Storyteller Marketing | Search Engine Strategies Coverage

So many interesting Search Engine Strategy Sessions, so little time to attend them all. In terms of search engine optimization priorities, you might put lots of other topics ahead of storytelling. Like links, AdWords and platforms. But, what’s a person, company or organization without a story?

Because my company is named after two legendary storytellers in my life, I decided this was a session I wanted to share with my readers. Thanks again to Search Engine Strategies for the press pass that got me everywhere I wanted to go.

This is one in series of articles. Browse Wired PR Works’ Chicago Search Engine Strategies 2008 category for the complete collection. Visit Search Engine Strategies’ blog for total conference coverage. Here’s the session description from the program guide . . .

Storyteller Marketing:
The Art of Storyteller Matches Up With the Business of Marketing Description from Search Engine Strategies Program

One communication method that beats all others when it comes to delivering a memorable, motivating, and meaningful message: telling a story. This session will show you how the framework of storytelling can be used to deliver real advertising results by generating content that communicates. You’ll learn the five basic story types, how to analyze the stories around your brand, and how to create a solid strategy for generating, changing, or renewing great brand stories. Great search strategies are built around great content; this session will give you the economic and social tools you need to create that framework.

Gary Stein, Director of Strategy, Ammo Marketing

To learn about storytelling, listen to Ira Glass on “This American Life” on  NPR.

Gary opened by telling the story of a man returning a tire to a Nordstrom store in Alaska; completely fictional, but seems real because of the details and Nordstrom’s reputation for customer service.

Story: chain of events, shared, lived, experienced, characters, ability to retell, needs to be given

Word of mouth marketing is always about stories. We want people to have an experience so they tell their own stories.

In the networks that matter, The Story is the critical unit of communication

People tend to connect with details even in the face of logic [as in the Nordstrom story]. Start telling stories and logic takes the back seat.

Stories shape behavior – the “prospect theory” says people are motivated to avoid loss rather than capture gain. The way that you tell a story changes the way people behave.

The business of stories

Personal stories have way more weight in social networks than media reviews – take movies, for example.

Annette Simmons – The Story Factor says there are only six types of stories

1. Origin – formation and background

H-P created by two guys in a garage in Palo Alto. This story positions the founders as dedicated, do-it-yourself crafters.

Clif Bars – 20% of the space is a personal story from the guy who invented the Clif bar

2. Purpose – shows why your company is in existence

Google star chart is a story that people can tell and is a clear story that communicates what company is about.

3. Vision – where your company is going

Google scanning books – they imagine a future where this is available.

4. Education – so people can put your product in context

Starbucks put couches in stores and told stories about how men in Vienna drink express.

5. Ethics – what you’re doing right 

Zappos – tons and tons of stories that people tell about Zappos doing the right thing. Again, it’s not the company telling the story, it’s people.

6. Connection – with the company

A lot of what story building about is giving people experiences so they can go out and tell stories.

Ammo Marketing Strategic Process: Review, Evaluate, Build and Deploy

Read reviews and categorize stories – for example, in a home stereo system’s reviews, most were vision stories. They recognized that advocates were already telling vision stories. Ammo made a recommendation and refined the story into something much more specific. It’s not about stereo systems, it’s about how people visualized the system performing in their homes.

On Search: Ammo is seeing more and more “benefit-statement searches” like cell phone-great coverage. See how these benefit statements are embedded in CGM – consumer generated media – and then use them in your storytelling marketing.

Most incredible story that’s happened: Barack Obama became president.

He brought on Marshall Ganz who teaches social policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Obama’s team hired Ganz to put together the grass roots campaign. He did it the way a social movement is done.

Traditionally, campaigns get volunteers to memorize policy statement speeches. Ganz put together “Obama Camp” – the first thing they did was to develop a personal narrative as to why they came to the Obama campaign. The core of anything you believe in is your own personal narrative.

The Story is the most powerful form of communication.

Gary has his master’s degree in American Literature – stories are powerful, they’re motivating and allow us to connect with consumers in new ways so they can tell their own stories.

Watch Gary’s “AfterAdvertising” presentation on Facebook.

Sally Falkow, President, Expansion Plus Inc 

Expansion Plus PRoactive Blog

Sally looks for stories in companies. She has a public relations background and believes that there is always something going on that drives the company and there in is that story. People will experience that story when they interact with you. Whether you think you have a story or an image or not, you do.

It’s really important to do the review process and to think about who we are and why we do what we do.

Create Your Brand Story before someone else does.

Surveys change the dynamic, you can ask for an opinion. Online, you can look and see what stories people are telling.

Example: I’m a PC. I’m a Mac. Mac guys told that story. Somehow, the PC guy became Microsoft. Who’s fighting back? Microsoft.

Now we have I’m a PC. Done a whole social media campaign – upload yourself.

Kleenex campaign – “let it out”

Kleenex put a couch down in the middle of the street or wherever and people are doing it [i.e. “letting it out”].

Dove campaign “Dove is Pro-Age”

Took a completely different stance from anti-aging to pro-aging and told their stories of real women over 50.

Nichols Concrete Cutting Stanford Project Campaign

Doing the impossible – cutting holes in walls. Within the business he is regarded as the artist who will do things nobody else can do like disassembling and reassembling an historic building. Media loved the story.

FLOR campaign

Chicago company, whole story in that bounce test sports bra campaign

Do sports bras work? There is a real medical issue around these. Created mainstream media coverage.

Insincere or fake stories will backfire – Wal-Mart.

Hone the story down to: simple, repeatable and memorable.

Everyone will have their own story, but your story is in there somewhere around that.

Listen for the story as it comes from employees, customers and suppliers – also online conversations.

All creative must be tied to the story, create content across all digital channels.

Create content around your brand story, they will be wanting to pass that on. Figure out how to amplify the story. Use optimized press releases with images. Tag images, audios and videos with your keywords.

Whirlpool has an American Family podcast with no mention of Whirlpool products. Video tells a story and the search engines are looking for video content. Syndicate your stories with RSS so it takes on a life of its own. RSS is like multi-level marketing for content.

Consistency – must have a strategy and present yourself consistently. Create the story, but make it possible for the person to have their own story. Let the story spread.


Can we over-tell stories?

Gary – stories are the pathways to authenticity. Obama camp not rehearsed. Stories shouldn’t be the same every single time.

Is there a danger of hyperbole?

Gary – no, there isn’t. Because of the nature of stories and people’s willingness to believe in a story well-told as long as the core stays.

Sage Lewis, speaker at the conference, talks about Motrin moms on twitter.

Sally – another example of not getting it right and not really listening first.


Your Turn: How do you tell your company’s story?


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