Career Help: How Storytelling Skills Span Traditional and Brand Journalism
Storytelling Communications

The Common Thread in the Ongoing Journalism Narrative: Moving Stories

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Some days, it can feel like despite its grand size and seemingly endless potential for growth, the Internet is getting smaller and smaller. It’s a running joke between me and my best friend that whenever he sends me a link—be it a video, article, picture, series of hilarious GIFs, whatever—I’ve already seen it a day before. While these overlaps likely have a lot to do with shared interests, I believe they also say a lot about what compels us as consumers to engage with something we find online and choose to share it.

At the core of many articles and links I share among my friends is an underlying theme of good stories that first attracted my attention, managed to hold onto it, and then compelled me through varying degrees of emotion to want to share them. Whether that emotion is humor, empathy, inspiration, awe, or some kind of recognition within myself, something about these stories sparked an “aha!” moment and created a bond.

If you are moving between industries or are just looking for career help, it is important to understand that inspirational storytelling applies in both brand journalism and traditional journalism. However, there are some elements that overlap, and others that can drastically converge.

Storytelling in Brand Journalism and Traditional Journalism

According to Volacci, both brand journalism and traditional journalism uncover and tell stories that people want, and about which they should know. The difference between the two comes down to the concept of partiality: One story has the potential to be portrayed in multiple lights depending on who—or what—is authoring it.Open notebook by coffee cup

Regardless of where the stories originate, they contain similar engaging elements such as set scenes, characters, actions, a voice, a relationship with the audience, and a destination—whether it is a theme, purpose, or reason. In some cases, these themes speak for themselves. In traditional journalism, for instance, where impartiality is key, the purpose of the article can be to inform or inspire, while brand journalism’s purpose may be more overtly skewed toward encouraging customers to feel positive about the brand or its products or services.

Of course, despite its openness to bias, brand-produced content doesn’t necessarily have to wave the public relations flag throughout every twist and turn of the story. Bobby Rettew describes this practice as “seeking the truth inside the brand,” and encourages brands to steer away from presenting one-sided stories, trusting audiences to draw their own conclusions based on the facts presented. This concept is echoed by Mark Ragan, chief executive officer of Ragan Communications, who advises brand journalists to temporarily get out of “PR mode.”

“Stories that resonate with people are about people,” he said. “They’re not only about your company or product. The organization will be part of the story, but put it where it belongs: usually in the background.”

Crafting Engaging Stories

While engaging storytelling is the common thread that ties together the oft-warring worlds of brand journalism and traditional journalism, this all goes to show that a well-crafted story has the power to inspire people no matter who produced it and for what purpose.

According to Crenshaw Communications, storytellers looking for career help should ask themselves the following questions before they publish content to ensure they’ve created a story that’s worth telling:

  • Is it a good story?
  • Does it offer real expertise?
  • Am I showing, not telling?
  • Is it high-quality?
  • Does it inspire action or change?

I was particularly struck when, during a recent presentation, storytelling guru Robert McKee said, “There is no point in telling a story if you have nothing to say.” Writers can use this mantra to determine the stories that will resonate best with their audiences, whether they are writing for the public or a particular consumer base.

Whether you are in need of career help before transitioning between industries or are simply looking to hone your craft as a writer, understanding the core elements of a story can help you capture the attention of your audience. Learn more about how you can join Skyword’s community of storytellers today.

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