Storytelling in the pub whilst the Musac plays

Left on hold for eight minutes listening to HMRC’s musac is a horrible experience but it can be likened to a lot of brands use of ‘storytelling’ for their product.

The term ‘storytelling’ has got cheap lately. It’s used lazily for any content creation, job titles, even a way to understand technology. As it’s meaning becomes diluted I thought it worthwhile understanding how should we really think of storytelling and how to best use it specifically from a video point of view.

As video becomes accessible to the smallest of brands and marketers (due to technology enabling digital and the hugely low cost of cameras and the people that hold them), we’re in severe danger of killing the very thing we’re trying to make, a story. We instead are creating the video content equivalent of ‘musac’.

My best example of storytelling in current UK culture is in the pub. Imagine a big group standing around a table or two in the pub, everyone tries to tell their own story, sometimes to the larger group, sometimes to the person next to them. In digital video terms, until recently the group was pretty small, any anecdote was listened to and politely smiled at and responded to, but the drinking group is rapidly growing. Imagine now, the pub being filled with celebrities and comedians, people full of personality and charisma, listening is becoming more and more of a pleasure but being listened to is increasingly unlikely.

As brands attempt to make ‘content’ and ‘tell stories’ the standard is rising at a rapid rate, increasingly requiring what we publish to be excellent just to be seen, let alone heard. The pub has just got noisy; it’s time to get interesting.

Production value isn’t important, the subject isn’t important but knowing your audience or group and telling a story that is actually worth listening to is key.

The value of actual creative is increasingly valuable, the odd balls on roller-skates who seem showy or don’t quite fit will become the new digital storytellers. The simple action of making a video is not storytelling. Using the newest piece of technology or camera kit is not storytelling.

Working with creative agencies is generally reserved for the big spenders. However, the rest of us still need video and story to engage with existing and target audiences. It’s an interesting time for video. No one seems to have the right answer but we’re all increasingly aware that simply throwing a lot of paid media doesn’t work anymore, but the story needs to be top notch in order to truly succeed. As businesses increasingly become publishers, just ‘making content’ isn’t good enough, you must tell decent stories, whether they are well told, entertaining, have depth, of the moment or just fun. It’s up to the video producers as well as those who commission the work, to really care about the detail, to put in the time to make sure you’ll be well listened to and what your making doesn’t end up in the equivalent of the next hotel lift or ignored during the next conversation.

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