Storytelling: From Ohio to Netflix

August was filled with family trips, strategy meetings, and new writer training. In one way or another, I’ve spent a lot of time away from my daily workflow to build both relationships and intent.

Content Ping is changing course–by the end of October, we’ll be integrated with Content26 is updating our website and our marketing process. After months of reading about content strategy, I’m starting to feel confident about my ability to actually strategize. And after far too long to admit, I’m just starting to understand how to talk about what we do at work with my Midwestern family in a way that doesn’t result in immediate glazing over on everyone’s part.

As with most things in life, the key to strategy (and relationships, I suppose) is figuring out how to connect concepts to something concrete. The key is, in a word: storytelling.

Content marketing companies write at great length about brand storytelling. I read so many blog posts about storytelling that I’m a little disgusted with myself for writing this one. But the idea just wouldn’t quit, so I’m doing it anyway.

We instruct our writers, perhaps not insistently enough, to create a narrative when they write product descriptions. In our fantasy, every product description should become something more than a collection of facts without sliding down the slippery slope of marketing content.

The description should tell a story about the product. But the story should be nonfiction. It should highlight the actual abilities of the product and the actual needs of a consumer who might use it, not fancy technology terms dreamed up by marketing departments, greenwashing claims, and the joyous emotional responses brands hope their customers will have.

When a cousin told my mother, at our yearly family picnic in Ohio, “I’m a business systems analyst,” I started tuning out. But my mother, ever more outgoing, asked what she actually did during her workdays. Five minutes later, I could imagine what my business systems analyst cousin’s work life was like. Maybe next year I’ll answer the inevitable question with an explanation that doesn’t even use the phrase “content merchandising.”

Telling a story brings something from the abstract to the concrete. (Even products are abstract when they’re sold in a virtual setting.)

That’s why the narrative in the description is important. It’s why Orange Is the New Black, a show not without significant problems, is successful. It’s why saying, “these puzzle pieces interlock easily and stay fastened, so you can turn the completed puzzle into a sturdy display piece” is better than saying, “this 3D puzzle is made with Easy Click technology.”

And telling a story using basic, commonly understood words, instead of neologisms created to snazz up a variation of the same electronic device we’ve been using for 10 years, connects the concrete–the product, fictional show, or buzzword job title–to the consumer (or viewer, or listener).

Ping Takeaway

Telling a story isn’t just for brands, performers, or grandparents. It’s for everyone.

Let's work together.