Hero’s Journey image above excerpted from Action Philosophers! © Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente.

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For most storytellers and communicators structure is an anathema to creativity. Yet all storytelling has inherent structures. Exploring them can unlock new approaches to digital storytelling — and digital content design more in line with the bits and bytes of our digital ecosystem. Here are four innovative models to get you in the mood.

Roland Barthes, master linguist and semiotician once said: “There are countless forms of narrative in the world.” And yet the majority of western storytellers have been ploughing just one narrative model for well over 60 years: Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey from the Hero with a Thousand Faces.

While it has its value, Campbell’s model is not a useful model for digital story design on a structural level. Down below, I offer four alternative narrative structures that we could use to design intelligent stories more fitting to our digital context. Why the big deal about structure?

Structure makes the digital world go round

From data models and information architectures to the taxonomies and ontologies used in content strategy, clearly defined structures allow our stories to be read, understood, delivered, discovered and managed by our digital plumbing.

In fact, structured content is fast becoming a necessity, not a luxury. That’s why content strategists are already exploring intelligent content: Read more …


What we have here is a failure to communicate

As a rule, every business discipline has tried and tested processes and techniques others can understand, learn, and even apply for themselves. These give credence to that discipline. Communication is often seen as an exception to the rule — its success determined by the art of storytelling. In reality, it’s not true. Welcome to GAME — a four step process to improve the quality of your communications — and storylining, the step that comes before storytelling.

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You know you have to step up your core communication skills when:

• An incredible 83% of execs say their business strategy isn’t well understood internally (Strategy&, 2014)

85% of marketers fail to connect their content marketing with any business value (BMA/Forrester, 2014) and;

Fewer than 50% of communicators believe all of their work is aligned with strategy and goals (AlignYourOrg, 2014).

With all the hype on storytelling today you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is the ultimate panacea to all business communication ills — and that great business and brand stories are the result of an arcane creative process that only comms-types are privy to.

It’s a nonsense. The truth is, the communications industry is seriously under-performing, and storytelling is not the solution. Read more …


Marshall McLuhan | Steve SeagerAt almost every conference I attend, in almost every conversation I have with innovative digital, media or communication thinkers, I hear echoes of one of my heroes, Marshall McLuhan.

I’ll be referring to a very ‘McLuhanesque’ concept of mine (media literacy) in an upcoming post on the three strategic management competencies for the Chief Communications Officer of the 21st century, shortly. So, I thought I’d share this post with you on the off-chance you aren’t very familiar with him.

No doubt you’ve heard the phrase the ‘global village’, and know and understand the meaning of ‘the medium is the message’ (Sure? Nice podcast, that) but you may be surprised to discover the depth and breadth of his work.

McLuhan’s thoughts covered not only tactical effects of ‘electronic media’, such as the dominance of the image over text way before it was technically feasible, but also observed that:

“The medium, or process of our time – electric technology – is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing – you, your family, your neighbourhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to ‘the others’. And they’re changing dramatically.”

He also summed up my mum’s worries (and probably yours as well) about Facebook when he said: Read more …


Story and business

Despite all the hype on storytelling, articulating why stories are so important in business can still be tough.

It helps to make the distinction between story and communication a little clearer. Down below is a write-up drawn from the introduction of a workshop on story and communication I recently gave …

We can communicate in many different ways. We don’t necessarily need to tell a story to say, ‘You did a fantastic job!’, ‘Wow, I love working with you!’, ‘You’re late for work,’ or ‘Your bonus this month is a gazillion Euros.’

However, when we need to persuade, when we need to move people away from one way of doing things towards another, stories are the way to go.

As HBR pointed out some time ago, persuasion is the centerpiece of business activity. It goes for employees, organisations, brands and consumers. Telling stories rather than purely communicating is the most effective way to ‘persuade’.

Read more …

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While at EuroComm this year I grabbed 5 minutes with one of our most provocative speakers, Christian Bluemelhuber, Professor for Communication at the University of Arts in Berlin.

In the quick interview below I asked him about his presentation on his wonderfully different marketing and communication model for brands.

Although I haven’t yet had a chance to speak further with him, based on what I heard, this sounds to me like an incredibly apposite model for redefining brand marketing and communication as we head towards web 3.0.

Check out the video below, then let’s unpack it a little.

This time the consumer will lead

By privileging the consumer response to our brand media, by experimenting, and at the same time offering stability, Christian believes that Read more …

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10 Essential Content Marketing Questions and Answers

by Steve Seager on March 14, 2013

Essential content marketing questions and answersIs content marketing finally coming of age? Despite the backlash, I’d argue it is. From what I’ve seen to date, our backlashers (ahem) are asking the wrong questions – and definitely not focused on making their content great.

If you’re serious about your content marketing you need to be able to answer the essential questions management (should!) ask.

I put together a list of 10 of the best I’ve encountered in client meets, and wrapped them up in a tidy .pdf for you. As ever, it’s free. No email required. And I welcome your comments.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE PDF: 10 Essential Content Marketing Questions and Answers

Here’s just one of the Q&As I cover in the .pdf:

What is the role of content in lead generation?

Not all types of content directly generates leads. But every type of content plays an important role throughout the funnel. The split in types of content I’m about to propose might seem a bit odd, but remember, the old funnel is dead. And people actually buy at all stages of the funnel. Here’s that split:

1. ‘Promotional’ content

Promotional content is traditionally used to build awareness. However, display ad click through rates are pretty abysmal these days. Many argue that that goes for pretty much all forms of digital advertising. So lead generation? Not so much. You probably know from your own ROI, right?

2. ‘Trust’-based content

‘Trust’ based content is content marketing collateral. It is designed to actively drive people through their decision-making or purchase cycle. It shows people you understand their business. It builds credibility and reputation by adding real value. Typically, this is the stuff you publish in your blog. Nielsen stats show that content marketing drives three times the sales of digital advertising. So lead generation sure happens here.

3. ‘Features and Benefits’

‘Features and benefits’ collateral is the stuff that most marketers know best. It’s designed specifically Read more …


The Anatomy of Great Content

by Steve Seager February 11, 2013

Down below is a free PDF download of The Anatomy of Great Content – a content marketing model for both marketers and strategic communicators. It explains what makes for successful social marketing content. It sounds obvious, but there’s two words in content marketing. Over the past couple of years consulting I’ve noticed that marketers tend [...]

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Social Business Design and Shepherd’s Syndrome … What if?

by Steve Seager November 15, 2012

For many businesses, social is seen as just a handy bolt-on to their marketing or PR. Others, however, use social media as an opportunity to learn first-hand about the benefits of social business design. In a nutshell, social business design means bringing corporate and business strategy and operations up to date with digital technologies – and [...]

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IABC Europe & Middle East Leadership Institute 2012: Network, Share & Learn

by Steve Seager October 26, 2012

I’ve just returned from Paris from this year’s IABCEME Leadership Institute – a fabulous event where regional IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) board members meet up to hear from a keynote speaker, network, share experiences and hear the latest marketing and communication best practices. I’m currently director of comms on the European/Middle East region [...]

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Marketing and Publicity 2.0 for Architects: Getting Started

by Steve Seager October 15, 2012

No matter which industry we are in, the core principles of marketing and publicity 2.0 remain the same: Content is the currency of the social web. And you are what you publish. Content both positions you competitively and helps communicate your value proposition. The better your content, the better your results. It’s at the heart [...]

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