storytelling

Find and Share the Many Faces of Your Story

Discover a great story to tell, then think how you can share it uniquely and effectively across different outreach platforms such as your website, social media and email. Hint: think of your intended audience and follow where they lead.

Discover a great story to tell, then think how you can share it uniquely and effectively across different outreach platforms such as your website, social media and email. Hint: think of your intended audience and follow where they lead.

Sharing your story on multiple media is smart. But don’t assume a one-size-fits-all strategy for content. Discover the many faces of your story that align with your different outreach platforms.

Some story forms work on a website, but land like a thud on Instagram. Optimally, the story should conform to the audience that dominates individual platforms. The demographics and viewing habits of audiences vary greatly from Twitter to Facebook or from LinkedIn to Instagram. The content should be shaped accordingly.

Russell Working, writing for ragan.com, channels some of the secrets employed by Good Morning America, which he notes is the number one morning news show with a history of online success. Working pulls together some of the top tips from Terry Hurlbutt on effective content and distribution strategies.

One of his tips is to “adopt the story to the medium.” “What is the story we’re trying to tell?” Hurlbutt says. “What is the heart of it? And then how do we adapt that story to a different medium?” It could be as simple as using a video on Facebook and a selfie or behind-the-scenes look for an e-letter.

A story told by a TV anchor works for a network website. Taking the host out of the story elevates the same story’s interest on Facebook. Selfie-style video may pique interest of the same story on Instagram. Live streaming offers a you-are-there perspective that can appeal to viewers who want ultimate realism. 

Sometimes the variations are as simple as where the camera is pointed. For a cooking show, you want to see the chef, but your best view of a recipe-in-progress can be a top-down camera view.

Most brands and businesses don’t have all the resources of ABC or network news shows. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to creativity and maximize what you shoot for multiple outlets. Hurlbutt advises that an advantage of digital content is that it can be easily molded and folded to “feel natural” to conversations on different digital platforms.

Not every story lends itself to repurpose for multiple media. The stories that are most amenable tend to be inspirational and about real people. “The world is full of inspiring stories every day,” Hurlbutt says. “Find them and elevate those stories to a wider audience.”

It goes without saying the critical element in spreading around your story is careful planning. You can’t just wing it or hope it works out. That trivializes what could be a golden moment.

As Hurlbutt advised, look for stories with multiple facets that can be told through a mix of lenses. Identify the core of the story, which needs to be the mother rock of whatever variations you develop. Then do a 360 around that core to see how it looks or can be viewed from different angles. Consider narrators and story forms in the context of audience preferences or platform norms. Think about how to capture these different views. Finally, lay out how to optimize each vantage point to maximize your overall story reach. 

Yes, this involves some hard work and getting out of your comfort zone. Keep in mind, your audience will appreciate the effort and show their appreciation by sharing your story far beyond your immediate orbit.

 

Infographics are Eye-Grabbing Pictures of Information

‘Infographics’ is a seemingly new word to describe pictures of information, but the concept dates back to the days of cave-dwellers and is as common as a subway map. Infographics capture eyeballs and can be easier-than-you-think to create.

‘Infographics’ is a seemingly new word to describe pictures of information, but the concept dates back to the days of cave-dwellers and is as common as a subway map. Infographics capture eyeballs and can be easier-than-you-think to create.

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Marketers and PR professionals frequently refer to “infographics.” You may not recognize the word, but you most likely have seen more than one of them.

In the simplest explanation, infographics are pictures of information. They can include charts, illustrations, photographs and text designed to convey information in a more visual way than a series of dense paragraphs.

Infographics is a new coinage for an ancient idea. Cave drawings may have been the first infographics by showing through pictures significant events or achievements. Mapmakers have produced infographics for centuries that show continents, oceans, mountain ranges, rivers, trails and, more recently, highways. Public transit maps showing routes and stops are a perfect example of an infographic.

The surge in interest in infographics is tied to social media viewing habits. Infographics attract more clicks and are far more likely to be read than messages consisting of only text. Busy (or distracted) people want to acquire information as easily as possible without digging through dense prose. Infographics appeal because they package information so skimmers can pick out key facts and easily follow a short visual narrative. Viewers like infographics because they are easy to share.

Communicators should like infographics because they demand a disciplined approach to what you are trying to say – and forcing you to say it in more than words that you tap out on your laptop.

Like any other communication tool, the secret sauce of infographics is saying something worthwhile, then figuring out how to visualize what you are saying. That starts with your storyline. Yes, infographics are just another storytelling technique. Begin with an eye-catching piece of data to grab attention. Make sure your narrative is logical for your audience to follow.

Once you have a story to tell, think about how to illustrate your key points to keep the story moving. Use stick figures or scribbles to develop your basic design. If you need inspiration, Google infographics, look at some examples and select the styles that work best for your story. 

Some communicators shun infographics, despite their proven effectiveness, because they don’t know how to create them. That’s understandable, but very curable. There are plenty of tools that can walk you through their creation. If you have a teenager or young adult, they could whip one out with ease. You may have someone on your staff who can take your rough draft and turn it into a splendid infographic. There are plenty of graphic designers who will do it for you at a reasonable price. 

Have a point of view on how you want your infographic to work and look. At the same time, be open to other ideas about how to show your story. There is no formula for the perfect infographic. New ideas are being explored everyday – from squares instead of scrolls to 3D illustrations.

