The Storytelling Narrative – Sounds Like An Oxymoron

The storytelling narrative…sounds like an oxymoron? Well…there is a narrative in the content marketing space, and the primary focus for these marketers –> who is going to own the storytelling digital narrative. Hmm…

Since digital content marketing has become a buzz word, mission statement, and a service to provide…more and more “expert” storytellers are emerging. I am finding more and more organizations touting the ability to leverage audiences using this practice of storytelling. Just do a Google search and Twitter search for the word “Storytelling”.

Yes…we all can tell a story…but to what degree do people really care? And what do we view as a story. As a former journalist, stories were and still are my life. For so many years…I thought I could tell a great story using a camera, microphone, and a computer.

This was my ethic until I met Bob Dotson…who I think is one of the best storytellers in broadcast journalism. He shared something with me that changed the way I approach every project I produce. He shared with me his philosophy during dinner one evening.

Stories are like an onion, and it is up to us to help the audience peel back the layers. He went on to explain that many people can tell a story, but is it really a story when only layer  is revealed? True storytellers find stories with layers, ones that have deep meaning, deeper impacts, layers upon layers of little micro stories.

I love this idea of the onion and the storyteller’s burden to seek and find the truth in those layers. The true narrative lies in the connection of those layers as they are weaved together in a larger enterprise.

If you apply this idea of layers with content marketing, it is a perfect match. As content marketers, we know that it is not advantageous to only deliver the whole story at one time. If we can reveal each layer of a story, one link at a time, one picture at a time, one video at a time, one blog post at a time, one tweet at a time, etc…we can share a larger narrative that builds a larger digital brand.

We have the opportunity to expose a larger documentary, providing a path through this narrative (these micro-stories) revealing the thesis at the right time…the right moment.

So I thought I would share four things that I feel are a part of this larger storytelling narrative:

1) Finding the Story:
The act of finding a story that you can see, hear, feel, and relate. This is the vital. We not only have to find the first layer, we have to dig deep. We have to search for the onion. The goal is to find that story that can not only reveal itself in layers, but also provide digital accessibility for the audience. We want to sprinkle the digital space…one layer at a time.

2) Telling the story:
This is a part of the narrative where we bring the story to life. The art of articulating using words, visuals, sounds…elements that reach the audience in the fashion where they can see, hear, and feel the layers reveal themselves.

3) Seeking the Story:
As storytellers, we seek to tell, yet consumers seek to find a story. There is the part of the narrative where consumers use language to search for the story. Whether listening in a conversation or typing words into google, we must articulate what we want consumers to find. We have to give consumers language to use to find our stories! So as marketers of this larger narrative, we have to digitally brand our stories. How can we find and share the proper keywords, revealing them to the audience so that they find our story at the right moment in time.

4) Sharing the Story:
This is the part where pitching the story is important. Once we tell…we have to make the story repeatable in an efficient, expedient fashion. So articulating a status update, tweet, or sharing at the dinner table is a part of the sharing narrative. From word-of-mouth (WOM) to digital WOM, sharing is a strategy. How can we trickle each layer of the story so that we give the audiences reason to continually come back for more.

#SCMission2013 Photoessay – Faces of the Unisured

So many faces…so many people in need…I was completely overwhelmed. It was 5am and as I pulled into the Charleston Coliseum parking lot, it was not immediately noticeable if there was a sizable turnout for the SCMission2103 Lowcountry Free Clinic.

As I parked, pulled my gear together and made my way to the coliseum…the line appeared. The line wrapped around the coliseum, people waiting in-line all night for a chance to receive care.

I met Bill Plank (pictured directly above), and he drove from Anderson to Charleston to see a doctor. Anderson is my home town, like him, I drove 3.5 hours to Charleston. Yet, he drove the night before, spent the night in the car so that he could be close to the front of the line. His goal: to be seen by a physician as soon as possible. I was thankful he spent a few minutes with me to share his story.

The photos in the slideshow at the top of this page are a part of a photo essay I captured on Friday. I knew I could spend time capturing stories from individuals and volunteers…most importantly, I wanted to capture the faces or the uninsured. I wanted to capture their expressions, their context, their story.

