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Businesses Are Not Storytellers

Businesses are not equipped to tell stories.

This word storytelling is starting to get a bit confusing. If you are taking a content marketing approach, these words have to sit hand in hand in order to give credibility.

This weeks Marketing Homebrew (Tuesday 10th) asks the questions, ‘is content something that fills a hole?’ If what you create adds meaning to someone else, that’s content, if content interrupts with a foot in the door, that’s spam. It’s something similar for the word ‘storytelling.’ It’s just a word with an overarching goal to make someone else feel different.

But most businesses do not tell a compelling story. Businesses are not storytellers.


Is it because they get a bit confused about who is the ‘hero’?


Is it because they haven’t taken time out to create content that goes beyond copying what someone else has done within the same industry?


Is it because they have lost track of who their audience is?


Is it because it takes time to craft something that is more compelling than product benefits?

Getting warm…

Is it because it is something they haven’t done before?

We’re getting there!

A Bit Of School time History

The reason companies are not equipped to tell stories is that it is far easier to keep to a way of working that has been adopted for generations that focuses on selling a product/service. That’s ok, it has been drummed into us since we’ve watched adverts selling us (or rather our parents) toys in between He-Man and Dangermouse.

We have been moulded to be in business to convince people to buy our product, not persuade people to buy into what we believe in via a narrative to create an emotional connection.

This is what marketers and businesses are measured on at the end of the day. How much they are selling of product x in the shortest amount of time.

An Accepted Mentality

This is why we have accepted the campaign mentality as a given. That is why companies schedule three months to blast everyone with a message in the blind hope it will trigger a reaction to lead to a purchase.

That is why there is a fascination with Google Analytics hopefully showing more visits this week than last week. That’s what businesses are still focused on within the UK according to the Content Marketing Institute and the DMA.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 16.12.05


Everything is based on chasing the NOW, rather than building a longer term vision to build rapport and a consistent body of work that adds value outside of what we sell everyday of the week.

It’s about thinking 12 months ahead and keeping with it, rather than walking away when you come to the end of month three and the six sheet poster is taken down to be replaced by someone else’s message in a rented space.

We’ve Told Stories In Our ‘Normal’ Lives, Just Not Business

We can all tell stories that convince someone else, just not very well in business. I can remember telling my first ‘proper’ girlfriend that I was a pretty valued team member of the Poole Grammar first XI football team, when in reality I was struggling to make the third XI.

Sharing stats about your industry presence (no…not testimonials) can persuade people, but they do not inspire them to take action and stir the soul.

This is what a storytelling approach does. Now, I’m not going to take the, ‘storytelling has been with us since the dawn of time’ approach as that has been done since the dawn of Twitter.

What’s The Answer

This all comes down to changing a habit.

Whilst we are still measured via the number of products sold, you can still do this with a body of work that is created with a longer-term goal to challenge, invite, connect and participate.

Our biggest obstacle is not the topics of content we are looking to create, but to carve out a defined niche within spaces that scream for attention with a purely interruptive approach. This also presents the opportunity.

So, what are the triggers to start a new habit? Some points to consider:


  • Accept you don’t have to tell a story, just appear real

It’s not a case of constructing the equivalent of a performance and realising who the goodies and baddies are, but in the words of Robert Rose (Chief Strategy Officer from The Content Marketing Institute and also sharing his thoughts at the second Content Revolution Workshop this month), understanding that a story doesn’t always have to be ‘factually true’.

Differentiating with content marketing means that a story doesn’t have to be true – but real.


  • Start small, but be interesting

Any habit starts with small steps, it’s a different way of doing things. You cannot think that you have to have a polished series of YouTube videos up before the end of the month, you have to start with an initial idea that strikes a chord with an audience and let it gradually build momentum.


  • Express a point of view and be ok if you lose people

Accept what you create is not for everyone or the business equivalent of XFactor, where you aim to appeal to the widest audience possible. It’s better to focus on making an impact with the content you create to a niche.


  • You can still be entertaining and useful

We have passed the stage where a white paper or ebook is intended to send someone to sleep by sounding self-important and reverting back to selling a product. You can still have business relevance if you add personality and spirit and not holding back by thinking people will laugh at you.


  • You have a beginning that never stops beginning

You need to understand that this is a continuous process. In the words of Steven Spielberg, “People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”


  • Change from thinking about a product, but talking to a person

A big change for me was thinking that every single piece of content that I create, from text to podcast, I have to imagine I am talking to one other person who is listening.

If I start breaking off into product sales mode, they are going to walk out the room or eyes are going to wander. You need to switch from product to person.


  • Get others to see you in a different light

Just because the rest of your industry has chosen to go down a particular path, doesn’t mean that you have to. If you are a solicitor, the persona for someone looking for information on conveyance is different from someone looking for divorce information. Why not take a step for your audience to see you in a more approachable/normal way? What’s wrong with answering a question based on how long would Darth Vadar be sentenced in a court of law?


  • Understanding your audience and the role you play within their day

Everything starts and ends with your audience. The information you create has to have them in mind. If you begin a journey that starts with a small amount of (or little) attention, it doesn’t mean to say that it’s time to stop.

This is all about building a continuum and acknowledging that when you serve an audience, they give you what you need.


  • It’s about consistency and creativity to gain momentum

Creativity is a huge area of importance. It’s what shapes your thinking and approach and the ability to put your neck on the line when others won’t. A habit starts by being committed and not necessarily accepting your industry (and the world) as it’s given.


Lets Start To Conclude

Storytelling is not about crafting a narrative that has a beginning, middle or end or understanding a heroes journey, it is more about an audience consuming what you produce and resonates with them on a level that is miles more than a glorified sales pitch.

It’s about getting emotional. It’s about the right content at the right time.

Acknowledge that this is not all about you but to be ok that you aren’t necessarily a storyteller.

It’s more important to understand someone better than they know themselves and help them aspire to feel different about what you do and why you do it.



Content Revolution: Message Workshop

There are two Content Revolution workshops this month. Come and join me on Wednesday 25th November including special guest from the Content Marketing Institute, Robert Rose.

Click here to see the full agenda for the workshop and what you will learn and take away.

Or, you can book right here.

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