The Art of Storytelling

Whether you want to sell a product to a client or sell an idea to your boss, storytelling is the single most powerful way to capture your audience’s attention and to make the not yet tangible real in the eyes of others.

So how do you do it and how do you do it well?

Break it down into simple parts. Remember those story books from your childhood? Why where they so appealing? They were simple. A photograph here, one or two sentences followed. To be effective, you must break your story down into digestible parts. Even if you think it is simple, go even further.

Believe in it yourself. You, the storyteller, need to believe in your story or no one else will. Be passionate about what you are portraying and keep your energy up even if it is the 20th time you are telling your story. Remember that, for your audience, it is the first time they are hearing the story.

The all-important protagonist. Every story has one. Your story needs one too. If it doesn’t have one, you can reference a member of the audience and interlace them into your story so that they become the protagonist.

Set the scene. Create visuals that help you tell the story but do not take away from you telling the story. They should enhance the story you are telling be it a few PowerPoint slides, photos or videos. Sometimes a single photo will do the job.

Know your audience. Do your research and try to put together what the motivators will be for the audience you are telling your story to. This will require that you tweak your story as you go to fit each audience. Don’t be afraid to alter the script.

Watch the body language in the room. As you engage in storytelling be very observant of the body language in the room. Is the audience leaning forward? Has their expression changed? Both are good signs. Leaning away or checking their phones every several seconds; not a good sign. But don’t give up. Adjust your efforts – including inserting them into the story by mentioning their first name – to see if you can engage them.

Practice. Create practice that works for you and makes you comfortable. I tend to mentally run through what I will present in broad themes beforehand. This gives me the flexibility to create as I walk the audience through the story live. If you are not comfortable with practicing and get nervous presenting, contact your local theater. Most offer acting for non-actors and can help you get comfortable as a storyteller.

Launching a Marketing Campaign? Start With These 3 Steps

I recently had a conversation with a friend who runs an agency in the UK on the challenges of accurately identifying the right target market for campaigns. Whether the US, the UK or India, knowing your market today – not last year or three years ago – and what their needs are can make or break your campaign efforts.

It’s seems obvious but often times that involves some deep soul-searching with your senior leadership to determine what the challenge or opportunity is that you are trying to address. What your leadership or client’s leadership perceives may not be what the market perceives.

Here are a several tips to help you zero in on your market:

Go back to the drawing board. With your senior leadership team, determine what it is that you actually offer today whether a product or service. How has the market responded to that product/service? What shifts have occurred within your company and within the market that you may need to adjust for? What are competitors offering and what markets are they targeting?

Let the data speak. If your leadership thinks your market is the same as it was two or three years ago, you may want to conduct primary research to confirm those assumptions. Primary research includes focus groups, questionnaires, surveys and interviews. Do not be afraid to bring to the table those that may not always agree with the product or direction of your company.

Look towards the future. Identify where the opportunities for expansion are. Analyze your quantitative data on your product/service to see any patterns that are emerging and/or shifting. Work with in-house market researchers or hire a firm to help you delve into those trends further to determine future potential.

Being Don Draper is not easy

Over the past year, I’ve been hard at work developing a 2-year public awareness campaign. Next week, the first ad spots for this campaign will air on national broadcast and cable channels here in the US as a second phase of the campaign. The first phase was a soft launch on social media in December. Many lessons were learned from creating the campaign plan to selling the idea to leadership and to members of the Board of Directors across the country. Many modifications were made along the way, but the vision remained the same. Here are my five lessons learned:

Stick with your vision. Establish the desired end scenario from the beginning. You can adjust how you get there, what tools you use and what audiences you reach but stay true to that initial vision.

Adjust smartly. With anything related to the field of communications, most people believe they are experts as they engage with the medium in their daily lives – from social media to advertising. However, exposure does not necessarily translate to expertise. Many will freely offer their advice – and it will differ widely – listen intently but be decisive and smart in choosing what advice to take onboard.

Never fear visibility. Creating any type of public facing campaign for an organization will raise the stakes for them both internally and externally. Such increased visibility will result in a lot of interest and a lot of conversation. What naturally follows on from that is criticism. The more public you are, the more critics you will face. Don’t fear the conversation and encourage direct engagement with those critics.

Even airtight launches falter. No matter how well you plan a launch, something will ultimately go wrong; in our case, an erroneous tweet. How did we recover? We jumped into the conversation created by the tweet and continued to reach out to those offended online and offline. And we kept the launch going. End result – we had new champions emerge and new potential partnerships (as well as more engagement with the campaign than planned – see number three above).

Stand strong. It’s your campaign. If you do not believe in it through thick and thin, no one else will. That goes for the communications and marketing team, leadership and the organization as a whole. Believe in the product and communicate about it with one unified voice.