The Art of Storytelling

A family is enjoying a nice evening at home. Supper being ended, they retire to the living room to watch the local nightly newscast. After the first segment has ended, the station cuts to a commercial break, during which a local business airs their commercial. The voice over is almost yelling at the viewer, telling him to drop everything and patronize the store. The camera work consists of simple pans and zooms – pan over the merchandise, zoom out to reveal the store interior, zoom in to the store front sign, etc. The spot ends with a shot of the store exterior with a phone number and address stamped onto the screen in a bold, yellow font.

Then there are the promotional videos that are often passed out at fundraisers, galas, or networking events. The content consists mainly of a narrator telling the viewer what can already be seen on the screen, “Here is our corporate headquarters… Here is the new educational wing…”

The quality of many video productions often falls into these two scenarios. They are flat, uninteresting, and non-descript. They are quickly absorbed by the viewer and forgotten, because there is nothing within the video that connects with him on an emotional level. And if a video production cannot connect with a viewer, then that individual will be far less likely to buy from you, or donate to your cause, or sign up to be involved with your organization.

A promotional video must convey facts, yes, but far more important, the video must tell a story. And that’s where too many productions fall short. They can relay information to an audience, but they often fail to engage the audience with a story that can create an emotional response. As an old Scottish proverb says, “Many a good tale is spoiled in the telling.”

There is no doubt that the art of storytelling is an important part of human existence. Authors, poets, and philosophers have often noted the impact stories have on our plight as humans. Harold Goddard said, “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” And if you hope to achieve great results through video marketing, you must learn to be a great storyteller.

As an example of implementing this approach, let’s take a look at a hypothetical private liberal arts school that would like to produce a promotional video for its annual fundraiser. How could the administration approach this project? The following might be a list of items they wish to cover in the video:

1. A detailed look at the school’s curriculum
2. A listing of the faculty and their credentials.
3. A brief history of the school.
4. A recitation of the school’s mission statement.
5. A look at the school’s campus.
6. A comment from the president regarding his vision for the future.

It sounds like a pretty standard approach – beauty shots of the school, an encouraging message from the president. The final product should be a glossy and impressive look at this fine institution. But this approach has missed out on the most important thing – the story. Rather than brag about their wonderful curriculum, or their highly trained staff, this video should focus on the human interest elements – the students. Who are they? Where are they from? What’s their background? Why did they choose this particular school? What are their life goals? How is their education at this particular school going to help them reach these goals? What type of obstacles have they overcome to make it this far in their life’s pursuits?

Finding the answers to these questions will give this school a great start to creating an emotional piece that will certainly succeed in opening the checkbooks of those in attendance at the fundraiser. Why? Because you have given them something with which they can connect. They can see the impact their money has on young minds and young talent.

So in your own video marketing campaign, learn to ask the right questions. Don’t be content with listing dry facts in your promotional video. Find the story within your business. What is its human interest element? Great storytelling bridges all cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It’s the thread that holds the human condition together and drives us all forward into a more profitable tomorrow.

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2 Responses to “The Art of Storytelling”

  1. [...] received an email recently from one of our blog readers in regards to our article on the Art of Storytelling. He had a question regarding the role music plays in telling a story, which I feel is a very [...]

  2. [...] points about the value of storytelling in a brand’s marketing strategy. I’ve written articles on this blog before, centered on the aspect of storytelling and the power it has over an audience, [...]

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