Unless you’ve been under a rock for quite some time now, you’re fully aware that corporate storytelling has been and continues to be the new “black” in marketing.
Evolving from its predecessor “authenticity marketing” (remember that?), content like this, this and this are all examples of the more than 700,000 results one gets when searching online for “corporate storytelling.”
The confluence between technology and content marketing continues to create new platforms for organizations and brands to engage with their audiences like never before. Organizations have unprecedented opportunities—and expectations—to create content that is relevant, engaging and plentiful. Marketing communications executives and their teams are now almost like professors! Publish or perish…
Consequently, we have all been subjected to a proliferation of story-laden jargon like “narrative,” “storytellers,” “crafting stories” and “brand story.” Yet despite all of the fawning over storytelling—and widely available talent and resources to do it well—I find that most companies (and agencies) are still faking it until they make it when it comes to real, authentic storytelling.
Here are just two of many real-life examples I’ve recently experienced:
- Where’s the Beef?: The Case of the Missing Narrative
A prospective new client was keenly interested in engaging The History Factory to help create stories that will substantiate and authenticate their new Purpose—a meaningful exercise the company recently completed. Our recommendations included developing a “Company Narrative,” one of the core deliverables of our products and services. “We actually already have a narrative from our Purpose work,” our hope-to-be client revealed. “Great,” I said. “I’d love to see it and we can remove that from our scope of work.” After several requests, I finally got the “company narrative,” which was ostensibly nothing more than a few bullet points. This was no narrative. Indeed, it reinforced a piece of research that we have trotted out seven ways to Sunday since we found it: People are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a set of bullet points or facts and figures. This is an experience that keeps happening as more organizations and their agencies simply repackage what they’ve always done as “stories and narratives.” Call it what you will but bullet points are, by their very definition, not a narrative.
- Buying Vapor: The Case of the Missing Story Deliverable
For another prospective client, we recommended developing a “Story Bank.” Arranged thematically and aligned with core brand pillars, our Story Bank is a product that is exactly what it sounds like: a “bank of stories” that arms our clients with a playbook of narratives and images they can consistently distribute and deploy. Think brand book, but with carefully researched, curated and written stories with images. In the course of our conversation, I sensed both a keen interest in this particular work product—but also some trepidation. It turned out that this company had already engaged another agency to create a similar product, but never received it. That agency simply failed to deliver on this particular component, which was one piece of a bigger, integrated scope of work. The company informed me that it “viewed those stories as one of the most valuable parts of the project. We call it buying vapor when that happens.” As if buying a service and not receiving it is a common occurrence.
These two experiences affirm what we all know: Companies are continually hungry for real, substantive content. And when it comes to content creation and publishing, companies and agencies have access to more resources than ever before. They also probably have unprecedented leeway for the kinds of content they create. Companies and brands like Coca-Cola, Chase and the New York Times are taking full advantage of these resources and opportunities. Yet, for many organizations the content supply chain is still suffering substantial glitches and gaps, whether the supplier be an in-house or outside agency. Why? There’s no shortage of content marketing about how to do content marketing.
You no longer need to have a Coca-Cola or Chase-sized marketing budget to create great content and stories. There is a plethora of resources out there for any marketer and communicator. My experience is that many organizations are just not demanding quality content.
So I urge you: The next time you preach the need for “narrative” and “storytelling,” demand a real story with a real narrative that goes beyond message bullet points gift-wrapped in today’s latest buzz words.