Column: Supercharged storytelling for startups
October 22, 2013 | Martin Waxman | Comments
Martin Waxman was just selected to be part of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, taking place in Austin, Tex. in March 2014. The principal of Martin Waxman Communications and Digital Strategy will meet startups and entrepreneurs, answering their questions on how businesses can start thinking like publishers and develop successful content strategies. In this column, he gives four key steps for startups to effectively tell their stories.
Startups are a lot like artists. They begin with a gem of an idea and the passion to bring it to life. Then they work on it, watch it grow and often take on a life of its own.
Another thing they have in common is an abundance of great material for stories.
So what can startups do to develop and tell their stories in a way that builds deep, long-term relationships with customers, influencers and investors?
Here are four steps:
First floor, going up
Is your idea high concept like many Hollywood blockbusters or more utilitarian in that it serves a specific marketplace need? Regardless of where it falls, you need an elevator pitch, a short, top-level explanation that grabs a person’s attention and gets them to say, tell me more. While it’s no more than a couple of sentences, it takes work and a lot of refinement to simplify it to its essence and make it stand out. You’ll know by people’s response when you’ve got it right.
Once upon a time
When you’ve got the foundation, it’s time to create your stories and imagine how they will play out over time. Can you articulate your company culture and personality? Are you a serious brand, easy-going, funny, analytic, trend-obsessed? Figure out where you’re going to find your ideas (from the founder, employees, customers, partners) and play to your strengths. Most stories fall into one of a number of categories. Here’s a good overview of the seven story archetypes and several more around what makes for news http://blog.digidave.org/2013/10/the-archetypes-of-news-stories.
Wear two hats
Think like a publisher and a publicist. From a publishing perspective, you want choose a producer/editor-in-chief and figure out who they can call on to contribute to the content. Develop a manageable editorial calendar and combine creation and curation on the platforms your audience uses. The role of a publicist is to make your stories public and get them in front of the people you want to reach, who, in turn will share them if they’re relevant. Just remember not every story catches fire the way you think. Put yourself in the influencer’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective.
Look at the wheel of inspiration
You’ll see it’s got a hub and many spokes going out in various directions. As Lee Odden https://twitter.com/leeodden suggests, that’s a solid strategy to use for your content. Consider your blog, newsroom or website as your online home – the hub you’d like people to visit. Then use paid, earned, owned and shared initiatives via social and traditional media to become the spokes that help amplify your stories. Think of social networks as high-powered nodes of distribution.
Of course, you’ll need to experiment and discover what works for you. And remember, we’re all in showbiz – at least a little – so use the three ‘E’s and entertain, educate and engage.
It takes time and commitment but it pays off when you get the elements right. You’ll know that’s happened when, like your business, your content and how it’s shared starts to take on a life of its own.