This is going to be a short story about storytelling. How stories have been told through all kinds of media, and how digital innovation has changed the scope and nature of storytelling.First though, a story about me, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves…
So here’s the contentious part right up front – in digital media circles we’re talking about brand storytelling or content marketing as if it’s a new phenomenon, but actually it has been around for years in PR. The problem is we’ve partly lost sight of how to do it or were constrained by media through which stories could reasonably be told. The internet has both set this right and given us big new opportunities.This is what the dictionary says about what a story is. PR certainly dabbled with fictitious tales, but it’s the ability to sustain narratives – through plots, successive incidents and interrelated dramas – that has given brand storytelling through public relations new wings.People often make a distinction between stories and characters – the backbone of the piece and those in the foreground, but in a planning sense they need to go hand-in-hand.
Although the 1980s saw an expansion, diversification and modernisation of conventional media that heralded the change that was to come later.
Surprise and shock. It will encourage people to share.
A storytelling story
Once upon a time..
113 years ago Michelin became one of the first content marketers. It became, in part,
a media company. It made tyres in Clermont Ferrand, and had an interest in people
buying more rubber products. So it encouraged a behavioural change by publishing
content that inspired people to travel more – Le Guide Michelin, a list of tested, and
often exclusive, restaurants. And in France, there are few better emotive motivators
These were simpler times though, and already most brands were seeing that rather
than being the publisher of their own content, they needed to break through into
mainstream published content – the content governed by the media.
News drove the narrative..
Cue Ed Bernays, PR founding father and the man behind the Torches of Freedom
campaign in 1929. It was an integrated PR campaign intended to add to a brand story,
but it was first and foremost about milking the news reach and influence scope of the
The narrative intentions were there, but news was its accelerant. Before long,
news became all-powerful and narratives – the things that wove story pieces
together, became translucent or invisible.
And storytelling in colour..
Although the 1980s saw an
expansion, diversification and
modernisation of conventional media
that heralded the change that was to
A two-way street again..
When the web came and the internet became mainstream, storytelling once
again had greater potential for brands, because we could foresee a two-way
street. We could see the eyes of the audience, just like Bernard Cribbens
imagined he was doing when he peered through the lens of the TV camera on
Jackanory in the past.
Now, the book never closes..
In recent years we’ve seen dramatic changes in the media landscape and the way that
people consume and share news and information. For starters it’s global and it’s 24/7.
For companies and brands, this has profound implications. It means that we have to
find entirely new ways to tell our stories. Today there are new channels, new tools,
new approaches…and new rules of engagement.