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Like an argument? Say stories don’t belong in content marketing

Posted by Tom Power on July 28, 2015

Try Googling “content marketing” and “storytelling” someday. You know what you’ll get? An argument. That’s right, an argument. It seems there is disagreement about the value of storytelling in content marketing. And that will be evident in some of the returns your Google search will deliver.



The naysayer camp says that at the end of the day, businesses need to sell, and if the “story” in a piece of content marketing—whether it be a blog, a video or an infographic—doesn’t lead the customer down the path to purchase, then it ain’t selling and therefore has little value.


The other camp says storytelling is vital to the success of content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, storytelling in content marketing is not intended to be a “selling” tool at all. Instead, it’s a method of “building strong relationships with your customers and a thriving community of loyalists over time. Your story identifies what your passions are and serves as the foundation for all your future content developments.”


It isn’t my intention to weigh in on that argument myself. But someone who knows a little about arguments will undoubtedly be weighing in on it later this summer at Content Marketing World, the annual conference to be held September 8-11, 2015, in Cleveland. One of the keynote speakers at that event will be none other than John Cleese, the British actor who made the argument a marketable commodity in “Argument Clinic,” a memorable Monty Python TV sketch.



Something completely different
You might be wondering why John Cleese would be doing a keynote address at a content marketing event. Well, Cleese is not only a versatile comedic actor and author but has been a leading business motivator for decades, and I am sure that he would be firmly in the storytelling camp in the argument mentioned at the top of this blog post. In the early 1970s, at the same time he was spoofing everyday British life on Monty Python, he and other television professionals co-founded Video Arts, which became the world’s largest provider of business training programs.



The idea behind Video Arts was to deliver corporate training in an entertaining and engaging way, rather than in the boring manner that such videos were traditionally made. It was Cleese’s contention when he co-founded the company that “people learn nothing when they’re asleep and very little when they’re bored.” Since the company invented its humor-based corporate training videos, it has helped organizations deliver learning to millions of employees.

So what’s all this got to do with content marketing? It all comes back to storytelling. In the case of Video Arts, business training is what the story is all about. But the storytelling technique can be applied to anything you or your clients are marketing. If you are offering a product or service that solves a problem for a potential customer, then you have the major elements of a good story: conflict and resolution.


And nothing tells a story better than a well-crafted video. In The Power of Visual Storytelling, the authors note that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text and 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. That’s not to say there is no place for short- and long-form written content, but statistics like those suggest that marketers who don’t at least begin to incorporate videos into their content marketing programs are ignoring a big opportunity at their own peril.



The content connection
So how do you do that? One option is to outsource the content creation process to companies that specialize in it. In the June 2015 edition of Chief Content Officer magazine, which the editors dubbed “The Content Creation Issue,” an article lists more than 40 companies that help brand marketers “create, curate and measure” content marketing programs.


The problem with that option is it can be expensive. A more affordable option is to either hire a professional writer or use the services of freelancers. The Internet age hasn’t been kind to everyone. The resulting downsizing of newspapers and magazines has thrown many journalists out of work, and there are fewer opportunities for journalism school graduates. Consequently, they are seeking less traditional forms of writing jobs. And nobody knows how to tell a story better than a professional journalist.


The upshot is that whether your organization is small, medium or large, there are solutions out there that will enable you to keep your customers engaged with content marketing.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

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