Why Google Should Google ‘Storytelling’ & Why Content Marketing is a Product

Curated by KOTAW Returns!

If you’re wondering why it’s been a little bit quiet here on the KOTAW blog, the answer is because it’s been very noisy (and chaotic!) in the KOTAW household. My KOTAW Girl Gang (daughters Bri and Kelsey, Brand Ambassador Pit Bull Ivy, Poodle Doodle LuLu, Kitten-Cat Doosis, and me!) has been invaded (in the most loving way possible) by (gasp!) a BOY!

Why storytelling is the key to business success | KOTAW Content MarketingHis name is Nooby and he’s been our houseguest for over a month. Soon there will be a blog in his honor on storytelling here on the KOTAW blog (did I mention Nooby’s a dog?!) but until then, I am honored to curate a KOTAWesome podcast from Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute.

But first I have to give credit to my wonderful social media friend Alisa Meredith of Scalable Social Media (one of the Superheroes of the KOTAWesome “Superheroes of Marketing” podcast) for suggesting I publish on the KOTAW site the comment I left on the Content Marketing Institute after I listened to Robert and Joe’s podcast, This Week in Content Marketing: Is Google+ Finally Dead? Well, Not Really.)

It made my day when Joe answered me to say that what I wrote was the “Best Comment Ever!”

And it made me giddy when Alisa wrote me privately about my comment on the CMI podcast to say “You put the whole thing into words so well (no surprise)” and then suggested I republish what I said on my website!

So stay tuned for lessons in storytelling inspired by the one BOY in the KOTAW Gang!

And for now, I give to you, my thoughts on Robert and Joe’s must-listen-to podcast!

Does Google Need Lessons in Storytelling?

Podcasting is the trendy new thing in digital marketing, but buying expensive recording equipment and microphones does not a podcast personality make!

It takes maybe ten minutes to read your blog but half an hour to an hour to listen to your podcast, so you really better make make it worth our time, and as always, CMI does just that!

Here are my favorite take-aways from a funny and brilliant podcast:

“Google is not telling their story.”

Says Robert, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute.

And I say, what a PERFECT way to put it!

There was this “breaking news” last month that Google Plus is dead, then articles that are vague at best as to what the new Google Plus plan (or lack thereof) is, and then it just seems like there was never any news to begin with and everything is business as usual on Google Plus because, as Robert Rose said, there was no actual story!

And having no story doesn’t really create the mystique that Google may or may not have intended. It just kind of leads to apathy and (another great quote of Robert’s) “letting the story write them,” which as he says, is “just bad marketing.”

We Want a Story and We Want it NOW

In the digital marketing age, the public wants to know what’s going on — and we want immediate answers.

Google may get away with not providing the answers right away because they’re Google, but any other corporation that doesn’t have immediate answers to customer questions (i.e.: Why is my dog food brand being pulled off the shelves? What is the danger?”) is simply not going to survive in an age where customers instantly tweet and post that their dog got sick from the food before a memo has even been circulated around the entire corporation, before the company even knows what the problem is.

The public wants answers as quickly as it takes to send a tweet — and we want the story. If a company is not providing us with quick answers and a story, we switch to a company that will.

Again, Google can get away with more of their “mystique” than other companies could, but a lot of big-name corporations are going under because they simply weren’t able to tell their story and adapt to the “instant” needs customers in the digital age now have.

And smaller companies who are telling their story and telling it well — AND being instantly responsive to customer needs on social platforms, are taking the business from the big-name companies who haven’t adapted.

Justin Bieber versus The Beatles: Who Has the Better Content?

Robert and Joe had me laughing out loud with their Justin Bieber and The Beatles comparison — more people are searching online for Bieber right now, but does that mean he has the greater musical talent, does that make him more relevant?!

I think the Bieber/Beatles comparison is the perfect metaphor for popularity versus good content that is evergreen.

If only everyone could realize like Robert and Joe that it’s the “best content, not the MOST content” that matters.

People churn out awful content every day in the name of content marketing, people share this awful content every day in the name of content curation, and most people never read the garbage before sharing because it’s too awful to get through. Yet the cycle continues.

Content Marketing is a Product

Says Joe — and I am in LOVE with his analogy.

So many people think they can just develop a great product or idea and suddenly they should be millionaires (these are the clients I no longer take on here at KOTAW Content Marketing, because they just don’t “get” the process!)

Everyone should quote — and put to action — Joe’s “treat content marketing like a product” analogy because it epitomizes what content marketing is.

Like Joe so eloquently said, you don’t just create a product and then expect people and money to come to you. You have to come up with who your audience is, come up with how to distribute it, and then how to market it.

