And Now a Word about Words: 6 Useful Points on Storytelling, Content, Brand Journalism…

Jay Croft, Atlanta, writer, newspaper, Journal-Constitution, Cox Enterprises, storytelling, corporate communications, content, gay, pop culture, movies, music, TV, Poncey-Highland, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, who is a good writer in Atlanta, public relations, marketing, social media expert

Jay Croft

I used to be a journalist. Hard-news reporter, then a website and features editor. At daily newspapers, for a long time. Later, in corporate communications, I learned how to create and share information in a corporate setting.

Today, communicators in businesses, social media, public relations and marketing like to talk about content, storytelling and brand journalism. Which is great — because I love it all and it makes complete sense within broader technological and economic changes in our line of work — and it makes my dual background ideally useful in today’s communications world.

But terms get tossed around so loosely that I’m not always sure everyone’s using the same definitions. Here are a few examples I’ve found recently that state things well. I’ve edited for brevity, redundancies and clarity.

1. From ‘Just What the Hell is Content?’ on Loyalty360.org

Content includes words, images, video, and physical stuff. Content is everywhere. In law firms, it’s in boxes. In architectural firms, it’s made from balsa wood or CAD drawings. At my firm, it’s often in people’s heads.

There’s no difference between a website and content. Why do you have a web site? What’s it for? Or that mobile site? Or that app?

Content is singular in its purpose: to achieve a desired result for as many relevant people as possible.

2. From ‘Content Marketing – What Kind of Content are we Talking about?’ on exploreB2B

The list of possibilities for content you can use in content marketing is literally endless. As the success of content marketing strongly depends on the content you provide, use your imagination. Your content should stand out from the masses, provide something new and unique.

(A list of 10 suggestions follows. Being an old reporter, I like No. 9.)

Interview someone who can give your readers, and possible customers, some insight – use the questions to direct the content into your chosen direction and show with intelligent questions your knowledge on the topic.

3. From ‘The narrative is the thing: the art of corporate storytelling,’ on ZDNet

All the stakeholders of an organization—customers, employees, investors, partners, vendors, and yes, even competitors—are telling some aspect of the story of the brand.

The issue? They’re not always talking about the same thing.

How do you get everyone on the same page? The corporate narrative provides the framework. It is a story that embodies the essence of your business in action, comprised of more than just products and services, and more even than your mission statement. It’s what your company stands for, and how it’s making the world a better place. It’s a story that comprises your strengths AND your weaknesses.

4. From ‘Publishing Is The New Marketing: Epic Content Marketing,’ on  Loyalty360.org

Some businesses think storytelling is about explaining what you sell or telling people what you do. But effective storytelling explains what you do for your customers. The power of stories lies in making the reader and the consumer part of the story.

I wrote the foreword for Joe Pulizzi’s book “Epic Content Marketing.” In it, Joe states that “Publishing is the new marketing.” As it is the only way to “cut through the noise, commotion and bad information that is right now cluttering up your customer’s digital space.”

If we think and act like a publisher, we will create more of the content our customers are looking for. And LESS of the content they ignore. One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is to put the needs of our customers ahead of our own and to tell stories that connect with people.

Identify your potential customers’ top questions. At a minimum, your content should be helpful. Ideally, try to even entertain them.

5. From ‘A Meeting of the Minds: Content Strategy for Great Storytelling,’ from Pace

(This is the best writing I’ve seen on the subject, from the North Carolina-based agency Pace, winner of the 2013 Content Marketing Agency of the Year from the Content Marketing Awards. Do yourself a favor and click through to the white paper. It’s clear, compelling, useful and entertaining.)

What role does content strategy play in content marketing and brand storytelling? How much content strategy does a brand need? And, oh, by the way, what is content strategy?

The Pace approach to content strategy:
At Pace, content strategy is the carefully conceived and developed plan by which the substance of a brand message is communicated—in various formats via selected platforms—for the purpose of informing and inspiring a target audience to act, thereby achieving a stated business goal or objective.

The role of content strategy in Pace’s content marketing business:
Our methodology puts content strategy (processes, structures and technology) in the service of content marketing (great storytelling), rather than the other way around.

6. From ‘How is brand journalism different from marketing?’ on shiftcomm.com

You could also make the very valid argument that brands have always used journalism-like tactics to promote their own stuff. Marketers invented the advertorial and infotainment, after all. In those cases, that’s not really journalism so much as paid media. That’s not what brand journalism appears to be, however. We’re seeing brands trying to become the media, and attempt to be true, actual media sources. This is partly what differentiates brand journalism from standard content marketing and inbound marketing – brands are seeking in some cases to become media sources that consumers would choose to consume independently, even if it’s not directly related to the brand’s product offerings. That makes brand journalism a true force to be reckoned with.

(For a world-class example of this, look no further than Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola. Its website is as fun and compelling as those of many general-interest publications, with original content on restaurants gearing up for Valentine’s Day, the Olympics, recipes, sustainability and lots more.)

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