The Art of Storytelling: Q & A with Steve Barnes

Joe Martin

Storytelling is an art. The ability to create an emotion through music, design, and telling a story is something that all content creators strive for, but not all accomplish. In an age where visual communications, and video are becoming ever more crucial to creating a story and experience for someone we have an expert to take us through how they have been able to accomplish this.

Steve Barnes is an American television and film actor,television host, television and film producer, radio personality, and digital and social media executive. He is president of Barnes Creative Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, which specializes in digital marketing and social media strategy.

What are the key components to a good story?

The key components to a good story are plot, conflict and resolution. Although for marketing you are looking at location/setting/context and ways to build a narrative around that location to accomplish your marketing goals without being salesy. With locations context is a major element in telling the story. The key to great storytelling is the ability to bottle the emotion and “drip it” through an intriguing narrative...captivating the audience. With marketing as an objective you need to be able to “sucker punch” the target...sell to them without selling. This is where I feel many brands fall short and resort to traditional sales tactics in social media.

What have you learned during your time in film about telling a story?

My storytelling skills were first fueled by my radio career as a morning show host. These early days had a huge impact on my ability to merge marketing with storytelling. We were tasked (our morning show) daily with coming up with story ideas or bits to promote products. We would usually work backwards from our marketing goal and build a story around characters. My time in Film and TV have taught me great insight on actually building the story. Every time I am on a set I learn cool things and come up with interesting ideas of how to accomplish effective storytelling.

Take us through your process of creation.

My process of creation starts with an objective that could be marketing based or simply story based. I will use an example from a TV series I created called “High Rise”. I noticed Atlanta was struggling with too many luxury high end condos and though it would be a good idea to build a show around it. I first sold the idea to a developer and then used their marketing personas to build the cast. Once the cast was set I created stories around all of the areas they wanted to market at the property including the context of the local area. That familiarity of the area would be a key element to”sell” people on buying a condo in that area. The show was a huge success and got millions of views when the project rolled out.

Compelling storytelling can help sell a product, idea, or belief, but what kind of story is the best?

The best story to “sell” is an authentic one. People are driven by emotion and you have to evaluate each objective and find the “angles” you want to use to sell your product. It could be empathy, romance, sex, power, comedy...you have to figure that out. People want to laugh, cry, be inspired, learn something, etc. Your job is to marry the proper strategy to the objective of the project.

Provoking an emotion is a key to a good marketing campaign, how does video and audio fit into that?

Video and audio are the foundation of a great marketing campaign. These 2 elements are often overlooked on the budget line. Sometimes you can get away with “cheap” video but for major brands you need to do it “right”. Poor production is going to reflect poorly on your brand. There are many elements to a successful video campaign that are technical and should not be taken lightly. Your best ROI is going to come from teaming with a production company that has experience with all elements of modern filmmaking. Is your script cleverly driven by keywords for your website SEO? Wait...you didn’t think of that??? :)

How does telling a story link a consumer back to your brand more?

Telling a story links back to your brand through the emotions that you are igniting with the consumer. Never underestimate the power of that connection that is made between your video and your brand as it can be quit powerful.

To you, what is the future of communication and storytelling?

The future of storytelling in the near future is augmented reality and virtual reality. I feel B2B has the most to gain from these technologies while the general public is still slow to gravitate to it. AR and VR really submerge the viewer and put them in the story. With hospitality and commercial real estate, especially, there is huge potential. I am seeing more and more brands getting interested in AR and VR.

Conclusion

Video and storytelling are the future of content and productivity. We appreciate Steve taking some time to give his thoughts on these from his experience with digital marketing, as an actor on shows like Prison Break, and through his social engagement through his personal Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook channels.

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