Over the years I’ve done a lot of corporate storytelling. Sometimes it’s captivating audiences at a worldwide conference with a brand story, sometimes it’s letting a cancer survivor share her wisdom and her journey.
But what’s mattered in every corporate story I’ve told was not so much the visuals we were capturing but the actual story taking place.
Pairing great visuals with a great story always creates a big win. And in a world of online media with a thirsty appetite for good stories and good visuals, the likelihood of that story being spread far and wide is much greater.
But truth be told, I don’t see that pairing terribly often.
Time and again, especially with many technology companies I’ve worked with, I’ve had product managers and developers show me videos they’ve loved… but I haven’t. Quietly I’ve thought, “That was a pretty series of images but I’ll be damned if I I can remember what I’m supposed to take away from this.” And that’s because the story isn’t really being told. Features are being showcased, graphics are whizzing by but in reality there’s truly no there there. No real hook or even a story thread is what I see in so many corporate visual communications.
In my TV years, I was given a finite amount of time to captivate an audience quickly and inform them. One of the tools of the trade was to humanize a story – find a human angle and wrap your story around that person. People are fascinated by people and simply place more emotion in the stories they express.
Those lessons, that people are more important than product features, I’ve never forgotten. They are good ones for today’s content creators to keep in mind.
One of the first things I do when I land in a city or foreign country to take on a project, even if it’s late or I’m jet-lagged, is to try and get together with my local contact or client as soon as I’ve checked in to my hotel. It’s a chance to meet, relax together and ask them questions over a drink or meal. Questions include, clarification on the product itself (especially if it’s a technology product). What do they like about their customer? Unique or interesting challenges they’ve had. Things they possibly don’t like or funny anecdotes about the customer. And finally, what do they feel hasn’t clicked or been expressed in their marketing efforts to date?
With that knowledge, I’m able to sleep on things, which is a great advantage for the next day and helps to fuel a conversation, not just a set of interview questions when you sit down with the customer or executive being featured.
The interaction or energy that comes from a conversation versus just a set of interview questions comes across very differently on camera or even in the quotes that come from a written story. People who are apprehensive become relaxed much faster and instead of a canned set of answers you get people talking, reflecting and being more real. And this lends to a real story with real answers usually lending much more realism and interest to the content you’re creating.
We’re in an age where our content stories are more important and more visual than ever, and needed to feed so many more channels than before. But the story is still king. Finding or cultivating a story and capturing great visuals to support the story really can make all the difference.
Kelly is an Emmy-Award-winning Creative Director and Content Strategist at Guenther Group, based in Seattle.