Tell a Good Story First, Develop a Content Strategy Second

storytellingIn the world of professional communications, the phrase "content is king" is fast hurtling towards the hackneyed bin each day. We have been told since Bill Gates coined the phrase in 1996 that consumers want to see content, not advertisements, on the Internet. The best communicators, Gates predicted, will use the Internet as a "marketplace of ideas, experiences and products."

While the Microsoft founder may have been right on several accounts, today his advice is taken with too much deference, as communicators bolt towards content development while forgetting about its precursor: a narrative strategy.

The narrative is the rightful starting place for any communicator looking to spread his or her message in the digital space (as well as offline). Without it, brands have no chance of catching consumers' attention.

With more opportunities than ever to deliver content to consumers online, it's important not to forget that people engage with stories, and that good storytelling practices are difficult to master.

Starting with the challenge of telling a good story, though, is much better than starting with the challenge of developing good content.

Here are some more storytelling tips for communicators looking to spread their wings  online, courtesy of Barbra Bates, CEO and founder of Eastwick Communications:

  1. It takes a combination of good journalistic skills and creative writing to build compelling narratives.
  2. Think visually. The old adage of a picture telling a thousand words really does ring true. And with today’s information overload, visuals can often break through the noise better than the written word.
  3. Follow the journalistic practices of drawing from compelling story arcs that match your own story—the phoenix rising from the ashes, David vs. Goliath, the “can they make it,” story or the ones with unexpected consequences. These are storylines that contain drama, and drama entertains.
  4. Take a page from your creative writing class (or from Nancy Duarte’s highly regarded book, "Resonate") and leverage the power of “the hero’s journey.” Based on the psychology of Carl Jung and the mythology research of Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey reveals the basic structure of numerous stories, myths and movies.
  5. Think about breaking your “story” into separate chapters. Avoid the need to tell everyone everything all at once.

How would you add to the list?

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene