Storytelling is perhaps the oldest form of communication around. That’s how people shared history, ideas and connected. Whether through words, pictures or a combination, putting your messages in the context of a story makes it memorable. Remarkable. Engaging. It’s a way to cut through the noise and connect with the audience that matters to you because you’re telling stories that put them front and center.

But most marketers get caught up in shouting messages about features and benefits. “Look how great we are,” they exclaim. “We can streamline your business, save you money and make you a lot more productive.” That may be true, but it’s not so memorable. Especially when it sounds like everyone else. The cool thing today is that we have the tools at hand that make storytelling much easier. From the publishing platform I’m using right now to increasingly small and accessible cameras and video cameras combined with relatively easy software to get a finished product out to the world. Or so they’d have you believe.

I came at the business of communication from photography. Since I was 10 I’ve been shooting still pictures. It’s now automatic – just like driving a car. I see pictures constantly – light, shadow, pattern, color and shades of gray. I see the patina of faded paint. Texture on the metal light poles. Ripples in the asphalt roadway. My eyes are the viewfinder. After spending a couple weeks with a master – Jay Maisel, I also see emotion everyday. Expressions and mood. Whether in people or buildings or things. “Pay attention to the corners and the center will take care of itself,” he told us. He talked about gesture and form – and showing the hand of man.

Now Because of the accessibility of video – now even on my iPhone – I’m training myself to tell stories via moving pictures – setup, plot, sequence, resolution. It’s a lot more difficult. While the tools are immediately accessible to all of us, I think we need to remember that it still requires vision and creativity. You can’t just go out (in most cases) guns blazing and come back with a compelling video. You need to have a point of view. You need to think through the story you want to tell. The emotions you want to elicit. The action you want people to take afterwards. In fact I had someone ask me to create a movie trailer to use in a sales demo. Oh, and could we have that in a couple of weeks? It’s a cool thought. But it requires planning. The ability to capture, refine and process great sound – and have it sync with the video (not always a straightforward endeavor as I recently discovered.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Chase Jarvis and really appreciate the energy and emotion he puts into his work. Still or video, you can feel a powerful energy. Forward action. His images are never still. They’re motivating. Engaging. Check out the video he did for Nikon’s new prosumer DSLR – the D7000.

It’s a camera that many could afford. Something we could only dream about 5 years ago. On the surface, it’s an easy camera to use. But Chase brings uses vision to tell a story. And is able to get the most out of it. And there’s a whole crew helping out with the production backed by a conscious workflow to take the raw footage, preserve and protect the data, and translate it into the finished product. Chase has a distinct point of view. And that’s what you need to tell a compelling story. You need to begin with the end in mind. It’s easy but not easy. He talks about grabbing a group of friends and heading out to road test this camera – it’s fun. Energetic. But look how he and his crew brought the details together – the clothes, the cars, the location to tell a story. The technology is just offers the tools to make it happen. You need the vision. Jay Maisel also told us that “Interesting people take interesting pictures.” You have to be curious. To question. To explore things outside of your normal routines. Using Chase as an example, he writes about his experience with Mike Horn on Pangea. Imagine how that might influence the work you do everyday.

Because of technology, I recall Seth pointing out awhile ago that if you need decent photos and design, you can usually do it yourself or find someone pretty cheap to do it. But that there’s always room for someone remarkable when you need something special. Work people like Chase or Chip or Michael offer.

You already have the tools at hand. You don’t even need the fanciest tools out there. What matters is how you use them to tell your story in a way that matters to the right people. And knowing when you need a little help making your vision a reality. #kaizenblog last week dove into story telling. The transcript offers some great insights which I’ll go into more in my next post.

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