The Art Of Corporate Storytelling: The Difference Between The Key Messages And The Story.

Great B2B marketing is about making complexity simple - not because customers are simple, but because they’re busy, distracted, and hassled. Welcome to life in the 21st Century.

Getting their attention is tough. And as we all know, you need to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you just told them, then remind them of the important stuff.

So how are you going to do that without being tedious, repetitive … and ignored?

Well, here’s a clue. Don’t confuse your ‘story’ with your ‘key messages’. They aren't the same thing.

Your story engages attention. That’s what it’s there for. It’s not there to sell.

So it has to be genuinely interesting, helpful, useful, entertaining, and/or valuable. 

Or all the above.

People spend weeks, months or years planning their products or services; they agonise over them, obsess about them, tweak them, trial them, redesign them, have sleepless nights over them, fund them and then launch them. 

It becomes the most important thing in their business lives, and because objectivity is difficult in that all-consuming situation, they make the mistake of assuming that it will also be important to customers. After all, the market research was clear – people want this stuff, so obviously they’re going to be interested in the launch. Right?

They convince themselves of this – after all it’s a great product/service, why wouldn’t you be interested? If someone on the team disagrees, they’re dismissed as being ‘negative’ or ‘uncommitted’. Well, guess what? They may just be right, because the truth is you have to be smarter than that.

Those who talk themselves into this subjective state of consciousness want their content to be unashamed self-serving sales-speak. They can’t see why it shouldn’t; they have no time for any content that doesn’t sell, sell, sell. Sadly, it’s not that simple. You need to engage the attention of customers first, when a gazillion other people are trying to do the same thing, and only then do you have a chance of selling effectively.

And that’s what the story does – it doesn’t sell, it engages attention. Which is why some less sophisticated sales people struggle with professional storytelling – they can’t differentiate between the story, and the key message. They think the story is the key message. And that’s a real rookie error.

What confuses the inexperienced even more is that for some companies, in pretty rarefied situations, it’s true that the story and the key messages are actually the same. Apple might have that happy coincidence when it launches a new phone for example. You know, the Apple that's one of the world’s biggest companies, that one? The one with multiples of millions of customers? The one with the squillion dollar ad budget? You see where this is going, right?

For most companies, back on Earth, if you haven’t got the audience’s attention, everything else you do is wasted - but once you’ve got their attention, then you can think about key messages.

And when you eventually do deliver key messages, you need to be smart, subtle and smooth. Oh, and simple.

Good key message delivery isn’t about slavish adherence to a set of approved words. That won’t work. But it is about consistency.

The words, and the structure, will change according to the platform – press release, article, social media post, speech, presentation, advertisement, blog etc. It may involve no words at all – as in a video, photography, or animation.

Despite all those changes, the key messages you deliver must be consistent. And that's not always easy.

To be successful, you don’t tell one great story. Or two. Or three. 

You tell many great stories, over a sustained period of time, so that people get to know you’re a great story teller, and want to hear your stories.

And when that happens, they’ll hear your key messages, too.

If you want to talk about how great story telling can help your product, service, brand or organisation, get in touch!