“The way we experience story will evolve, but as storytelling animals, we will no more give it up than start walking on all fours.” (Jonathan Gottschall, Author 2012)
Humans are indeed creatures of story. The art of storytelling goes back, way back, to the cavemen. No, we’re not talking The Flintstones. We’re talking about etchings and paintings created over 30,000 years ago. Using essentially dirt and charcoal, these “artists” were able to tell stories of their daily experiences from where to find food to warning about impending predators.
In its simplest form, storytelling consists of 4 elements:
A compelling experience to relate to others
A story teller
An audience to tell it to
A content platform to reach your audience
These four factors, with apologies to Fred & Barney, are the bedrock of storytelling.
The stories of survival have greatly expanded today, the channels moving from cave walls to the Cloud, an unrelenting stream being shared across our digital world.
Blogs, YouTube videos, Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and on it goes. Now, storytelling often falls under the ubiquitous term of ’content marketing.’ The methods, means and format of telling a good story (and offering great content) are endless.
It wasn’t always that way. Not in my lifetime.
A Legendary Meeting (a.k.a. Reaching Out To Your Audience)
My first experience with storytelling as ‘content marketing’ came decades before content and marketing became intertwined, and well before social media. Heck, it even pre-dates the World Wide Web.
The Scene: 1990. The Setting: My first job as a very young sports radio reporter.
Assignment: File a report from the Bobby Orr Charity Skate-A-Thon at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.
My Reaction: “OMG – Bobby Orr!” (for those of a younger generation, he was a God on hockey skates).
As a cub reporter just starting out, the word “intimidating” does little justice to how I felt getting ready to meet a legend, one of my idols. So imagine this shy kid with a tape recorder (remember those?), the microphone shaking in hand, frozen with anxiety, standing in the middle of the ice rink, with hundreds of reporters and charity members skating all around. I feel a tap on my shoulder.
“Would you like to interview me?” It was Mr. Bobby Orr. Smiling and inviting, he had seen someone who seemingly had a problem to solve (i.e. ‘How do I get up the nerve to go talk to Bobby Orr??’), and he came over to offer unexpected help. A super-nice guy, and also someone who wanted to tell stories about his event.
Earn Fans with Storytelling, Engage and Earn Trust
Sharing information and engaging anecdotes – connecting with others – like Bobby Orr did sharing his stories about his life and charity, is today’s content marketing. But in 1990, there was no YouTube, no Snapchat, blog, or podcast. The digital channels of today afford you the opportunity to do the kind of storytelling needed to really engage and connect with your customers, and earn the trust and confidence of your target audience.
Storytelling has always been the way into your customers’ hearts. For the caveman, it was etchings of bulls and bison. For Bobby Orr circa-1990, it was the spoken word, face-to-face. Today, as long as you have an engaging story to tell, the means of getting your message out are no longer merely cast in … bedrock.
Dave Litman is a master storyteller, writer and producer who has created stories on NASA scientists and backyard inventors, international sports stars and music icons, for The Discovery Channel, TSN, VH1 and other media. This first in a series of blogs details his POV on the role of storytelling in Content Marketing, from the analog to digital worlds.