5 common mistakes in corporate storytelling

Digital has opened up a new world for storytelling. Exciting new tools, apps, and platforms are blossoming all over the Internet. Visually appealing opportunities like Medium,ThinglinkStorehouseZeegaCowbird, and many more are awaiting eager storytellers to try them out.

Companies too have jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to reach out to new audiences… but many found the task to be more challenging than it appeared.  Is it enough to simply tell your story or is there more to it than it seems? Below are some of the common traps of corporate storytelling.

1. Choosing form over content

People are always hungry for good stories, whether they come in pictures, words or moving images. 

Ironically, when people search for new and exciting ways to tell stories, the story itself often gets lost (after all, it isn’t art for art’s sake). Different apps and digital platforms for interactive storytelling can make the story more visually appealing, however, they don’t make the story. Telling an average story through video or interactive images will not make it any more exciting. In short, no story = no effect.

2. No red thread

In all the enthusiasm to tell many things, companies often lose sight of what the story is about. Are you telling a story about saving the environment or about your company’s social responsibility?

Though your story could be about many different things, the main idea needs to be clearly expressed. There’s an easy test to find the focus – asking what is your story about. If you can’t say it in a short sentence, the red thread is probably missing.

3.Target audience

Writing for everyone is a bit like sending a letter in an envelope without an address – the chances, someone will open it, are small.

Is your company writing content for business people or for people like your friends and family? Should the stories reach people of a certain age group? Knowing the audience is key to good storytelling. It helps define the tone of voice and shape the writing style while keeping a good balance between your message and the audience’s expectations.

4. The corporate goggles

Many companies struggle to take off their corporate goggles and see the world through the eyes of their audience. Consequently, their stories sound more and more like PR statements. While this might satisfy the leadership, it won’t reach the intended audience.

After all, good stories talk about struggles, falls, and victories. They are like doors to new worlds and ideas. How many would want to enter if all, they saw on the other side, was an office where everyone’s patting each other on the back?

5. Show, don’t tell

Corporate storytelling is not completely up to companies. Stories are told by their customers, partner, services, products, and pretty much everything the company does. What others have to say about the company’s products usually outweighs the opinion of the company.

While some companies write very passionately about their commitment to a greater cause, only a few show this with their actions. Discrepancies between what companies say and do leads to the loss of trust and credibility.

That is why good storytelling is more about showing than telling. A good example of this is Patagonia’s campaign against consumerism, which told more about their commitment to sustainability than any white paper could.

What are your favorite examples of corporate storytelling? 

I originally published this blog post on ZN blog.