Recognized with an Emmy for her work as the title character in Olive Kitteridge, Frances McDormand should also to be applauded for what is likely the shortest acceptance speech in history, saying: “We’re all here because of the power of the stories that need to be told. Sometimes that’s enough. Thank you.”

Loved it! Partly, because the show’s high-speed litany of thank you’s – while heartfelt, was getting monotonous. And more importantly, because I subscribe to that philosophy.  As a kid, I was a big fan of the “Up Close & Personal” segments featured in sports coverage that brought athletes’ stories to light.  Years later, as a young sportswriter, I welcomed the chance to write those features. And today, I still can’t pass up a 30 for 30.  To me, those evocative backstories make watching the athleticism on the field, in the gym or on the ice even more compelling.

Great storytelling connects with people at a whole different level. It can build understanding, deepen relationships and inspire action.  What’s not to love?

Many of the speakers at Content Marketing World echoed that sentiment. None in a more moving way than Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the former Washington Post reporter who co-authored  “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice ” with Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz.  The book centers on ten stories – five of remarkable valor by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan and five of how those same leadership skills and commitment have been applied to great effect at home. But veterans’ re-entry to civilian life isn’t easy. These stories of challenge and sacrifice hope to build awareness of these issues and to inspire dialogue, action and change – no small mission.

In sharing content marketing lessons learned in the process, Chandrasekaran said the key to great storytelling lies in being authentic across the content development journey, from:

  • The subjects and stories you focus on
  • The storytellers you choose
  • The context you create for those stories
  • The perspective you offer and
  • The call to action you present

The approach applies just as well to selling a product or service as it does for creating social impact. At its core is content that is meaningful to the audience. Fail to ‘keep it real’ at any step and that audience will sniff it out and you’ll lose them – along with a good chunk of your credibility.

The journalist admitted he was skeptical at Schultz’s offer to collaborate at first (A war correspondent and coffee magnate walk into a café . . .) But Schultz was moved by veterans’ stories and the challenges they faced.  He was willing to put the Starbucks organization and his personal resources behind changing it.  What he needed was an ‘authentic storyteller’ to bring it to life.

In short, Schultz and Chandrasekaran believed in the power of the stories that need to be told. What’s your story?

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.