Want To Do More For Less? Tell Stories

“Storytelling has always been a way of explaining the world to other people.” – Jonathan Crossfield.

Not many people would claim they were a professional ‘storyteller’, but if your job involves keeping an audience interested, Jonathan Crossfield believes no other title does this justice.
This week ATC had the pleasure to chat with Jonathan, a man with many titles; content marketing consultant, content writer, journalist, blogger, columnist, communications manager, content strategist – or simply: ‘storyteller’.
As an aspiring script writer with fame and glory in his sights, Jonathan found a big break of a different kind on a copywriting floor, when he was asked to “throw some words together” at a time where SEO was just buzz, and Twitter was a verb used by bird enthusiasts.  Harnessing his story centric view of the world, his talents as a writer and an ability to structure content in a way that was more Hollywood than Silicon Vally, Jonathan established himself as a digital marketer with a difference and began a decade long journey of marketing self discovery.
By 2005, when the effectiveness of marketing  was being measured, guided and shaped by the click-through rates to a final sale, and every man and his dog were publishing case studies- with diminishing results-Jonathan highlighted that the difference between success and failure in marketing was not so SEO driven and clear cut, and had more to do with the ability for each piece of content to convey the right context, explain and capture attention and ultimately, tell the right story.
Today, Jonathan is a sought after and award winning storyteller, having assisted brands including American Express, Robert Half, Kaseya, Telstra and Macquarie Bank to develop strong and consistent narratives through all their content. We talked to Jonathan between mouthfuls of sandwiches, from a client site in Sydney, about the changing landscape of marketing, the challenges recruiters face, and how storytelling is the most cost effective and powerful weapon in your recruitment marketing arsenal.
* you’ll be pleased to know that he hasn’t given up on his dreams of being an award winning tv  writer.

Why Mediocre Won’t Cut It In 2015

When I first started in this industry, launching a blog or doing a lot of these content marketing activities was considered a novelty. In many cases it was considered an indulgence. These days virtually everyone has a blog, everyone is producing e-books and white papers, they have social media and have all these various channels. That means to stand out you’ve got to be exceptional.
When people are consuming more content every day now, than ever in the history of mankind, you have to be exceptional for the people you are trying to reach to choose your content over Game of Thrones, over the latest magazine, over candy crush or whatever it is that’s also trying to pester their brain to try and get their attention.
If your goal is to merely have a blog or merely have case studies and merely have videos on YouTube because you feel that it’s what you have to have now, all you’ve done is met the bar that everyone else is already at.

How Can Recruiters Learn From The Mistakes Of Marketing

319a148b-e969-40e6-94b5-d190bdad822bMarketing makes a lot of mistakes, it has a habit of running full belt into walls every time there’s a new shiny thing. One of the advantages the recruitment industry has is ironically that it’s normally a step or two behind the consumer industry, and therefore is in the enviable position of being able to learn from the mistake of marketing, and avoid the walls that marketing ran into.
The perfect example of this is where marketing was ten years ago with the birth of digital marketing and the excitement everyone had around data, and how content could be explained through analytics and numbers on a spread sheet. SEO became popular at this time because you could finally prove the ROI through an algorithm because you can’t necessarily prove how a magazine article works, or how a twitter channel can work because people don’t necessarily follow the link on twitter to buy something.

Data Is Only Part Of The Story

Of course what has been learnt since is that data is only one part of the story, and for someone to buy something the process is far more complicated than one interaction and one link. To get them to the point of sale is a long journey where they may have touched by a brand in many ways. They may be following the brand on social media for six months previously, they may have been reading print articles and blogs, and all of that may have influenced their decision when it did come to searching for the product and buying it.
Marketers fell into the trap of giving all the credit to that sale to that final click. Thankfully that is rare these days. Marketers have realised that there’s a far more complex web of relationships and experiences going on here.
For recruiters, it gives you the opportunity to hopefully leap past these mistakes and focus on telling great stories and creating the experiences that will attract the right people.

