Storytelling is dead! Seriously?

I saw a headline a while back about how storytelling is dead. I knew it was total click bait. But I had to check it out because it was on a reputable third party site that I respected for its useful content.

Damn you click bait!

I’ve been duped!

I didn’t have to get far into the post to realize there was only the flimsiest amount of data to support any of the author’s suppositions about the death of storytelling.

Here is an example. One of those suppositions was that people won’t spend time with a story. But it didn't take much digging to find evidence to the contrary. If people won’t spend the time with a story, then why is the ideal blog length up near a thousand words?

Research by Medium shows that the highest engagement on their site comes with blog posts that are 900 to 1600 words! Do you know how challenging it is to write 900 to 1600 words? You better have a great story.

I could have ended there. Closed the browser window and walked away. But this whole thing made me think – this is the kind of exploitative post that does nothing but bring a bad reputation to the marketing field.

I probably could have grumbled a bit about it to a few people and been done with it. But then something else occurred to me. Half of the examples of the “right way” to communicate just happened to be clients of the author’s firm. Seriously? I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” when he gets his secret decoder ring and the message he decodes is “Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine.” Like Ralphie, I felt like I had been duped into engaging with “A crummy commercial”.

Spit in their eye

Storytelling is still an incredibly powerful way to engage your prospects. That includes everything from blogposts to podcasts to videos. Anybody who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know how to do it effectively, or is just trying to get a rise out of you.

So there. I said my piece. But I can’t walk away without asking myself, “What did I learn?” Here’s what I landed on:

Don’t write click bait

Sensationalism will back fire on you. You may get somebody to click through, but once they figure out they have been duped, your reputation is toast. And getting them to think otherwise after that is a long, hard road.

Don’t shill for your company

Storytelling is about generously giving something to your readers. Give them great help. Give them a compelling tale. They will see a thinly-veiled promotion for your company a mile off. And once again, your reputation will suffer. Trust that being generous and engaging will result in recognition and, eventually, new business for you.

So as I’m coming to the end of my little story, I can’t help but think, “What would I tell this author if I would meet her?” I think it comes down to this:

  • Do your research to make sure you’re being truly helpful
  • Be engaging by being honest and authentic

In other words, tell a great story.