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Avoiding Cliche in Corporate Storytelling

Have you ever noticed that so many corporate videos all look and feel the same: predictable shots, dry facts and figures, cheesy approach, all adding up to storytelling cliche? Cliché is the enemy of effective storytelling.

According to Robert McKee, the story doctor to hundreds of successful screenwriters, producers and directors, the 21st century audience is “story saturated.” We have consumed tens of thousands of hours of stories through the theater, TV, social media, books, Netflix, etc. Audience expectations for motion pictures, whether it is from the theater, TV or on a cell phone is exceedingly high. How many times have we left the theater dissatisfied “because we’ve seen these cliched scenes and characters too many times before.” Or even worse, while scrolling through social media, we see a corporate video that follows the same old regurgitated shots as every other company commercial.

The human mind has an uncanny ability to observe and predict overused patterns and unconsciously check out. When we see that this scene or video has be done this way multiple times, we are bored and frustrated. The first time that approach was used it was amazing, but now, ten years later… it’s a worn out cliché. And no successful company can build its brand through the cliché. We have to distinguish ourselves from our competitors in authentic and compelling ways.

According to McKee, “all clichés can be traced to one thing and one thing alone: The writer does not know the world of his story” (McKee, Story, 67). McKee argues that writers must do the hard work of research to intimately know the setting for any film. This applies also to corporate videos. In order to produce a compelling company video, the creative agency needs to know your company, its mission, vision, values, culture, leadership, business, and customers. This requires time, meetings and research. Video storytellers need to know not only what you do, but how you do things differently and who you are at a human level to tell an engaging story.

When a production company wants to sell you a predetermined package similar to your competitors without a discovery process, be cautious. There is nothing wrong with showing you what your competitors are doing in storytelling and it is helpful to be educated to the different approaches to storytelling. But creatives don’t know what they don’t know about your companies stories and that mandates a learning process.

At Barking Squirrel Media, we take our clients through a discovery process  where we interview company leadership, employees on the ground floor and important customers. It’s imperative to know the goals and objectives of the company, the compelling stories of people within the company, and the reasons your clients/customer love doing business with you.

We often use the keen insights gained through discovery to produce a Brand Storytelling Guide Report for the organization that will guide them and us in creating stories that are deeply human, authentic, informative and entertaining. Discovery interviews give creatives the story bits and  language to create a script that will engage hearts, change minds, and inspire your audience to action. In many ways, discover is like mining for gems. Diamonds and rubies are not found on the surface. It requires digging deep beneath the surface. But the story gems that are uncovered are priceless and unique to your specific organization. Skilled creative agencies can take these gems and craft a story that will fascinate viewers to the very last scene.

If you have ever needed a lawyer, personally or corporately, you expected that the lawyers would study your story thoroughly in order to argue your case persuasively to a jury. It is the same in video storytelling. And the stakes are also high. The story behind the video is making your brand’s case to a sophisticated online audience.

Whether you are designing a story for a motion picture or a business video, your story should feel unique and resonate with an audience that has expectations to be informed as well as entertained. The goal is keep the viewers intrigued to the very end and a cliché corporate video won’t cut it. Work with creative agencies that will spend the time with you in discovery to truly understand who you are, what you do, and how you make a positive impact in people’s live, the community, and the world.

Discovery is the foundation to effective corporate storytelling.

Dr. David K. Bray

President/Producer, Barking Squirrel Media