Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

When to stop arguing over content/wording/graphic elements/etc.

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There are many ways to tell a story and yet some of us out there decide to argue over some of the most interesting (aka trivial) things:

  • This font is 1 size too small. INCREASE IT!
  • Use affect (or maybe it’s effect – 😉 LOL!) over impact.
  • Over does not mean the same as more than – though the AP Stylebook has changed this rule now.

You probably have your own examples of nit-picking.

Yes, proper grammar is important and we should all try to get that right. But still there are plenty other examples where people debate things that are a waste of time.

I once had an editor who changed a paragraph. The story didn’t run for a while, so another editor had another shot to make the story “better.” This one changed it back to virtually the version I had previously written. I told him: “Great edits. Thanks. It really made the story better.” LOL.

In reality, it was a bunch of wasted energy on everyone’s part. The paragraph didn’t need to be changed and ended up virtually the same way where it started out anyway.

Certainly, good editors, creative directors and similar roles are useful and can help make stories and their presentations more effective. But there’s a fine line of being helpful and being overly bossy.

Moving font sizes that little (and this is not even a made-up example) usually doesn’t add much and just gives people some more work to do.

I was once part of a video project where the sound allegedly was off. As I was watching the footage at the same time I asked: “How do you know it was off?” The answer: “I can see it on the timeline.” So  basically inside the video program. But could they notice it on the video? No, because it was like one frame. Helpful or picky? Of course, there’s also a fine line between being picky and being necessary. So many lines! Ha.They don’t always run parallel either. That would be too easy.

For the most part unnecessary nit-picking and changing of things doesn’t make most stories or their presentation better. And just because the person with the fanciest title spoke the alleged best option doesn’t make it the best option. And sometimes even when it is the best option, was it worth mentioning? It all depends on the importance of the change. That is something that is easy to overestimate.

Recommended reading: It’s probably not as bad – or as good – as we think it is

The practice of the “highest-ranking” person being right all the time seems a bit outdated, but still exists in some organizations. That doesn’t mean that person isn’t right, certainly they are at least time to time, and they definitely get to make decisions for their area of ownership.

But people in power should also be aware of when to yield that power. It’s OK to from time to time, but some bossy decisions for smallish things don’t help the greater good.

Recommended reading: 

Your boss is not your audience!

What’s a culture of storytelling?

For example, in a culture of storytelling, where everyone is encouraged to share authentic stories, the nit-pickers – similar to the people who try to add unnecessary processes – can really kill the whole project. They will if you let them.

Why would I ever come forward again and share a story that I thought was worth sharing when Mr. Bossy pants just wants to change things that don’t even need to be changed?

So it’s a fine line – especially for bosses. Most storytellers won’t mind changes, if they make the story better or if they are explained well. Of course “because I said so” is never a good explanation. Based on trying it with my kids and my parents trying it with me, I’d say it doesn’t work at all. Definitely not longer term.

Explanations that tie back into a shared goal or vision seem to work best:

I think we should change this because here’s how that will help us get to [insert goal] quicker, etc…

Ultimately, we want to reach our shared goals together. When we don’t it’s not a problem surrounding leadership or creativity. That’s a personnel (aka HR) issue. We might have the wrong players on the team.

It’s easy and meaningful to make changes when they are the best ones to help us reach our shared goals together.

Recommended reading: Storyteller over content creator and other marketing terms that need to go


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Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I'm Christoph Trappe and I'm the Vice President of Content Marketing Strategy, Americas, at ScribbleLive, which is based in Toronto and is a global content marketing software company. Before I started at ScribbleLive I was VP of Content Marketing and Conversion at MedTouch, a Boston-based company that helps healthcare organizations with digital marketing. I've written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs. If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I'm always happy to chat! Thanks for reading! - Christoph ctrappe@christophtrappe.com 319-389-9853

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