Marketing Content Strategy

#ContentRising Day 1 Keynotes: Do Not Disturb, Brand Storytelling in Progress


The days of interruption advertising are numbered. In today’s high-tech, modern world, marketers must embrace the oldest way to connect with people—storytelling.

This morning, at Content Rising Summit, Skyword Founder and CEO, Tom Gerace and renowned screenwriting lecturer, Robert McKee, urged the 300 marketing and media professionals in the room to embrace the power of storytelling to create lasting connections and empower leadership.

Great stories let us imagine traveling down a path we had not planned to travel, Gerace explained in his introductory speech. They inspire us to act. “It’s important that we have these powerful stories available to us as marketers,” Gerace said. “Because our old way of doing things no longer works.”

Stop Interrupting What People Love. Start Becoming What People Love.

Consumer behavior is shifting. We are now enabled to block banner ads and skip commercials as we please, no longer captive to traditional broadcasts and publications. We seek out only the content we want, Gerace explained. Netflix alone has amassed 62 million paid subscribers who consume 10 billion hours of programming each quarter, with millions more TV and video junkies subscribing each month around the world.

The message is clear: We have no patience for interruptions. Yet, as Gerace pointed out in his presentation, marketers continue to increase media, digital, and mobile Internet ad spending by $30 billion year over year, despite a population that prefers an ad-free experience. Tom Gerace introduces Content Rising Summit, and urges marketers to stop interrupting what people love.

To successfully reach their audiences, marketers must adapt, and the answer lies in well-crafted brand storytelling through different deliveries—writing, photography, video, and animation. Gerace urged everyone to integrate video into their content marketing strategies, saying, “No other medium can elicit an emotional response as effectively and universally as video, so it’s no surprise that consumers are watching more and more of it online…There is no reason that brands cannot create and bring us the best stories possible,” Gerace said. “IBM Security should produce the TV show 24. That show scares us every day!”

Along with emphasizing video creation, Gerace stressed that brands must build storytelling into their organizational mindsets, discovering and developing their true stories and storytellers, and building a brand storytelling engine—a platform that allows you to tell great stories every day in different formats, languages, countries, and channels with the ability to measure results.

Lastly, Gerace encouraged attendees to dream big and imagine the future. When the black-and-white, silent 50-second film, The Arrival of a Train, played to a theater audience in France in the late 1800’s, people were terrified. Now we binge-watch TV like it’s our job. What’s next?

Robert McKee: The Primacy of Story

As Robert McKee took the stage, he asked us to consider that story is primary—that it is the essential element of human thought and communication, and has been with us as along as human beings have existed. In fact, the reason human beings dominate this planet is because we can tell story. That’s what gives us power over nature. As marketing and media professionals, it is paramount to understand what a story is and how it works.

Tom Gerace introduces Content Rising Summit, and urges marketers to stop interrupting what people love.
“Story is a sequence of changes, negative to positive, positive to negative, expressed in a value—success, failure, rich, poor, excitement, boredom,” McKee said. “When we talk about story, we’re talking about values. And when we’re talking about values, we’re not talking about values the way politicians do. We’ve got to think in terms of binaries—dynamics—positive to negative and back, working through time to a climax.”

McKee stressed that data, while important to the story, tells us what has changed, yet stories tell us how and why. And this is crucial, because the human mind thinks in stories—it always has.

“How do you think of the past, as data?” McKee asked the audience. “No. You take it and you turn it into story. The mind eliminates the minutiae.” All well-told stories take us beneath the surface to express the hidden truth on how and why things change. “All stories are metaphors,” McKee said. “All stories say, life is like this.”

Marketers must fuse story into their content strategies to capture and hold the attention of our audiences. “There is no data for the future—it hasn’t happened yet. If you’re going to plan for the future, you’ve got to put it in story form,” McKee said.

Where Does Creativity Come From?

Creativity, argued McKee, is nothing but the discovery of the hidden connection between two things that already exist. He warned us to not fall prey to the romanticized notion of creativity descending from the heavens and just happening. McKee offered us the example of the first stanza in Carl Sandburg’s poem, “Fog:” “The fog comes / on little cat feet.” Yes—we know what both fog and cats are, but the two together “create a connection we’ve never heard before that enriches our lives.”

Brand Storytelling Powers Leadership

What does story have to do with you? If you’re content to have someone else tell your story for you, then nothing, McKee explained. The best leaders create their own stories and tell story inwardly into their company—wielding stories to team build, manage conflicts, train, and strategize for the future. All business strategy is a story that others will hopefully follow.

“Are you going to lead or follow?” McKee asked.

Thank you to all who joined us for this morning’s keynote! We will publish more updates tomorrow, including coverage of the final day’s keynote speakers—world’s first Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley, and Dan Pallotta, Founder and Chief Humanity Officer of Advertising for Humanity.

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