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10 Tips on Storytelling from a Former Reporter

Storytelling

There are some obvious differences between journalism and what’s known as brand journalism — journalism-style storytelling on behalf of a company. However, having worked in both media and corporate communications, I’ve found there are plenty of similarities as well.

So, consider these ten things that journalism can teach brand journalism:

Be social: Thanks to never-ending innovation on social media, journalists and brand journalists can continuously break news and tell stories in new and dynamic formats. It’s the most effective way cut out “middle men” like press and bloggers and talk directly to your key audiences.

Prove it: If you have scientific proof or data from a reputable survey, include it to help back up your case; it’s especially helpful if you’re arguing, for instance, that something is not a fad, but a trend.

Get to the point: Tell your story in a creative and dynamic way, but you keep your audience guessing too long about what it is you’re selling and you’ll likely to lose them. For example, Wistia reported that for a video of 4-5 minutes, fewer than 60% of your viewers will still be with you–against 75% for a 1-2 minute video.

Be relevant and timely: If you can weave in current events and trends into your story, it will seem more topical and less like a sales pitch.

Know your audience: Is it young mothers? Millennials? Seniors? Keep that in mind when deciding what story to tell and how to tell it. What could go viral among one audience could fall flat with another.

Capture their imagination: When thinking about a storyline, the question shouldn’t be, “What does your business do?” Instead the question should be “What does your business make possible?”

Make it relatable: Try telling your story through the eyes of someone whose business was enhanced or whose life was made easier by your product or service, i.e., someone who has relatable needs or faces familiar challenges.

Keep it fresh: Avoid clichés or a certain formula. Your message should always feel fresh and new, not like a rehash of an old or outdated story told the same ol’ way.

Make them watch: A story told in images alone can be more powerful than a story told in words or through sound. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, think how many video is worth!

Go for their hearts, not just minds:  Earned media, like advertising, is more powerful when you don’t just speak to your audience, but when you touch their heart or make them laugh. Connecting on an emotional level is key.

T.J. Winick is a Vice President at Solomon McCown & Company, a strategic and integrated communications firm based in Boston, with an office in New York. He has two decades of experience as a broadcast news reporter, having worked in both local and network news.

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