Not just a buzzword: Storytelling In Action

By Andrea Johnson, Program Chair

A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. – Seth Godin

Over 6.6 million viewers tuned in to the Game of Thrones Season 4 premeire on April 6th, 2014 at 9 p.m. Another 1.6 million followed at 11, making it HBO’s most watched episode since the 2007 series finale ofThe Sopranos.

Considering that today’s technology allows us to watch our favorite shows whenever and wherevunnameder we want, those ratings are probably higher. But with so many ways to tune in, people are no longer captive audiences. Marketing and PR teams have to work harder to grasp our attention. Which, in an ADD culture like this one, is no easy feat.

Using a special kind of magic over the last 3 years, Game of Thrones has become one of  America’s favorite television shows.

How? What makes us stop and pay attention? What makes us murderous about Scandal spoilers? What makes us root for the underdog on The Voice who was bullied in elementary school? What keeps our fingers crossed for the stylish wife and her emotionally conflicted lover?

It’s all in the story.

The best stories quickly grab us from the beginning, provide enough mystery to keep us guessing, and affirm every suspicion or surprise us completely. Great storytelling always leaves us wanting more.

It’s also the not-so-secret sauce of marketing and public relations. And while the term “storytelling”  may be overused, its significance will always remain. My boss, your boss, the media–they all want to know, what is compelling about this story? How are we going to make sure it strikes a chord in our audience?

The goal is to craft something interesting enough to open hearts (and maybe wallets, too.)

Storytelling is called an art because some folks make it look effortless.They don’t solely rely on what’s worked in the past. These brands aren’t afraid to experiment a little, laugh at themselves, and find the under-appreciated facets of their product.

Domino’s “Powered by Pizza” campaign is a perfect example. It honors the student, the grassroots activist, and the entrepreneur that “runs” on pizza during the creative process. To which you might say, “Of course we’re powered by pizza, it’s at nearly every study session, gathering, etc!” See? Effortless.

Here are a few more of my favorite ad and PR campaigns.

Guinness: Not your average beer commercial, in fact I was waiting for the joke. Seconds later… heart strings pulled!

Mama Hope: Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential. Revolutionary…although it shouldn’t be. Kudos for looking for the authentic and fresh story line.

Honda: Let’s see what curiosity can do. I’m not sure if they stopped at the ad or made this a full PR campaign. Can you imagine what could be done with that tag? Everything. #hashtagmania

Dove: 10 years ago, this campaign ignited a conversation about “real beauty”. I love the authenticity of the message and what it’s both affirming and cautioning against. Find it here.

Consider me a student. As a practiced rambler, I’m working on telling a story or speech succinctly. (The length is the flair! Right? No?)  I guess that’s why I swoon over clever campaigns and commercials.

Who do you think has done a convincing job with storytelling? What brands have succeeded in drawing you into their world?

P.S. GE’s #6secondsciencefair  Vine campaign takes me back to elementary school!

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