Don’t Tell Stories. Tell A Story Worth Listening To

Mitch JoelPosted by

This is the issue that brands have with storytelling.

Often brands tell stories because they believe that content (and content marketing) is going to provide a better long-term consumer engagement. Stories keep people connected. Stories are much more real (and believable) than an ad. This is the trope that marketing professionals have been peddling forever. These digital channels afford brands a staggering capability to create, produce, distribute and connect like never before. So they do. They create content (over ads). They build channels (over interrupting consumers while they’re doing something else). They tell stories (over pimping specials, discounts and offers). Do I buy into this strategy? I do. Not because I spent so much time in the marketing agency foxhole trying to duck and cover while new channels were being developed to tell different kinds of stories. I believe in content marketing because I’m a consumer. I love to shop the brands. I love to see how they are positioned in the marketplace. I love to see how brands take their many connections points and bring them all together. And, when it works (and when I like a brand), I’m all in. Not just the products and services, but their story… because it becomes my story. It becomes a story I want more of. I subscribe to the brand (whether they have a subscribe button or not).

Time to CTRL ALT Delete the brand story.

The problem is that many brands define storytelling in very different ways. Many brands (most) confuse content with storytelling. They are not one and the same. They could not be further apart. Content is the container for the story. No great story and there’s no create content to create and distribute and promote. Many think that great storytelling is a long lost art that has lost its way. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyday we buy into, tell and share stories. It’s in us. It’s personal. Stories are what help us to connect with our family and friends. Stories are the reason we lose weight, exercise, eat right, meditate… or don’t. The problem is that when we groupthink, follow antiquated corporate value systems, buy into corporate doublespeak, or do things to simply please the bosses (and check the boxes), rather than tell a story worth connecting to.

The basics are still the basics. 

Everybody is hopped up on content marketing, and this one thing that (they believe) will save brands from the erosion of advertising, but in that storyboard they tend to forget the story. What is the merit, the through line, the punchline, the laugh, the cry, the thoughts, the smirk, the payoff… what comes out of a great story? When was the last time someone read, listened or watched your content, turned to the person next to them and said, “you have to read/hear/see this!” (And not in an ironic way)? If your story isn’t worth listening to (and then telling others about it), is it a story worth telling?

Tough questions, but if you ask those questions you may just find a story that makes it worth the time, energy and effort to create and share.