The constants in infographics include using color that is consonant with your branding, readable typefaces, social media sharing buttons, mobile optimization and a clear call to action. The design you put into your infographic should be repeated in other communications, so you have a consistent visual identity. 

To achieve its objective, your infographic needs to be promoted and shared. LinkedIn is an excellent platform, along with Facebook and Twitter. Instagram can be the right choice if your target is younger eyeballs. Don’t forget to post the infographic on your website or write about it in your blog.

Still not convinced? Read this infographic developed by Spiralytics about how infographics can benefit your business.

 

Looking Behind the Camera at the Video Production Team

Video and visual storytelling are “in.” Before you jump in, you should understand what it takes to produce a professional video that will represent your brand and tell your story authentically and effectively.

Video and visual storytelling are “in.” Before you jump in, you should understand what it takes to produce a professional video that will represent your brand and tell your story authentically and effectively.

Producing a video is a team effort. But many times, clients don’t know what each team member does, or even what kind of help they need. So, here’s a guide to the key players on a video team, and the role(s) they play in the production.

Videographer: (Also called camera operator, photographer, director of photography)

This is the person with the camera, lights and equipment. He/she is responsible for capturing the visual images used in a video. Some of the necessary, and unseen, duties the video photographer is responsible for include: 

  • Scouting potential filming locations;

  • Lighting interviews and filming locations;

  • Operating specialized camera equipment such as a dolly, slider, jib, pole cam and drone;

  • Setting up audio and microphones for interviews (including shotgun and lavaliere mics);

  • Monitoring audio during interviews;

  • Conceptualizing interesting ways to film a subject, product or idea.

Producer:

This person is the conductor of your production. He/she oversees all aspects of the project, including but not limited to:

  • Budgeting;

  • Scheduling;

  • Hiring the video team;

  • Story mapping;

  • Story production;

  • Interview preparation and conducting on-camera interviews;

  • Assisting the video team during filming;

  • Reviewing raw footage and interviews;

  • Project management;

  • Script development and/or scriptwriting, if voiceover narration is needed;

  • Auditioning and hiring professional actors and professional voiceover talent, if your production calls for that;

  • Logistics;

  • Permit acquisition (if filming in public spaces);

  • Issuing waivers;

  • Booking out of town travel;

  • Working with the video editor to make sure the client’s vision is clearly communicated in the finished video. 

  • Also handles coffee and lunch runs for the crew.

Editor:

This person weaves together the raw footage, interviews, voiceover narration, motion graphics and animation into a cohesive video that reflects a client’s key messages. Editors are responsible for:

  • Selecting music;

  • Selecting interview clips and b-roll footage;

  • Resizing still photos;

  • Color correcting footage;

  • Selecting effect transitions;

  • Creating 2D and 3D animations;

  • Editing audio to remove clicks and pops;

  • Exporting a video file for Internet use.

Many videographers are also accomplished editors and are involved in the creative process from the beginning, which can help streamline the production process. Whomever you hire to edit your video must be proficient in editing software such as Premiere, Avid or Final Cut. 

Now that you know the players on the video team, let’s crunch some numbers.

It takes an average of 8-12 weeks to produce a three-to-five-minute video, and around 90 hours to produce the project professionally. If you divide the number of hours by three (for videographer, editor and producer), you’re looking at an average of 30 hours of work required for each team member. Based on that, these are the questions you need to ask:

  • Do you have a producer-videographer-editor team in-house that you can free up to produce your video? Can you get other staff to take on the additional 90 hours of work that your in-house team can no longer do because they’re working on your project?

  • If you have experience as a producer, do you have an additional 30 hours of unpaid time in your schedule that you can devote to working with an outside videographer and/or editor to produce a video? 

  • If you’ve never produced a video before, would you even know how to approach such an undertaking? 

  • If your specialty is filming and editing, would you be willing to devote hours of unpaid time to learn the production part of the process?

Once you determine how much time you’re willing to commit to producing a video, you can figure out the financial investment you’re willing to make.

Generally speaking, a videographer/editor will be less expensive than a producer/videographer/editor team. Occasionally, you can find “one-man band” video pros – people who can film, produce and edit. If you want to keep costs down, hiring one person who does it all might be a good fit for you. The producer-videographer-editor team would be on the high end budget-wise because you’re paying for producing expertise. But if you’re someone with little time to spare, paying a higher fee might be a good trade-off because of the time you save by not having to be so hands-on during each phase of the project.

Whichever option you choose, base your decision on the amount of time you’re willing to devote to the actual production of a project, as well as your experience in the nuts and bolts of video production.

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About the author:

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She produces videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.waveonegroup.com

 

Personalize Content Marketing Through Staff Content Sharing

Add zip to a content marketing strategy by encouraging your own staff to share useful, relevant content with customers, clients and prospects at conferences, in meetings and even on cold calls.

Add zip to a content marketing strategy by encouraging your own staff to share useful, relevant content with customers, clients and prospects at conferences, in meetings and even on cold calls.

One of the best, but most overlooked channels for content marketing is your own staff.

Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant information to your customers or clients. We tend to think of that information as transmitted digitally via a website, blog or social media.  Delivering it personally can be even more powerful.

Turning your entire staff into a team of content marketers could be your most cost-effective marketing strategy.

Savvy companies view their staffs as brand ambassadors. Converting brand ambassadorships into content marketers only requires taking the time to share the content you want customers or clients to receive.

