Three common obstacles to digital storytelling

Many businesses are aware of how essential it is to tell a compelling brand story online, but that reality brings with it some challenges too.

The competition for attention spans has never been fiercer, while companies continue to adapt to the ongoing changes in consumer behavior. Moreover, 56% of marketers report that siloed tech platforms are preventing them from delivering cohesive marketing strategies.

Clearly, the relationship between people and technology is opening up a raft of new opportunities for brands, but also some obstacles to progress.

Content produced in collaboration with Brightspot.

A crowded, siloed MarTech landscape

Undoubtedly, technology can help marketers to deliver better experiences for their audiences.However, we should remember that simply investing in a range of tools offers no guarantee of success.

The image below, which displays the current marketing technology landscape, is almost impossible to navigate with any real clarity.


After assessing this landscape, we should not be surprised that 56% of marketers report that non-integrated tech platforms are the biggest obstacle to cohesive marketing efforts.Common challenges include:

  • Businesses select a variety of tools that help them achieve the component parts of their strategy, but often these separate technologies do not readily share data.

  • A brand story that is disconnected across content platforms can be damaging to a brand’s reputation and will certainly lose out in the battle for attention spans.
  • Consumers do not navigate in such a fragmented fashion and nor do they expect brands to deliver repetitive or disjointed messaging.

The best narratives contain a linear flow of information, whether in print, on TV, in a theater, or online. The rules of good storytelling remain in place; we must engage our audience’s attention and retain that vital currency by delivering new and intriguing details that drive the narrative towards a satisfactory conclusion.

That is a difficult task to achieve when consumers are not only moving across platforms, but also across media formats. Nonetheless, this is no longer a negotiable aspect of a successful digital strategy.

The brands that are getting this right and reaping the rewards are those that have developed in integrated tech stack in what is an increasingly crowded landscape.

Process paralysis stymies content flow

Deciding on the right technology partners is a significant step towards defining and telling your brand story.The obstacles to effective storytelling are not restricted purely to the technological, however. The internal structure of many businesses is simply not conducive to the fluid, agile approach that is needed to deliver a digital brand story.

In fact, 40% of brands believe organizational structure is a significant obstacle to consistently integrated marketing activities.Many of our ways of working are less than optimal for the modern, journalistic approach to content production that is required.

process paralysis

We also have the advantage of instant audience feedback online, as we can see in real time who has chosen to engage with our messaging. Instant feedback can also cause us to try and correct course too quickly, however.

To tell an effective narrative requires a cohesive, long-term vision that is agreed on by a range of stakeholders. Technology can help enable these processes, but people need to define and agree on them first. Once roles are made clear, the right tools can help us assign tasks and smooth out some of the kinks in processes that slow down content production.

In fact, the right technology can reduce publishing time from 20 minutes to just 5 minutes, so it is worth putting the effort in to find the most suitable platform to facilitate your new content processes.

The challenge of unlocking creativity

The ethereal concept of creativity has defied definition through the ages. From the ancient Greeks to the Romantic poets to our modern AI-driven attempts to generate narratives, we have always been in thrall to creativity without ever being able to distil it.

And yet, our modern content marketing landscape demands creativity on tap.

Even when we have the right tech stack and have incorporated new processes to help us avail of its potential, we still need ideas – and a lot of them.

Furthermore, simply delivering good content will rarely be good enough. The modern consumer has more than enough distractions already, without seeing another half-baked brand campaign.

The average person has five tabs open on their Internet browser at any one time, with that number increasing among younger generations.


Source: Mozilla data. Men highlighted in blue; women in red. 

The challenge is that every brand wants to tell its story, so it is essential to find a competitive advantage at a time when your audience is always likely to be focused on more than one thing.

This begins with the more prosaic aspects, such as developing the structure for an editorial calendar and researching the types of content that resonate on each platform. Next, brands must understand when their audience is most receptive to certain content formats.That gives some shape to the production schedule and the targeting strategy, but of course this plan will only be as successful as the ideas that populate it.

Our muse should be partially mechanical when we approach digital storytelling.

Technology can help pinpoint the trending topics that people are discussing and also generate stimuli for brainstorms. There remains something intangible and unpredictable about creativity, but technology is reducing the amount of guesswork involved.

Sign up for a webinar on March 22 with Brightspot, Johnson & Johnson, and ClickZ to learn more about the newsroom approach to brand storytelling.

The webinar will discuss:

    • Why Storytelling Matters in 2018
    • How Johnson & Johnson Built Their Corporate Newsroom: The Global Content Lab
    • Three Obstacles to Digital Storytelling
    • How Emerging Technologies Facilitate a Newsroom Approach

One thought on “Three common obstacles to digital storytelling

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