Writer Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” The same can be said of business. If we, as marketers, could become better at brand storytelling, we could potentially etch our brands in the minds of millions. At least they would remember us longer than the 30 seconds they remember our banner ads, if they see them at all.
With the rapid decline in interrupt advertising, it has become even more critical for us to reach our audiences in ways beyond banners and paid product spots. Ad blocking grew by 41 percent globally last year, and as of August 2015, there were more than 198 million ad blocker users throughout the world. Quite simply, people are fed up with our incessant attempts to capture their attention.
Despite this chilling reality, research launched this week by Skyword and Researchscape International, “A Study in Brand Transformation,” indicated that brands are only beginning to transform their organizations for sustainable storytelling. As a matter of fact, one of the most popular titles within marketing teams surveyed was advertising manager, with 54 percent of respondents indicating the continued existence of that role within their departments.
Why haven’t more companies become great at brand storytelling? Sadly, most people in business, even in marketing, just aren’t good storytellers. How many times have you heard marketers say that they aren’t comfortable writing? So as marketing leaders, what do we do?
If you haven’t already done this, it’s time to change your hiring habits. According to Skyword’s research, brands are starting down this path. Twenty-eight percent of organizations have content marketing roles and 33 percent have editors. But, organizations will need to build storytelling into their DNA to sustain this capability.
I recently spoke with Vishal Khanna, who was selected as Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketer of the Year. Vishal is responsible for transforming Wake Forrest Innovations into an award-winning publisher of stories that creates a path for investors to discover new health care breakthroughs and technology.
He talked about the importance of hiring storytellers. “No matter what their role is, everyone we hire has to be a good writer or visual storyteller. The chef has to know how to make the meal.”
He continued, “Whether you’re talking about visual or editorial storytelling, you have to give your team members the flexibility to be artists. The difference between good and great is passion for your craft. We hire people who are passionate about being the best at their craft. People love to work here because we are not afraid to break the rules. We’re an innovative, intrapreneurship organization.”
A truly transformative organization looks beyond the walls of marketing to discover the best storytellers. According to Skyword’s research, more than 96 percent of companies surveyed depend on employees in other areas of the company to contribute content on a regular basis. Within companies that considered their teams to be successful, marketers were not the sole proprietors of the brand story. Sixty-five percent of the executive team was just as effective and 54 percent of employees in general.
At Skyword, some of our most successful contributors to the Content Standard are from our services team. They have the benefit of working with our customers every day. They understand their challenges and have the requisite insight to overcome them. Identifying your subject matter experts and incentivising them to share their expertise regularly will be pay dividends, particularly if you are tasked with daily publishing.
Although there is much debate about the size of the “gig economy,” there is no question that it is growing particularly within the digital marketplace. A recent study by TIME magazine, Burson-Marsteller, and the Aspen Institute estimates that 14.4 million people derive the majority of their income from the “gig economy.” Many of these people are writers, photographers, and videographers who are passionate about their craft and who have the potential to make your brand better at storytelling. Tap into these freelance communities to round out your publishing teams and build ongoing relationships with a talented and reliable few who can capture the essence of your brand story.
You can download and interact with the key takeaways of the research by visiting our “What Is Marketing Transformation, Really?“ moving story.