2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study

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The study, which focused on 1,000 articles across 10 major news publications, ranks the 10 prevailing “archetypes,” or narratives that appear over and over again in mainstream business media.

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2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study

  1. 1. 2012 PREVAILING STORYLINES STUDY 
  2. 2. Heard any good stories lately? What about your own? What headlines and quotes would you like to see written about your brand? Do you have a sense of which stories resonate most with mainstream media? If so, you’re one step closer to breakthrough exposure. The key to business storytelling – our specialty - is a form of business self-actualization. Simply put, you must tell the story of the company you want to be. And it all starts with prevailing story archetypes to which you add your unique “contrast” or differentiation. Your Dream Publication 2013 If this sounds interesting, read on. Our research into prevailing storylines could be your pathway to dream headlines in 2013. 2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 2
  3. 3. Summary Five years ago, Greenough conducted its first Prevailing Storylines Study, and since then we’ve used the analysis to guide our unique brand storytelling approach. Although we’ve continued to refine our brand storytelling methodology (the social media/marketing transformation alone necessitated major enhancements), nothing has challenged the relevancy of the ten prevailing storylines. So, for the second time in five years, we commissioned the study. For the 2012 Prevailing Storylines Study, we used the following methodology: • Start with the original list of ten prevailing storylines, providing the study team with a guide to help identify each story archetype. We instructed the team to look for new archetypes as well. • We chose 10 mainstream business-oriented sources including Forbes, Fortune, New York Times, Time, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. This year we also added GigaOM and two prominent blogs, the Green and Tech blogs on nytimes.com. • We reviewed 1,000 feature stories across this set of publications/outlets over a 100-day period. • We tabulated the top 10 storylines – in order – over that period. 2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 3
  4. 4. Snapshot Below is a snapshot of the 10 prevailing storylines in order of prevalence. In the forthcoming pages, we’ll look at each storyline in more detail and cite some recent examples, including several from other publications outside of the study. David vs. Goliath When History Repeats Best-Kept Secret Clash of the Titans Fall From Grace The Prediction Recipe for Success Cautionary Tale New Kid on the Block Things Not What They Seem 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 4
  5. 5. Data Table2012 PREVAILING STORYLINES STUDY Bloomberg New York nytimes.com nytimes.com Wall Street Forbes Fortune GigaOm TIME USA Today TOTALS Businessweek Times Bits Blog Green Blog JournalThings Not What 29 36 24 19 55 10 18 24 11 34 260They SeemNew Kid on the 20 11 20 38 30 28 11 19 15 35 227BlockCautionary Tale 26 27 10 19 34 11 20 33 14 15 209Recipe for 25 29 21 23 16 9 4 20 1 36 184SuccessThe Prediction 21 20 18 44 7 10 12 12 7 30 181Fall from Grace 8 17 12 1 21 2 3 32 17 5 118Clash of the 6 9 7 7 6 2 0 12 13 4 66TitansBest-Kept Secret 5 10 7 9 1 0 1 13 8 8 62When History 6 4 5 4 4 0 1 16 7 4 51Repeats ItselfDavid vs. Goliath 2 2 4 0 5 0 0 14 8 5 40* Study conducted June - September 2012 2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 5
  6. 6. David vs. Goliath Storyline   David is often an underdog, but is never unprepared or undeserving. People, including journalists, root for the David in  business stories because it reaffirms the notion that businesses CAN win out (with  some exceptions) on the basis of better intelligence, smarter thinking and  innovation/ingenuity. • First, you need at least one Goliath. It’s  rarely good if it’s your company. • Next, you must prove that your  advantage is fairly earned and accepted. The Wall Street Journal October 28, 2012 • Lastly, you must show you have an army  behind you. Without demonstrable momentum, the story rings hollow.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 6
  7. 7. When History Repeats Storyline   Another storyline that can be both good and bad for brands. The journalist will uncover proof from the past that a business model,  strategy or gamble will succeed or backfire. • Become a student of your industry’s  history. Those who don’t learn from history are often doomed to repeat it.  • Pay attention to the heroes and villains from the past – you’ll benefit from  recognizing similar characters today. • Build a timeline to share with the  Wired Magazine October 19, 2012 journalist – make it easy to see how and why the parallels exist.    2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 7
  8. 8. Best-Kept Secret Storyline   Brands only get one chance to be a best- kept secret. These are typically companies with breakthrough technologies or business  models that are flying below mainstream radar yet have a devoted, fanatic, following.  • To media, your brand isn’t fodder for a story if only management and employees  can vouch for it. • The best best-kept secrets are brands  with devout customer bases not only willing to talk, but already talking.  Forbes June 20, 2012 • Your secret, as it were, must be obvious and grounded in something real –  technology, unmatched customer service, unique business strategies, etc.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 8
