Lessons from the BBC on Tech Storytelling

Posted on Jun 3, 2019

Episode: S02E17

Podcast Guest: Erica Marcom
Role: Head of Marketing
Company: Aleph VC

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Intercom, Slack, Hubspot, LinkedIn and other top tier B2B companies all have a new role they’ve hired for. And it has to do with story-telling.

In this episode, we talk to Aleph VC’s new head of marketing and messaging, Erica Marom, a BBC journalist gone tech storyteller, about how great brands build even better storytellers. Check out the six minutes in their full glory to hear why video is made for storytelling, what journalists tap into to differentiate storytelling, and why some of the best tech inventors in the world fail to tell a goosebump-worthy story.

Episode Transcript

Eytan Buchman 0:05
In 1875 Mark Twain sat down and wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the great Am Erica n piece of content. That sounds off, right? Tom Sawyer is not content, The Shawshank Redemption isn’t content. Even hit me Baby One More Time isn’t content. But it is awesome. Right? There’s something about the word content the commodity arises. When we write when we film when we talk. marketing’s goal today is to stick out with timely and relevant value, not create content. And that’s the direction that the industry is moving in. When I look at the metamorphosis of content – yes, I just said the word metamorphosis and I’m impressed with myself – I came across a trend that united slack intercom Casper, LinkedIn, HubSpot, Andreessen Horowitz, and a dozen other companies. But first, I’m Eytan , you’re in the middle of a cliff hanger intro for Marketers in Capes, and my guest today is…

Erica Marom 0:57
I’m Erica , I spent the last 15 years years working as a journalist, most of that time at the BBC. I love being a journalist. I love meeting people and learning new things. And I’m so passionate about storytelling.

Eytan 1:09
The reason I’m so excited to have Erica on the show is that content trend uniting those companies is that they all have editors in chief. Yes, they’re tech companies, but they’re basically running in house media operations. And after decade and a half at BBC are good join the media Exodus,

Erica 1:27
but I felt like it was time for a change. So I recently joined all of venture capital as head of marketing and messaging. And I’ll be helping our entrepreneurs and companies tell their incredible stories. So why journalists because no profession knows better how to match trustworthy and interesting news with their audiences interests. And more importantly, no one understands the importance of a good story better than they do. There’s nothing I love more than a great story. And I honestly believe every human being has an amazing story to tell.

Eytan 1:56
There’s something about a narrative with detail that just forces us to relate. Just check out the difference between “a man walked into a bar and ordered drink” and “Chris staggered into the bar, slammed his hand on the dirty table, and yelled “Give me your strongest goddamn strawberry daiquiri.” Right, it’s a different level. And the truth is, you don’t even need to reinvent the story or wheel to crank out a good story.

Erica 2:18
I think the recipe for a great story has really been in place for thousands of years, you have a protagonist trying to achieve a goal overcoming obstacles and learning lessons. I think the most important element of any great story starts with a great subject that protagonist you care about an obstacle that there needs to be overcome and showing the pain and struggle involved in that. And then an outcome with a positive message.

Eytan 2:40
Before joining Aleph, Erica specialty was video she did spots on war politics, science, culture, religion, and even more thrilling ones like spots on traffic jams. And according to her, there are few mediums that do a better job than video.

Erica 2:55
The emotion that you can portray in a video without using a single word is extremely powerful. It’s show don’t just tell it’s the most wonderful tool we have to tell a story. It allows us to be real and honest. And emotions allow us to connect to something that we wouldn’t have been able to connect to in any other way. And it’s all in a format which is so accessible to the audience today a video.

Eytan 3:16
And that’s the trick to perfect storytelling for brand. One of Erica ‘s favorite examples of this is…the swoosh,

Erica 3:22
where you see a brand taking off is generally because they have a product that solves a need and they found a way to communicate their solution effectively. I’ll give you a very very general example. I probably like everyone else in the world. I love Nike commercials. Nike shows you commercials where people are sweating. They’re working hard, they’re panting they’re pushing themselves. And they make it inspiring and they motivate you to push yourself for you to want to wear active Where are you need a reason to go out and be active.

Eytan 3:53
So I tear up during Lion King 2, so it’s not saying much. But watching Nike’s Dream Crazier video from Woman’s Day had that impact on me, identified I teared up like a strong man. And it made me want to get outside and work out. Luckily enough, I got over that pretty quickly. But back to stories, the recipe may be simple. But this isn’t something that most tech companies knock out of the park. Why?

Erica 4:16
Everyone that I’ve met so far seems to be an actual genius in their field. Understandably, they’re extremely focused on the technology that they’re working on. And so I wonder if sometimes it’s easy to miss the bigger picture of the story that they’re telling what their product, the people are the companies that they’re trying to reach the problems that they’re trying to solve, simply because they’re so hyper focused on the tech around the product, that it’s extremely difficult to come back out again and see the bigger picture. We need to understand the value of zooming out and asking ourselves, what makes us different, what makes us special, what makes us unique. Show me what you’re doing for me as a consumer, as your target audience, show me how my work world is going to be different because of you. Show me how you’re making my life better. Because I think that really that’s the magic.

Eytan 5:06
There’s another reason why journalists are so great and nail and good storytelling, accuracy. Right? This is always been a problem. English newspapers back in the 17th century talked about a Dutch woman who lived for 14 years without food or water. The great media outlets today differentiate on accuracy.

Erica 5:25
As journalists, we have a huge microphone and our audiences trust us to give them true information. And we can’t ever betray that trust.

Eytan 5:32
They do this by realizing that you can’t know everything. They tap into a broader network of experts introduced that storytelling structure, conduct just enough research to get by for their interviews, and then rely on impeccable story selection.

Erica 5:45
So the balance of great storytelling is having enough knowledge to tell this story to someone else so they can understand it, but not going into the details of how the algorithms behind this product actually work.

Eytan 5:57
The bottom line is that today information is monetized so is the ability to create half decent multimedia, but if you flesh out the right story, you’ll be sipping strawberry daiquiris with Chris on the beach before you know it. By the way, if you love this as much as I love hearing my own voice, head over to iTunes and leave me a glowing review. My name is Eytan , you’ve been listening to Marketers in Capes, and I’m gonna go try to figure out what a strawberry daiquiri actually is.