Staff meetings can become more meaningful if they contain time for content sharing. Make staff aware of an upcoming thought leadership blog, new website features or a social media campaign. Make it easy for your staff to share your content, and encourage staff members to share the content.

Alyssa Patzius, vice president for Influence&Co., says content sharing can be a way to stand out from competition by offering something of value, not just your business card. Sharing useful information and associating the source of that information to your enterprise is nearly the same as third-party validation, Patzius suggest.

She says content-sharing strategy can work at trade shows, professional conferences or even cold calls.

Of course, sharing blah content could have the opposite result. Avoid self-aggrandizing pitches and stick with solid how-to content or meaningful storytelling that relates to your brand or business. Don’t tell would-be clients about your successes; share with them how you go about achieving successful outcomes for your clients.

Some content is evergreen and never goes out of date. However, fresh content can be more impactful. There is nothing like the rush of recent success to spark content sharing.

Don’t limit your content to something in print. Video and audio content can extend the personalization of content sharing by including visuals and voices from your colleagues.

The next time you are charged with creating an energizing agenda for a staff meeting or retreat, plug in a segment about content sharing. And make sure you are generating content worthy of sharing to inform and impress customers and clients.

 

Leadership is at the Core of Corporate Culture

Some leaders scoff at corporate culture. Others regard it is fluff or overhead. But whether intentional or not, corporate culture exists, usually in the shape of the corporate leader. When corporate culture is healthy, it can give a company a competitive edge in the marketplace for customers and talented workers.

Some leaders scoff at corporate culture. Others regard it is fluff or overhead. But whether intentional or not, corporate culture exists, usually in the shape of the corporate leader. When corporate culture is healthy, it can give a company a competitive edge in the marketplace for customers and talented workers.

Instead of wondering whether you should have a corporate culture, you should find out what your corporate culture already is. Corporate cultures aren’t invented. They are created by everyday actions – and inactions. You have the culture, as they say, that you earn.

Interest in corporate culture has grown because more employees are interested in joining a firm with a compatible culture.  There also is data showing that companies with strong corporate cultures can outperform their “culturally unremarkable” competitors by as much as 30 percent.

A lot has been written about what makes a great corporate culture. But let’s face it, what may be a great culture in an architectural firm may be totally irrelevant in a pizza parlor. One common element of corporate culture, for better or worse, is leadership.

A flesh-and-blood leader, by his or her attitude and behavior, influences corporate culture more than any aspirational slogans posted on a wall. It is hard to have a warm and fuzzy culture with a gruff and grumpy leader.

Leaders set the tone by what they prioritize. Culture tracks priorities. You can say you value collaboration, but if you only reward individual accomplishment, the crew will get the message about what really matters.

The Conscience of a Culture   The late Doug Babb was an architect and the conscience of CFM culture’s. In a style at once direct and subtle, Babb asked tough questions and made thoughtful suggestions. He praised CFM’s profit-sharing policy, but suggested employees would be better positioned if they had regular financial updates. We started posting them quarterly. From its outset in 1990, CFM rejected any work to promote tobacco or related products. Babb said that worked for the company, but what if a CFM staffer objected to a specific client. That resulted in a conscience-clause policy that enabled any employee to be excused, without penalty, from a client he or she found offensive or in conflict with their personal values. In conferences to develop messaging for clients, Babb could be outspoken if we drifted into puffery and away from facts we could verify. That led to a corporate policy that clients refer to as principled advocacy. Babb was exactly the kind of colleague to hear out and heed to evolve and sustain a corporate culture based on values that coworkers and clients could trust.   

The Conscience of a Culture

The late Doug Babb was an architect and the conscience of CFM culture’s. In a style at once direct and subtle, Babb asked tough questions and made thoughtful suggestions. He praised CFM’s profit-sharing policy, but suggested employees would be better positioned if they had regular financial updates. We started posting them quarterly. From its outset in 1990, CFM rejected any work to promote tobacco or related products. Babb said that worked for the company, but what if a CFM staffer objected to a specific client. That resulted in a conscience-clause policy that enabled any employee to be excused, without penalty, from a client he or she found offensive or in conflict with their personal values. In conferences to develop messaging for clients, Babb could be outspoken if we drifted into puffery and away from facts we could verify. That led to a corporate policy that clients refer to as principled advocacy. Babb was exactly the kind of colleague to hear out and heed to evolve and sustain a corporate culture based on values that coworkers and clients could trust.

 

Leaders who are terrific in some settings may bomb in others. A leader who can motivate employees to become partners in a startup may be less inspirational and effective at a later stage of company development with scaled-up operations and employment.

Some companies try to shape culture through architecture. Open atriums, coffee bars, comfy furniture and group work tables affect how and where people work, but don’t automatically translate into cultural currency.

If corporate culture is important and a potential competitive advantage, why are there so few useful tips on how to create and a sustain a desired corporate culture? Perhaps it is because corporate cultures don’t render themselves very well to formulas. They are organic and fragile. They evolve instead of being mandated. They thrive by consent, not fiat.

That is not to say that corporate cultures can’t be intentional. A hard-driving restaurant manager who takes time every day to talk to each one of his employees to find out what’s happening in their lives outside of work is creating an intentional corporate culture. If the manager shifts a schedule or gives someone a day off to deal with a family issue, he or she is defining a corporate culture as caring.

Bosses would be wise to recognize cultural leaders in their workforce, who evidence the culture they want through their actions or who articulate cultural principles in ways fellow workers can embrace.

