brand or business. It’s not created just by what you tell people, but by what people believe based on their experience with the brand. This is sometimes also referred to as brand narrative.
We agree with John Hagel, and draw a distinction between narrative and story. Stories are typically self-contained while, narratives are open ended; the outcome is to be determined through action.
Narratives include the people a brand is trying to reach and move, and encourages active participation. Narratives can be very powerful, especially when supported with great storytelling.
Stories make data meaningful, and data can help tell meaningful stories. Data in marketing has become essential. But how much can bar graphs, histograms, and line charts tell about the impact of the data? They show data visually, but they don’t provide meaning and context.
Analysis finds the story, and the story reveals what that data means, in context, so that the audience can gain useful insight from the data.
Data also helps determine what type of story resonates with what audience. Data is listening. What do your audiences think? How do they behave in the market? What are their interests? What excites them?
Listening and using this data to build stories for your various audiences (see what I did there?) helps ensure that you are telling stories that are meaningful and will connect to the right audience.
What about Digital Storytelling? We live in the digital age. Information, commerce, and community are increasingly digital. Digital storytelling usually refers to short form stories told using digital media. Just look at the major social platforms to see this in action; live video, Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat stories, etc.
So for us, storytelling is developing and telling a great story that helps build your brand narrative. We listen to you and your audience. We identify and tell stories that are meaningful and connect with the identified audience. We adjust how we tell the story so that it can be told across any channel or medium, and connect when and where the audience is ready.
And that’s what we mean when we say we’re storytellers.