At The Heart of All Content Marketing is Storytelling (and Other Buzzwords from 2012)

By December 11th, 2012

2012. Perhaps, if the Mayans were correct, we won’t live to see the end of it. Or, we can just acknowledge that the Mayans ran out of room on their round stone, and keep working. Keep living. (Let’s admit that the Mayans weren’t such great fortune tellers and leave it at that.) So if you look back at 2012, there are a few things that stand out: there’s more content than ever before (again) and content delivery systems are all over the map. And, frankly, a lot of it doesn’t work. (This is not an implied criticism of any form of content, it’s just a fact.) And because most of it doesn’t work, the buzzwords of 2012 – data, ecosystem, “platform agnostic”, context, storytelling – will remain the buzzwords of 2013, or at least be synonyms for future buzzwords, because if there’s one thing that content marketers are good at, it’s coming up with new words for things that already exist. We are as guilty of this trope as anyone, however, so nos culpae.

Let’s be clear: content isn’t evolving. Technology is. And because technology is evolving, our expectations for the delivery of content are also evolving. Content now comes at us in print, on our laptops and tablets and smartphones, via email and snail mail, on our screens and through our earbuds. But storytelling in the service of a brand (and this is true regardless of the reasons the brand engages in content) is as old as cave drawings, and will outlast all of us. One of the themes that emerges not just from the work we’ve done at Spafax over the past year but from the vast amounts of content we read and consume – whether it be print, digital, mobile, video, audio, or in person at events and conferences – is the idea of storytelling, of the need for a coherent plot when creating content, and this demands a coherent strategy. But mostly, successful content marketing demands a good story. All brands have stories to tell but making the public care about those stories is the hard part. That’s the work. It demands a form of connection, and that’s where strategy comes in. And, of course, a good content marketing agency.

The content marketing industry, and the advertising and PR industries also, tries to connect their clients to the public in any manner possible. All well and good. But if there isn’t a good story at the heart of that effort, the connection is bound to fail. A brand only works for us if it does something for our narrative (and not the other way around.) We are all consumers in that we yearn to consume stories that are relevant to us. Stories that make our lives better or easier. That entertain, enlighten and inform. That provide a valuable service.

2013 may see many changes in how the content marketing industry reaches the public. But at the heart of every bit of content is the story. A good story.

See you in 2013.