Tag Archive for: owned content

Telling your company story is imperative and corporate storytelling is as much of an art form as writing a novel.

Yes, a PR company can help, but in order to be effective AS a story, it needs to be told and re-told, which means everyone has to be able and willing to tell the story. Additionally, your story will influence your company culture, the way your customers relate to you, everything. It’s important to get the story right.

You’ve probably heard that there are only 7 basic stories ever written. Every single story falls into one of these categories – each its own journey:

Overcoming the Monster
Rags to Riches
The Quest
Voyage and Return

One of the great modern-day corporate stories is Steve Jobs returning to Apple after his humiliating exit. It’s a “Voyage and Return” story. Look closely at those stories. What’s missing? The motivation, the characters, the setting and/or place. This is where telling your story becomes individualized and authentic. Personally, I believe one of the most compelling story aspects is motivation, but setting/place can also set a compelling stage for the journey and the characters. What makes Steve Jobs return so compelling is the setting/the time. Apple was in trouble. Big trouble. It was his chance to return to his visionary roots and undoubtedly, his time away from Apple contributed to the turn-around.

So let’s look at a few of the OTHER elements that contribute to great corporate storytelling.

The Character

In corporate story-telling, the character can be a founder or the brand. The best brands have personalities all of their own. One of my absolute favorite brands is Coca-Cola. For over 30 years, their brand has been a happy one, spreading joy around the world. I envision Coca-Cola’s brand persona as a group of people from around the world smiling together and laughing together as the life of the party, the center of the action, the group everyone gathers around. Notice how my character is defined by the setting (the world, the party), we’ll get to the setting in a minute. The point is to envision your brand as a persona, who are they? Are they serious or comedic? Are they reserved or wild? Are they old or young? Your brand is as complex as a person, so you can enjoy the multiple aspects of your brand, but the important thing is to choose no more than 1-2 personality elements to focus on. Simplicity creates powerful brands, and multiple personalities muddle them.

Keep in mind, in our example of Steve Jobs,  Steve Jobs doesn’t make the story compelling, Steve Jobs is more compelling (as a character, an icon) because of the story. This is true of all stories – the character is made great by the other elements of the story, not the other way around. Without the other elements in the story, there are no compelling characters.

Motivation and/or Inspiration

Marketers will recognize this is “The Why.”   What’s the compelling motivation behind the main character’s actions? Is it service? Is it retribution? Is it righting a wrong? Is it glory?  Great motivations drive action. Sometimes, in novels or films, a truly compelling character will have conflicting motivations, this can be true in corporate storytelling as well. For example, perhaps the character is driven by both the need to serve and glory. Humans often have conflicting motivations, but for the purposes of corporate story-telling, it’s most effective to emphasis one motivation. In corporate story-telling, we rarely have 1,000 or more pages to develop our character’s motivation. Focus on a single motivation as the driver.

Interestingly, using the above example of Steve Jobs’ motivation, in the corporate story about Jobs’ return, the motivation is left absent. This is brilliant because it leaves us all to wonder and speculate what his motivation really was. Personally, I believe the reason its left out of this corporate story is it’s probably unflattering, but leaving it out makes the motivation as absent even more powerful than if it had been included.

The Setting/Time

In corporate story-telling, the setting and time are often represented as the “ah-ha” moment, which is made richer by what was happening to the character or in the world at that moment. Was the character liberated? Frustrated? Was there an event that triggered the action? Perhaps the setting/time impacted the motivation and most certainly impacted the action.

Take for example the Coca-Cola brand, they started spreading joy at a time when globalism was really first taking hold, also during a time of great cultural upheaval for the United States, 1971. The “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” is considered the world’s most famous commercial and it’s joy and happiness is in direct contrast to what was happening in the United States at the time. Somehow, the brand of Coke delivered a much-needed smile to America. In fact, the story behind the creation has similar-it happened under frustrating circumstances.   Coca-Cola didn’t hold a mirror up to us, it provided us with an escape. Since then, Coca-Cola has always focused on creating moments of joyous respite, during the best of times and the worst of times.


Keep in mind, while you must have all these components in a story, one of these components will be the star in your corporate storytelling. In the Coca-Cola brand example, the star is the setting. In the Steve Jobs story, the star is the journey.

If it’s time to create or reinforce your story, begin with taking stock of these elements, determine where your strength is and be sure to simplify your story so it’s easy to tell. If you’re “stuck” with your story, contact us. We will help you create a story worth telling and even work with you to create content that tells your story.

Bet your starting to think about next year’s social media marketing plan. And as importantly, where will social media marketing fall into the mix? Will there be more? Less? The latest Advertising Trust report from Neilsen may offer some insights to help you in your planning process.

One of the strongest reasons to increase your social media is the the number one source of consumer trust and action isRecommendations from people I know”.  Trust and action are often hand in hand, and we can’t discount the value of trust, but its also hard to measure. However, what creates trust and what creates action can be different. For example, consumers report that humorous ads resonate most with them. We know that humor is a powerful tool, especially in social media. It might be more powerful than cats, dare I say (GASP). However, humor is rarely what makes people take ACTION.

