Yes, great storytellers are great writers. They understand narrative structure, setting, how to grab attention, how to humanize and build tension and ultimately, how to bring it all full circle or provide a call to action. In our digital world, great storytellers possess the technical skills to build and manage a blog, shoot photos, record audio, create good videos and maximize use of our favorite social media channels.
That aside, stories first need to be discovered and explored. Great stories also typically require time to evolve and develop in order to properly match a storyteller’s vision. So what’s the super secret to drumming up a great story??
Take a walk and explore.
Step away from the computer. March outside and start walking. Look around. Delve into the details and take note of all the happenings and your surroundings. You’ll be amazed at the plethora of story ideas that you’ll encounter.
Need a lesson in how it’s done right? I was ecstatic this morning to learn that Matt Green (man behind I’m Just Walkin’ who most recently documented his walk across the U.S.) is embarking on a new walking trek exploring every public street in NYC.
When I originally discovered Matt’s blog, I couldn’t help but immediately jump into marketing mode analyzing Matt’s blog template, assessing why he wasn’t utilizing Facebook/Twitter/YouTube to further build community and enrich his story, determining whether he was tying his walk into a larger cause-related effort, jostling back and forth about why shoe and outdoor gear brands hadn’t jumped onboard to sponsor, etc. I quickly caught myself.
After following along for a few days, I came to recognize the purity of Matt’s approach to storytelling as he spent day in and day out capturing the finer details in life that we often overlook or simply never experience. I was drawn in by Matt’s simplistic approach, authentic tone and great photos. Key ingredients frequently found among great storytellers.
For those questioning why Matt ever completed his first walk, give this post a good read. One of Matt’s key takeaways from his journey was proving that despite all the horrible stories we hear about in the media day in and day out – people are inherently good natured. Unfortunately, we’ve learned to shy away from interacting with strangers or exploring new areas based on preconceived notions of danger. As Matt notes:
It’s only when people are isolated from some potential danger that they really begin to fear it in a way that’s totally out of proportion. When we let our expectations of danger make decisions for us, we end up avoiding the very experiences that have the power to change those expectations. In that way, our fear of the world is self-sustaining. We never give ourselves the chance to learn that our fears are baseless, because we isolate ourselves from the situations that can challenge our fears.
Great storytellers step outside their boundaries. They talk to strangers. They explore unfamiliar locations. They look behind the door. They face fears.
While marketers are naturally drawn to the bells and whistles of building community and making a story sing, the truth of the matter is that good stories stand on their own when told in an authentic manner.
In 2012, strive to be a great storyteller. Focus on starting with a great story. Embrace the world and approach one another with initial trust that we’re all good people and most importantly – go take a walk.
p.s. If you are a shoe/outdoor gear brand, may be smart to drop Matt a line as he’s seeking a bit of financial support. Just sayin’.
About Scott MeisVP, Digital and Social Strategies for @wsseattle. I develop and execute online marketing campaigns for a variety of nonprofit, corporate and government clients. I thrive on creative content, communities and actionable results.
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