How Storytelling Can Empower Your Marketing – On Any Budget

One of the powerful things in the digital marketing world we’re in now, and of storytelling full stop, is that anyone can tell a story. You can be 20th Century Fox doing big budget blockbuster movies that millions of people will go and see, or you can be  a single person who just writes a story and it gets published and becomes the next best seller. Storytelling doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise, it doesn’t have to be a cast of thousands – one person could turn out to be the best storyteller on the planet.
With the internet, one of the interesting things is how a small company or even a single person can create a footprint online through the use of channels, through the use of good storytelling and good content,  that can from the outside make them look far bigger than other businesses that may be four or five times their size.
These things mean that it’s very easy for anyone to scale the size of their story and get their message out. We can all be publishers, we can all be broadcaster now. The iPhone in my pocket has enough power and features that I can broadcast in the same way a television studio would have done twenty years ago. This has leveled the playing field.

Anyone can get their message out, nobody has a monopoly on getting their voice out there anymore, so what you say and how you say it is the key.


The Story Arc Of Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy

The misconception about storytelling and storytelling theory is that the arcs and techniques we talk about only apply to each piece of content, that this article has a structure and resolution and that’s it. What people ignore is that the same techniques can be mapped at a much larger level, across your entire recruitment marketing strategy.
Consider that your audience, the job seekers you’re trying to reach when embarking on finding a new job, are passing through a three act structured story. From starting their journey realising they need to do something, and going out on a quest to find a new job, to overcoming various barriers and eventually achieving a goal at the other end. As recruiters, you want to ensure that that job seekers journey aligns with what you’re trying to offer, and that the end goal to be at your organisation.This means you can then structure your various pieces of content, your communication, your messaging and channels within your entire recruitment marketing strategy along the same structure as that of your job seeker.

Act One

At the beginning you’ve got to capture your job seeker audience, which means you have to have that hook that’s like that first swimmer who gets eaten at the beginning of ‘Jaws’ that makes you want to watch the rest of the film. It isn’t necessarily about selling you something, nor getting you to apply right there and then – that’s further down the journey- but that first step should be capturing your job seeker audience and finding out what will grab their attention.

Act Two

The second step, or act of your recruitment marketing strategy is defining the barriers and challenges you have to overcome to achieve this end goal. This may require a number of pieces of content. In this part of the story you can present how you can help your job seeker navigate the obstacles, challenges and uncertainties they have so that you can guide them into that final act thinking that this company or brand may actually be part of the solution of achieving their goal.

Act Three

The final act is closing the deal, the final climax is helping them achieve that goal, which hopefully includes applying for your job or buying your product.

By thinking in these terms you’re not just thinking about the hook and the meat and the conclusion of a single article, you’re thinking about your whole strategy so that each pieces of content is moving your audience from one stage to the next, until the end up in the final scene with you.

Improve Your Recruitment Marketing Today

What recruiters can do today to improve their marketing is to put the employee, the person they’re trying to attract, at the heart of their story. The brand is not the hero. The hero is the job seeker, they’re the only one that matters. We are all very subjective and we view the world through our own two eyes, your job as a recruiter is to convey to the person that what you have to offer is where they want to be. You want them to aspire to the lifestyle that you are offering at your organisation.
We see some brands already doing this effectively by having a character in their commercials, or in their blog posts or articles that the reader or viewer can identify with and say that person is like me. This makes it easy for the person to put themselves in that position and imagine what it would be like to use that product or in this case, to work for that business. It removes the ambiguity that comes with being presented with the raw information of a business, and allows the person to use their own imagination to get a truer picture of what the experience would be like

Tell Authentic Stories

One way that’s been proven to be effective is to tell the stories of people who are currently working for the business and showcase their experiences. The more authentic these are, the more people will believe them. Brands love putting pictures of stock photo people on their recruitment pages, but nobody believes that those people exist. But, if you can give a case study or tell the story of real people working for the organisation, it can be quite powerful in helping others to aspire to be like them.

Your First Step

Any journey must start with the first step. One of the biggest complaints and objections I hear when I talk to clients is that “this all sounds too much!” and “I can’t produce all this content” and that surely it can’t be achieved in a reasonable time frame. Often people don’t try because they believe they’ll never get approval for the strategy to begin with.
But, any business, any recruiter, can start small. On day one you can start with one video, one case study or one article and just schedule more over time. The importance here is setting expectations. This is not a campaign focus whereby you do it, and then come back in three months and say “this was a failure, lets go onto another campaign”. This is something that will slowly grow over months, years, and even decades – but it has to start.

