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Gini Dietrich

Three Ways to Create Content through Stories

By: Gini Dietrich | October 19, 2011 | 
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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.

106 comments
rachaelseda
rachaelseda

I have always learned best through stories. For some reason I can remember very particular details about experiences and people but when it came to science class I was stumped. What I've learned later in life is that being able to (we call it in Hawaii) "talk story" is a powerful tool that is often underserved in our education system.

Thanks for sharing this new resource!

scribblinghappy
scribblinghappy

Great reminder! At the end of the day, people want connection with other people. Story will always remain.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

I don't think Gini will mind if I give a bit of a hard pitch here ...

Think about what you remember most about any business that you are especially fond of. Odds are it's the story you remember - either the story of the business or your own personal experience with the brand. When you tell people about the business you probably tell them the story long before you run down the details of their product.

Social tools level the media playing field so that small businesses can get their stories out there - the personal connections that give them an advantage over big operations. Capitalizing on this requires the right touch - it takes the stories.

http://mediahare.wordpress.com/story-telling/

I have a lot of experience telling stories for small businesses - and as a published author, web content writer, and literary coach. If you need a Content Manager or Writer I'm always happy to talk and give free consultations to anyone. Find me at http://MediaHare.com or as erikhare@gmail.com

Thanks!

DoTime_WX
DoTime_WX

Storytelling teaches in a way that is receptive to the listener. As opposed to "This is what to do, if not, these are the consequences..." type of instruction.

Excellent Gini, thank you for the post.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Funny I have watched maybe 6 TED videos in my life. And I like TED not sure why but they would take away from my Spinsucks time so sorry TED. And I don't use Google Reader. Gosh I am just like Tom Sawyer's era in my technology use I guess (I still cook on an open fire using real wood).

Stories are powerful. We buy into stories. Transmedia is all about story telling. Follow @goonth on the Twitter if you want to learn more. Brand fiction is all about story telling. Follow @adbroad who founded the Brand Fiction Factory if you want to learn more.

As for me. I was orphaned at a young age. I was born in a far away galaxy that was about to be destroyed. My parents launched me in my ship and I landed here earth. I was raised by a decent family. We were poor but happy. Around the age of 8 they started noticing that I was a lot smarter than everyone else. So I was sent to a school for special aliens. There I was taught everything from Science to Yoga to Ninja Skillz. Using up to 26% of my brain (you silly humans only use 8%) I was able to breeze through school and soon was on my way to fame and fortune. I played Broadway and Carnigie Hall. I did backing vocals on a Diddy song then helped J-Zay pen his famous New York song when we were out partying one night and I said JayZEEEEE who is this Frank Sinatra goof? NY needs a snappy song not this snoozer. You got more game than Frank JayZEEEE in fact here is this song I penned....rest is history. A few years back I came up with the whole Harry Potter movie series when JK Rowling called me asking how she could expand beyond books. I said Movies Baby Movies! So I called my friend Bugs Bunny at Warner Bros. He connected me with this Yosemite Sam guy who I guess is a big swank producer who also serves on the WB board of directors. The rest is history.

LaurenVargas
LaurenVargas

You are spot on. Reading can open our minds to new worlds and perspectives. I try to read one NF and one fiction book a week, then spend the weekend reflecting on what I learned. The Moth podcast is an excellent recommendation. I also enjoy Fresh Air and HBR IdeaCast podcasts for examples of how to weave a story. Looking forward to the review of book, Humanize!

Raj-PB
Raj-PB

Story telling is the exact thing that would determine the success (and) failure of a Social media campaign. Many companies feel that its enough if they throw away money and create marketing campaigns (similar to what they do in the offline world) on the Internet. They need to understand that they cannot expect the users to watch a TV commercial on Youtube! - This is the era of on-demand content, and their marketing campaign needs to be as good or even better than the kind of content users like, on the net.

KDillabough
KDillabough

In the Business Mentoring Program I've now been running for eight years, I take the participants through an exercise. First, I give them a list of words to look at, remove the list and ask them to write down all the words they remember. Dismal results.

THEN, I tell them a story, incorporating a variety of words, and ask questions about those words like, What colour was the jacket? What was the person reading?Almost to a person, there's 100% recall of the words. They say pictures speak louder than words...and so do stories:) Great post: love it. Thanks! Kaarina

NancyD68
NancyD68

When I worked at my old job, I would suggest storytelling and being more conversational. They told me "we want to be Harvard Business Review" I told them "that spot's been taken already" they told me I was not a team player. Ah well....

One of the best blogger storytellers is Mark Schaefer. He is really amazing. I much prefer reading a blog that tells a story than just gives me information.

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

@ginidietrich big fan of storytelling. Had clients write poetry sometimes to embrace creative thinking too!

martinwaxman
martinwaxman

Thanks for the shout-out, Gini. Great stories and how we tell them are so important. And too many people rely on the ppt crutch. I think it can be great if it's visual, but there's nothing like listening to someone who can regale you with a wonderful story. Spalding Grey comes to mind.

bradmarley
bradmarley

There are so many good stories to tell that will compliment the new product you're announcing, or the new you want to make. You just have to do some digging. The audience is more apt to read about a human part of the story then they are the technical side.

