Tell Me a Story: Creating Content That Inspires

Blog-CT-HowBrandsTellAStoryWho doesn’t love a good story? I’m always in awe of that special breed that can draw you in and keep your attention to the very end. So no big surprise that the morning keynote kicking off Content Marketing World catching my eye was “Inspired Content: How Brilliant Storytellers Create a Sudden Urge to Act” by Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships.

Davis calls content marketers’ biggest content opportunity: “creating moments of inspiration.” He shared some of his ‘secrets’ for how brands can make the leap to applying great storytelling, helping them connect with their targets in ways that deepen the relationship and inspire them to act:


  • Start by expanding your view; make a commitment to telling a story that’s bigger than you
  • Think like a TV producer. Build suspense and drama. It fuels action.
  • Moments of Inspiration use implied Calls to Action: content consumers create their own imaginary ACT button
  • Foster aspiration. Tap into the desires and dreams of your audience.
  • Drive empathy with stories that help content consumers become emotionally invested in your product or service. Viewers’ empathy for Watson (the supercomputer) on Jeopardy fueled a 20% growth in their analytics business. That’s great storytelling.
  • Harness emotion in the stories you tell to inspire action

Among the brands who have thoroughly embraced this commitment to inspired storytelling: Microsoft, Apple, Nike and LinkedIn.

Microsoft Stories


Steve Clayton, Chief Storyteller at Microsoft, uses long-form content to humanize the global brand. With stunning photography and compelling narrative, Microsoft Stories bring to life the many faces behind the technology through in-depth profiles of its employees. Real people with real passions like Kevin White, Bing principal program manager lead and vintner. Together with stories like 88 Acres, that detail the backstory of how the firm built the ‘smart city’ of the future – Microsoft connects with people on a totally different level, leaving them to ask ‘who knew?’


Evocative and inspiring stories are the backbone of iPad and iPhone marketing.  With its What Will Your Verse Be, Apple showcases inspired moments that capture the product in use – in research, the arts, sports, entertainment. (My personal favorite: Ohio State’s TBDBITL powering its amazing halftime show and a student’s idea – true story).


Similarly, the iPhone 5S Dreams and Parenthood show how the phone is an integral part of a day in the life of its customers – a doctor, pilot, artist, first responders and parents. It’s relatable, human.


It’s the everyday athlete that Nike targeted in its Find Your Greatness campaign. The underlying story encourages and inspires you to push yourself; that greatness is in reach. The story played out in film, on social assets, via Nike+ and an online hub.



Inspired by the remarkable stories shared by some of its 300 million members, LinkedIn launched its If You Can Dream It, You Can Accomplish It marketing campaign. As kids voice their dreams, the visuals show members living out those dreams. It is emotional and inspiring. Rather than tout its tools and benefits directly, the implicit message is clear – ‘we can help.’

For more tips and models beyond these noteworthy examples, check out the collective wisdom captured in “10 B2B Masters Reveal Storytelling Secrets” compiled by LinkedIn.


Got an inspiring story of your own? Please share.

Cheryl Treleaven
Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.

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