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Six Essentials for Good Storytelling—and Great Content Marketing

by Jennifer Smoldt  |  
August 18, 2016

"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

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  • by Trish Lambert Thu Aug 18, 2016 via web


    Great article! The thought that struck me in reading it is that success requires a really effective integration of unbridled creativity and practical business thinking. In your experience, what process best achieves that integration? Often, high creatives and practical thinkers are like oil and water, and it is easy for a project to fall too far in one direction or the other.


  • by Jen Smoldt Thu Aug 18, 2016 via web

    Thanks for the comment Trish! You're absolutely on the mark in your thinking. It's hard to strike just the right balance between strategy and creativity -- but when you do, it's most effective at resonating with your target audience. For me, I always start with strategy -- what the end goals are, target audience(s), research and gathering any available analytics -- that is how I work -- and then comes creative concepting. Occasionally a creative concept will pop into my brain and I'll try to figure out how it could work, but usually I lead with strategy. I find there are creatives and strategists (business thinkers) and not a lot of people who can bridge the gap. I happen to be one of those crazies who is strategic and creative:) I think organizations need to have a role/position that is basically a liaison between their creative group and business teams (marketing & product). Sometimes creative teams have too much license and not enough direction. When I hand off to Creative I provide the content and some concepts so that they understand where to go with an idea (while still giving them the freedom to be artistic/creative). Also a creative brief! Hope this helps!

  • by Paul Pruneau Wed Oct 26, 2016 via web

    Nice post. Too bad most organizations only know how to spew a steady stream of content about projects, parties, awards, or other self directed interests. All great for them. But what about the prospects and customers they’re trying to reach and influence? How does any of this address their needs, pain or challenge?
    If a story doesn’t connect to this, reading—or any hope of conversion—becomes questionable.

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