One of the strongest ways to portray and preserve a corporate culture is through storytelling. Stories can explain how policies came into being, evolved and became bulwarks of a corporate culture. Providing a narrative creates context for a culture, especially if told by workers who were involved in the policy evolution.

If a corporate culture is in fact critical to commercial success, then companies should evaluate potential new hires to determine how well they would fit with the culture – and think of it as a marketing strategy. Someone with great credentials, but no regard for the prevailing culture could be a toxic mixture that affects more than the culture.

In the end, what cements a corporate culture are the values of its leader. Not just the values espoused, but also the values practiced. Johnson & Johnson’s fabled response to tainted Tylenol bottles demonstrates both the power of values and leadership. CEO James Burke challenged his team to frame a response that lived up to the company’s expressed value of putting patients first. That value-driven direction led to a mass recall of Tylenol, thousands of one-on-one consultations of medical professionals, transparency in media communications and, within six weeks, the pioneering introduction of a tamper-proof bottle.  The company was rewarded economically by restoration and growth of its market share and a deeply loyal customer base.

Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 Tylenol response is still regarded as the gold standard of crisis responses. It also should be viewed as an important lesson in corporate culture. A couple of decades later when Johnson & Johnson faced another crisis under different leadership, its response fell short of the gold standard set earlier, underscoring that above all else, corporate culture starts and ends with leadership.

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Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

 

Influencer Marketing Through Earning Influence

Influence marketing goes beyond sending your product to a blogger and includes testimonials, third-party recognition, turning critics into advocates, thought leadership blogs, storytelling and authentic acts that build a reputation

Influence marketing goes beyond sending your product to a blogger and includes testimonials, third-party recognition, turning critics into advocates, thought leadership blogs, storytelling and authentic acts that build a reputation

Influencer marketing is popular, largely because it works. However, influencer marketing involves more than just pay-to-play engagement with bloggers.

Sending products to influential bloggers to try out and then promoting their positive reviews is a successful tactic. But it isn’t the only successful tactic. There is a more organic form of leveraging influential people.

One of the most tried-and-tried forms of earned influence is the testimonial. The consumer or client giving the testimonial doesn’t have to be a so-called influential person. They have credibility because they consumed your product or retained your service.

Another form of earned influence is recognition by a third party. This could be an interview, product review or op-ed. The content is fair game to promote, which is what Chevrolet does in its ads about J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings.

An unsuspecting form of earned influence can come from turning a critic on social media into a brand advocate. What better way to demonstrate brand value than tracking the journey of someone upset at product quality or service who is impressed by a quick reaction and fair resolution of the problem. You couldn’t pay for this conversion – or duplicate it in a pay-for-play context.

Thought leadership is a powerful, but under-utilized form of earned influence. You can turn your expertise or special knowledge into influential currency if you share it. That’s the point of thought leadership blogs or asking for opportunities to submit guest blogs.

Reputation may be the most underrated form of earned influence. A solid reputation isn’t something that can be invented, minted or inherited. Reputation, by its very nature, is something that’s earned. The arc of a reputation can take years, but it also can accrete more quickly – and regardless of age – through innovation or a principled act.

Influence is not something you can proclaim. However, you can nudge along the process of gaining influence through storytelling. The stories about your brand or you that you share – or arrange to be shared – can influence key audiences and burnish your reputation.

There isn’t a formula to achieve earned influence. Thank goodness. That gives people a lot of latitude in pursuing paths to attract interest, build trust and earn influence, whether in the marketplace or on Twitter.

Professional assistance can help in the process of influence-development. But PR pros can’t counterfeit authentic influence that flows from expertise, innovation or principled action.

If you developed the best-tasting, heart-healthy donut, by all means put it in the hands of donut bloggers and circulate their mouth-watering reviews on your social media channels. Just don’t forget there are other avenues for influence marketing, many of which have longer lasting impacts and contribute to deeper consumer loyalties.

 

Turning Customer Feedback into a Labor Day Message

The CEO of Marriott International turned positive customer feedback into a Labor Day message to Congress.

The CEO of Marriott International turned positive customer feedback into a Labor Day message to Congress.

Customer feedback is a ready, often fulsome source of content. The CEO of Marriott International turned some positive feedback into a brand-embellishing blog that also delivered a powerful message on Labor Day.

Arne Sorenson reviews lots of customer feedback, much of it critical. “I’m fine with that,” he writes. “An important part of our culture is believing that success is never final, so we learn from customer feedback.” It turns out there also are lessons to learn from positive customer feedback.

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, turned a customer feedback email into a powerful message about immigration.

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, turned a customer feedback email into a powerful message about immigration.

When Sorenson opened one email, what he read was a heap of praise for one of his employees named Ismeta. He says the email wasn’t the first one he received praising Ismeta, who has worked at Marriott properties in the Chicago area.

The email said, “She truly is a lovely, lovely person with a rare quality for being able to connect with people in such a way that brings out the best in all of us and making you feel so welcome.” Sorenson said she was previously praised for “her cheerful attitude” and “demonstrating Marriott’s spirit to serve.” One fan suggested Marriott should feature Ismeta in a “training video on how to treat guests.”

Good stuff and a smart move by Sorenson to share customer kudos for Ismeta. But he did more.

“At a time when the debate in Washington is focused on building walls and reducing legal immigration, my thoughts turn to Ismeta,” Sorenson reflected. “Our economy and our society benefit from immigration done right.”

