In Part I of our series on good listening for great marketing, we opened with what makes for poor listening and, thus, less effective marketing. We noted that less than sensitive listening is also bad for interpersonal relationships.
Here in Part II, we’ll focus on how good listening leads to good storytelling and, therefore, great marketing. Because, after all, everyone loves a story and people buy a story, not a brand.
Many businesses and companies retain marketing/PR agencies on whom they rely to capture and share their unique stories. If these agencies are doing their jobs well, they employ a team of curious, thoughtful writers, designers and media specialists who know the right questions to ask, with their clients’ audiences in mind, and can cull a great story that resonates with them.
Even small firms with small budgets, or no budget at all for marketing and PR, can benefit from employing the listening skills that lead to standout stories. But it’s not easy. So much goes into the storytelling process, long before the first word is said. In fact, though skilled writing and graphic rendering is essential, it’s the groundwork that determines the quality of the finished product.
Let’s explore something we at IVY call CLIQUE, the basic elements behind a great story:
At its core, content marketing is storytelling. Still, some companies and organizations are unconvinced that blogs, social media, press releases, feature articles, email campaigns, white papers, case studies, newsletters, direct mail, and other manifestations of a story are as critical to successful marketing as they really are.
The belief still lingers that the mere existence of a product or service, along with traditional advertising and a website, is sufficient. “We’re here; they’ll come to us,” is sometimes the mentality. But, more often than not, that statement becomes a question: “We’re here; why aren’t they coming to us?”
In this age of content marketing, consumers are “prosumers,” active and reactive participants in the buyer journey, and only content that is personally meaningful will inspire them.
And the only way to motivate consumers is to commit to a robust content marketing strategy. Modern marketing requires a change in paradigm and a resolve to reach ears and eyeballs through the hard work of creating content into which audiences choose to insert themselves.
Imagine you are tasked with telling someone what someone else said. What’s needed to do that? Active listening. As we noted in Part I, listening is a skill, not a physical ability. It requires rapt attention without agenda, pre-occupation, judgment, insincerity, impatience, trivializing, or interruption.
Only by truly absorbing what is being expressed can it be accurately and effectively conveyed. This is where a marketing and PR team is key. Professional writers, designers and media specialists are trained listeners whose keen attention to detail and ability to discern what is pertinent, central and unique to your story is invaluable.
Between listening and questioning is introspection – that period, however brief, during which skilled listeners internalize what’s being conveyed to them and mentally prepare for the next phase of outgoing questions that will further shape a story. Among many, some of the questions they will ask themselves are: What is the heart of this story? What is special about this person or enterprise? What information is critical, and what is less relevant? How can I share this story in a way that will move audiences?
The process of introspection is extemporaneous, yet highly acute. No matter how much preparation is devoted to an interview or session with someone whose story will be told, conversations can go in any number of directions, and trained listeners must have the ability to think, guide and digest information on their feet.
While experienced storytellers can make it appear that their questions are off the cuff, they’re anything but. Their inquiries are made only after they’ve listened attentively to their subject(s) and practiced the introspection discussed above. People are endlessly busy, and time is of the essence. Trained listeners do not waste precious face or phone time by asking questions that a) can be answered by a Google search; or b) will not benefit the story in a meaningful, purposeful way.
Asking the right questions is a crucial part of the storytelling process, and questions cannot be squandered. Knowing which ones to ask is the art of a great listener – and a great storyteller.
Great listening leads to real understanding. In fact, “I understand” are some of the most affirming words. A gifted storyteller has not simply heard, but deeply grasped, the details, nuances and significance of the story he or she will craft. They “get it.” It is only with genuine understanding that the heart of a story can emerge.
The final phase of storytelling is the actual telling of it. Today, there are more channels through which to tell a story than ever before, and to have real impact, marketers need to leverage them all. This takes time, talent and a constant finger on the trends and changes not only in the marketing industry, but in one’s own vertical as well.
Beginning with a commitment to employ a content marketing strategy that enables the immeasurable power of storytelling, today’s businesses and organizations can begin a new and very exciting chapter in return on investment.
Let our team of skilled listeners and experienced storytellers share your great story with the world.