George RaffedieThe storytelling about Wednesday’s event goes something like this … On a beautiful early morning, on the first day of fall, at the incredible Loyola Schreiber Center, 25 or so early risers were treated to an informative and lively class from George Rafeedie, Founder of Tell Your Story & CoWorkers. George combined his passion for storytelling and years of hands-on experience to educate the class on how to develop and share your company’s story without having to spend the big bucks or endure the long-frame.

The eight-step process George presented is as follows:

1) Executive download and brainstorm. This is where executive buy-in happens. It is where you go to your boss/CMO/President/whomever and explain the process and why your organization needs it. This step is crucial as it ensures your stakeholders feel like they are part of the process. During this step, you should meet with your internal stakeholders for one-on-one meetings and brainstorm sessions. This allows you to get the information you need to develop your story, while bringing everyone in to be part of the process.

2) External interviews. You don’t need six months and lots of money to do customer research. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Just talk to a few of your customers (5–10 is a good goal). Include both current and former customers and get a direction of what they think of you (the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly). Get words, images, ideas and quotes that will help you craft your story. An added bonus? Customers like to give their opinion; it makes them feel important.

3) Research/research review. Review any surveys or other internal or external research done in the past. Monitor your industry and audit what your competitors are doing.

4) Purpose-driven creative brief. Pull everything from steps 1–3 together in a document that lays out your message. This document answers the question: “What is your brand purpose — the difference you make in the world?” It should also include a description of your values, voice and support for your purpose. George shared the example purpose of “We drive positive behaviors with rewards that people want and need,” for a client who sells 150 brands of gift cards for large-scale incentive, rewards and recognition programs.

Steps 1–4 can be done on your own, within a month. Of course you could bring in a consultant or agency to help, depending on time and resources available.

5) Creative concepting. This is where you bring your message to life with words and imagery. During this step, you can really scale up or down with budget.

6) Integrated tactical plan development. Develop a plan of how you are going to distribute your stories through earned, owned and paid media channels. George gave several examples of each type of media: You earn a story in the New York Times, you pay for retargeting ads, and you own media like your website and blog.

7) Execute. Now it is time to tell your story! You need to consistently create and curate valuable content that resonates with your audience. Although this is hard work, the real challenge is getting to your authentic story. Remember, it is not always about your company. Your content should bring value to your customer.

8) Evaluate. Be sure to set out goals at the beginning of your process. Everyone’s goals are different, so figure out what is important to your organization and stakeholders. Maybe it is traffic to your website. Or leads. Or sales. Nirvana is when you can directly measure your efforts to revenue generated. This makes it very easy to justify and continue your efforts.

George emphasized that you can do this process on any timeline and virtually any budget. Storytelling boils down to understanding your audience, identifying your purpose and connecting with the people you want to reach. See George’s full BMA presentation here.

In addition, George shared his Top 10 take-away list from Content Marketing World 2015:

  1. Content marketing is marketing.
  2. You need time, patience and dedication.
  3. You need an authentic story.
  4. You need a plan.
  5. Buy-in from your organization is tough — figure it out.
  6. Entertainment gets content marketing.
  7. Content marketing is more than marketing.
  8. PR folks need to step up.
  9. Content Marketing World sponsors are fun.
  10. I like Cleveland.