Eight reasons TV is a great role model for organizational storytellers

"It's just like having a real baby. Only better." "Thanks, Modern Technology!"
"It's just like having a real baby. Only better." "Thanks, Modern Technology!"

Think of your organization as a television show. How are your ratings? If you’re like most people, you probably aren’t attracting the audiences you want in the numbers you need, especially online.

But thinking about your organization as a television show is a great way to improve those ratings. Here are eight ways that your organizational story is like a TV show:

1. You are creating and maintaining relationships with your audience. There is an inherent and ongoing relationship with TV shows, which is why I personally prefer them to movies. This relationship is built on an unwritten contract, which is both the good news and the bad news.

On the one hand, you have to deliver on a regular schedule. You aren’t expected to be perfect (thank heavens), but you do need to consistently produce content in line with your audience’s expectations and your contract with them. This consistency builds trust and an emotional tie to your audience. They become invested in your story and in finding out what happens next.

2. The story is character- and quest-based. Most TV shows lack the dramatic special effects, on-location shooting, and big-ticket stars of movies, but are able to deliver entertaining content by relying on characters, writing, and the natural human desire to know “what happens next.” Similarly, it’s unlikely that your organization has the budget of Coca-Cola's advertising department—but that doesn’t mean you can’t attract and keep an audience engaged in a relationship. In fact, social media greatly encourages a “passion over polish” approach to communication.

3. There’s strong competition for market share ... There are way more people out there trying to attract a following than there are people dying to become that audience. And with an ever-increasing number of individuals, nonprofits, and businesses of all sizes entering into the content marketing game, that competition is going to continue to grow exponentially.

4. ... And low entry/exit costs. A TV show is functionally “free” to anyone with cable or Internet access. Yes, you pay for Internet access, but you usually don’t pay more to watch a specific show. This makes consumers more willing to take a risk and try something new ... and also quicker to move onto the next thing if they aren’t interested. Same goes for online communications.

5. Not everyone will be entranced by your story. Focus your attention on finding those who are. You’re not going to find a lot of teen dramas advertised onRetirement Living. So think long and hard about who your audience is. If your answer is “the general public,” try again.

Your story won't appeal to everyone, nor should it. Every story has a naturally receptive audience; the key is to develop the most appealing form of your organization’s story and then connect with the people who are ready and willing to engage with you based upon it. The more specific you can be, the easier it is to guide your content development and outreach. TV shows have detailed information on the demographics, economic status, and geographical location of their audiences. So should you.

6. Some of your content will work; other stuff won’t. Everyone makes missteps. But the beauty of ever-flowing content is that a mistake is quickly forgotten. If the mistake is significant enough to warrant a correction or an apology, do it quickly and incorporate what you learn into future efforts. 

7. There’s a strong visual component. If you aren’t making use of pictures and videos in your content, start now. Seriously. You are missing out and making your job harder if you aren't using visuals and interactive components.

8. There’s no set end. As in TV, your “lifespan” as an organizational storyteller depends upon your ability to produce, deliver, and connect with your audience. Further, your ability to receive and incorporate feedback from your audience and evolve with them is critical, so don’t expect your story to remain the same. Evolve or die.

Want to learn more about how your favorite TV shows can teach you to become a better organizational storyteller? Check out our ebook here.