  9. 9. Clash of the Titans Storyline   Everyone enjoys a good fight. The Clash storyline isn’t just for the titans, however. There is often collateral damage, and  unexpected heroes (and villains) frequently emerge. There are many ways into this  storyline – be careful how you’re positioned. • Make sure you understand the clash and  how the titans are perceived, especially if you’re one of them.  • Carefully study the rules of engagement – How is victory defined? How do you fit?  VentureBeat October 22, 2012 • Look for gaps in the evolving storylines – capitalize on strategic opportunities the  titans are too preoccupied to see.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 9
  10. 10. Fall From Grace Storyline   Even great stories can have unhappy endings. Just ask Enron, A123 or Lance Armstrong. Typically, a fall is preceded by a  long-time (at least 18 month) rise where article after article touts strong  fundamentals, leadership and innovation. • It goes without saying that you don’t want  to be the main focus of this story. • You do, however, want to be the  company filling the void, waiting in the wings or the “rightful heir.”  Fast Company October 10, 2012 • The fall from grace story is often preceded by at least one “cautionary tale”  story (see storyline #8). Watch closely for that telltale signal and capitalize.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 10
  11. 11. The Prediction Storyline   Whether based on data, historical precedence or pure hearsay, there are no shortage of predictions in business stories.  The good news/bad news here is that brands can and do influence this storyline  every day by using news, customers, influencers and data to prime the pump.  • What can you provide to the journalist to spark his or her prediction predilection?  • Remember that you don’t need to be the main character to benefit. Your brand  story can ride in the wake of a negative Forbes October 24, 2012 prediction about a competitor.  • Predictions can be like false gold, however. Shiny, but without substance.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 11
  12. 12. Recipe for Success Storyline   When it’s right, it’s right, and journalist love stories that stir in drama, luck, raw determination and skill. Be forewarned,  however, because pitching a recipe story can backfire if fundamentals are weak or if  the real story is really just bluster. • Be realistic about how your “ingredients”  stack up against competitors. You’ll need concrete examples.  • These stories typically include a human element. Think enigmatic, but fair CEO or  rags-to-riches founder. Fast Company October 29, 2012 • Put the package together and be  prepared to seed many smaller features before the big business hit comes.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 12
  13. 13. Cautionary Tale Storyline   Stories that use examples to foreshadow declines in fortunes, reputation or leadership. But with caution there is insight.  Be the exception to the story’s rule, not its poster-child for failure.  • Position your story in terms of what other businesses could or should do differently.  • Use examples to make it a parable; the writer wants to impart broader lessons.  • Don’t take cheap shots – you’re a vehicle for change, not a mud slinger.  The Wall Street Journal October 24, 2012    2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 13
  14. 14. New Kid on the Block Storyline   Even with a tough IPO climate and dollars stuck on the sidelines, we still see a steady stream of new kid stories. The key to telling  this story is knowing how to pivot from the initial glow to a more sustainable position as  an accepted market leader. • The new kid on the block will have a  predictable run through trades and business media. Be strategic!  • The new kid usually has some warts – journalist will look for them, so beware.  Forbes October 30, 2012 • The time to start preparing for leadership positioning is while you’re still basking in  newness – always think ahead.   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 14
  15. 15. Not What it Seems Storyline   This is a classic story journalists love to write. It’s because they get to discover something (good or bad, mind you) others  haven’t considered. It can be an investigative piece, often negative, or the  uncovering of a diamond in the rough. • Obviously you want to be the diamond.  Be careful, however, because once Pandora’s Box is open, it’s open.  • The story can apply to an entire market, too. Seed this story if you think you’re  squarely in the lead. CNBC October 16, 2012 • Do a story postmortem BEFORE you  pitch this. What would customers think if they knew the whole story?   2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 15
  16. 16. What About Social? Don’t like the strategy Concerned about Apple overall Don’t care, I’ll take both The Wall Street Journal October 24, 2012 Representative of the tens of thousands of tweets that amplify the “cautionary tale” storyline on page 13. We’ll explore how the storylines evolve in social channels in an upcoming study. 2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 16
  17. 17. Any of this sound familiar? If any or all of these storylines resonate with you, what are you waiting for? Mainstream media are waiting, and that’s just the tip of iceberg. [Phil Greenough] pgreenough@greenough.biz 2012 Greenough Prevailing Storylines Study 17

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