shutterstock_163750679I believe the most successful people in the online world are the ones who are able to tell great stories. Be it 140 characters at a time, or through an epic blog post or compelling video, true storytellers rise to the top in the sea of noise that is the social web.

As producers, we all strive to tell the stories of our lives, our businesses and our causes. We want the world to hear what we have to say and we want people to take action on what they read.

But how do we discover our stories in the first place? How do we know what needs to be told? Here are some thoughts.

Don’t Be Too Close To It

Key messages. Communications strategies. KPIs. All of these are important parts of any digital marketing strategy. However, sometimes it’s easy to get mired in the granularity of these documents. When we are in the weeds, we can miss the things that are right in front of us. People don’t want to hear key messages repeated over and over again. They are unlikely to respond. Instead, tell a story that resonates. Ideally, a story that involves real people. Share a moment of success, or a funny anecdote. Build the character of your organization through poignant, timely stories, and save the key messages for your monthly reports.

Anecdote, Reflection

In my latest book, Produce: The Art of Creating Digital Content Using Professional Production TechniquesI talk about Ira Glass’ theory of the “building blocks” of stories. He says that great stories are built on two things, anecdote and reflection. Think of an anecdote as an action. What is happening, how is the story moving along? This is the root of all great storytelling. Something happens. Then something else, then something else. But you can’t just leave it at that. For your story to be truly great, you need eventually tell people why you’re telling them the story. That’s reflection. That’s where people sit back and say, “Ahhh. I’ve just learned something.”

Stories that master the art of anecdote and reflection are the ones that invoke a response. That response could simply be an emotional one (sadness, humour, inspiration) or it could be a physical one (click a button, buy a product, make a donation). Understanding this one thing will instantly make you a better storyteller.

We Are All Producers Now

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a producer of content, you are. Maybe you don’t blog regularly, or podcast, or make videos, but every time you post a photo to Facebook, tweet something clever, comment on a post, or leave a review, you are producing content. Is that content of value to the community that you’re sharing with? Is it helping you to get your message out there? Chances are, it is. And whether you’re marketing a business or trying to get people to donate to your  walkathon, framing your content in a story is going to get you farther than just posting a link.

Take my friend Bob LeDrew for example. He could have just solicited donations for his Ride to Conquer Cancer. But instead, he found a story. That story was to give all people who donated $100 or more a special song, performed by Bob just for them. Anecdote. Watching Bob actually rack up donations to the tune of over $5000, and record dozens of songs for folks from across the country shows one man’s determination along with a coming together of a community of supportive and generous people. Reflection.

Stories are everywhere, if you know where to look. Find the stories inside your message. Tell those stories. Give people something that compels them, and give them something new. Create things. Produce.

Want to know more about creating great stories? Pick up a copy of my book at Amazon: