Storytelling is all the rage…
In a quest for content, brands are looking to create stories to recount (online, in particular). The catch is that the stories must resonate with their audience and, more pressingly, must ring true for the employees. I see marketers (assisted by their ad agencies) attempting to create stories; but, the frequent challenge is that the raw material is weak. Thus, the story does not get traction. The irony of the word storytelling is that, in my distant memory, the term was used as kids in the context of lying: “stop telling stories!”
Story in your History
As a professional speaker, I tend to like saying that I tell stories. In French, the expression is discrediting: to be a “raconteur d’histoires” is not a glorious title.
Yet, in French, the double meaning of “histoire” (meaning, at the same time, story and history) is quite revealing and powerful. As we know, history (the high-story) is recounted by the victor. In other words, history is just a point of view. And, for many brands, the trick is to rewrite history and make sense of it. When you are living the startup, you cannot be worried about the story that will be told. That will come later with hindsight.
Form, function and content: the storyteller’s mix
According to the country or culture, some are more or less open to the role of a professional speaker (in terms of how much more they are prepared to pay). Depending on one’s perspective, more or less importance is given to the content over the form. The value of a professional speaker is viewed differently, particularly in the more “Latin” countries (France, Italy, Spain…) where the generally accepted pedagogical methods do not seem to have evolved. The bigger question may be aligning for what purpose, what function the speech serves. No matter the objective, the ‘truth’ is that one just cannot dissociate the content from the form. The content is transmitted through the form (the limbic part of the brain, where emotions reign). One has only to refer to the famous 78% of non-verbal communication through which a message is passed to give a little more credence to the importance of form. Yet, there remain many doubting neocortical Thomases.
Most recently, I was asked to show my speeches. The lady asked me to show my presentations, as if this were the way to see better my stories. When I told her that I had slides that were meaningless without the context (i.e. just an image, one word or an expression), she rolled her eyes.
How to show your story?
On the way home, I got to thinking. Okay, so how does one show one’s story? How do you show the guts of your story in a powerful way? As a brand, marketers need to be telling their story repeatedly. Rule #1 of communication, especially when navigating through change management, is to keep on saying your story over and over again, so that everyone gets the story. A few key steps:
- First point of call: what is the story? The story must be relevant and related to one’s history (even if it is reconfigured by the victor).
- How to make the [short] story compelling? The human element, the acceptance of [an] imperfection, the suspense, the relevant customer insight, the voice…
- Finally, what is the best form or format? This, of course, depends. But, nothing could be stronger than a well done video. Video is, after all, the third most critical tab (on the top of the google home page) to fill in for one’s eReputation. And, when I say well done, I do not mean perfect, the enemy of action. As Chris Brogan says, marketers and, especially those working in digital marketing, will need to hone their video making skills.