Tag Archives: storytelling

Thoughts from CenterTable’s 6th SXSWi Denver Download


Capitalizing on in-person opportunities as well as digital opportunities brings us Back to the Future.

Last week we hosted our sixth South by Southwest Interactive “Denver Download” – a chance for our clients and partners who attended the SXSWi conference in March to share the knowledge they gained with other clients, partners and colleagues back here in Denver. This year’s panel consisted of Comcast’s Cindy Parsons (who hosted one of the festival’s on-site social media lounges), Sukle’s Dan Schultz, Children Hospital Colorado’s Elizabeth Whitehead and yours truly. Below is a recap of common themes that were discussed during the event – all relevant concepts to look to as evolving trends in digital marketing in 2017.

Knowing your audience (and segmenting your messaging and marketing plan accordingly) is more important than ever.

Gone are the days of distributing one message to as many people as possible through digital channels. With so many social media and digital marketing platforms, combined with the fact that it’s not “solely Millennials” using Instagram or “only older people” using Facebook, it’s more important than ever to create specific audience personas and speak directly to each one of them with tailored content and messaging. Read more after the jump…

Even Professional Designers Need a Creative Outlet

As the director of creative services at CenterTable, my goal is to make sure our clients have all the tools they need to visually tell their stories. I love the variety of projects I get to work on and all the amazing businesses and nonprofits I’m able to collaborate with. Telling meaningful stories is what inspires me to become a better designer and a more creative problem-solver. However, for a long time I’ve missed telling my own stories through art and design. Read more after the jump…

Top Presentation Tips From SXSW

It’s been just over a week since I returned from South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) where – in addition to learning about the latest in social media strategies – I had the opportunity to attend dozens of presentations in a variety of formats. I learned a few new presentation tips and enjoyed some effective presentations that inspired me to share some helpful pointers.

Stories Beat PowerPoints Every Time

The Science of Storytelling | Leo Widrich via Flickr

The Science of Storytelling | Leo Widrich via Flickr

In a panel focused on the power of storytelling, neuroscientist Shonté Taylor noted that storytelling engages the right side (aka, the more creative side) of the brain. Specifically, she described how the body releases reward hormones such as dopamine when the right side of the brain is positively engaged, as can happen when a person is enjoying a great story. She went on to describe those reward hormones as “lighting up” the brain in a positive way, and left me with the point that if you light up the brains of your colleagues and customers, they’re going to remember you.

Reflecting on the various presentations I attended during SXSWi, the most memorable really did include great storytelling elements. Speakers from National Geographic and Outdoor Afro shared compelling stories and – often – images that took me beyond bullets on the screen. One week later and I can describe in detail the stories they told and the lessons they shared in a way that I cannot for other speakers who didn’t weave personal stories, images or testimonials into their presentations. Read more after the jump…

The Storytelling Power of Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs became more accessible than ever when Apple created its GIF keyboard for iOS 10. The addition offers users a fun, easy way to interact with friends on mobile that has further broadened our digital forms of expression. GIFs provide us with a visual way to describe how we’re feeling. My wife knows exactly what I’m trying to say when I send her a simple GIF of Michael Jordan crying, or Kim Kardashian rolling her eyes. Though sending these types of GIFs is an entertaining form of expression, they don’t even begin to show how powerful animated GIFs can be as a storytelling device. Businesses have an opportunity to use custom-designed GIFs to help tell their story and expand their reach. There are many super-talented artists creating amazing GIFs that transcend how most people view the medium, and companies should take notice. I’ve listed some of my favorite artists below:

Read more after the jump…

Tips to Improve Your PR Storytelling

I was on a road trip with my family recently and we had some time to kill. We decided to take turnsstorytelling telling stories and after we each had a run at it, we shared our favorite. My nine-year-old’s account of the creepy clown under his brother’s bed was my personal favorite, but the majority agreed they liked the story I shared about time travel and our cats, Gizmo and Butch. I celebrated the accolades quietly to myself, and then thought I sure hope I can tell a story, after all, it’s what I get paid to do.

