The New Age of Storytelling

Episode 9. Today, we’re speaking with Shane Schick, former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing Magazine. In this video, Shane discusses the new world of advertising and how this has ushered in a new age of storytelling.

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Grab a coffee and take it all in.


[Michael Chase]
How has storytelling changed in our world?

[Shane Schick]
Storytelling has changed in its distribution, in the way that you can get at audiences. What hasn’t changed is the elements that make for a great story. You still need a setting, you still need a voice, you still need characters that people are going to care about, and you still need a beginning, a middle and an end of some kind. What’s changed is the potential for new kinds of storytellers to emerge. Whereas storytelling was the purview of journalists like me or for other professional storytellers in movies and television, now because of the digital distribution opportunities, the opportunities that still exist in print, there’s ways for brands to tell stories in a way that they haven’t before, stories that are less about their products and services and more about their audiences, which are the stories that everyone really wants to hear about.


[Michael Chase]
As brands grapple with this, let’s call it a vacuum for content, how do they deal with keeping it high quality, high level of engagement, and then how do they deal with artificial intelligence engines like Rank Brain and Google to vet their content?

[Shane Schick]
I think the challenge of working with high-quality content is making sure that you focus really on where the conflict is, so what drives a great story? Well, it’s a hero that’s trying to overcome a challenge of some kind. In traditional advertising, brands are really used to telling positive uplifting stories about success with their products, success with their services. I think with the kind of stories that we’re seeing today that are really resonating with people, it’s telling about the pain points, it’s telling about the challenges, it’s digging deep into what’s really mattering to people, so that they realize that, “Yeah, that’s me in that story.” It’s not just the soap or it’s not the detergent that they really care about, it’s what journey that person is going through. I think as long as you hone in on what that conflict is, why it matters, and if you can point to some of the resolution for that, you’ll have a story that will outdo any algorithm, that will outperform any traditional ad.


[Michael Chase]
With MarTech companies scaling from 100 to 3,500 in the span of a year and a third of people’s budgets going towards technology, how to you deal, or how do you grapple with technology moving in at such a fast pace when you’re trying to actually get out there and do marketing and advertising on the same budget?

[Shane Schick]
The number one challenge that I am seeing organizations struggle with on the MarTech side is that they sometimes buy new technology or use technology services without taking a really solid look at what their current state is in terms of data information. It’s really painful when a brand purchases an analytic system or some new database and then realize that, “Oh, actually, we’ve been managing our old data really poorly. It doesn’t connect with these other pieces of the organization, and we’re going to have to do a massive cleanup.” Or, they’ve somehow gathered information about their customers over the years and now in a world of privacy laws they need to ask permission again for people to give more information that can feed that MarTech machine. If you’re not willing to do that sort of cleansing opportunity or really assessing, “How good is the quality of my information?“, then I don’t think there’s any product in the world that’s really going to solve your problems.


[Michael Chase]
The flip side of the technology world is ad blocking today. Where do you see the future of ad blocking and actually getting out your messaging today?

[Shane Schick]
Ad blocking is not going away. I think that even if there are ways to block the blockers, there are going to be consumers that work really hard, and use very ingenious ways to find a mechanism to block ads from a web page, mobile app or whatever the experience may be. I think the only thing that really allows you to get past ad blocking is if you have content that’s so compelling that people don’t really see it as ads. You know, there are some questions that linger around native advertising or content marketing or some of the various forms. Yes, you have to label things appropriately, people have to understand where this message is coming from, but ultimately, the product which is the story, needs to break through that barrier. That’s been true of traditional media from the very beginning, and I think now it’s just true of the kind of content and stories that brands are telling. If they can do that well though, I don’t think there’s any ad blocker in the world that can stop it.


[Michael Chase]
What’s one of your favorite examples of a great content marketing play out there today?

[Shane Schick]
It’s funny, there’s a number of publications that I find myself reading that I didn’t necessarily even think about being content marketing; but I’ve come to recognize that, “Oh, of course it is“. There’s a venture capital firm in the states called First Round. They created an online magazine called First Round Review. I would say it ranks right up there with even the Harvard Business Review in telling really deep stories about the startup community, what it takes to build and grow a business. It’s such a great read. Net-a-Porter, an online eCommerce retailer, has a men’s side, Mr. Porter, and for a couple of years now they were publishing something called Mr. Porter’s Journal. Again, if you put it next to the websites of GQ and Esquire and all those traditional men’s magazines, its has some great profiles and things like that, that for me are well worth reading.

I think that there’s more and more organizations that get it. They’ve actually extended their life in a long period of time. Another one is Harry Rosen. Harry Magazine is celebrating 20 years this year. We used to call it a magalog, but I think now if you look on the news stands, and it’s still on the news stands, there is a great keen success story of someone who’s managed to tell amazing stories not about clothes but about what it means to dress as a man. Those are things that I look at all the time.


[Michael Chase]
What is one thing brands can do today to transform the way they engage with people?

[Shane Schick]
I think the number one things that brands can do today to transform the way they engage with people is to really start listening to customers in a different way. Don’t look for feedback on your products and services, don’t look for what’s going to be the next opportunity to get at these people. Really listen to how are they living their lives, how is their work day go from end to end, what are the challenges that they encounter along the way? They may have nothing to do with what you as a company can offer them but if you show that you are noticing that, that you understand that, that you have some empathy with it, I think those are where some of the first stories are really going to come from. I think it’s really going to transform the way that they talk to those people.

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