Ismeta left Bosnia almost 20 years ago after losing family members in a brutal war, Sorenson said. “Picking up the pieces, she made her way to Germany and then to Chicago.”

He continued, “Ismeta’s life is now an American story, an expression of this country’s ability provide opportunity to those willing to embrace it. She is making the experiences of our guests better, she is making Marriott better and she is making our country better. And I can’t think of better feedback than that.”

Sorenson sent his message to Washington, DC. “The conversation on immigration seems to be one of extremes,” he wrote. “We need to make sure our borders are secured as well as our airports, but we also must recognize that immigration is essential to numerous industries – including hospitality – and that so many immigrants are contributing to the greater good of our country, just as millions of immigrants have before them, my family and like yours included.”

Not bad for email with the subject line: Customer Feedback. Read your customer feedback and contemplate what it tells you, and what you can share about it with others. You may discover a surprising source of uplifting content.

Brand Stories Where Brand and Story Are Inseparable

The best brand stories are ones where the brand and the story are inseparable, like GoldieBlox, which makes construction toys for young girls to spark their interest in eventually becoming engineers.

The best brand stories are ones where the brand and the story are inseparable, like GoldieBlox, which makes construction toys for young girls to spark their interest in eventually becoming engineers.

Storytelling is in. Brand stories and storytelling are the vehicles of choice for content marketing. But not all stories are created equal.

One of the better brand stories is by GoldieBlox, which was launched in 2012 as a way to "introduce girls to  the joy of engineering at a young age.” Founder Debbie Sterling earned a degree in mechanical engineering and was struck by how few women studied to become engineers.

“Construction toys develop an early interest in science, technology, engineering and math,” the GoldieBlox website says. “But for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered boys toys. GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. We aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.”

The young company, which went from Kickstarter funding to a $1 million in orders in six weeks, features BloxTown on its website. This is a storytelling showplace. There are videos, apps, toys and “The Gang” – four young multiracial women who personify the goals of GoldieBlox. There is Goldie Blox (mechanical engineer and Ms. fixit), Ruby Rails (software engineer and dressmaker), Li Gravity (daredevil who calculates the physics of her stunts) and Valentina Voltz (gadget lover and musician). They even have their own compatible pets, like Nacho, Goldie’s basset hound sidekick who “eats, farts and drools.”

Products are placed on the web page as just another avenue to adventure.

GoldieBlox has a blog with frequently updated content, typically featuring women engineers and technologists, who are called #goldmodels. The blog invites stories from women with careers in scientific and engineering fields (“Engineers in the Wild”), as well as from young girls whose interest in those professions has been piqued.

GoldieBlox is an excellent example of a brand built around and fueled by a story. The story and the brand are inseparable. The GoldieBlox brand story works for several reasons:

  • The story about the brand is authentic
  • The story has human appeal
  • The product and the brand story are closely linked
  • There is a clear call to action.

Too many brand stories are forced or superficial. They come closer to brand hype than a brand story.

Like any other good story, a brand story needs to resonate with its audience, to touch as many of their senses as possible so people feel transported to where the story takes place. That place can be as close as the family living room where a young girl constructs her first whirligig.

Putting Entertainment into Your Content Marketing Mix

Viewers today demand content that is useful, relevant and entertaining. Usefulness and relevance are easy, but entertainment is harder to deliver. Airbnb offered up a good example of how to deliver a message in an entertaining illustrated story as seen above.

Viewers today demand content that is useful, relevant and entertaining. Usefulness and relevance are easy, but entertainment is harder to deliver. Airbnb offered up a good example of how to deliver a message in an entertaining illustrated story as seen above.

Good content must be useful, relevant and entertaining. Useful and relevant are fairly obvious. Entertaining, not so much.

Let’s face it, most of us like to be entertained but aren’t entertainers. So how do non-entertainers entertain? Here’s how: Turn a clever phrase. Tell stories. Show funny videos and photos. Hop aboard breaking stories. Share personal feelings. 

Your words, stories and images don’t have to be Oscar winners. Their purpose is to deepen interest in your useful, relevant content. Knowing how to fix your toilet is useful and relevant, but we probably wouldn’t pay attention unless someone showed us how in a clever, humorous way.

Entertainment isn’t the main act in content marketing. It's the set-up to your main message. If your entertainment is too entertaining, viewers won’t remember why they were watching it, like the TV ad that is so captivating, you remember the entertainment, but not the product.

Clever Phrases

Yes, it is hard to channel William Shakespeare and procreate a new word or pithy phrase. But you can write a snappy headline that turns heads. The snappy headline can parrot a clever phrase you coin in your copy. Nobody churns out chiseled prose like an assembly line. It takes time – and maybe some reflective moments in the shower or on your morning run. All the phrase has to do is spark a smile and encourage the viewer to read on.

     Examples:

  • “Success by Choice, Not Chance.”
  • “Fat Makes You Thin.”
  • “Six Instant Confidence Boosters."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telling Stories

As children, we listen to stories to learn. As we grow older, we trade stories with friends. Older people share stories to pass along wisdom. Stories abound in our world, and our brains are wired to tap into their meanings. Stories can take many forms. Children’s books artfully blend text and illustrations. Stories can unfold in videos and picture galleries. Good writers can spin tales with words. The form in this case is less important than the function. Tell entertaining stories with a point that connects to the useful, relevant information you want to convey. 