These are the faces of the uninsured, right here in South Carolina. They are a part of the 250 thousand uninsured individuals that could benefit from access to quality medical care. They look like you and I, they have families, bills to pay, children to feed…they are human. These are their faces.

So here is a little information about SC Mission 2013 Lowcountry. South Carolina Hospital Association and Access Health SC partnered with many community organizations in Charleston in an effort to organize and execute a two day free clinic for those in need. From free medical, dental, and vision care…hundreds and hundreds of people waited to be seen this Friday morning.

Are people remembering then searching for your story?


Image credit: DailyGalaxy.com

I was looking around for the perfect billboard image and I thought this fit so well. I just read and article from SearchEngineLand.com surrounding the idea of attribution in the world of marketing.

What is attribution?
Attribution is the process of identifying a set of user actions (“events”) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then assigning a value to each of these events.Marketing attribution provides a level of understanding of what combination of events influence individuals to engage in a desired behavior, typically referred to as a conversion. (from wikipedia.com)

As I was thinking through this article, I began pondering some of my larger clients. I was thinking about how they spread their marketing mix (spend) across the spectrum and how it relates to the related online search.

One of the take aways: “The biggest conversion rate (90%) is the person that uses a single click or with the same keyword typed.”

So, how do I apply this to a large organization’s marketing/pr efforts…especially as it involves our social/digital efforts. Heck, let’s narrow the field to a large hospital system.

First…it is all about the search! On all media mixes, it is more important to make our searchable keywords (that drive traffic to our conversion rates) extremely apparent. From billboards, television, to digital ads; we have to consider visually displaying the keywords we want people to use to search Google/Yahoo/etc.

Basically, this is a typography/visual design exercise. When designing any media, the words that we want people to use to search for our final digital destinations must be most visible, most readable, and most apparent.

So this is a shift in thinking a bit, especially for me.

What is our digital keyword brand?
Think about a billboard on the interstate. As we drive by, which keywords do we remember from that billboard. Which keywords catch our attention? Are the keywords people remember the ones that match our branded message? Does our audience type those branded keywords correctly into the search engine to find our services.

Think about that television ad. Which keywords are used in the ad? Are the displayed words in the ad the same keywords we want people to use to search for that service? What will they remember?

Social Media/digital ads are different…we should be already giving links with updates as we point people to final destinations.

I would love to hear your thoughts as you read through this article. Maybe you are implementing this strategy, and I am wasting your time. But, I found this research interesting as it relates to large organizations (especially hospitals) that use a multi-channel media mix.

Facebook is loosing steam with the Millennials and Generation Z


Image Credit: Mashable.com

I just read an OPED on Mashable.com today, it’s title: “I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook”. Yep…things are changing. Let’s look at a few statements in the article that peaked my interest. This article is from the viewpoint of a 13 year old. Her name is Ruby Karp.

“Facebook is losing teens lately, and I think I know why.

Part of the reason Facebook is losing my generation’s attention is the fact that there are other networks now. When I was 10, I wasn’t old enough to have a Facebook. But a magical thing called Instagram had just come out … and our parents had no idea there was an age limit. Rapidly, all my friends got Instagrams.

Now, when we are old enough to get Facebook, we don’t want it. By the time we could have Facebooks, we were already obsessed with Instagram.”

Yes…and there are so many other reasons why teenagers are migrating away. None of their friends are using Facebook. Why? There is no community for this generation.

Ruby continues:  “This leads me into my next point: Although I do have a Facebook, none of my other friends do. My friends just thought it was a waste of time. I decided to get a Facebook just to see what it was all about. I soon discovered that Facebook is useless without friends. My only friend is, like, my grandma.”

Her next point peaks my interest. She beings to examine the idea of  surveillance. She explains parents spend so much time on Facebook, some of which to monitor what their children are doing. As a communication consultant, I remember having a Facebook training session for a group of hospital marketing/pr staff members. The main reason they attended, to figure out how to watch what their children were doing, with who, and where.

