Why does marketing inspire anxiety? I don’t know. But I have two theories.

The first is that we possess a fundamental distrust of brevity and simplicity. The second is that we don’t recognize effective marketing is simple storytelling.

Most of us think the more we say the better. It’s easier to say everything we can think of than to think about what we should say and to whom. But effective marketing depends on our ability to trust ourselves to tell our stories simply. And while our stories should be simple, they should be creative and imaginative enough to engage and inspire. And they should be true.

In 1824, Washington Irving wrote in Tales of a Traveller (available free from Project Gutenberg), “I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories.” Irving faced the marketer’s dilemma: toeing the line between persuasive explication and creative license, putting the message in its most favorable and engaging light without casting the truth into the shadows.

It’s the line between light and shadow that turns many a wary eye toward marketing. But that needn’t be so, especially when the proliferation of media gives us every opportunity to tell our stories incrementally, plausibly, and completely, without relying on volubility and hyperbole. To effectively tell your story:

  • Determine the one thing you want your story to tell. What do you do? Why do you do it?
  • Size up your audience. For whom do you do what you do? Who needs to know? Why do they need to know?
  • Try to say what you provide in a word — simplicity, for example — and describe its value in a sentence.
  • Be succinct. As Thoreau wrote in 1857, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

In Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote that marketing “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.” While that’s a tad cynical, it does indicate the importance of telling the truth.

We serve ourselves best by telling our stories artfully and truthfully. We serve our constituents best by telling our stories strategically, creatively, and enthusiastically. Everyone appreciates a good story, well told.

If telling your story makes you nervous, you’re doing it wrong.

Image by geralt, courtesy of pixabay.com.