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storytelling(Read time = 3-4 minutes) Before the message matrix; before focus groups and A/B testing… there were campfires and crowdsourcing… trusted networks and “business-critical” peer communities.   Messaging/branding first took shape in the malleable setting of oral tradition, as storytelling – not as something invented in the shadow of the World Wide Web and coined “new media”.   As writing developed,  scribes and monks become precursor “media professionals” and “companies “ (e.g. kings, church hierarchies and the like) gained the ability to control information and shape brand perceptions more broadly.

The “pros” have had a lock on messaging ever since – until SMM and 24/7 connectivity.

With the appearance of Twitter, Facebook, blog communities around content, audience communities around shared segments… with iPhone 24/7 web access in a soccer mom’s purse, and the ability to scale a conversation from that once small campfire setting to (literally) thousands w/in minutes… tens of thousands to millions the time it takes to move a ball down the pitch.

Today’s Marketing, PR, Advertising, Marcom, and Training-types retain this traditional arbitration role, dolling out message bites, controlling message platforms, building brands and brand equity, shaping sales force direction and ultimately, consumer perceptions.  Few could argue that this generation’s B2B professionals have little experience other than that of uniquely owning the communications process.

Marketers and media professionals need to acknowledge the growing trend toward customer-generated content and interactive dialogue… the shift toward additive conversation rather than message  control.  New rules for engagement are being driven by connectivity and unfiltered access to information.  There’s no gain in lamenting the change, but significant advantage for marketers and communications professionals who engage this “back to the future” trend and participate.

And yet, consider what hasn’t changed:

  • Brand champions have always existed…
  • Media has always been social
  • Valued peer groups have always  been “trusted networks”
  • Next-generation media always threatens the previous generation
    • Movable type threatened aristocracy’s hold on information
    • Broadcast threatened print
    • Translators are critical
    • The WWW threatened broadcast
    • SM (the new web2.0) threatens (old) web apparoaches
    •  Creative always needs direction
    • Scale and Speed have shifted up at each node.

This “Scale/Speed” dynamic, I’d argue, results in the perception of revolution rather than evolution.  Seldom does a day go that I hear: “social networks… are changing everything…”; and that “… new policies must be written…”;  or  “…traditional marketing is dead, social media marketing is different…” 

In a word:  bull!

To borrow a phrase:  “speed kills…” or at least the perceived speed of change has deadened our sensitivity that everything new is actually just evolutionary to the basic tenants of marketing, communication and training that we’ve learned and practiced our entire business careers.  Relationships and perception remain the foundations for product purchasing;  crisp writing remains the standard;  desk editors/headline writers have been crafting 140-character (or less) summaries well before Twitter was even a glimmer;  employees have always been key components of a company’s brand equity; listening is always where to start; customer behaviors drive business success.

So celebrate “back to the future messaging” and the return to user-driven content… the return to crowdsourcing and storytelling rather than technologywriting and promotional prose.  Engage with new media tools and relinquish control in favour of access – and the more useful balance between media professionals and message consumers.  Doing so provides significant marketing and messaging opportunity for those nimble enough to play, and wise enough to embrace this next evolution.

(FYI, a special thanx to www.twitter.com/spoonwrite for this topic suggestion during an otherwise very ordinary day.

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