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Six Blunt Questions To Ask Yourself When Adopting A Storytelling Approach


We are all storytellers. Then again doesn’t that sound like another invitation to create noise with no direction just because you can assume a new enriched title?

I know I am getting a bit uncomfortable with the term ‘storytelling’, as it conjures up different meanings in others peoples heads.

A popular response I find is, ‘well…we create content for our customers, the last thing we are is storytellers.”

Lets just put being tagged with a name to one side and recognise that the days of putting an advert in front of the eyes of others will result in a sale.

You only need to look at Google’s Zero Moment of Truth to confirm that customers are shopping around to see what resonates with them. One of the biggest highlights was that buyers are looking at more sources of information (5.27 in 2010 to 10.4 in 2011) before they commit and spending more time with these sources.

Alternatively the storytelling approach becomes the trigger to create content that resonates with an audience because it creates real value to someone else.

Companies have to stop thinking that just because they paid for media they can create a reaction. Take for instance, this photo below from a busy roundabout in the centre of Poole (my home town) that is there for all to see at the moment.


The message highlights to an audience of complete strangers that two law firms have merged (and if anyone is interested, no website URL to find out the history behind both companies).

This becomes a reason to wallow in own self-indulgence and importance that this company can spend money and advertise where they want.

This idea of advertising where a company wants because they have money is also exemplified by the Vape Shop within this double page spread within The Bournemouth Echo on Saturday 10th November.

Whilst press has a control over editorial, doesn’t it make you think that press titles also need control today of advertising? Another point of discussion for another time.


What I am trying to highlight with the above two examples is that thought and creativity can move to one side and in its place throwing money to borrow space from someone else.

People are looking before they make a decision. According to The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing (Marketing Leadership Council), 57% of customers’ progress through the purchase decision process before starting a conversation.

Deep down these two companies (as well as everyone else) are made up of stories. Even though the two examples are adverts, they are still miles away from delivering value to an audience.

It is this role of delivering value that is the difference between a company turning their head the other way or having a purpose for an audience.

The stories that you provide is the validation of what you stand for and what you believe in.

In the words of Robert Mighall, author of Only Connect, “Stories are a great way of showing the possibility of change without preaching, but only if they illustrate real, tangible and achievable outcomes.”

When it comes to taking on board a storytelling approach and not resorting to throwing money down a drain by meaning nothing to no one, here is what you need to consider to build momentum and consistency.

If this is an approach that you are seriously considering investing in or just beginning, here are six key questions to always come back to and ask yourself.


Can you provide a different view?

There has to be a way to provide an opinion, backup up via facts and real world experiences. I highlighted in my last article that businesses need to step up from just dictating an opinion to now solidify a point of view.

A tirade of opinion is the equivalent of walking a tightrope, whereas the facts represent the safety net.

Taking an opinion and shaping it via facts and experiences is something that no one else can take as their own as you provide a viewpoint.

An alternative view on an industry topic that has been around for a long time provides a good start. For instance an estate agent going with the popular ‘how to choose the right estate agent’ article becomes ‘is selling your home via an online site, the way we will all sell houses by 2025?’

By this I mean:

  • fact: people will be selling their homes as long as there is day and night
  • experience: there is a disruption of online estate agents
  • opinion: is being responsible for the sale of your house, something you are prepared to take full responsibility for?


Can you make peoples lives easier?

Perhaps it is time to look beyond solving problems and just make peoples lives easier. In The Content Revolution I highlight a more emotional pull to what you do. “Customers do not want to be sold to; what they want are their hopes, needs and wants catered for.”

For example if you are a personal trainer, don’t sell training packages sell self-confidence. If you own a business centre renting office space, don’t sell office space, sell the opportunity to build credibility and new connections that can lead to a bigger audience.


Ask yourself, would you read it?

You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. My podcast partner, Ian Rhodes mentions in his workshops for others to ask themselves would they take the articles that sit in the blog section of their website and to give them pride of place on their homepage.

Is there that moment of hesitation? If there is and you can’t stand with belief that your content (whether written, spoken or filmed) represents what you stand for and believe in, it’s time to think again. You need to be committed to finding ways to deliver value.

This is one of the reasons why Ian and myself and taking on board a new approach for the third season of The Marketing Homebrew where we are creating a challenge for others to ask questions related to their marketing and we can create an interactive experience for others.

This is something we have to be happy listening back to. By the way, if you have a question related to how your content efforts are progressing or just interested in a particular area, just ask us click here.


Are you relentlessly curious?

Is there a way of sharing an approach that you do have a genuine curiosity about? If the prime reason for having a business is to make money, then finding a story that represents value and interest for someone else becomes a lot harder.

You only need to look at the success of Kickstarter (founded in 2009) as a way to connect people with the creators of a product they want to see and what someone believes in.


Can you move from transaction to emotion?

The story that you create has to be based on making a connection with someone else so that they can relate to you.

Take for example Martin Lewis, the self proclaimed Money Saving Expert who estimates around 8.5 million people receive his weekly email updates. He represents the consumer revolution for making a stand and having more control over their budgets than ever before.

This is something that people connect with that. This was more than a logo and a churn of articles on how to save money, it was one man that people could connect with and more importantly believe in. Isn’t this what we want our audience to see in us.

The ability to talk with conviction and belief far outweighs a one-dimensional tone of voice where the whole concentration is to make that sale and then move onto the next prospect.

Can you connect with your customers on a level far deeper that paying an invoice?

In Joe Pulizzi’s new book, Content Inc. he states, “if you focus on listening to customers first and selling second , it will open up new opportunities to position your company.”


Are you ready to acknowledge that being vulnerable is ok?

A lot of what I share is about the mistakes that I have made and the instances that haven’t worked. This provides me with a point of view.

This isn’t about having a weakness, it’s about acknowledging that you don’t need to take yourself too seriously. For others to buy into your story there has to be that element of normality.

During the recession, the local business papers/magazines always papered over the cracks by presenting a façade that the local economy was still booming. It didn’t matter that businesses had paid for the privilege so they could take the half page ad, alongside the half page editorial. Lets just be believable and open to an audience.


By asking yourself these six questions represents the objective for you becoming the place where people get the information they want. Your role within the marketplace changes from competing with everyone to building an audience around your approach.

A storytelling mindset is one of the key elements to creating an owned media approach that can build and grow your audience. It’s time to stand up and say to yourself that you are a storyteller. It’s time to get others around your campfire to listen and share.



The Content Revolution:Message Workshop (25th November 1pm to 4.30pm)

November brings two Content Revolution Workshops to Bournemouth. The first Workshop on Wednesday 11th November is now SOLD OUT so have just added a second date on Wednesday 25th November. This workshop is going to look at how you deliver your message and to build your audience with the right voice.

The aspect of opinion, experience and fact we’ll look at more deeply.

Special guests as always, promised to prove an owned media approach works.

Click here to read more about the event

Or you can book right here. See you next month.

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