Great post, Gini.

JayDolan
JayDolan

Screw stories. Let's get even more specific. How can we use epic poetry for business? What about how about plays for business?

We need to get more creative. There's no reason we can't drive sales and write in iambic pentameter.

Leon
Leon

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Raj-PB We have a former client that produces videos "just to get them out." They are terrible. They feature employees reading from scripts...on camera. Every time I see one, I want to call them and say, "STOP THE MADNESS!" But, like many, many companies, they believe it's just checking video off their list so they can say they do it.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

@martinwaxman I cannot stand PPT! I really wish the program didn't exist. All I have seen it do is create dull presentations. In my career I have only seen one speech that used PPT that added value. And it was visual. If we were all better story tellers then we can achieve my goal of destroying PowerPoint. Mwuahh aah aaaahhh!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@DavidRM I think we're talking about two different things. I'm talking about telling your business story in a way that makes sense for your customer and prospect. Not about telling a story that is spinning something out of nothing (hence, spin sucks). There are two different kinds of storytelling and I advocate the first.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon Oh don't get me started on the Tea Party. I'd be curious to hear what the people Down Under think about the mess that is the United States right now.

DoTime_WX
DoTime_WX

@ginidietrich Thank you... stories resonate through our own experiences. In addition to evoking emotions, they have an added value: active listening as opposed to passive listening. The benefit in marketing would be a stronger remembrance of message.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich yes I can leap bullets in a single bound. I am faster than a speeding building. And I can hum the complete soundtrack to Gigli by heart. Movie sucked but that soundtrack is to die for.

I just don't wear a body tight and cape unless being pedaled through Alligator Alley in @bdorman264 's rickshaw.

LaurenVargas
LaurenVargas

Insomnia. ;) Also, since I started Friday vlog, the pressure is on to keep reading and reviewing books...When I am not reading books, you will find my nose stuck in Discover and National Geographic magazines....forces me to look up words in the dictionary and be aware of issues outside communications realm!

KaseyCrabtree
KaseyCrabtree

@ginidietrich hey gini, will you be in Chi this weekend? I'm coming to town! Maybe we could do lunch on Monday?

AlinaKelly
AlinaKelly

@Anthony_Rodriguez@martinwaxman@ginidietrich Agree. Nothing worse than a dull PPT presentation. But many people simply use PPT wrong. It's a tool and used correctly, it can be great and actually improve storytelling.

I'm a big advocate of using PPT to display imagery and a few (VERY few) words or short titles that support what's being said,not parrot/repeat what's being said. Imagery can add value and engage the audience by enhancing the story being told. I use combinations of pictures, cartoons, video clips and sometimes REALLY simple graphs where the point is made visually without having to read axis titles and data points.

I should note, however, that conference organizers are sometimes frustrated when they ask for a copy of the slide deck to distribute to participants and I tell them that it's worthless...it's just pictures without a story. Oh well.

bradmarley
bradmarley

@ginidietrich I did see that. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that, I'd have about $25.

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

@ginidietrich @JayDolan I managed to publish some fiction and poetry in the 90s (think amazon sell a novel for under a dollar now!) so I got kind of used to working with creative writing. It's amazing how writing and reading a poem in a group can fire people up. You can't teach creativity, but you can facilitate creative thinking though writing activities. Poetry is best because it's easy to share and quick to write.

Latest blog post: Jon Buscall

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich@Leon Considering Down under is still affiliated with the Queen's Empire I am pretty sure they think we are having a war between drinkers of Black Tea, Green Tea, and Herbal Tea and damn where are those Scones and Crumpets 8)

KaseyCrabtree
KaseyCrabtree

@ginidietrich you won't be around? I come in Fri night and leave tues midday - are you gone that whole time ?? :( (tears.....)

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

Oh, NO, Leon!! You couldn't have been so blatantly sexist and not included Nicole Kidman to the mix, could you? You know who she is...that incredibly sexy chica formerly married to Tom Cruise? @Leon @HowieG @ginidietrich

Leon
Leon

@HowieG@ginidietrich Now folks; really..... I'll always have a soft spot for the country that created both jazz and basketball. HRH Queen Elizabeth and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh are visiting us right now. They're in Canberra as I write. She's 85, he's 90. No: they're not here for the Dementia and Macular Degeneration Festival. They're here for CHOGM,,,,,Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Solid Earl Grey Tea for all, I hear.

When South Carolina does the right thing, abandons the Union and rejoins the Commonwealth, you too can host CHOGM.

Go On...admit It. You're only jealous. But you can still have fun if you don't take it too seriously.

And we did donate Greg Norman, Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson. What more could you ask for?

Look after yusselves

Leon

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