“Let’s say I get invited to a party, and there’s underage drinking. I’m not drinking, but someone pulls out a camera. Even if I’m not carrying a red Solo cup, I could be photographed behind a girl doing shots. Later that week, the dumb-dumb decides to post photos from that “amazing” party. If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn’t participating, I’d be dead. This isn’t Facebook’s fault, but it happens there.”

So who is the average user on Facebook? Buffer’s blog shares some demographics“According to the research, it’s a young, 25 year-old woman, living in a big city, with a college degree and a household income of more than $75k a year.”

Above are some interesting statistics from Pew Research Center surrounding the Landscape of Social Media Users. Once again, look at the breakdown of social users and their choice of social media outlets.

With all this said, I think there is a unique separation between the Generation Z (born after 2000) and the Millennials (Generation Y). The Millennials look like they might be last generation of Facebook diehards. But…these diehards, the supporters of this social network that brought them together are slowly departing. They are tired of the “drama” and being overly exposed to the world.

Here is an interesting commentary on YouTube between a group of young professionals. They fall into the Millennial generation.

At :37 seconds into the video, the young man says, “There is always going to be something new.” And this is point of this blog post. We as communicators have to understand that Facebook taught us to adapt from our “traditional” mode of marketing/pr communication. And once again, it is going to teach us that we have to continue to evolve and stay true our goals as practitioners. We are communication practitioners and not technicians.

The moment we put all our eggs into one communication basket, we will be taught once again that this communication paradigm is going to shift once again.

Asking the right questions…storytelling

It was just yesterday I was working on a project for a group in Portland, Maine. An upstate portrait artist has been commissioned for a project and it was important to capture his story during the process. The artist’s name is Jerry and he grew up in Spartanburg.

The client for this project is actually an old friend of mine, Mike Redding. He is not old, we just worked together close to ten years ago.

He sent me a note with some of the questions for the interview and I could immediately recognize his thought process. One of the questions was buried in the midst of all the questions…and I wondered. It was a personal question that seemed to need a little extra attention.

I know Mike…there is a reason for this question. It was just not a throw away…it was important. Later, he sent me a note warning me Jerry might get annoyed with answering these personal questions and he actually might get mad. That immediately told me this topic was not only important to the story, but also a series of questions that needed to be asked.

People want to talk. People want to share their story. We just have to ask the right questions. When people like Jerry agree to an interview, they subconsciously agree to share the deepest part of their lives. We just have to be willing to ask the right questions at the right time. Most importantly…we have to remember the interview process is about trust.

I have learned not to dive right into the most controversial question at the beginning, unless I am working on a documentary or investigative story that requires me to capture that question immediately. We have to slowly work our way into the important questions. We have to learn to build trust.

I am asked so many times, “What do you do?” I tell people I am a storyteller. I find, capture, tell, and share stories for people to enjoy. But what I really do is ask the right questions.

Passion can be found in someone’s story!

Meet Dot…she is amazing and has a powerful story to tell. Many people camp out all night for iPhones, iPads, and other gadgets. She camped out all night to be the first in-line to receive free medical care. Why? She needed it and was willing to just about anything for the opportunity. To me…that is about as entrepreneurial as it gets!

From TheState.com
There were more than 1,300 patient interactions at the SC Mission 2013 this past Friday and Saturday in Columbia, SC at the State Fairgrounds.

Patients received healthcare, eye care, prescriptions and women’s care, including pap smears and mammograms.

The SC Mission aims to meet the needs of residents who are underserved an uninsured. There were about 1,000 clinical and non-clinical volunteers including about 500 healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and optometrists.

These individuals, those 1300 people that came through the doors have passion. Their story surrounds us here in South Carolina with over 250,000 people who are uninsured.

Many times we have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Or we are not motivated to get the day started. Sometimes it is hard to make that first step on a project or we have been procrastinating with that todo list.

I took note this past Friday. People like Dot and the 1300 individuals that waited inline to receive medical care. Many of them made sure they were first in line, waiting all night.

Passion…very entrepreneurial to me!