#Mediachat: Authentic storytelling for businesses

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

storytelling tweetI was a guest on #Mediachat on Twitter on Feb. 26, 2015. Below you can find an overview of the discussion. The chat had more than 20 million impressions.

Q1:  What’s authentic storytelling?

Authentic storytelling is the sharing of true and meaningful stories in  a public way. Authentic stories are not just rants, but meaningful experiences, and told in a way that they will have an impact on the reader. The best authentic stories are educational and some inspire readers. Some of the most touching authentic stories share the writer’s vulnerability to the topic at hand. Finally, authentic stories take a stand. The writers have opinions.

Q2: Why should businesses care and practice authentic storytelling?

When done right, authentic storytelling can help the bottom line. Consumers are exposed to thousands of messages a day. Many of them try to sell one thing or another. The messages that stand out are the ones that are highly relevant. Sharing authentic and interesting stories in line with a business goal can help a business stand out – not by talking louder but by whispering more relevant and authentic things.

Q3: How do you do authentic storytelling?

First off, you’ll have to make up your mind that you want to. Typically, top leaders in an organization need to openly endorse this. Then people need to be given permission to share their stories. They might send them to the communications team to be written up or they might file them to a company blog where somebody will edit them. Whatever the process might be, it needs to be defined. It also helps when there’s a champion of the project who keeps moving things forward. Without leadership endorsement or a champion, it’s a lot harder for an authentic storytelling project to be successful.

Q4: What are common barriers?

One of the biggest and most common barriers is that people think of it as marketing. “What’s our message this year?” That’s not the point in authentic storytelling. You share the most meaningful stories that fit into your business strategy. You don’t shape them. You pick the best ones and then share them in the best way so the audience can easily digest them.

Q5: Who should do it in an organization?

It’s most meaningful when everyone participates. Everyone can spot meaningful and authentic stories. The receptionist can, the manager can and the CEO as well. Some people likely have more time to write them down than others, but if an organization finds that authentic storytelling is important, all employees will be given a chance and a reasonable amount of time to share their stories.

Of course, in larger organizations, the communications department could handle the actual writing. An organization might also choose to hire an agency to help.

Q6: How does authentic storytelling differ for small and large organizations?

Organizations of all sizes can share authentic stories – even one-person volunteer organizations. Nobody has time to share stories, but you can make time. Larger organizations might have staff to share the authentic stories in a way that’s more time efficient for everyone involved, but larger organizations also have barriers. Those could include internal processes that slow down publications and excessive rewriting of authentic stories.

Q7: How do you measure authentic storytelling’s success?

It can be measured in customer acquisition, recruiting and, of course, the more traditional digital metrics: How many people are reading and sharing the content.

Q8: What’s the difference from content marketing or just marketing?

Marketing is about the brand, content marketing is information from the brand, but not necessarily about the brand.