Organizational storytelling … do facts and self-promotion beat real stories?

 
Raf Stevens, a terrific corporate consultant in Europe and a colleague, is always asking good questions and bringing clarity to complicated issues. He is so passionate about exploring the question – “No stories, no fans?” – that he has written a book by that title. (There’s a link to the book below)

Raf Stevens of Corporate Storyteller

Raf has found that the more companies self-promote, the less likely they are to connect with audiences. It’s the same in Europe as it is in America.

The digital era is all about connecting with and engaging audiences.

This week, I had shared with some colleagues, including Raf, yet another example of a company undermining itself and any opportunity to build awareness … a consultancy located near DC claimed it had done speculative trend research on the baby boomer generation. Yet, there were no stats, no proof of substantive research.

The virtual consulting firm’s press release gushed self-promotion of the consulting firm. There was no story, no authentic awareness achieved, no media attention. Pure rubbish. Such things give PR a bad name, in my opinion, particularly in today’s highly competitive environments.

Here’s what Raf wrote back … and I could not agree with him more:

“Content marketing means that companies today are quite busy producing lots of online or offline content, writing corporate messages and creating images, video or audio. They are blogging and publishing articles highlighting their expertise with tips, advice and commentary.

“They issue all kinds of newsletters and publish their content much like you would on a blog. They use it to build a subscriber list that could come in handy when promoting products and services later. Or to write white papers showing off their knowledge and proving their expertise in their field. They do webinars and e-courses and all of that to demonstrate expert knowledge in a subject area and try to teach others. Obviously they bring in their credentials and experience to back that expert status up. They run video blogs or Web series. They podcast or Internet radio shows.

All this marketing content rarely connects with an audience. Why? Because it doesn’t make them feel anything. All this stuff is really just marketing material thinly veiled as content, and it’s quickly becoming the kind of one-sided content that turns people off. What makes great content spread is how compelling and inspiring the message is, not how it slants into a direction that ultimately positions your company as the only one to buy from. Content should make connections. I would even go further: content follows connection.

“First you need to engage, build rapport and make your audience trust you. And pure information or marketing messages do not make that happen. All these new forms of storytelling can not change the fact that if you communicate in facts and figures, you communicate “brain to brain”. To be successful in any kind of communication, you need to go human to human, heart to heart, emotion to emotion.”

Thanks, Raf. Right on the money … again.

As Brooke Gladstone, host of NPR’s “On the Media” says: “Journalists are taught to talk and write in human terms. Tell me a story.” That’s how we humans are wired to communicate with each other. What’s so hard about that?

As Leonard Bernstein wrote so famously at the end of his opera, “Candide” – “Any questions?!”

Raf’s consultancy is Corporate Storyteller. Read Raf’s “No Story, No Fans

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6 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing. Raf is spot on.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Raf is spot on, but I would add that engagement through social media also helps create that connection. Use those comment sections on blogs and the likes of Twitter and Facebook to engage more with your audience and make them feel involved and connected to your brand.

  3. Berry says:

    So true. Storytelling can be so powerful when done well, but so boring when done poorly of over done.

  4. As so often I agree with Raf (and David). The problem with most clients is that they are afraid to show that emotional (story)part. And sometimes it seems easier to fall back on knowledge and facts when you are too indolent or time-greedy to look into the ‘why’ of your organisation (in his book Raf also points to Sinek’s Golden Circle), the stories that give meaning and sense to your existence and that reflect your passions and drives. This is what people want to connect to, if ever.

  5. Jim says:

    Raf
    What does
    brain to brain,
    human to human,
    heart to heart,
    emotion to emotion
    mean?
    Please explain in plain english.

  6. Raf Stevens says:

    Hi Jim, I believe that nobody is perfect and no company is perfect. Pretending you’re a Superman who can fix all your customers’ problems will alienate those you are trying to attract. I give a lot of keynote speeches and presentations of that sort. Before I was conscious about my storytelling, I would talk about the facts and figures of good communication (brain to brain): this much faster, that much productivity improvement, etc. After a typical speech, I’d get one or two people who wanted to speak with me. Now that I’m telling real stories that exhibit real emotion and real humanity (heart to heart), I have 20 or 30 people come up afterwards. Some of them say things like: “That’s the first time I ever really connected with a speech.” Those types of responses have helped me gain confidence in the process and have added a humble dose of mo-jo into my story work. The story you tell should emotionally engage people to the extent that they want to keep reading or watching. Ideally they must care about the central character, deeply relate to what he’s going through on a human level, and want to see him solve whatever big problem the story is exploring.

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