"Storytelling" is often used loosely as a term for good writing. Which makes me wonder: Do marketers actually understand storytelling in the context of content marketing?

Yes, it's a borderline cliché buzzword. And, like "content marketing," at times ambiguous.

But all that aside, here's why storytelling matters: Social media has ignited the need for good storytelling—the key word being "good." Simply put, content now spreads in nanoseconds, so there's more risk in marketing than ever before. Brand reputation is at stake. Thus the importance and relevance of good storytelling.

Historically, storytelling traveled by word of mouth; bad stories were lost in time, but good stories stood the test of time. Now, thanks to a plethora of social outlets (for good or ill), it all travels at the speed of social lightning.

Not to mention social sharing occurs whether or not a story is engaging, making share stats a questionable success metric. Now, bad stories aren't lost in time; they live forever as a black scar on your brand's reputation.

Take McDonald's Hamburglar campaign or Bloomingdale's creepy "Spike your best friend's egg nog when they're not looking." Oops and ouch.

So, what is "storytelling" as it pertains to content marketing?

It's not just good writing or engaging prose. It's not a one-off ad or campaign. Storytelling is planned, integrated, and purposeful. It's empathetic, original, consistent. And it doesn't sacrifice brand integrity. Storytelling employs both creativity and strategy.

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Jennifer Smoldt is a marketing consultant, copywriter, content strategist, and founder of Precision Marketing & Communications, where she helps companies discover and market their distinct differentiators.

LinkedIn: Jennifer Smoldt