Gini Dietrich

Three Ways to Create Content through Stories

By: Gini Dietrich | October 19, 2011 | 
146

After hearing Martin Waxman recount the keynote Soledad O’Brien gave on the opening day of the PRSA conference (I was playing hooky), about storytelling, and having written about creating an online conversation just yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot on the topic.

Once upon a time, storytelling was the way we passed information from generation to generation.

Before tweeting and Facebook and text messaging, we had only one way to tell stories: Long-form.

For millions of years stories have been told around campfires and in family rooms and at holidays. But in our world of fast everything, we’re losing the art of spinning a good yarn.

Stories are what creates the human element of what we do. And, in fact, the human element is what drives kinship, which drives purchase.

So, here we are, focused on what drives sales, but we’re forgetting to be human (more on that in a week or so when I do a book review of Maddie Grant’s and Jamie Notter’s new book Humanize).

Enter The Moth, a nonprofit organization that helps people tell their stories.

From Malcolm Gladwell and Jonathan Franze to criminals and the homeless, the organization provides workshops that teach you how to look at your life, from beginning, middle, and end and not only learn something from it, but to help others.

If you’re good enough to keep an audience captive, the organization will book you at an open mic local event where, without music, notes, or (gasp!) PowerPoint slides, you tell your story.

Just you, a microphone, an audience, and 15 minutes of uninterrupted time.

Storytelling for Business

Two of the questions we ask when we’re interviewing a candidate is, ‘What was the last thing you read? Which blogs and media are in your Google Reader?”

We ask these questions because what a person reads tells a lot about what kind of writer they are…even before they take our writing test. If they stumble over the question or answer it with “nothing,” we know they’re not a right fit for Arment Dietrich.

Reading makes you a better writer, and a better storyteller, even if we don’t agree on whether or not the author is a good writer (I’m a literary snob).

I’m going to assume a good many of you have at least seen one or two Ted videos, if not subscribe and watch to most of them. Watching these videos makes you smart on upcoming trends, ideas, or even helps you move out of your comfort box.

And now you have the opportunity to subscribe, and listen, to people’s stories through The Moth podcast.

While your reading may only be fiction and the Ted videos you watch are about leaders you admire and The Moth stories you listen to are about people such as “retired pickpocket” Sherman “O.T.” Powell, the thing you’ll learn is how to tell a really great story.

You tell me…wouldn’t you rather work with a company that is a great storyteller than one that can talk only about its latest drill bit?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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146 Comments on "Three Ways to Create Content through Stories"

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Jmodio
Jmodio
4 years 6 months ago

Storytelling is one big thing I’m working on for our community right now. I really want everyone to feel welcome and to hop in and share their own stories. We do have the same 5 or 6 faces we see over and over, but for a community of 80,000 people, that doesn’t say much. We have about 88% females with half of them between 25-44, maybe because I’m a 25 yr old guy I don’t know how to connect with them. Also, did you actually outline 3 points here?

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago
Storytelling is the art that never was in PR. Just the facts, Ma’am, and that is indeed what’s missing from the equation of a good pitch — the humanesque persona of that company and founder which contributed to where each stands today. Who owns that? An arguable point — marketing claims it every day and PR needs to be better at asking those questions. “Tell us your story.” Kinda like in the interview, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s a story, like the time I was 11 years-old leaving my family for America with an accent and an atypical golden tan… Read more »
Tinu
4 years 6 months ago

Yes- stories still make the world sit down and shut up. Big fan of the concept GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. So totally agree – first thing to do when you aren’t producing great content? Bump up the quality of what you’re consuming.Really want to learn more about MOTH. Wonderful idea.

Tinu
4 years 6 months ago

Poor thing. :) Also, that story made me feel closer to you even though I don’t know you. And gave me a question to ask to get to know you better: what did she mean by “nylons”? @Soulati | PR

Tinu
4 years 6 months ago

What are you asking people to get them to tell their stories? (I’m a collector of good ways to get people started.) @Jmodio

wabbitoid
4 years 6 months ago

The most important thing in learning to tell a story is learning how to read and listen to a story. It’s a matter of being in the listener’s place at all times so that your voice is clear and authentic. In this way it’s a natural analogy with good sales practices.

