Winning With Storytelling, Or How I Learned To Love Mass Disruption
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Originally published on TRANSMIT
Welcome to the age of mass disruption, where every industry, especially media and entertainment, is experiencing rapid changes in their business models, technologies and production workflows. Driving this supercharged, superfast evolution is data. And for me, data equals noise as well as insights.
For example, we did general consumer audience research about a streaming feature. Guess what? Nearly 40% of the respondents told us they don’t use a streaming service. But later told us they used Netflix. Oh.
So it’s not just my brain that’s in data overload. I know, I know — its life. And while no one ever said life would be easy, the truth is it seems like it’s never been tougher for company messages to be heard above the noise.
Data has always been around us, between us, connecting us. But we haven’t done a great job of monitoring and gathering data until this era. Domo, for example, who previously claimed 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated a day in 2017, now predict that, by 2020, it’s estimated that for every person on earth, 1.7 MB of data will be created every second.
So the real question, IMHO, is not what to do with the data, but how any executive in our space can break through the clutter of it all to tell a meaningful story about how their company leverages technology to unlock opportunities.
In our information-saturated age, business leaders “won’t be heard unless they’re telling stories,” says Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues. Here’s the kicker: It’s more than just a story, if it’s told as a personal experience. That’s why case studies are so powerful.
One year, we pitched an interview with an executive who had no news, but had some strong opinions about the streaming space. He predicted that Netflix would change its model and introduce downloading. A trade reporter and a business reporter snapped at the opportunity to talk to our executive. Best of all, their stories appeared within hours of each other, and that helped take the story global – we had over 10 million views!
I know that most CEOs I speak with tell me their growth strategy is comprised of creating a better technology. For them, technology holds the key to unlocking a competitive advantage that will elevate the company to the next level.
An explanation of how your product solves a particular problem doesn’t always make for an engaging presentation. But a story that tells a specific audience why they should care about having this problem solved can capture their hearts and minds.
The human condition is ultimately the most powerful part of any storytelling. I believe the real question is how anyone’s software, services and solutions can be made to stand out and become a truly recognized brand in a highly competitive industry. I’m willing to bet that almost all the readers of Transmit do not work for a monopoly. So how do you make your data and analytics story compelling?
Following are some tips that I believe, if used, will help propel your business forward.
Bob Gold’s 5 Rules To Improve Your Storytelling
Strive to tell your story better, bolder and in a more compelling way. Here’s a short list of the five most basic rules of marketable storytelling:
1. Be able to tell your story
…in the time it takes to ride an elevator. Writers are always looking for good stories…they just don’t have a lot of time. Ask yourself, “How can I boil it down to a compelling single statement?” If you are trying to convince senior leaders to take a risk by supporting your project, convey that most companies are built on taking smart chances. First settle on your ultimate message; then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it.
2. Be direct and straightforward.
Get to the heart of why your story matters. Sometimes a simple, one-page fact sheet helps.
3. Try to get beyond the buzzwords.
Can you explain what new capabilities are truly unique to you and how they help people do their jobs better or improve quality of the project?
4. Highlight a struggle.
A story needs conflict. Is there a competitor that needs to be bested? A market challenge that needs to be overcome? A change-resistant industry that needs to be transformed? Don’t be afraid to suggest the road ahead will be difficult. There may be a tendency not to want to share personal details at work, but anecdotes that illustrate struggle, failure and barriers overcome are what make leaders appear authentic and accessible. Showing your vulnerabilities and humanizing the topic will get more attention.
People actually like to be told it’s going to be hard. Smart leaders tell employees, “This is going to be tough. But if we all pull together, we’ll achieve something amazing.” A well-crafted story embedded with that kind of a rallying cry encourages the intended audience to be partners in change, because they want to be part of the journey.
5. A picture is worth more than 1,000 words
Graphics, photos, and video are great additions that can enhance any story. They help to quickly summarize or illustrate the issue. If you have stats or historical data to support the story, include them. Be creative and be strategic. Know who your audience is. Storytelling doesn’t have to be a 1,000-word byline or whitepaper. Use video vignettes, a Q&A or an illustration. A quick video interview with people close to the project or initiative is easy to digest and eminently watchable.
When I started in the PR biz – before mobile phones, Internet, 500+ channels on TV and 200 OTT services – UCLA did a study to find out just how many “calls to action” each consumer received in a day. You know a call to action is “turn the dial,” “buy this product,” “watch this show,” “go to this theme park.” Got a number in your mind? What is it? Remember, there was radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, billboards, bus shelters. A lot of places where folks were being asked to do something.
Ok, here’s the answer: 1,500.
Sounds like a lot right? But today we have email, text, apps, online sites, and so much more that we are bombarded with messages everywhere in our lives. And that is NOT counting the cacophony of news of disasters and paranoia created by daily coverage of the goings-on globally. Today it’s exponentially noisier. It’s greater disruption.
This is a very, very noisy environment where you must figure out how to grab the attention of the select few executives whose decision could help your company soar. No one makes decisions in a vacuum. That means that executives who are not directly involved in selecting your company are affecting the decision of which company to hire.
Without disruption we wouldn’t have great stories. Of victims, winners and change agents. I have fallen in love with living in disruption because it creates new opportunities to tell more stories. And these stories at the end of the day, really do count.
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Entertainment Technology is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards; if you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book.