Content Creator or Storyteller?

Content Creator or Storyteller?

RBH's Debra Hepburn discusses the importance of creative brand storytelling in an industry overrun by commoditised content marketing

Many of my favourite people in life have been great story tellers: my grandfather – Albert, my Dad, all of my menfolk in fact, some of my favourite friends (girls included here) and especially my business partner (and friend) Timothy Patrick Rees.

They all have the gift of knowing how to engage an audience from the off, have them hanging on every word, never quite knowing if they’ll be laughing or crying at a perfectly paced and delivered end line.

As we evolve RBH (because agencies should never stay still) I’ve been musing on the art of storytelling and how it’s always been there and why it’s so much a part of RBH. And importantly why it’s so much more than “just content”.

The march of social has brought with it the inevitable hunger for endless content. Much of it is dull, contrived and aimed at ticking “optimum number of posts” boxes. Some of it may be really good content but it still has no resonance with the brand’s timeline it appears on. Lots of it is a bit of sparkle, celebrity glamour or clever thinking back-fitted into the brand to garner lots and lots of likes and shares – but is it actually driving real bottom line value to the brand itself?

In fact, just as we’ve always known, if the content isn’t based upon brand truth it’s not worth doing. Consumers see through it or disregard it in an instant. A brand, wherever it appears, needs to be genuine, authentic, engaging and able to communicate its core beliefs consistently and creatively.

The real danger as clients and agencies climb on the content bandwagon is that it risks becoming a commodity. It’s handed over to interns* as they “are young and get it” or to a content department which operates in splendid isolation from brand comms. Everyone knows they need to be doing “it” but tend to add it on randomly or as an after-thought.

Because RBH is an independent agency, we’ve always believed in and allowed ourselves the luxury of a fluidity of approach. When we set out on any new campaign we’re thinking holistically. We’re originating the very best stories that can be told across all channels. All of our ‘channel experts’ get involved in briefings even when it may not seem relevant. We don’t differentiate PR/social/digital/creative/insight/project management etc at this stage. We’re not competing and we’re not separate profit centres. One of our founding values is still: ‘A good idea doesn’t care who has it’.

What’s more, even if we don’t handle all channels for all clients, it’s imperative for us that we think this way and we’re happy to welcome other agencies into these sessions. Or even to understand their brand concept so we can best join up with it.

We’re seeking out the original concept, the narrative and the story (sometimes with sub-stories) that makes the whole campaign explode into people’s consciousness wherever they may see it. Creatively it makes total sense. It’s on brand, it’s a direction for all to follow throughout and stops any aimless wandering off-piste. Moreover, it saves or optimises budget. The thinking is done up front, the framework is set and the production magic can take place. With a dose of spontaneity as long as it’s on story and on brand.

One of our favourite pieces of work that truly brings this thinking to life is the launch of Grand Central, Birmingham. The first shopping centre ever launched via a blog. A brand new development that became an entity, was woven into its audience’s lives and was developed with their feedback well before the shiny mirrored façade was even a thing. It was an evolving story, a rich tapestry of local community, influencers, media, prospective tenants and customers. It belonged before it arrived.

Right now we’re all buzzing as we plot, plan and scheme campaigns for 2019 including a revolutionary relaunch that began with a simple story rooted entirely in real life.

Content is one thing, but telling a brand’s story creatively is still king.

*we have had and still have some bloody brilliant interns who totally get this so no insult intended!

Featured image courtesy of @Anniespratt

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