“Chief Storytelling Officer”: The Weird New Executive Position That’s Revolutionizing Marketing

by John McIntyre

This is a guest post by Ty Brown. Ty tripled his business in two and a half years using stories and storytelling. Now he speaks, writes,  coaches, and consults with other businesses on how to do the same. Find him at Ty the Speaker.

The most savvy marketers tend to be ahead of trends.

As technology and society evolve with new devices and new platforms for communication you’ll often find marketers on the cutting edge, understanding that they must master these novelties to differentiate themselves.

The past few years have seen an old school approach built on top of new platforms that is finding new efficiencies and innovative ways to get marketing messages in front of consumers. The result is an entirely new C-Suite position. Joining the CEO, COO, CMO, and CIO is a brand new spot; give a warm welcome to the CSO, Chief Storytelling Officer.

“It’s all about what kind of connection you’re making with your audience. Stories are how humans process information best and it’s what we react to and what we respond to,”

— Catharine Bramkamp.

Bramkamp is one of the first ‘wranglers’ in this new ‘wild west’ to put on her boots and saddle up, taking the position of CSO for Winesecrets , a company that specializes in filtration systems for wine.

As a novelist with two degrees in literature and the owner of, Your Book Starts Here she was uniquely qualified to tell stories. Her role with the company has meant weaving stories into the fabric of every marketing strategy that the company undertakes. So far this has meant a multi platform strategy that includes:

Video Marketing

Thank Gary Vaynerchuck for making the marketing of wine a sexy endeavor.

Unfortunately for Winesecrets, wine filtration is not. It’s a dirty business removing impurities from wine. It’s equipment heavy, a business full of chrome and pipes and levers. Not an industry where you would expect storytelling would make much of a difference.

But the company uses video to show the exact processes they use. The videos are typically shot with a ‘behind the scenes’ feel to them and they tell the story of what the company does on a day to day basis.

“We have a unique customer base,” Bramkamp said. “We sell to winemakers and managers. Many of them are older baby boomers who have been in the business for years. But many up and comers are gen-exers and millennials. You have to speak to these audiences in such different ways.”

They have found video showing these processes as a way that can speak to both of these audiences without having to change the message or the medium.

Email Marketing

The company sends out frequent emails to it’s customer and prospect base. The emails further tell the story behind the processes that make the company different and unique.

Using stories through email allows the company to use an automated way to continually educate and stay in front of their target market. The simple act of sending out that email, which most competitors won’t do, allows the company to continually define why other companies should be doing business with them.

“Storytelling is great for creating your position statement. These days we go to Whole Foods and we want to know where our food came from, who the farmer is, and what was used to grow that food. People want to know the story behind the product they’re buying.”

They have found this to be true, even though they aren’t in a business that would traditionally be considered exciting or cutting edge.

Whether it’s machinery and equipment, coaching, writing, services, or a product business, any business can use email to tell stories about their processes, about their people, about their clients, and use those to gain trust through email.

Social Media Marketing

At the core of all the storytelling the company does is their social media strategy.

It’s through Facebook and Linkedin that the company will often use storytelling through videos, infographics, show their activity at trade shows, share information about their new partnership with UC Davis, and other means to constantly press the idea that ‘we are unique, we are different’.

For example, a recent infographic posted by the company garnered 800 views in a short period of time and led to multiple leads by simply visually telling the story of one of their processes.

Bramkamp has been able to see strong ties to dropping a story through a newsletter, through Linkedin, and their Facebook page with immediate traffic increase, lead increase, and sales increase.

So what has been the overall result of using the ancient art of storytelling on modern day platforms?

“When the owner of the company found me he had a small team of salespeople working for him. They weren’t working out and he wanted to fire them. But he needed something to bring in sales. Through our efforts we’ve been able to replace the sales team,” Bramkamp said.

By figuring out the message that their audience wanted to hear and sharing it through visual and written stories the company has been able to do away with a traditional sales force and continue growing.

This storytelling trend is one that’s not going away for either small or big business.

“I’m seeing more and more professionals with my title of CSO. With people being able to get information more and more readily this is going to be more and more important to define how you’re different to the marketplace,” Bramkamp said.

“Look to big business. They’re now hiring English majors because they understand that storytellers look at the data and they think about it differently. And they can communicate that differently in a way that resonates with the consumer. Not too long ago the trend was with MBAs who could look at and interpret a lot of data. While that’s still important, understanding that data isn’t as meaningful if you can’t tell the story around it.”

While not all businesses are profitable or large enough to hire their own CSO the good news is that any business can implement many of the concepts and tasks of a CSO, even as a solopreneur or head of a small team.

How to implement these storytelling ideas in your business:

  • Create a publishing calendar and stick to it. Many entrepreneurs are in a constant mode of putting out fire after fire and doing the work that is in front of them now. That means that publishing stories through video or newsletters takes a back seat. By committing to a publishing calendar, however, many will be able to prioritize checking that task off a checklist..
  • Break down the duties of a CSO and outsource some of it. Not everyone can hire someone who can write the stories, choreograph videos, stick to a publishing calendar, maintain several social media platforms, perform interviews and research, and more. But thanks for businesses like UpworkFiverr, and other freelancing sites. Using those websites, it’s possible to find quality help at low prices for some of these tasks.
  • Maintain an ‘ideas journal’. Whether it’s coming up with an idea for a fun story to tell in a newsletter, scripting for a promotional video, or thinking of outreach to another company, it can be hard to sit down and have ideas on demand. Creativity often doesn’t work that way. But by keeping an ideas journal, whether it’s done on a web app like Evernote or even in a notebook you keep in your pocket, you can capture ideas that then can be transferred to your publishing calendar.

Stories have the ability to capture people’s attention the way that nothing else can.

Their ability to make you knowable, likeable, and trustworthy in your customer and prospect’s eyes is unique. The skillset of storytelling is one that can help a business grow with low to no cost. And thanks to the current platforms that are low to no cost like email, web publishing, and social media platforms any entrepreneur or business owner is capable of using storytelling to grow their business.

This is a guest post by Ty Brown. Ty tripled his business in two and a half years using stories and storytelling. Now he speaks, writes,  coaches, and consults with other businesses on how to do the same. Find him at Ty the Speaker.

Leave a Comment