Storytelling: do you pay and deserve attention?

storytellingAttention is scarce. Everyone has oh so much to do. And for many of us it’s so hard to manage our time and stay focused with an increasing number of channels, messages and content. Storytelling and marketing are not just about getting attention, they’re about deserving attention and paying attention.

For brands it’s harder to get through and ‘gain attention’, often because they forget to look at the core questions and don’t prioritize in function of their customers. It’s one of the reasons we’re still often stuck in a traffic building mindset and obsessed about how to get through. But that’s not the real question.

Storytelling, content marketing and, in fact, all forms of integrated marketing that revolve around the experience of the connected customer in the broadest sense, require an excellent knowledge of the stories that are told by our audiences to start with.

content stratey isn’t revolving around content but around what matters for their specific ‘audiences’ and the audiences of these audiences. It takes a different mindset, one in which we facilitate our audiences tell their stories, listen to them and act when needed.

Carl Gustav Jung once said (update – see comments: is believed to have said but need confirmation) that the reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories. We don’t always understand the stories we are ourselves. And people’s stories are often not heard. To deserve attention we must pay attention. To get our stories and content shared and acted upon, we must understand the stories of the people forming the communities we want to live and thrive in first.

Seth Godin wrote a post a while ago in which he says “each cohort of customers has a particular worldview…each cohort has a price they’re willing to pay, a story they’re willing to hear, a period of time they’re willing to invest“. “Yet”, Godin concludes, “too often , we pick the product or service first, deciding that it’s perfect and then rushing to market, sure that the audience will sort itself out“.

Deserving attention and listening: the stories you miss

How obvious it may seem, we keep making the same mistakes every day. We don’t understand the intent, goals, tasks and purpose of our ‘audiences’. We don’t listen to their stories and don’t match our stories and content with them. We forget to deserve attention. The quid pro quo that hides in each relationship – unless you truly never expect or hope anything from anyone and are a saint – that should be more obvious, direct and balanced in commercial relationships.

Have you checked your website content lately? Have you noticed how often you talk about you in the content? Do you deserve the attention of people taking the trouble to find their way on your website? Did you match your content with the needs and stories of people? How many slides are in your presentation explaining how great your business and products are? Did you ask a question about what motivates people to connect with you or share anything you have created? Did you notice a question, without even asking it? Have you listened and acted upon it with content, answers, stories and deeds that make you deserve attention and truly build mutually relevant relationships with your ‘audience’?

Is your newsletter, social channel, blog or any other way of communication worthy of attention? Can you explain why in just a few words? Or are you too full about your own story and that of your brand?

Storytelling: how stories connect people, brands and lives

Gerry McGovern wrote “We need to turn advertising on its head. On the Web, the customer is now the advertiser. When they search they are placing an ad. Traditional marketing is about getting attention while web marketing is about giving it”. Paying attention, indeed. The best way for deserving attention looking at tasks first.

Gerry quoted David Armano’s post “It’s Time to Re-Invent Advertising“.

John Simmons
John Simmons

The behavior, signals and even tiniest pieces of content people share, sometimes in less than 140 characters, are stories to express themselves. Listen to them before you even start telling stories. Storytelling is not just telling the stories we think we should tell. It’s also about listening to stories and truly connect beyond the “we and them” vision we so often have in marketing (and in life).

John Simmons quotes Robert McKee in his book The Invisible Grail: “A great story transforms day to day living, inner and outer life, dream and actually into a poem whose rhyme scheme is events rather than words – a two-hour metaphor that says: Life is like this!”.

McKee talked about screenplays. The stories of your audiences are about their lives. Do you hear them and their life as it is? You need to in order to truly connect. That’s what content and deserving attention is about.

Here is why: “A story is tightrope between worlds”. (Jeanette Winterson, quoted in The Invisible Grail).

PS: this post is not really just about content marketing and business.

  • Maxwell Purrington

    Where did Dr. Jung ever say: The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.

    • I think it’s from Typologie, S. 35, where he also writes “Der Mensch trägt immer seine ganze Geschichte und die Geschichte der Menschheit mit sich”.

      He didn’t say it in English of course. And with evil he didn’t mean evil in the religous sense as we know it.

      It’s all across his work and is mentioned/explained in “Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken von C. G. Jung”.

      The story is the secret of the patient, “Geheimnis des Patienten”, that needs to be told as an expression of the subconscious and the suppressed. Not being able to express it in a – in this case therapeutically session – is the source of all misery and more.

      Book on his work in German where mentioned:

      The dream is the truest story giving access to the self. And of course there’s the archetypes, personas, Greek mythology, you name it.

      Also see “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” in R.F.C. Hull, Alchemical Studies – Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 13.

      • Maxwell Purrington

        The quotation in Psychological Types does refer to man and history but it does not contain the specific quotation purported to have been said by Dr. Jung as:  “The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.” Sadly all to often quotations are attributed to Dr. Jung without and citations given which makes verification quite difficult. If you are able to find the actual citation please let me know.
        Thank you

        • Truism that quotes are too easily used without referencing to the original one. I tend to look for them in books. However, after 20+ years of Jungian psychoanalysis experience, I don’t feel like reading his books all over :)

          The quote is not that much about man and history. It’s about the collective unconscious, where he differed with Freud and in the end what stories are all about. The passing on of them is not just verbal. We are all the ulcers of previous generations, and with it the heirs of stories and patterns we all too often struggle with to actualize our true selves. That’s what the quote means to me. But in this age where neurobiology reigns, these collective cultural stories, along with those we inherited from previous generations, are all too often ignored in the reality of being human.

          I may indeed have picked up the quote somewhere for once without checking, as it appealed to me and hence tells something about my story and the clear belief that only discovering those stories and working through them is the path to becoming “true”. It might indeed be a quote from someone else. Nietzsche maybe. Both are so close in many aspects. Call it a Freudian lapse ;)

          “Die Paradoxie gehört sonderbarerweise zum höchsten geistigen Gut; die Eindeutigkeit aber ist ein Zeichen der Schwäche”.

          And: “Es ist wahrscheinlich noch schwieriger, sich vom Guten zu befreien als vom Bösen”.

          And a very appropriate one in the context of this post, my “ views” and this thread: “Nicht wir haben Geheimnisse, die wirklichen Geheimnisse haben uns”.

          Thanks for the comment and maybe correction :)

          • Maxwell Purrington

            Until and unless I can read the quotation within the context in which it was written I should like to refrain from speculating upon what it may mean. Thank you.

          • I clearly don’t :) However, have updated the post yesterday. Being correct matters! All the best.