The action taking piece is the one I’m always most interested in looking at more closely. And its really no surprise that word of mouth leads the pack. Ads on social networks have a lower trust score than they do action score. That’s actually true for several advertising types. With respect to social media, there are two key take aways:
1)  Use social to build trust and be very aware of what motivations exist for taking action.
2) The power of your tribe: when they share what you’ve got, its a more credible source. So be very aware of what and why people share on social. Tribes deeply impact our actions.

Now, the challenge with a report like this is that these results are all self-reported. The challenge with self-reporting is that people don’t always really know why they do what they do. I know, YOU always know why you do what you do. Or do you? Your motivations may not always be clear even to you. That’s why I started Captivation Motivation Training. 

Just remember, what type of message you use impacts trust and action. Decide what you’re trying to establish in every single post. Be purposeful in your social media practice and you’ll find that you can actually be more human.




PS: If you’d like to download the Neilsen Report for yourself: click here

This post originally appeared on Akamai Marketing

Storytelling continues to grow in importance and prominence in marketing. But marketers are just now learning what writers and content creators like animators have known for a longtime: storytelling is an art, not a science.

Recently, I had the chance to talk with Allen Mezquida, the creator of Smigly (who, I have unabashedly admitted, is my latest crush). Smigly can be found on YouTube with regular installments coming as fast as Allen can create them. Smigly first came to my attention with this oh-so-true animation about social media which to date has been viewed over 68,000 times : Smigly-Noise

I asked Allen some questions about storytelling; his answers are honest and sans any of the usual marketing blather. Thanks to Allen for telling his stories and telling it straight!

What do you think is at the heart of great storytelling? I’m speaking as an audience member when I say a personal story or observation always works for me. A one note gag or a storyline based on another type of story doesn’t have the depth or resonance. I want to hear a personal point of view. If it’s funny and has heart than I’ll probably watch it more than once. This is tricky because it’s much harder to pitch an original story than it is to pitch something that is just like some other new thing or fad. Clients often want something that is like something else that they know so they can feel secure but the fact is it will never be as good if it’s a replica. There’s an art to pitching that I’m still working on but I have a body of work now that is fairly clear. That said…today a potential client wanted to know if SMIGLY could happily waltz off into the sunset to make people happy. I said— “You’re telling me you want Lucy to NOT pull the football away from Charlie Brown? Are you kidding me?”

They got the message. I’m not sure if I got the gig though. Ha.

What can marketers and social media professionals learn from Smigly? A lot of marketeers told me that I had to put out content everyday or at least a few times a week. Each episode of Smigly takes about five weeks yet the audience has grown steadily and is very loyal. I think the lesson here is how important quality is over quantity. The only thing that matters is that people are moved enough to keep spreading the word. This is the essence of new media. That said…I look forward to the day when a staff of animating elves can help me bang these out quicker.


You got a lot of coverage from the social media world on the Smigly cartoon poking fun at social media, how did you feel about the social media community’s response? Everybody related to it in some way. That’s what I hoped would happen. Nobody went into denial which is usually the case when you’re talking about addiction.  To me that cartoon was more about the flaws of human nature than the evils of technology. I do have my problems with technology but that will be in other episodes. It’s the human flaws that are funny to me.

How did you create Smigly? What was the inspiration? As an animator you’re always executing other people’s ideas. It’s tedious especially when the ideas are trite or cliched. I wanted to tell my own stories. These stories had to do with how harsh the modern world can be. It’s a soul-crushing shit storm out there if you have any kind of sensitivity. I think we’re all much more sensitive than we want to admit. We’re all Smigly at some time or another.

What was your goal in putting the Smigly animations on YouTube? I wanted to distribute it to as many people as possible and slowly build an audience.

How long have you been a professional animator? I’ve been an animator for about seven years. Before that I lived in New York City and traveled the world as a jazz saxophonist. I still play because I love jazz and also use my music in the Smigly animations. Yes, Smigly plays saxophone. Poor Smigly.

Do you think the YouTube culture empowers or disenfranchises content producers? It’s still evolving but it revolutionized the distribution system. It gave the power back to the creators. There are Smigly fans in the Far East. That’s amazing to me.

How do you feel when companies approach you for viral work? It doesn’t suck. I’m skeptical by nature because a lot of companies think new media is a bulletin board for their commercials. You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.

What advice do you have for marketers who want to work with YouTube content creators on viral programs? If you like their content let the creator do what they do. You’re paying for the eyeballs that they have viewing their content. It’s not smart to mess with that. Check their stats though. What is the age group of viewers? What is the Male/Female ratio? Do the videos travel beyond Youtube and get embeds on Facebook and other content aggregates? All this information is available.

Would you rather have 100,000 Twitter followers, 95% of whom don’t RT, @mention or even acknowledge you or 2,000 who hang on your every word and identify with your tweets in a passionate way? True, in either case, your REAL fans are likely to be in the mix, and your job is to identify and cultivate them.

Don’t you feel like you’d be fooling yourself to think that simply having fans or followers is enough? How can you activate people who just don’t care? Simply following your Twitter feed or Facebook page is an awfully low entry point, wouldn’t you agree?

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