Telling stories can be fun

The best type of interview, in my opinion, is one in which your subject tells a story and your voice as the interviewer is never heard. I’m reminded of a quote from well-known radio personality, Ira Glass:

The power of the anecdote is so great. No matter how boring the material is, if it’s in story form, there’s suspense in it. It feels like something’s going to happen.

Actually, I was reminded of this quote while reading a recent article at, an excellent music licensing resource for independent and corporate filmmakers alike. The article focused on The Music Bed’s approach to conducting interviews and how they are able to pull compelling stories from their interview subjects. It’s a good read, and I highly recommend it for anyone who conducts interviews regularly, whether you’re a journalist, PR professional or filmmaker. Circling back to Mr. Glass’ point, the story is what hooks and keeps people’s attention. Much of the article mentioned above applies to documentary films, and if you work in the corporate sphere, you’ll often be working within a more rigid framework. But here’s the thing: corporate videos would be so much better if they were less … well … corporate.

Telling Stories vs. Listing Specs & Features

You’ve got this great piece of software that can make a huge impact for current and prospective clients, right? So why not do a video in which you talk all about product features and technical specs, citing statistic after statistic, metric after metric? Because there’s no story there. What you’ve got is the video equivalent of the specs printed on the back of the box that your computer, smartphone or blender came in. Riveting, right?

Print and online journalists don’t just publish a series of numbers and facts by themselves. They look for the story that people will care about. The context that puts everything into perspective and piques the audience’s interest. We have to take the same approach with video content.

So how do you produce videos that people will pay attention to? Do what Mr. Glass suggests: tell a story. There’s emotional investment and suspense in a story and that’s what makes content marketing effective. This works the same regardless of the country of your audience. You want to know how things turn out. You want to be able to relate to the people in the video.

So instead of listing product specs, tell the story through the eyes of one of your client’s employees. The story of the engineer who spent so much time at work that she was missing out on her kids’ little league and soccer games, school plays and recitals. The designer who hadn’t been on a vacation with his family in years because he could never break away from work for long enough to go anywhere.

And now your piece of software has made their jobs so much easier that they can leave work at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. They can make it home to have dinner with their families and won’t have to work on the weekends. Their personal and professional lives have improved dramatically. And rather than a video of one of your executives extolling your product’s features, you show the people who will use and benefit from it every day living better lives because of what you have built.

Business software certainly isn’t the sexiest topic, but like Ira Glass said, even the most boring topics can be engaging if you find the story worth telling and let your subject tell it.


This post was first published by Brendan Reilly on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.