Caffeinated ideas and views on marketing communications

power of storytelling in marketing

Storytelling versus writing

I am a huge Scandi-noir fiction fan. Recently, I was reading (yet again) a mystery by an Icelandic author (in translation, of course).  I noticed the writing was a bit stilted. Some of the phrases didn’t sound right, and I can only imagine this was a translation/translator issue. Translating is hard work. You need to understand the language, obviously. And you also need to understand author’s tone and intent so you can choose the best word or phrase when many will do. This is especially true with colloquial expressions that don’t translate directly. And I am sure these colloquialisms, and some peculiarities of Icelandic culture didn’t quite make it in the translation. And yet there was a blurb on the book jacket by an American crime author, praising the Icelandic author, saying she was a “magnificent writer.” I doubt that the American read the work in the original Icelandic, so she had no way to judge the writing. What she was judging, and rightly so, was the storytelling.

Storytelling versus writing

Good storytelling is not the same as good writing, and neither is good writing also good storytelling. Writing and storytelling are two different, albeit related, skills.

Good storytelling pulls you in. It makes you want to know more.

Good writing is about knowing how to use language and its mechanics to communicate ideas clearly.

Can you have one without the other? Yes, you can. And I would argue that the best stories are also the best written.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels

Think about your favorite book

If you’ve ever read a book with an intriguing plot, but with utilitarian writing, you understand that storytelling is a skill separate from writing. Books written by good storytellers who are mediocre writers are readable because you are interested in the story and you want to know more.

If you’ve ever read a book that’s so well written, where the words sing, but there is no discernible plot or the story being told is boring, chances are you stopped reading or read the book super slowly. Beautiful writing alone does not make a readable book.

And I would bet that your favorite books, the ones you recommend or perhaps even re-read, are the ones that have a great story and are well written.

Here’s the bottom line for content writers

For those of us who write any sort of content, focusing on what we are trying to say should come first. Then, we should think about how to say it. If we get both these elements—storytelling and writing— done right, we’ll create content worth reading.

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

Would you make a good Etsy seller?

In Sunday’s Washington Post there is an interesting interview (How to craft a successful career) with Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy. In case you’ve never had the urge to shop for handmade jewelery or other crafts, Etsy is the place to do that online. On Etsy, thousands of artists and crafters can sell their goods to a national/international market. It’s a model that is working to the tune of $1.35 billion in sales.

The part of the interview that caught my eye as a marketing communications professional was this:

Q. What do the best sellers on Etsy have in common?

A. The best sellers on Etsy have really great photography. They also tell stories about themselves, how they’re inspired, how they make the things they sell. Those are the keys to being successful on Etsy.

In other words, to market yourself successfully you have to have a standout image and a great story. Your graphics and your storytelling ability is what makes you stand out from a really crowded marketplace.

This is true everywhere, not just on Etsy. If you are shopping for a product online, you need to be able to see what you are buying (the power of image) and know why this product is better than the rest (the power of storytelling).

Perhaps if you are struggling to get “eyeballs” to your blog or website or buyers to your bricks-and-mortar business, you need to take Chad Dickerson’s insight to heart. Perhaps you need to assess the power of your graphics and your story. Are they strong? Are they setting you apart from our competition (in a positive way, of course)?

Oh, and the other thing(it should go without saying) is that to be a good Etsy seller you have to have a good product that people want to buy.

What makes you buy on Etsy or anywhere else? Do you assess the strength of the graphics? Do you read the description and/or story?


About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.


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