     Examples:  

 

 

 

Videos and Pictures

Visual assets such as videos and pictures don’t always have to tell a story to draw attention. Sometimes they can just be fun – or funny. Good judgment is required to avoid images that mock or offend. But there are plenty of ways to use light-hearted and good-natured videos and pictures to entertain your viewers into spending more time on your website, online newsroom or blog to consume useful, relevant content. Videos are popular to share, so take pains to brand your visual content so it doesn’t spin away from the purpose behind posting it.

     Examples:  

 

 

Newsjacking

If you can be a free rider on a breaking story or trending topic, you will have a built-in audience. Your “newsjacking” may be a local angle on a national story, a deeper dive into a trending topic or a contrary take on the news. The newsjacking should lead to your useful, relevant content or at least point to the path to your content. This is entertainment by feeding the curiosity aroused by someone else’s story.

     Examples (good and bad):  

 

 

 

Sharing Personal Feelings

In this era of engagement, sharing feelings can be a path to establishing a solid connection with your consumers. There is an element of risk in becoming personal, but it is that exposure that creates an opening for interaction. Sportscaster Jim Nantz shared his personal story of caring for a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s as he urged people to donate to find a cure. A sizable number of supplicants on Shark Tank begin their investment pitches by relating a personal story that resulted in their product invention. As with any relationship, getting personal can get sticky, so choose what feelings you share carefully and make sure they link somehow to your useful, relevant content.

     Examples:

Bowl Season TV Ad Winners

Samuel Adams, known for its wide range of beers, produces a holiday TV ad that offers a perfect visual explanation of seasonal brews.

Samuel Adams, known for its wide range of beers, produces a holiday TV ad that offers a perfect visual explanation of seasonal brews.

The Super Bowl usually draws attention for creative TV ads, but this year a couple of gems emerged earlier during the college bowl season – one by Samuel Adams, the other from Taco Bell.

Boston beer maker Samuel Adams served up a perfect example of a visual explanation in an ad, while Taco Bell used 60 seconds to tell a story about scholarships for young dreamers and innovators.

The Samuel Adams ad answers the question, "Why seasonal beers?" by explaining the characteristics of spring, summer and fall brews, then finishing by featuring its winter lager. The explanations were visual, tasteful and informative.

The ad informed without selling. The brewer's commitment to diverse beers and styles was underscored, but unstated. Like a good beer, the ad was satisfying even as it subtly reminded you of the Samuel Adams brand value.

This isn't an aberration for Samuel Adams, which routinely offers up ads that respect viewer intelligence. Its messages are aimed at more discerning beer drinkers, or at least people who want more than a six-pack to guzzle at a frat party.

Taco Bell veered away from its normal advertising to describe the need to encourage dreamers and innovators through its new Live Mas Scholarship.

Taco Bell veered away from its normal advertising to describe the need to encourage dreamers and innovators through its new Live Mas Scholarship.

The Taco Bell ad was more surprising, since the fast food giant's normal fare appeals to a lower common denominator. Instead of extolling the "fourth meal" or extreme tacos, in this ad Taco Bell says it's time for young people to receive scholarships for more than academics or athletics.

The Taco Bell Foundation calls the Live Mas Scholarship a "passion-based" scholarship for innovators and dreamers. With awards ranging from $2,500 to $25,000, a total of $1 million will be given to 220 students in 2016 to attend accredited colleges and vocational schools.

The ad shows young adults engaged in a variety of innovative activities. "The Live Más Scholarship is not based on your grades or how well you play sports. No essays, no test scores, no right or wrong answers," Taco Bell says. "We’re looking for the next generation of innovators, creators and dreamers – whose post-high school education we will help fund. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the next generation.

We can look forward in a few days to Super Bowl ad blitzes, which hopefully will match or exceed these two ads.

A Picture of Storytelling

The photograph shows a table with uneaten eggs, a cold teapot, shattered glass and a blood-stained curtain. It was taken in Donetsk, Ukraine. It could have been taken anywhere experiencing the ravages of war.

The photograph shows a table with uneaten eggs, a cold teapot, shattered glass and a blood-stained curtain. It was taken in Donetsk, Ukraine. It could have been taken anywhere experiencing the ravages of war.

The photograph shows a table with uneaten eggs, a cold teapot, shattered glass and a blood-stained curtain. It was taken in Donetsk, Ukraine. It could have been taken anywhere experiencing the ravages of war. 

Titled "Kitchen Table," the photograph is one of the winners in the 2015 World Press Photo Contest. The more enduring message of the photograph is that a great picture can tell a great story.

Data overwhelmingly shows pictures do much more than substitute for a 1,000 words. Pictures tell stories in ways words never can. They attract our eye. They hold our attention. They linger in our memory.

The gallery of photos in the World Press contest speaks volumes about the power of pictures. Three empty dresses underscore the horror of the mass abduction of schoolgirls by Boko Haram. A woman in chains with her head drooping evinces the inhumanity of illicit sex trafficking. An outstretched Odell Beckham making a one-handed catch in the end zone celebrates amazing athleticism.

While the subject matter of many of the photographs is emotionally charged, the common value of all the photos is their well-framed simplicity. Winners titled "Family Love" and "Vegetables with an Attitude" don't have grand subjects, just great photography that tells a story.

The point is not to argue for pictures without words, but for a marriage of equals. Pictures can tell a story that words cannot match. Words can fill in the blanks of the stories pictures begin to tell. That is nowhere more obvious than the new trend in websites that focus on scrolling stories. 