I was smiling from ear-to-ear as I listened to Joe say that if you develop a product, you invest in it for the long-haul.

Yet people want instant results with content marketing.

And often instant does happen (in three days of taking on a new client my KOTAW Girl Gang got this client listed as the “top” company in a prestigious publication simply by having a conversation over Twitter… and this kind of thing happens all the time) but anything good in life requires you to be all-in for the long-haul, and the same is true for content marketing.

Stop Writing Like You’re an Expert!

I have one more rave: Joe saying what a turn off it is when anyone writes like they’re an “expert.”

His advice for a much better way to get your content shared is fantastic: “Write like someone passionate about searching for the truth.”

So tell me, friends, what is YOUR truth? How long do you think Google can get away with not telling their story? DO YOU have a story to share about a positive or negative experience you’ve had with a company because they did or didn’t tell their story? If so, please share your tale with me in the comments section below! You know how much I love a good story!

PS: Are you looking to add storytelling to your business or personal brand? Check out my Content Marketing Institute Online Training Course, Living the Fairy Tale: How to Think Like a Storyteller (it includes my sweet pittie Ivy — and a horse too!) Or send me a note to katherine@kotawcontentmarketing.com


  1. Katherine, I’m so glad you published this!! It was so well thought out and beautifully put that it really needed a wider reach! Kudos to Joe Pulizzi for appreciating you, too.

    It hadn’t occurred to me before that Nooby was the first male intruder into the Kotaw Team. Wow. No wonder everything has been so crazy! :) I’m sorry his neediness squelched our plans for La Jolla, but there’s always next year.

    I hope somebody at Google reads this and does something about it. No company is too big to need a story.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Awwww, thank you so much, Alisa! I’ve long wondered why Google was such a poor storyteller. When they rolled out Google Helpouts, for example, and honored me by choosing me among its select top-tier providers, I was so excited. I saw endless marketing possibilities, most of which had nothing to do with KOTAW. But I just envisioned these great stories and moneymaking possibilities and waited for Google to tell them. But they never did, and I can’t help think that this lapse played a key role in Helpouts’ early demise.

      And you’re absolutely right. No company is too big to need a story. And no company is too big to die (Kodak comes quickly to mind).

      Google has thrived by making itself indispensable. And it’s run and staffed by some of the world’s greatest minds. So I understand why they think they don’t need a story. But technology is always changing and algorithms don’t breed customer loyalty. Stories do.

      Google is probably more feared than loved. We react to updates as if they were earthquakes or stock market crashes. Google drops them on us and leaves us to deal with the impact. What if Google told their story — how the updates REALLY helped a website owner who was doing everything right — delivering quality content and making it easily searchable and mobile-friendly? If we knew that Google rewarded “good behavior,” wouldn’t we all like them a bit more, wouldn’t we be more motivated to earn Google’s approval rather than desperately try to outwit it?

      Someday, Google will need customer loyalty. Someday, they will need to tell a story as powerful as its search engine.

      Well, enough ranting, let’s get to the important stuff! Yes, Nooby is our resident boy-toy (for a few more days at least) and he definitely changes the hormonal mix of the team! He feels it’s his macho duty to steal Doosis’s food, out-bark Ivy and claim Lucy’s favorite spots as his own. And the very strong females disagree!

      Thank you again for your great idea and ongoing support!



  2. Thanks for this post, Katherine — you helped my think some things through that have been bugging me too.

    If anything, Google has created the perception of a company that is rather standoffish. There are many loyal, dedicated Google+ fans and it always seems Google doesn’t really give them the time of day and appreciate what they’ve got, or what they could have. Instead, now I sense a general malaise. Why should we care if Google doesn’t care? And yes, storytelling or even just openly communicating more could have changed that. Always wondering what is happening next and the endless speculation gets tedious, and something I’ve largely tuned out. It’s bad marketing and bad business — rather than getting excited for a company, it breeds apathy.

    Lame content produces a similar response, which is another great point you made in your article. Whether created or shared, the last thing we need is more noise. The businesses that crank that crap out just don’t realize it’s the last thing they need as well.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      One of the sad things is that Google+ had a legion of loyal, raving fans. Yes, some simply wanted to game the system when it seemed as if followers equated rankings, but many of us truly loved the platform and the fact that it inspired interesting, intellectual conversations. Google managed to turn off and turn away many who wanted to make Google+ an elite platform. Excitement turned to malaise, as you said, and even resentment. Those who cared about G+ really invested in it. But to what end?

      I’d love to be part of a no-crap-allowed Google+ — and wouldn’t Google have looked great if it told its story that way? — but it’s uncomfortable being in the limbo they’ve left us in.