Part of my Writing Guide is this li’l ditty on “Reading is Writing”, or how to practice this art:

http://erikhare.wordpress.com/writing-guide/reading-is-writing/

DannyBrown
4 years 6 months ago

I hear someone wrote an ebook using storytelling for business… 😉

Huge fan of stories. Much easier to relate to than corporate mundane speech.

SocialMediaDDS
4 years 6 months ago
I love story-telling…or really, I love story LISTENING. My Grandpa was a great story teller and since I am on the margin of the generation that believed children should be seen and not heard, our Sunday dinners with Grandpa were story fests where all we children did was listen respectfully and not interrupt. And, I LOVED those Sundays. And even though I heard Grandpa’s stories (and they were really interesting stories…he led a fascinating life) a hundred times, each time he re-told it, it was fresh and engaging. And now, I am married to a story teller…a man who knows… Read more »
John_Trader1
John_Trader1
4 years 6 months ago

Storytelling is truly an art form. We need to look no farther at how to hone and perfect our storytelling skills than the elders of our society who grew up in a generation that was much more adept and skilled at the art. I fear that the baby boomer generation and older are too often shunned as archaic, out-of-touch and behind the times when in fact we should be tapping into their wisdom about subjects like this more often than we do.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1
4 years 6 months ago

Storytelling is truly an art form. We need to look no farther at how to hone and perfect our storytelling skills than the elders of our society who grew up in a generation that was much more adept and skilled at the art. I fear that the baby boomer generation and older are too often shunned as archaic, out-of-touch and behind the times when in fact we should be tapping into their wisdom about subjects like this more often than we do.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Jmodio I did! Reading, listening to The Moth podcasts, and watching Ted videos. :)

I saw a stat that shows less than one percent of your community will actually comment. So we’re always thinking of ways to engage a larger number of people. It’s interesting to see what draws in new commenters.

Do you know about the way to create a specific landing page for first-time commenters?

http://yoast.com/comment-email-subscription-form/

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Tinu@Jmodio We always start with the testimonial type questions: Why do you work with us, what do you like, what don’t you like? Once we get people comfortable with that, we start getting more in-depth with questions specific to campaigns or products or services.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Soulati | PR So did you take your nylons off??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Soulati | PR So did you take your nylons off??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Tinu TOTALLY agree you have to bump up the quality of what you’re consuming. I read about The Moth yesterday and immediately subscribed.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Tinu TOTALLY agree you have to bump up the quality of what you’re consuming. I read about The Moth yesterday and immediately subscribed.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@wabbitoid One of the things we talk about when we media train clients is chronology is a killer. If you’re going to tell a story, don’t start at the beginning and work to today. Rather, think about the meat of the story and start there.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@wabbitoid One of the things we talk about when we media train clients is chronology is a killer. If you’re going to tell a story, don’t start at the beginning and work to today. Rather, think about the meat of the story and start there.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown Really?! Who was that? :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown Really?! Who was that? :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@SocialMediaDDS You ARE married to a fantastic storyteller. That is so true. That’s why we advocate he get out there and tell the stories through content. hotwater911 are you listening?!?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@SocialMediaDDS You ARE married to a fantastic storyteller. That is so true. That’s why we advocate he get out there and tell the stories through content. hotwater911 are you listening?!?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@John_Trader1 You know what I started doing a few years ago? I started recording my grandparents when they tell stories. That way part of their legacy is the stories I’ll be able to pass on for them.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@John_Trader1 You know what I started doing a few years ago? I started recording my grandparents when they tell stories. That way part of their legacy is the stories I’ll be able to pass on for them.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Soulati | PR Also, speaking of Pan Am…are you watching that show on Sunday nights? I love it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@glenn_ferrell Morning!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@AJDonovan Happy belated birthday to Mollie!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@John_Trader1 Just at times?!

John_Trader1
John_Trader1
4 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich Hey, I can’t be laying it on too thick. Don’t want it to go to your head.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1
4 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich Hey, I can’t be laying it on too thick. Don’t want it to go to your head.

T60Productions
4 years 6 months ago

A good story can take boring information and make it interesting, touch emotions, and can drive people to action. It’s a powerful assets for business leaders.