The communication channel really doesn't matter. Websites, press releases, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, memos and proposals all are stronger when visual images reinforce words, and words add value to pictures. 

Great photographers have immense skill. But technology has made it possible for lesser skilled people to take great photographs. 

Crack open your digital camera, drag out your old Polaroid or figure out where the shutter button is on your smartphone and start shooting the stories occurring all around you. Don't be surprised when people take notice of the visual storytelling that you post.

Getting Your Audience to Lean In

A great ending to a speech is only great if the audience is still listening. The most important part of the speech is a rapport-building beginning.

A great ending to a speech is only great if the audience is still listening. The most important part of the speech is a rapport-building beginning.

The first thing a speaker or presenter must do is establish rapport with his or her audience. Unless listeners are leaning in, they are likely to tune out.

Giving a speech or presentation requires careful preparation and practice. But even the best speech or clever presentation can fall flat if there is a gulf between speaker and audience. 

Bridging that gulf is what separates speakers from good speakers. It also is what distinguishes a speech you hear versus a speech you remember. 

Establishing speaker-audience rapport rests with the speaker. Even if you pay to hear someone, you expect the speaker to make the first move to create a bond, a reason for sharing time and mental energy together and a good excuse not to check smartphone messages.

Here are some tips on how to establish rapport with your audience:

Call out associations you have with the audience or members of the audience. 

Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson started his speech at the Portland City Club by briefly describing tours he had taken and recognizing people in the audience for their roles in the success stories he had seen. Thompson made a connection between himself and his audience that he underscored throughout his speech with examples from his Portland site visits. The speech was more than a decade ago and I can still remember how he opened it and his main points, especially his strong advocacy for public health. 

Tell a heartwarming story

Stories unite people. We instinctively lean in when someone is telling a story, especially a personal story that has emotional value. Stories personalize speakers by making them less like someone behind a podium or in front of a PowerPoint presentation and more like everyone in the audience.

Use self-effacing humor

Jokes can be dangerous. The safest application of humor is when you make fun of yourself. The key is to be self-effacing without appearing disingenuous. You also don't want to convey to your audience that you are a buffoon. Laughing at yourself can be disarming, all the more so if the punch line serves as a segue into the content of your speech or presentation. 

Touch an emotional nerve

Be aware of what's going on the world around you and, when appropriate, use a commonly shared emotion as a rapport-builder. Tapping into the emotions of an audience is tricky and demands a solid read on the audience so you draw them toward you in sympathy, not spark resentment or even disgust. But when done with the proper empathetic touch, it can be a powerful way to put you and your audience on the same page.

Many speakers devote a great deal of their energy finding the right ending. They should spend an equal amount of time figuring out how to start so their audience joins them on the journey, rather than taking an early detour.

Logos that Tell Brand Stories

There is a new trend in logo design — logos containing visual elements that convey messages about what a company does or stands for.

For years, logos have conveyed a sense of brand. The particular chocolate color is recognizable worldwide, with or without the word "Hershey." The script used by Campbell's sets apart its soup. Ditto for Coca-Cola and its sodas. Now marketers and designers are striving for more from a logo. They want logos that tell brand stories. 

Perhaps the most dramatic redesigned corporate logo belongs to IBM, long the stuffed shirt of high tech companies. The "new" IBM logo supplants the pinstriped three-letter version with one that features hieroglyphs of an eye and a bee. The "M" remains in the old style to remind you this is actually the IBM logo, while the new icons hint at a major change in corporate culture.

The friendly eye and bee connote a more approachable kind of company than the familiar IBM logo designed in 1972. Interestingly, this logo was created in 1981 by the same designer, Paul Rand, who called this version a more relaxed alternative to the original. It seems the company is catching up to its creative side.

Discovering the Amazing Corporate Story

Telling genuine stories about exceptional service and product quality is a way to woo customers.Most companies have moved on from the corporate line to the corporate story, but they still fail to connect with customers and clients because their words don't ring genuine.

Toeing the corporate line faded into disuse because customers and employees increasingly blew off rote recitation of claims that seemed more spun than truthful. It is harder in the digital age to pull the wool over someone's eyes than it is to be unmasked as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Corporate storytelling can be more compelling because people like to listen to stories, a habit formed since early childhood. But customers can tell the difference between real stories and fairy tales. If the corporate story doesn't match the real corporate persona, then the story turns to pixie dust.

The irony is that most companies have good stories to tell. Their problem is failing to look for them.

Many corporate employees, acting on their own or with encouragement from their managers, do the right thing by customers and often go above and beyond what is expected. Telling those stories puts a personal face on a company and speaks to its core values.

Content + Marketing = Brand Publisher

Back in the distant past of 2009, "content" and "marketing" weren't dating. Now they are a couple in the fast-moving world of brand publishing.

Luke Kintigh, managing editor of Intel's new media property called iQ, shared his knowledge from a crash course in content marketing in a recent blog post in The Content Marketeer.

"There is no doubt," Kintigh says, "content marketing is shaking up the marketing world, forcing CMOs to rethink and shift their resources to create newsrooms, content tabs and positions such as Chief Content Officer and Content Strategist."

One of the first lessons Kintigh describes is the imperative to leave "overt marketing fluff" at the door and instead generate content "that one would actually want to share and consume." Before plunging in head first, it is smart to "take the pulse of the Web," he says, by seeing what your target audiences read and share — and where they do it. "Don't mistake marketing objectives," he notes, "for audience interests."

