Content marketing is simply strategic storytelling

When people ask me what I do and I mention content marketing, I often get blank stares. Content marketing seems to mean many different things to many different people and the explanations range from common sense uncomplicated to mind-blowingly convoluted.

I am a writer, content strategist and social media specialist. I sum up my job like this: I am a storyteller. I craft stories about people, companies, brands and products and I share those stories effectively across many platforms. That, I believe, is what content marketing is -- it's simply strategic storytelling.

And if you think storytelling is too "artsy fartsy" (a term that's near and dear to my dad's heart) or that content marketing isn't for you here are two simple examples of how content + effective storytelling = win.

content marketing

This photo is a piece of content. It appears to be a little vintage car on display somewhere. Without a story, this piece of content really isn't doing anything for anyone (unless it's making you say, "Awwwww, tiny car!").

This small car is actually an incredibly detailed wood coffin by Ghanian artist Kane Quaye. It is on display at the Seattle Art Museum. Ghana has a rich and unique custom coffin tradition. To some, this seems cute. To others, it seems macabre. Here's the artist's take on it: "When people die they like to travel to heaven in different ways -- some by land, some by sea and some by air. All a dead person owns is his own coffin."

A simple story behind the photo makes you look at it in an entirely different way.

strategic storytelling

If you saw this photo on a real estate website, it might be accompanied by copy like this: Good investment opportunity. 2 bd, 1 bath. Fixer upper, sold as-is.
You know in "realtor speak" that means it's a tiny house that needs a lot of work before anyone could truly live in it. Then you'd click to the next property.

But what if the description went like this: Lovely, warm and cozy home built in 1919. Back then, the neighborhood was acres of farm land and this house was home to the farmer, his wife and five children -- four boys and one girl. The area developed and became populated over time and, when the farmer and his wife passed away, they left the home (with its gorgeous garden and fertile soil) to their daughter Estelle. She lived her life happily there with her own family and now, at age 96, it's time for her to move somewhere she can get more help. While she's made a few changes to the decor over the years (she loved her avocado refrigerator in the 1970's but has since parted with it), no changes have been made structurally. The house was built to last by her father and local craftsmen.

Estelle would love for a new family to occupy this sweet, sunny home so happy memories can carry on for decades to come. The paint colors may change and the house may expand (it's situated on a quarter acre, so there's room to grow), but Estelle hopes the new owner will incorporate this gate (pictured). It's original to the house and she remembers running through it as a child into the loving arms of her mother as she stood on the front porch. She also remembers the day singer Nat "King" Cole fumbled with the gate handle before her father helped open it to welcome the superstar into their home during a contest-winning visit in the 1940's. While this house could use a little TLC, love has lived here for a long time. 

This description makes me want to give this house, and Estelle, a big hug. A creative Realtor who embraces the story of a home is more likely to find buyers than the "sold as-is" Realtor.

That's the power of storytelling and that's what content marketing can do for your business and your brand.