Digital Storytelling Tip: Strap a Camera on the Marketing VP

Good storytelling isn’t easy, especially digital storytelling. And, while we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible, many brands are already taking a noble craft to an underwhelming place.

But along comes inspiration. Earlier this week, Daily Disruption (something we ALL need by the way) profiled Contour, the self-described “market leader in hands-free video cameras and adventure storytelling tools.” Think extreme skiers or fearless kayakers giving us those mind-blowing perspectives that are otherwise off-limits to the less intrepid. Think, real, visceral and unique; gripping without words. I’m guessing that you, like me, are not a radical skier filming your recent exploits at Sunday River’s White Heat.  But this doesn’t mean that your corporate storytelling should be mind-numbing instead of mind-blowing. I’m not (necessarily) suggesting that you strap an HD camera to your VP’s head. But I am suggesting that you reconsider how you’ll tell stories in 2012, especially digitally. As you do so, consider three things:

  • Over-scripting and over-editing can suck the life out of digital storytelling. Let your audience catch a whiff of spontaneity and authenticity in your content. Yes, hitting message notes is important, but audiences typically remember less than 10 percent of what you say. What sticks with them is what they see and how interesting and credible you appear. You can’t script awesome.
  • The star (i.e., CEO) doesn’t always win the audiences’ hearts. Some of the most memorable performances come from the supporting cast. Audiences often identify more with supporting characters, and sometimes their material, especially their key lines, are even more memorable and enduring.  If your director of product marketing has charisma and spins great yarns, don’t let her title alone keep her off the shooting schedule.
  • Brand stories must have context and relevance.  Your product or service bona fides are not the basis of your story. They can be the hero, but your company exists because of the problems it solves or opportunities it creates. We’re fortunate to have former broadcast TV editors and producers on staff, and they constantly remind us that news stories lacking direct relevance to the audience – containing conflict, anguish, heartbreak or triumph – don’t cut it. As the extreme skier would likely say, go big (at least a little more than usual) or go home!

What Daily Disruption reminds us is that breaking from the pack isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly memorable. With so much digital content out there – and more to come in 2012 - you’ll have to work harder to stand out. So instead of focusing so much on the words, bring some unexpected (but respectful) audacity to your setting, characters and subject. At your next event, strap a Contour+ on the head of your VP of Marketing and see what happens. Go ahead, I dare you.

Scott Bauman is an executive vice president for Greenough. Send him an email at sbauman@greenoughcom.com or follow him on twitter: @sbauman