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From Antwerp to Bucharest – Lessons Learned About Storytelling and Content Marketing

Posted on Jun 16th, 2014
Written by Lee Odden
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  • From Antwerp to Bucharest – Lessons Learned About Storytelling and Content Marketing
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    Storytelling Content Marketing

    Growing digital marketing skills and knowledge are more important now than ever. I’m sure you can relate to the pressures of having to continuously stay on top of what’s new and most effective.

    The good news is that much knowledge can be gained from new experiences and connections. In the past 2 weeks I’ve had the good fortune to attend an Integrated Marketing Communications event at West Virginia University a content marketing conference in Antwerp, Belgium and a digital marketing conference in Bucharest Romania. Plus this week I’m in London for a few meetings where similar topics will be discussed.

    Amongst those geographically diverse experiences, each with a focus on some aspect of digital marketing and communications, I have noticed a consistent set of expectations regarding information delivery, content quality and interactions.

    Besides recognizing these trends, I’ve come to realize, that each is an area that I need to improve upon. Maybe the same is true for you.


    Everyone Loves A Great Story

    At the Content Marketing Conference Europe held in Antwerp, I listened to Danny Devriendt’s story about how the size and form of the Russian space shuttle has little to do with the American space shuttle (they look the same) and more to do with the size of a horse’s ass.

    As you can imagine, the “What?” effect of that statement had people’s attention as they listened for the punchline of how a horse’s ass could have anything to do with the Russian space shuttle, let alone how it relates to content marketing.

    The lesson he was after can be expressed with my favorite phrase on the value of storytelling:

    Facts Tell, Stories Sell

    We all know storytelling is important. But how are you acting on that insight? What are you doing to collect, curate and manage stories to be told? Are you finding stories to use with every content object you create and are they relevant to both the business and the audience you’re sharing them with?

    Lee Odden ProTV Romania

    Stories on Tap

    During last week’s ICEEfest conference, I was given the opportunity to do an on-air interview for ProTV, a popular TV station in Bucharest. I didn’t know the specifics of what we’d talk about until a few minutes before starting.

    Did the TV reporter ask me for facts? Did he ask me for case studies or data from a report? No, of course not. He asked me for quick stories – 5 of them. In 5 minutes, right before the cameras rolled.

    Sadly, I was only able to offer up 3 stories in that time and only 2 made it to the show. But I was able to get some of our own story and key messaging into the interview – “Attract, Engage, Convert” and “Be the Best Answer”.  Regardless, the experience reinforced to me the importance of having sound bite stories on tap for whatever expertise I want our agency to be known for.

    Utility or Futility

    The Futility of Utility

    Publish useful information and you’ll inform the reader. Tell great stories and you will inspire them.

    I talk about this a lot with the content marketing maturity model and how companies evolve from quantity to quality to utility to storytelling. It’s an important perspective as companies seek to evolve the effectiveness of their content investments.

    Tell stories well and share them in a way that reconciles your brand objectives and how you want to be known with the things that your intended audience cares about. Relevancy isn’t just about the customer, it’s important for the brand objectives to be present in content as well.

    Doing so requires making the effort to really understand who your customers are and what questions they need answered in order to buy from you. Find out the triggers that will connect and engage your buyers and package your content into easily digested and shareable content. Content usefulness + interestingness = awesomeness.


    Infotainment Trumps Information

    Nick Sohnemann from FutureCandy gave a visually stunning presentation at ICEEfest about the future of retail using background music to embellish his slides, calls for participation, lots of video and even a real-time demonstration of Google Glass.

    Granted, presentations at this event were given in a movie theatre with a huge screen and many small screens projecting behind the speaker (plus a killer sound system and A/V people who knew what they were doing) so the experience was a bit more immersive than at a typical conference.

    All the same, Nick could have shown slides of innovative new technology with a few videos. But what he did was more like an informative performance, setting the stage with music to get people’s attention, articulating what they could expect and then narrating a string of videos and demonstrations.

    Every single person sitting in that auditorium will remember Nick’s presentation and when they think of companies that are experts at helping businesses adopt new technologies, they will certainly think of FutureCandy.

    Content Marketing Conference Europe

    The Takeaway with Storytelling and Content Marketing

    Great stories are interesting. They take you away from where you are into a head space that taps imagination and visualization. Complex ideas can be quickly conveyed though stories. Otherwise distracted audiences are kept at attention with stories. The interestingness of stories helps create a competitive advantage for those telling them by providing information in a way that connects on both intellectual and emotional levels.

    No matter what business situation or geographic location you find yourself in, you simply cannot go wrong having a great (and relevant) story to tell. With each content object you create, always answer the question: What’s the story in this message?

    I challenge you to think about incorporating more stories in your content. I know I’m challenging myself to do the same.