Also, let’s not forget storytelling comes in many forms. My title may be video producer, but I often tell people what I really am is a storyteller. It’s the thing I enjoy most about my job.

I love the power of video storytelling!

–Tony Gnau

TheJackB
4 years 6 months ago

I have a story or two to tell about this and that.

AJDonovan
AJDonovan
4 years 6 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks BFF – she had a great time being showered with presents from the Trips. :)

wabbitoid
4 years 6 months ago

“In media res” was how Horace put it about 20BC – into the middle of it. It’s an old technique, which is were we get the use of flashbacks. But yes, the idea is to engage the listener and tell them why they should be listening right away.

I’ve written a lot more on the art of storytelling, which I agree is critical to today’s world. It is a fascinating topic in itself, but it’s always best learned by example – show, don’t tell (another good aphorism / lesson!)

badgermike
badgermike
4 years 6 months ago

I try to tell my staff that storytelling is one of the best ways to relate with your prospects. Many organizations have similar issues and they want to know they are not alone with these challenges. Great post.

Thanks

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

Aww, heck, The Jack. You’re just blowin’ in the wind. @TheJackB

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

My legs were so golden brown, the phys ed teacher barked down the line up of we girls in class to remove my nylons. Well, I didn’t know what they were and the girls in class said I had to take off the hosiery I was wearing. Well, I didn’t have any on, so she came to touch my legs to be sure! @Tinu

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

My legs were so golden brown, the phys ed teacher barked down the line up of we girls in class to remove my nylons. Well, I didn’t know what they were and the girls in class said I had to take off the hosiery I was wearing. Well, I didn’t have any on, so she came to touch my legs to be sure! @Tinu

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

My legs were so golden brown, the phys ed teacher barked down the line up of we girls in class to remove my nylons. Well, I didn’t know what they were and the girls in class said I had to take off the hosiery I was wearing. Well, I didn’t have any on, so she came to touch my legs to be sure! @Tinu

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

See above; no repeats. ! @ginidietrich

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

See above; no repeats. ! @ginidietrich

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

See above; no repeats. ! @ginidietrich

Soulati | PR
4 years 6 months ago

I saw the promos…I was encouraged to watch the Walking Dead instead and if that’s not a low-budget series, I don’t know what is. Where you gettin’ time to watch TV? @ginidietrich

Leon
Leon
4 years 6 months ago

G’Day Gini,

C’mon girl! You’re being a bit hard on drill bits. If the story was about what they were drilling into and where and when and with whom, it could be a great story. Could give a whole new meaning to the words “Tea Party”

“Drill Bits for Fun and Passion” sounds like an excellent blog title. Those 8 letters of separation are getting closer and closer.

Regards

Leon

DaveMoley
DaveMoley
4 years 6 months ago
From an R&D perspective, in technology, I stay away from the story tellers. Vendors and their competition have honed down their story telling to a science. We have graduated to a day and age, where all vendors have very glorious smoke and mirrors. It’s become the norm. So I would agree, if you don’t have the facade, you don’t have my business. But the story telling? It’s all sounds and smells the same… I get it. But … I am the first to interrupt the spiel, so we can skip the schematics and get to the brass tacks. Although, a… Read more »
DaveMoley
DaveMoley
4 years 6 months ago
From an R&D perspective, in technology, I stay away from the story tellers. Vendors and their competition have honed down their story telling to a science. We have graduated to a day and age, where all vendors have very glorious smoke and mirrors. It’s become the norm. So I would agree, if you don’t have the facade, you don’t have my business. But the story telling? It’s all sounds and smells the same… I get it. But … I am the first to interrupt the spiel, so we can skip the schematics and get to the brass tacks. Although, a… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Soulati | PR I’m stuck on the trainer now so I watch while I ride. Kelly was watching The Walking Dead last night – that would give me nightmares.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@Soulati | PR I’m stuck on the trainer now so I watch while I ride. Kelly was watching The Walking Dead last night – that would give me nightmares.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@T60Productions I also love storytelling through video. Of course, I’m more goofy than telling stories when I do videos. Someday I’ll get it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 6 months ago

@T60Productions I also love storytelling through video. Of course, I’m more goofy than telling stories when I do videos. Someday I’ll get it.

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