Four storytelling secrets

Once upon a time, the Marketing Society partnered with the BBC to deliver a unique and rare breakfast event, allowing members to hear from an inspiring panel of BBC's experts.

These experts shared their secrets on authentic and impactful storytelling.

"You can tell a story about war without showing the ‘bang bangs’ and explosions”

Drawing upon some of the most powerful footage captured in history, BBC’s Picture Correspondent, Tony Fallshaw, shared his experiences from behind the lens.

Storytelling takes many forms and evoke different emotions.

Through a selection of highlights from Tony’s illustrious career, including coverage of the Ukrainian Crisis, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the refugee crisis in Rohingya (to name a few), members were taken through a rollercoaster of emotions – from joy, love and hope, to fear and hatred.

While Tony often told stories through beautifully crafted, well considered ‘arty’ shots, unexpected events often became the story. Examples included the first impromptu crossing at Checkpoint Charlie, and mutterings of Prince Charles, referring to BBC's Royal Correspondent “Bloody people. I can't bear that man. He's so awful, he really is."

Tony revealed that his sound recordist often made valuable filming suggestions, observing situations from a different perspective. Evidently, ideas can just happen. Perhaps the simple lesson for marketers is to embrace ideas from all areas (not just the creatives)… and if it feels right, go for it.   

“Newness and relatability is important when trying to connect with an audience”

Mike Gunton, Executive Producer and Senior Executive at the BBC Natural History Unit, shared some of his mastery of storytelling in the natural environment.

The efforts and scale endured to deliver BBC’s Planet Earth II (2089 days in the field, 4 years in production, filmed in 40 countries, 400 terabytes of recorded footage etc.) represents the desire by Mike’s team to chase zeitgeist moments.

Adapting to different environments and embracing new technologies, allowed his team to get to places humans couldn’t and obtain footage in ways that couldn’t be captured in the past.

Lessons were to be learnt about bringing the audience closer to characters and stories, and embracing new technologies to introduce newness to the audience – just as drones delivered a new visual identity for Mike’s work on Planet Earth II.

“Audiences are happy for brands to tell stories and to be part of them, but only if it feels natural and believable”

Richard Pattinson, Senior VP, BBC Storyworks, brought the session much closer to home by discussing storytelling in a business context.

Through Storywork’s Science of Engagement research, Richard pointed towards the direct relationship between emotional engagement and brand impact, concluding that brand stories that have meaning elicit loyalty and repeat viewing.

As well as the nature of the content, the audience also discussed how to evolve the way we communicate in the digital age. Considering how content is developed for different media and formats remains important to build better connections with our customers. Cleary, the medium is (still) the message.

“We need more wonderful stories right now, and people should feel enriched by the stories we tell”

Lucy Hockings, who eloquently opened and closed the event, provided her viewpoint as a BBC Broadcast Journalist. From her experience, storytelling in its purest form serves to help us process information, teach us new things and shapes our future.

Naturally, ethics and ‘getting it right’ was a recurring theme throughout the morning. Without doubt, the nature of the environment at Broadcasting House influenced this thread of conversation. However, the underlying theme spoke directly to the marketing audience too.

As marketers, we tell stories all the time – we share anecdotes, think in metaphors, and introduce narratives to our marketing campaigns in efforts to make our work more compelling and memorable. So we share the task of being braver with the emotions we evoke in our brand stories… and a duty of care to use storytelling to engage and enrich for the better. 

By Martin Truong, Director of Communications & Digital, Northern Europe at Webloyalty