Holmes Report 08 May 2014 // 4:16PM GMT
By Alexander Jutkowitz [quote]Brands must be open to telling peripheral, diverse, and yes, sometimes off-topic stories. It’s an essential part of maintaining a healthy Narrative Architecture.[/quote] Storytelling is now a well-worn buzzword in all corners of marketing. Telling a good story is paramount to establishing your brand’s voice, conveying your message, and connecting with audiences. But it’s crucial to remember that telling a story isn’t a singular act: it requires the purposeful layering of different subjects, mediums, and voices to contribute to a strong brand identity. And with so many companies competing for attention, merely ‘telling a story’ no longer suffices—content marketers have to be committed to the practice of what I call Narrative Architecture. [caption id="attachment_1312" align="alignright" width="160"] Alexander Jutkowitz[/caption] Narrative Architecture is a multilayered approach to crafting a deep, carefully structured brand identity. It means leveraging more than just one common story—and how you tell it—in order to convey the diversity of an organization, the depth of knowledge and expertise it has, and to help brand content stay timely and fresh. Think of brands like General Electric, Red Bull, and GoPro; these are companies committed to a deep and robust Narrative Architecture, showing off the many different dimensions of their identities. Expanding the types of stories your brand tells and the way it tells them also relays to your audience that you are constantly innovating, disrupting, and exploring. Repeating the same story again and again will not only bore your audience, it communicates a lack of creativity on behalf of your brand. In 2014, most brands are sure to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and a corporate blog, but that’s only a small part of a much larger whole. And putting the same exact content out there via all of those channels isn’t just a missed opportunity—it’s a bad idea. Why? Because being smart with your content strategy means being able to craft original content especially tailored to the platform it’s on. A Twitter strategy shouldn’t just be defined by linking to Facebook content, anymore than Facebook shouldn’t just be linking to corporate blog content. The constantly shifting landscape of disparate media platforms give brands the opportunity to tell many different pieces of a much greater narrative. What story can Twitter tell for your brand that Facebook can’t? What about Instagram, SnapChat, and WeChat? Think of building your brand’s content strategy as you would a house. At the foundation, you have the central messaging pillars of your company. But when considering the floor plan, think of the different uses each room has, and the activities relegated to each. These rooms are where different audiences congress—how you tell your stories will vary greatly in each, whether it’s formal or casual, in-depth or brief, or my personal favorite; the everyday stories that comprise what I refer to as ‘middleweight content.’ Middleweight content falls between social and the feature—it’s the daily, readily consumable content that audiences genuinely appreciate, share, and for which they come back for more. It’s leveraging platforms like Tumblr, Wordpress, and LinkedIn to create ‘microsites’ that explore niche areas of a brand’s identity. Pom's Simply Wonderful Tumblr, which curates all of its content around the pomegranate, is a great example of tapping into a niche and telling a unique, multi-faceted story. Or how Coke leveraged Tumblr to create a truly entertaining and fan-satiating microsite for its sponsorship of the World Cup. I love LinkedIn’s Influencer Program, another example of the power of middleweight content, which serves as a conduit for companies to salute their C-Suite leaders and give them a unique voice where it’s needed most; on a business-centric platform equipped with easy sharing and discussion features. Putting this kind of content on LinkedIn is an essential part of a brand’s Narrative Architecture—posting it to a blog could be boring and expected, with lackluster return. There’s a caveat of course: Brands must be open to telling peripheral, diverse, and yes, sometimes off-topic stories. It’s an essential part of maintaining a healthy Narrative Architecture and a storytelling ecosphere, especially when it comes to stoking the fire that makes the daily, middleweight content attractive—and better yet, shared. Brands need to see beyond CSR silos in order to better connect with their audiences and to produce meaningful, lasting, and clickable content. Just because a company wants to focus on innovation doesn’t mean that every story must be about a new discovery or finding—nor should it. Committing to a thoughtful and strong Narrative Architecture as part of your content strategy means that you need to support the hard-hitting on-message stories with strong, varied and interesting pieces about subjects that matter not just to your brand, but to your consumers. And whether that be a Tumblr for cereal lovers (read: General Mills) or a LinkedIn column for your CMO, the components that make up a healthy Narrative Architecture should, when done right, contribute to an expansive, dynamic celebration of a brand’s knowledge, customized for those eager to learn its varied parts. So content marketers, I ask you this: are you merely telling a story, or are you actively constructing an epic brand narrative? Alexander Jutkowitz is a vice chairman and the chief global strategist at Hill+Knowlton Strategies and managing partner for the agency’s content subsidiary, Group SJR.