Monday, March 18, 2013

Hot trend alert: storytelling

Last week was my very first SXSW Interactive. And as R/GA noted, storytelling is all the rage right now:

Although I would argue that storytelling has been popular for at least 3,000 years (e.g. The Bible), spinning a good yarn is definitely a hot topic in marketing right now.

So it was no coincidence that storytelling came up during the Future of Media 2013 panel about branded content at The Drake Hotel on Thursday, March 14. As a former freelance journalist, the most interesting part of the debate was watching journalists and content marketers try to determine where journalism ends and content marketing begins.

Joseph Barbieri was the closest when he said that there is plenty of good writing and storytelling possible in branded content. It might not be journalism in the traditional sense, but branded content can have context, layers and nuance. Josh Sternberg, meanwhile, was correct in saying that having a journalistic sensibility is not the same as doing journalism on behalf of brands.

Everyone agreed that good content is good content, regardless of who or how it is produced. The ability to tell a great story is crucial to producing good content, and it just so happens that most journalists are decent storytellers.

In my attempt to support this trend, I’ve asked Arianne Schaffer to speak at the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup on Thursday March 21. Arianne is adept at telling funny and moving personal stories, and she’s agreed to share some of her secrets. Although she’s promised to explain how personal storytelling can be leveraged in professional situations, the truth is that the elements of a good story remain consistent, regardless of context.

That's why one of the first questions all content strategists need to ask is “What’s the story?”* Or, as I like to say, content strategy without storytelling sounds like a fairy tale without a happy ending.

*Morning glory