One of the biggest challenges companies face when they decide to produce original promotional content is… how?
Not in terms of process, because it’s easy to find the right personnel or hire the right agency to create media that drives traffic, interest and sales. But where’s the hook?
Actually, you might be sitting on it.
When I used to film the web sitcom Something to Be Desired, we would sometimes film segments in a radio station that was housed under the same roof as the TV studio where Mister Rogers Neighborhood was filmed. Every shoot, we’d walk right past the tree, the castle and the carousel from The Land of Make Believe. One day, it occurred to us that we were standing right next to something an entire generation would probably think of as magical, and we’d grown so used to it that we’d already tuned it out.
Most of us have lived with our own stories for so long, we sometimes forget what makes those stories interesting in the first place. Instead of tapping into our most valuable storytelling resource — our own experiences — people and brands often try to shift the focus away from themselves and onto something they’ve invented from scratch, which seems interesting mostly because it’s new to them.
And that can work. But so can telling your best old stories to new audiences who’ve never heard them before, and who can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
Here are some tips to help you better appreciate the content goldmine you keep trying to ignore: yourself.
It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times…
Either way, it was probably a great story.
Your past successes (and failures) come replete with lessons learned and advice for others, and shared wisdom is always worth listening to.
Whether you’re explaining why something worked well or how it failed completely, you’re both providing a helpful service and giving your audience a window into your own personality (and, occasionally, your flaws and quirks). The former is why people will listen once; the latter is why they’ll relate to you and want to keep coming back for more.
Stop Pretending Your Employees Don’t Have Lives
A two-person company has twice as many great stories to tell as a sole proprietor does.
That’s because each of your employees has a story to tell. Some have quite a few. Maybe one of them is incredibly good at something unusual. Maybe one of them once saved your brand from the brink of total collapse. Maybe one of them can bench press 400 pounds, or eat 20 hotdogs in a row, or once met Frank Capra at a barber shop in Queens.
You’ll never know if you don’t ask. And your audience will never know if your team doesn’t have a chance to tell.
Spilling the Secret Sauce
Christopher Penn wrote a smart blog post about the fallacy of basing your business model on a “secret ingredient,” because if the only thing separating you from your competition is a mysterious herb or spice, you’re just a few lucky guesses away from obsolescence. But while that may hold true for businesses, secrets are still great fuel for stories — especially when they’re being revealed.
Audience love surprises, and they’ll spend large chunks of their lives trying to solve invented mysteries. So when you pull back the curtain on your own process and show people how it really works, you not only gain respect from those who’ll seek to emulate your success, but you actually take ownership of a story that could destroy you if someone else started telling it.
Show and Tell (and Prove)
If I like a certain brand of coffee, I might feel even better about it if I knew that the beans were being picked under fair trade provisions. And while that brand can tell me it’s adhering to those regulations, showing me works best of all.
What parts of your process would your customers love to see in person? What claims are you making that a little visual evidence might help sell? What events and experiences do you take for granted because you encounter them every workday, but your audience will almost never have a chance to experience firsthand?
Starting to Think of Some Great Stories Yet?
Now tap into your social marketing channels and get those stories in front of the people who most need to hear them:
Everyone who isn’t you.
And if you need a hand with that part, let us know. We can help.
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