Influential Corporate Storytellers in the Digital Space

Typewriter spelling the words "Once upon a time"For today’s post, I thought I’d tackle a big challenge.  I’m going to tell you a short story about corporate storytelling. Corporate storytelling in the B2B technology and digital marketing space has often been referred to as thought leadership.  However, that notion has evolved as new tools and channels have emerged to help you lead the way for new strategies and ideas in your industry.

In order to illustrate the idea of corporate storytelling for B2B Technology marketers, or marketers in any industry for that matter, I thought I’d tell you the story of a few very successful corporate storytellers in the digital media space today.

And so, my story begins. According to Seth Godin, a good story succeeds because it captures the imagination of the audience, is authentic, trusted, appeals to the senses and is rarely aimed at everyone.

There are many great storytellers in the digital space but the following storytellers have somehow managed to bubble up to the surface in my world. So, I would like to re-tell their stories (another sign of a good story is that it is sharable) to you – the audience who discovers this blog.

Gary Vaynerchuck – WineLibrary.TV
If you are a wine lover or social media marketing aficionado, I am sure that you have heard of Gary Vaynerchuk by now. Gary developed a very successful strategy to turn his passion for people and wine into a highly successful business. His story also illustrates the power of using social media to build personal and corporate brand equity.  He developed WineLibrary.TV to bring the art of wine tasting to the masses. Over a few short years, Gary took his family’s wine business from obscurity to mass global awareness. As a result, he now shares his passion to help others succeed in a similar fashion through his book Crush It and by speaking at events all over the world. In addition, he has become so popular for sharing his passion that he has been asked to speak on a number of very popular TV shows including Dr. Oz and Conan O’Brien. One of my favourite examples of Gary’s passion and barrier breaking of wine tasting is his pairings for wine and popular cereal.

Alex Bogusky –
A recent hero in my world is Alex Bogusky – the big ad agency executive who abandoned his agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, to do the right thing after becoming disillusioned with the advertising world. Not only is his new business movement influential, the story about why he chose this path is also very inspiring. Alex co-founded the FearlessRevolution in the summer of 2010 as a new venture that takes a fresh approach to why and how we should be doing business and building brands. He told Fast Company that “the greatness that matters more is the greatness people achieve through helping each other, through collaborating.” Having already successfully impacted the change in the ad world through some of his famous game changing campaigns like Subservient Chicken, Alex Bogusky has now started a movement to influence people to do good in the world. His Fearless Cottage is almost like a drop-in center for people dedicated to setting aside their fears to do the right thing. Organic farmers and chefs, influential teachers, marketers and other fearless professionals participate in his movement through content on the website, via consulting projects and more. Alex Bogusky is, in essence, a storyteller about great corporate stories.

Blendtech – Will It Blend
This example is such a simple one but identifies how to tell a very authentic, sticky and imaginative story that can be told over and over again. The Will It Blend video channel on YouTube illustrates the Blendtech brand promise in a highly engaging, entertaining and sticky fashion. The series of videos highlight the power of the Blendtech blender in a hilarious fashion as they show how their blender truly can blend everything and anything. The videos on YouTube have become so popular that users now contact the company to request products for them to blend on their channel. Below is a video of them blending an iPhone (insert gulp here).

HubSpot – Inbound Marketing Resources
This story may not sound as sexy as the other stories that I have told so far. However, my blog couldn’t be focused on B2B marketing without giving an example of a brand that tells great stories in the B2B marketing space. HubSpot is a digital agency that focuses on helping businesses of all sizes to get found online via Inbound Marketing. HubSpot hosts countless webinars, educational videos and more – where they give away a ton of useful online marketing resources FOR FREE. Giving away free research, tips and insight builds trust with the user and entices others (like myself) to spread the word about their brand. I would highly recommend that you check out their site to learn more about the science of marketing through search, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more.

There are so many more examples that I could share but these are the stories that have stuck with me lately – even though they are each so very different. So, now that you know how some of the best influential corporate storytellers do it, you may be asking how to get started? Based on suggestions from some of the top storytellers in the business, including Seth Godin, Chip & Dan Heath, and HubSpot, here are some thoughts on where to begin.

Start by listening
In order to understand what kinds of stories will resonate with your audience, start by listening in on their needs and pain points. There are many tools that you can use including the usual Twitter, Facebook, comments on blogs, analytics, and more. Not only should you listen to potential customers, but you should also listen and learn from other storytellers and of course your competitors.

Begin by making your long story short
Mark Twain was once quoted as saying “I would have written you a short letter but I didn’t have time.”  This quote is important because it takes a long time to develop your story which will likely be re-told to others in a quick, 1 minute synopsis. If you want to make sure that your customers get who you are, you need to first identify what your message is going to be and then go to step two to figure out how you are going to tell that story. Before you tell your long, never-ending story, test out your short story first. Test it out internally on employees, friends, etc. Make sure that they can tell it back to you in a way that you would want it to be shared and repeated externally.

Craft your sticky sound bytes
Identify key data points and value propositions that will help you differentiate yourself from competitors and work as a the foundation of your never-ending story. Develop a unique approach to telling that story and determine how can you illustrate your sticky sound bytes in a way that will stay with your audience. A great book which illustrates how to make your story stick is ironically entitled Made to Stick, written by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Remember that your story will be told and re-told in small, snack-size pieces of information online via blogs, video and more (hence the nerdy reference earlier to bytes).

Identify the tools and channels that you are going to use to tell your story
A few weeks ago, I posted a list of online channels that might work best for telling your B2B marketing story. Determine which channels will illustrate your story and value propositions (i.e. sticky story sound bytes). Don’t forget to include offline story channels including presentations, sales meetings, conferences, PR – and your biggest channel of all which is your employees. Make sure that your employees are aware of the story and are able to share it with their friends and peers.

Develop an editorial calendar and distribution plan
Many experts have said that you don’t necessarily want to plan years in advance in this space as tools, marketing channels and strategies may change. However, planning a few months out is probably a good idea to keep you motivated to keep telling your story.  Kate Trgovac, a great Canadian corporate storyteller in Vancouver, recently posted her blog plan for 2011. I thought that this was a great example of planning out your strategy in advance to ensure that you will stick to it. Also, here is a great example from FlowTown on how to schedule your tweets to promote your small business blog.

Test, measure, learn and tweak
You’ve probably heard this a lot now as online marketing is a truly measurable medium. Nothing changes in the world of corporate storytelling. Determine which metrics you will use to track your success and make sure that measures are put in place to monitor and learn from those successes or failures. The only outcome will be an improved product as you hone your craft.

This is the end of my first story on influential corporate storytellers. However, I hope that this post inspires you to start crafting your own corporate story today.

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