Much of what we do as PR professionals is storytelling. We craft and share our client’s stories with the audiences that matter to them. That can include consumers, legislators, educators, industry groups or the media. And, as the vehicles with which we communicate continue to change, it can mean telling a story in 140 characters or 1,400 words.

I thought I’d share a few of the rules I follow when telling our client’s stories – particularly to the media. Read more after the jump…

The Importance of Storytelling

Photo from: ereleases.com

Photo from: ereleases.com

I attended a meeting on Monday – a convening of 14 co-grantees of The Colorado Trust all working toward the common goal of improving access to health care for Coloradans. During this convening, we shared strategies and tactics, successes and challenges – and discussed ways we could be more effective in our efforts. One of the biggest themes of the day was the importance of storytelling – and how it can make abstract topics (such as health care) concrete and relevant to your audiences.

Now, it may seem fairly basic, but the conversation served to remind and reinforce for me our role as storytellers in PR. It can be easy to get caught up in statistics, survey results, product features and the like – and those are all important pieces of the puzzle. However, when we can engage our audiences through stories that they can relate to – that is when we really hook them.

Read more after the jump…

The Press Release: No! It’s Not Dead

I came a across a blog post the other day by Lou Hoffman, of The Hoffman Agency, titled “Why Great Storytelling in a News Release Can Hurt Your Cause.” It’s a good a reminder to use a press release wisely, mainly to share necessary facts and details, and to leave the storytelling to the reporters.

I couldn’t agree more with Hoffman, but the post got me thinking about my old friend the press release, and the bad rap it gets.  I’ve written so many over the years I might have a hard time counting that high. One could say I’m biased. But, I’ve also pitched reporters for – let’s just say a long time – and for certain news including events, product launches, store openings or even closing, many (not all) reporters seem to appreciate the who, what, where, when, why and how. It is helpful to share with others in the newsroom, and most importantly, being able to pull facts from a release helps keep information correct.

Read more after the jump…

The Art of Story Telling

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a speaker, Rob Biesenbach, share his insights into story telling. And because I correctly answered his trivia question about an ‘80s movie set in Chicago “About Last Night,” I was awarded with his book, “Act Like You Mean Business – Essential Communication Lessons from Stage and Screen.”

Biesenbach has 20+ years of experience as a public relations executive, and he also happens to be professionally trained as an actor. Using his PR experience and acting talent, Biesenbach talked about how we can better connect with our audiences and communicate more persuasively and effectively by learning how to tell stories. He wasn’t suggesting that we make things up or stretch the truth; rather, he talked about, and his book goes into great detail, how by expressing ideas and messages visually, appealing to the audiences’ emotions, and framing our information in the form of a story, we can be more successful as communicators.

How to Find Stories
According to Biesenbach, a story, in the simplest terms, involves a character struggling to achieve a goal in the face of difficult odds or obstacles. So, how do you find great stories in your company or organization? Following are some questions to ask when you’re interviewing people in your organization to try to build a great story:
• What is it that you love about your job?
• What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
• What do your kids think you do?
• What are you most proud of?
• What do you love to do outside of work?
• What are you passionate about?
• What keeps you up at night?
• What did you want to do when you grew up?
• Describe a challenge you’ve faced.

Most of us have trouble talking about ourselves, but when we’re asked the kinds of questions that I’ve listed above, the stories will flow. Every company or organization has great stories; these stories will be much more interesting and resonate more with the audience than simply using facts and data or the dreaded PowerPoint with slide after slide of bullets. And everything communicators write – case studies, speeches, news releases, bios – should be organized as a story. And in all great stories, less is more. Get straight to the action. Don’t get bogged down in meaningless details (words) or you will lose your audience.

In a follow-up blog, I will cover more of Biesenbach’s book, including: tips for connecting with the audience, plainly speaking, and how to be a better listener.

~ Barb Jones