      Thank you for dropping by and adding your always-interesting insights to the conversation.

  3. Brian J Wood says:

    My story is I am a fan of evergreen storytellers. The Google take I have to reply to your Google take is there are things you can do a Google search for and really come up with squat. The content I am interested in doesn’t get posted, reported on or retweeted. What makes a story indispensible? Type that question in the Google search box right now and see if you get any results that influence you. Wisdom is usually hard to find when you sit down at the computer, get a fancy new gadget or hold your smartphone in your hand.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      “Wisdom is usually hard to find when you sit down at the computer, get a fancy new gadget or hold your smartphone in your hand.” I love this, Brian!

      I like smart people and dumb phones. Intelligent people make me think. Computer-chipped gadgets fill my head with information (some of it pretty amazing) but I acquire most of my wisdom when walking my dogs. Which is why they’re very well-exercised pups!

      Thank you, Brian, for being one of those people who make me think.

      • Brian J Wood says:

        “I acquire” are the two key words in your reply Katherine. The bigger issue of content production from the Big Boys like Google or (blank big company) is are the ones in charge running the machine actually acquiring any knowledge about social media in 2015 and beyond from people who think about stuff that actually matters? In my head the answer is (blank). You fill in the blanks. Stuff that actually matters is another thing you can’t do a Google search for and get results that help you BTW.

  4. Eesh Noobs, you are surrounded by gorgeous gals – are you having the time of your life? ;) Can’t wait to read more about you, sweetheart <3

    As for you, Kat, only your comment can ever be republished as a blog post because only your words have the power to move hearts, inspire conversations and spearhead revolutions. I love you very much!

    As for Google and their mishandling of Google Plus, I completely agree. G Plus, while a fun platform, isn't as attractive to me anymore for many reasons – the most important one being that it reminds me of an elite club. Who you know is often more valuable than what you know! But I am just glad to have made some good friends who motivate me with their talent and tenacity every day. :-)

    #HUGSSSSSSSS Congratulations on being handpicked by Mr. Pulizzi as the BEST COMMENTER! <3

    LOVEEE you and the entire KOTAWesome gang

    • ‘my’ gorgeous gals = ‘by’ gorgeous gals.

      Like always, I forget how to string words in the presence of your brilliance ;)



    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Nooby returned to San Diego Thursday, and the blog about him is written and in Kelsey’s hands (she’s responsible for all of the beautiful visuals). So, you’ll hear more about our boy-toy soon!

      I’m happy, too, that G Plus helped me make some good friends. But I seldom make new pals there any more, and my daily notifications have gone from deluge to trickle. Also glad I didn’t listen to the ferocious G Plus fans who advised abandoning all other forms of social media; its super star status faded fast.

      Love to you and Oreo, your resident heart-melter.

  5. Adrienne says:

    Hey Katherine,

    I did read the original article but Robert and Joe’s podcast sounds like a good one. Granted, I never have time to listen to them myself but thanks for your recap.

    I wish Google couldn’t get away with their vagueness. I wish someone would give them a run for their money because you’re SO right. Companies can’t get away from that because we as their customers deserve the right to know what’s going on. Maybe because we aren’t paying for what Google is giving us they don’t feel we deserve it, who the heck knows what goes on in their brains.

    I do agree with you though that we all should be much more open with what we share. There are still people coming online today wanting instant results and just not understanding why things take time. There is literally a sea of content out there for anyone to read at any given time. Why the heck should we read theirs.

    Thank you for sharing your comment with us, great job my dear. Happy to read your thoughts on this subject and it is never ending isn’t it! The Google mystery that is.

    Can’t wait for the post about the new man you’ve been having living with you. I know it will be good.


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Ha ha, the “new man” blog posted today. And the hero of the story may very well be the love of my life!

      I rarely have time to listen to podcasts either but glad I made an exception for Joe and Robert’s. They’re both insightful and funny — a great combination.

      Google can, for now at least, get away with being mysterious. Unfortunately, a lot of companies and entrepreneurs are just as guilty of vagueness but lack the power of Google to command our attention no matter what. Instead, they get absolutely lost in that sea of content you mention and far too many drown, not because they didn’t have a good product or service but because they failed to tell the story behind it.

      Perhaps we all watched too many movies about CEOs and boards of directors making all of their decisions in closed-door, smoke-filled rooms, and we think it’s the mystique that made those leaders powerful. (It wasn’t). The digital world forces us to open the door and, if we’re worried about what people will see when they peek inside, it’s up to us to change the content of our rooms, not shut our audience out.

      Thank you so much for your always lively and well-considered thoughts, Adrienne. It’s always an honor to hear from you.

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