Storytelling Deconstructed

From folklore and family tales to journalism and the written word, storytelling has long been a tradition of engagement, education, and connection. Storytelling as a content marketing tool has risen in popularity over the last decade. However, it has been employed as a tactic without the need to call it such for as long as brands have been attempting to win you over.  How then can we take a fresh look at it as a mechanism for engagement, and why have some organizations been slow to adopt it?

Last week, we spoke with Stuart Meyer of Social Frequency Media.  Meyer has built his career on storytelling in the form of documentaries, music, and most recently, podcasting.  So perhaps we should start here, with the forms storytelling can take, then we can cover some ways your team can reengage in the centuries-old format guaranteed to engage…when done right.

Lofty expectations One reason some organizations have been reticent, especially associations or non-profits who may be working with limited budgets, is because there is a perceived high cost of entry.  Over the last 10 years we have seen unprecedented technological and digital innovations that have democratized the experience of creating and telling a story; yet people still perceive that the art of doing so through film, audio, or the written word will take too much time and expensive tooling to turn out a finished product.  One way to reduce this barrier is to accept the democratization of this capability which in turn lowers the expectations on the final product.  Everyone would wish they could turn out a Ken Burns documentary or an Ira Glass show but storytelling can be done experimentally to test your audiences.  Which leads us to our next point on looking anew at the tactics.

Experimental technology These days if you can fire up a Zoom call, hit a record button, and follow along with a 5-minute YouTube video on how to use GarageBand or iMovie, you could be a podcaster or a vlogger in no time. To our point earlier, does this mean you will be churning out Oscar worthy moments or Peabody level journalism?  No, but you will begin to exercise your muscle of innovation.  To that end, if you are too fearful of putting out a minimally viable product yourselves, the rise of the gig economy opens your organization’s aperture for laser focused creative talent on the fly without the overhead. 

But am I doing it right? Ahh…strategy.  Throwing your expectations to the wind and experimenting with new technologies does not mean you are to forgo the critical thinking needed to determine what story your audience will engage with and if segmentation is worth investigating to tell multiple stories.  That being said, you won’t know until you try.  The key is to be authentic to your brand or organization’s mission and to tell the stories you have the right to tell.  Audiences can sniff out a disingenuous storyline from a mile away.  Is there a story in how the association formed? What about the history of the industry it supports and its innovators along the way?  Are there key wins in the history of the association that are worthy of demonstrating the strength in numbers?  It’s precisely because the technology is flexible and low-cost that you can afford to test and experiment with stories to see which ones resonate.

Top three take-aways:

  • If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that people will tolerate any form of storytelling, no matter how down and dirty it’s produced. Don’t overthink editing in pursuit of perfection upfront, just start doing it!
  • The rise of new technologies and the gig economy make this possible with a lower cost of entry and serve as a springboard for your own internal digital revolution.
  • Be authentic. Full stop.

We look forward to meeting David Carnes with ArcStone next week on 6 Degrees of Associations to explore how brands use their website to do their storytelling for them.  In the meantime, tune into Meyer’s Just Be Yourself with Julia Mancuso podcast to hear how he has expertly connected audio, music, and journalism into one jam packed weekly show.  Now that there might just be Peabody-worthy!

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