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4 Warning Signs That Your Storytelling Efforts Are Headed for Trouble

Storytelling is essential to building your business. The trick is to do it in a way that's sustainable.
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Everyone’s jumping on the storytelling bandwagon these days and for good reason. In a world where consumers can access anything they want at any given time, companies that don’t keep people engaged are done for. Anyone who has ever hosted a dinner party knows that telling stories is the best way to get people hooked and keep them coming back for more.

Unfortunately, most businesses attempting to use storytelling in their marketing are failing miserably. Here are four warning signs that will let you know whether your storytelling efforts are headed for a crash.

#1: You’ve got no focus.

Successful storytelling takes content. That said, pumping out a bunch of blog posts in any old order pushes people away by confusing them as to what you’re all about. Before jumping in, take the time to plan out what you’re trying to say about your company and industry over the long term. Does your overall content initiative have a real story arc or are you just throwing a bunch of spaghetti against the wall? If it’s the latter, you could be in for some real trouble.

#2: You’re building bottlenecks.

It’s common for a business owner or high-level decision maker to come up with a storytelling concept and then immediately put it in the hands of one or two people in the marketing department to execute. The problem with this approach is that when another high-priority project rolls in, content production is often the first thing to fall by the wayside. Audiences are fickle. If you don’t have the systems in place to reliably produce content no matter what else happens, it will only be a matter of time before you lose yours.

#3 Your content is good...enough.

Some companies outsource content creation to low-paid writers who know nothing about their business. Bad move. It’s true that the online content you use to build your company’s story doesn’t have to be perfect. It can actually be good for it to be a little raw in that it seems more authentic that way. But what it can never be is boring. If you’re putting your storytelling efforts in the hands of people who have little connection to your brand, your industry, or your ideas, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll fail.

#4 Don't rely too much on a good thing.

Working with high-end copywriters can be great for nailing that piece of punch-packing content designed to turn a reader into a lead or a lead into a customer. However, the thing about top professionals is that they’re expensive. For the day in, day out content you need, just make sure you don’t end up with a ballooning expense that never goes away. Are you completely dependent on premium external resources to tell your story? If so, you might want to consider what would happen if they went away.

Last updated: Nov 14, 2013

MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications

Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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