When you reach audiences, Kintigh says, you want to optimize their interaction with your content by ensuring it works on a spectrum of devices — from desktop computers to tablets to smartphones. It also must adapt, he says, to a range of communications channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube.

It is okay to curate content, but in the end the best content, Kintigh insists, is original content. Producing original content, he adds, requires thinking and acting as a brand publisher to "win our audience's attention and ultimately their business."

Blogs: Telling Your Own Story

If you want customers or stakeholders to know and trust you, you need to give them a reason. You need to tell your story convincingly and interestingly — and a blog is a perfect venue to tell it.

Great blogs share information unavailable anywhere else. That can include pictures, videos, tips on new products and back-stories. You can showcase individual employees or teams, share insider insights and create infographics that describe product or service innovations.

Companies and organizations with smart blogs personalize their content. They may hand over the keys to the blog to an individual or small group to act as the voice. They may concentrate their content on subjects intended to engage readers, instead of just informing them.

While some complain about the time it takes to brainstorm and produce content for blogs, the truth is blogging makes organizations more aware of themselves at a human level. You have to look around to find good stories, and they are inevitably all around you to find.

Blogging demands keen observation, like any other form of writing. You take notice of what's different or special in your operation or of a coworker who went the extra mile for a customer or client.

A blog is a license to unleash your imagination — and your curiosity. It would have been fascinating, for example, if Marty Cooper of Motorola had blogged about the thought process he and his fellow workers pursued in untethering phones from homes, offices and even cars, 40 years ago. It would be equally interesting if Cooper, who continues at age 85 to imagine the mobile phone as an extension of human capability with applications in medicine and education, could explain how he sees the future unfolding.

Content that Informs and Entertains

A clue to success in today's more crowded thoroughfare of content marketing is to entertain while you inform. It will give your content a distinctive quality and provide an even richer conduit to convey your story.

Entertainment values need to match the nature of the content it accompanies. Many subjects aren't appropriate for light-hearted treatment. But great photography or emotional storytelling can deepen the understanding of viewers. 

The presentational qualities of almost all media — from billboards to videos — have improved hugely, so most people are accustomed to, and expect, outreach with more dimension and pizzazz. You no longer can afford to communicate in 2D to a 3D world.

Unstorytelling

Okay that's not really a word, but it should be — to describe the failure of telling your story.

In a CBS News interview, President Obama said the biggest mistake of his first term was failing to "tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."

David Meerman Scott agreed in his blog with the president's self-assessment and reflected back on a 2008 post titled "Ten marketing lessons from the Barack Obama presidential campaign." Lesson #3, Scott said, was "clearly and simply articulate what you want people to believe."

Robert Holland, who handles internal communications for a Fortune 500 company in Virginia, took issue with GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney's comeback that the presidency is all about leadership, not storytelling.

"Yes, being president is about leading," Holland wrote in his blog, "but a big part of leadership is telling stories. Ronald Reagan knew it and that's why he is still called 'The Great Communicator.'"

Holland recalled the views of Carol Kinsey Goman, who counsels businesses on culture change. "Good stories are more powerful than plain facts," Goman said. "That is not to reject the value of facts, of course, but simply to recognize their limits in influencing people. People make decisions based on what facts mean to them, not on the facts themselves. Stories give facts meaning."

Businesses, nonprofits and public agencies routinely spout facts and talk about policies without connecting them to the audience they are trying to reach. Storytelling would help.

So You Want to Start a Blog

Many excellent communications campaigns use blogs as story-telling tools, but too many blogs are floating around the internet that haven’t been updated for months. You imagine the blog creators were full of excitement, set up a basic blog format using a site such as WordPress.com, Blogger or tumblr, published a first post and thought, Voila! Smooth sailing from here, right?

A blog only is as good as the strategy and plan guiding it. Before hitting publish, you need to be clear about what you want to accomplish with your blog. What will success look like?

Reasons for a blog may include establishing thought leadership in your industry category, self-publishing news, providing added-value service to clients, raising awareness about important issues or engaging new audiences. All the content you publish should support your goals. 

To measure success, we recommend evaluating multiple touch-points, such as reader comments, content spreading on social media, numbers of readers and blog traffic.

You also should plan content development. Look to your key messages and values to help you indentify the stories you should tell. If your staff members are the key to customer service, consider profiling them. If your brand is committed to supporting the community, write about your involvement. If you have a major event coming up, think how you can advance it through teaser posts.

Get a calendar and mark it with your content ideas, including time-sensitive promotions such as new products and services, special events or campaigns. This content calendar becomes your map, ensuring you are prepared to keep your blog updated.

Unite Message with Emotion

Marketing success today means connecting with and engaging your customers. Most people don't engage with products or services intellectually. They need an emotional tie. One of the best ways to unite your message with emotion is through effective storytelling.

Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford University Graduate School of Business professor, and Andy Smith, a principal with Vonavona Ventures who offers startups with marketing advice, offer good counsel on storytelling in their book, "The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change."

"Show, don't tell, is the most fundamental maxim of storytelling," say Aaker and Smith in a recent blog post. "Your audience should see a picture, feel the conflict and become more involved with the story. They're not receptacles for a series of facts."

Storytelling, they explain, is a contact sport. They quote Mark Twain: "Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."