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The Art of Storytelling in a Digital Age

Storytelling in a digital age - audiobook

Stories are in our make-up.

They help us interpret meaning, connect with people across generations, and articulate really complex stuff in easily digestible snippets.

The advertising & media industries are built on their ability to tell compelling stories.

Stories of love, stories of hate, and stories of redemption.

Your ability to tell a compelling story was the differentiating factor for the Mad Men era of agencies.

Brands would pay big bucks for a story that would influence their audience into making a purchase.

Mass media provided a captive audience for these stories, with eyeballs and the associated hearts & minds of a generation unburdened by the internet.

We were living in a world of dreams – where our aspirations of wealth, health, acceptance and excitement were fuelled by the promises of advertising creative and PR spin conceived in agency boardrooms; and those with the desire & means to pay for it.

Tell people who you are, tell it with the right reach and frequency, tell it with a creative treatment or angle that is new, relevant and exciting.

Hire a model, take a picture, throw a party, sell a dream.

And it worked.

The art of storytelling

Prime real estate was snapped up

While our ability as humans to create is unlimited, the ability to broadcast our creations at scale has been restricted.

Only a certain number of full page adverts will fit in the newspaper, there’s only a certain number of 30 second slots available during prime time broadcasting, and there’s only a certain number of outdoor locations with the foot traffic and visibility to warrant a billboard.

Hungry for attention, advertisers scrambled to secure media space to broadcast their stories, and media owners happily packaged up every available spot for sale. Global media revenues ballooned and those who owned the real estate (or sold it for commission) profited.

You only have to take a walk through Tokyo, Times Square, or virtually any community in which the global brands play, to see the overload in action as a result of this media generation.

This is the media model upon which the majority of the world’s agencies, and indeed the success of their clients, has been built.

The art of storytelling

The model is changing, fast

For the first time, we live alongside a medium that is infinite.

The social-mobile revolution means the ability to both produce and publish content is no longer restricted. Nor is the space through which good stories can spread.

As the volume of content has exploded and attention spans have shortened, captive audiences held hostage by the medium no longer exist. As humans, we now set our own filters, we tune into those we trust or care about most and our ability to ignore comes at the peril of those that have commanded our attention for so many years.

As the power to produce and spread content moves away from traditional media owners and into the hands of the individual, the role of brand & marketing teams, and the role of the agency partners they trust, is perhaps in the midst of its most fundamental shift to date.

Brands and publishers must now, more than ever before, become masters of storytelling rather than simply creating advertisements.

In today’s social & mobile powered world, brands are once again who the people say they are. No matter how creative the marketing campaign, or how loud it is told – the voice of the people now has the potential to be louder.

The art of storytelling

Old school values are back in vogue

Before mass media, quality products and meaningful causes inspired the masses and spread via word of mouth – via media that was earned not bought.

We are entering a new age, where the ability to earn your audience is now once again the most valuable media asset. Although this time, the village is a global one.

Forget the complexity created by the proliferation of media or the frantic pursuit of the next silver bullet.

Stop. Because the equation is now once again incredibly simple.

Good wholesome products, good wholesome service experiences and good wholesome stories are a currency on the rise again.

Produce a quality product, deliver an experience that delights. Be worth talking about. And the people will talk.

And if you don’t, they won’t.

The art of storytelling

You need to earn it

The role of the brand & marketing team, and their trusted partners, is changing.

The objective is rapidly shifting away from telling people our stories, to empowering our customers to tell the story for us.

Instead of talking at your audience, create experiences worth sharing. Earn the right to a share their voice, then curate the story they tell.

Produce something remarkable.

Then nurture your own media based on the goodwill you will earn.

Author: Jonny Mole is the VP of Global Partnerships at Shuttlerock. He works with brands, agencies and publishers worldwide, enabling them to grow owned-media through earned content.
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  • Mandy Lin

    Jonny, what a powerful statement, “Good wholesome products, good wholesome service experiences and good wholesome stories are a currency on the rise again.
    Produce a quality product, deliver an experience that delights. Be worth talking about. And the people will talk. And if you don’t, they won’t.”

  • Hey Jeff,

    You are right! Good stories are the currency of today when it comes to promoting our products and services. Share the experiences, or projecting the experience of the typical customer will engage and attract those people who are looking for those convenient ways to fulfill their wants and needs. The storytelling is the bridge leads your customer to exchange their value of money with your value of products and services!

    Thanks for sharing Jeff! Have a great rest of the week!

  • Spot on Jeff and Jonny! I believe a sort of “nostalgic” storytelling is the next big thing in online marketing: vintage ads, retro branding, and so on. As Mandy said, even old school customer experiences are on the rise! Paradoxically, advertisers will have to grab some 50-year-old magazines to get fresh ideas.

  • Shaina Purser

    Very much enjoyed your article and the style in which you
    presented the facts! The FACT of the matter is old-school mass-media marketing
    is out. Outbound marketing was a one-way street. The age of the quiet consumer
    is gone and in is the age of the “empowered consumer.” While advertising and
    media industries are still built on their ability to tell compelling stories
    and brands would most likely still be willing to pay big bucks for a story that
    would influence their audience into making a purchase, it is now done in such a
    way that it no longer requires the big bucks; it requires relatable, quality
    content. Like you said, the social media revolution brought the ability for
    people to produce and publish their own content; making marketing more easily
    available for the little guys (us) but also gives new power to the consumer and
    welcomes them into the marketing process. It is very interesting how much the
    marketing game has changed since the advent of social media platforms.
    Industries are now built on the ability to provide quality content rather than
    just tell compelling stories. Fantastic read!

  • Gabo Rapoo

    I will definitely use this article for my next assignment, Thank You Jonny Mole