Every television channel started with the first program, every book starts with the first page, you need to just start. Do the first piece of content, then do the next one, then do the next one. As long as you have your end goal in mind, as long as you have the framework in mind and you know the stories you want to tell and you refer everything back to that, then eventually it will grow and grow and grow until you get it.

Start Small

The key here is to just remember that you have to start small. I haven’t met a blogger on the planet who hasn’t whinged that for the first six months nobody read their blog, except maybe their mum. For all of them it took a groundswell of content over time to get the ball rolling and get them noticed.
Don’t be intimidated by the scale of what we’re talking about. The scale is there, but it will take time to build up to that. You have to take one step at a time because it’s a marathon, not a sprint. As long as you’ve done some research up front, and you know what stories you have to tell and you’ve documented the framework to your strategy listing how we’re going to produce this content- then it’s just a case of doing it, as often as your resources will allow.
You don’t have to put out a blog post every week if you don’t have the resources to do it. You might not be able to do anything but one youtube video every three months, or one ebook every six months. Cut your cloth accordingly, and make sure it fits the plan.

Which Stories Should I Tell?

You can find out which stories to tell through research, through talking to the people you’re trying to reach. One classic method is to use social media, follow them before you get them to follow you. Find out where your ideal people are congregating and the things they’re talking about.

As recruiters, find out which LinkedIn groups your ideal candidates join, join yourself and find out what they’re talking about. Find out what issues these groups and networks are talking about, and that matter to them.

The Wrong Stories

The last thing you should do is base your storytelling judgements and themes form assumptions when you’re on the wrong side of the desk. Remember that you’re not writing stories to please your boss, because this content isn’t for them. This isn’t about big noting how great your company and brand is, because it’s about your job seeker. The content you’re providing may seem completely irrelevant to your boss, so show them your research, show them the data and explain why it’s interesting to your job seeker audience.
The other way to gather this information is to talk to your own staff and ask them why they joined, what journey they went on? Also look at any feedback and surveys you may already have from HR, from customer service or sales. This feedback will help inform you whether there are questions you haven’t been answering very well in your content thus far. Ask your recruiters and hiring managers what questions pop up in interviews, what are the reasons people turn down a job. These are clues to inform the story you should tell.

How Do I Get My Boss On Board?

One big challenge people come across in every initiative is how to get the boss on board. They’ve got their own priorities and beliefs of how the organisation should be running, and sometimes it can seem out of the box and left field to say we’re going to try a new strategy, we’re going to use content or even we want to go to a conference. For you boss, these are just trivial things when there are targets to meet or vacancies to be filled.

Understanding that your boss has goals and pressures they need to meet now, not in three years time.

Speak The Same Language

Research from Fournaise showed that 80% of CEO’s distrust any information that comes out of their marketing team, but 90% trust information that comes from their CFO. They key here is that the CFO is talking the same language, he’s got the spread sheets with the numbers at the bottom, he talks about the business case and bottom line impact. When talking about their marketing efforts, recruiters and marketers tend to want to discuss ‘fluffy’ things like brand awareness, and so they key here is to speak the same language. Define why this strategy could be cost effective. Talk about how this could help attract a better quality of talent, and paint the picture of the business benefit of doing these things. Show how your new initiatives will do all these things better than your current strategies.

Keep It Simple

Remember to not overwhelm your manager or boss with too much information at once. Try seeking approval for a small project, a single campaign or just a single piece of content. The moment you hit them with a 120 page strategy that you’ve worked on for three weeks is the moment they say no. They’re simple not going to read it.

Relate Your Problems Back To Your Boss’ Story

Always relate your initiatives back to the problems that they care about right now. If their challenge is that they need to improve costs in one area, then focus your first step on solving this. Make this your number one goal and they’ll be more likely to listen to you. If you don’t they’ll see you as a distraction to the problems of today

To Learn More


Join Jonathan at our 9th ATC, where he will  explore this theme in his general session “Let Me Tell You a Story: Finding the Narrative in Your Content Marketing”. 
This year’s ATC theme “Recruitment is Marketing” is all about effective and creative candidate attraction.  Jonathan joins a great line-up of featured speakers, including:
Mike Bailen, Director of Recruiting at Eventbrite, and former Head of Talent at Zappos
Todd Davis, Head of Talent Acquisition, World Wide and Customer, Amazon
Todd Wheatland, Head of Strategy, King Content

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