Skate Your Story to Success

I couldn’t think of a single thing to give KOTAW clients, friends and supporters this holiday season.

So I came up with a dozen instead.

The 12 Days of KOTAW is a collection of insights about some of my favorite topics — storytelling, branding, social media, and pit bulls — wrapped in anecdotes about my fondest yuletide memories.

I’m sharing one “stocking stuffer” today and the next 11 weekdays. Then I’m putting them together — with some bonus advice about how to rock your content marketing strategy in the new year.

The 12 Days of KOTAW is my gift to you. Wishing you a story-filled holiday season and a KOTAWesome New Year!

Katherine {CEO + Chief Storyteller, KOTAW Content Marketing}

Heartfelt, spirited brand storytelling sells better than the glitziest marketing campaign | KOTAW Content MarketingFor every Christmas my mom was alive to share with me, she told the story of getting her first pair of ice skates. By popular request — from my daughters — she often repeated the story several times each holiday season.

My mom was not a gifted storyteller. She took forever to make a point and often confused herself — and her audience — with extraneous detail. Endings to many of her stories went untold.

But, when Patricia Gilhuly talked about her sixth Christmas, the year she wanted ice skates — and nothing but ice skates — every detail mattered. So what if we knew the ending? We were as breathless as she was, reliving every moment as the gaily-wrapped parcels from Santa revealed nothing but practical socks and pajamas. And sad when the gifts from her 10 older siblings delivered greater disappointment — school supplies and heartbreak.

When not a single package remained under the tree and Patricia was instructed to fetch a broom and dustpan to help clean up the  torn paper and shredded ribbons, we trudged across the floor with her, our heads down, our mouth quivering just as hers did. And when she opened the closet and found it empty except for a pair of skates, we shared her unbridled glee.

This will be the fifth Christmas that my mom will not be around to tell her ice skate story. But the lilt in her voice and the joy in her face as she told the story will always remain with me.

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to be a storyteller and whether the gift is innate, like intellect or musical talent. I don’t really know the answer, but what I do know is this: you don’t have to be a skilled storyteller to captivate an audience with a story you care about. Passion sells better than the glitziest marketing campaign.

Become a champion of your brand, and your enthusiasm will drive sales.

There’s not a pair of ice skates behind every closet door. But there’s an audience for every good story.

Skate Your Story To Success: Katherine Kotaw's mom inspires marketing lessons in brand storytelling | KOTAW Content Marketing

Katherine Kotaw’s daughters with their grandma at Christmastime.

It’s better to give than to receive, but I do want something from you: your comments! Please share your thoughts below. Wishing you and your loved ones a fabulous holiday season!


  1. Elizabeth says:

    What a wonderful gift idea! This was a lovely story. I can just imagine your mother’s delight upon opening that closet and finding those skates. What a marvelous surprise! Looking forward to your other “stocking stuffers”.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth! I’m sure my mom is delighted that her story still has an audience! Hope you enjoy reading the next 11 as much as I enjoyed writing them.

  2. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this lovely story, Katherine. It brought tears to my eyes. And it’s so true that passion sells better than the glitziest marketing campaign! Because people do business with people, and people can tell whether you’re passionate or not ! Look forward to the next 11 stories.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you, Sarah! We can dress up our pitches in all sorts of appealing ways, but we can’t accessorize passion. We either feel it or we don’t and, as you say, clients can tell. My mom is smiling from the heavens today, knowing that she still gets to tell her favorite story.

  3. Not fair, Katherine – how do you hit bull’s eye every single time, darling?!!! #cushiesthugs

    I am just glad to have you in my life. And I am sure your mother is extremely proud of your achievements and, more importantly, of YOU.

    Your passion for words has brought us all closer to your wonderful mom. Thank you for just being YOU! LOVE YOU

    Sorry – my comment isn’t 1/4th as coherent as your writing, but I am still crying. #mykathyROCKS

    Love ya

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I’m sure you made my mom smile, Kit. What could be a nicer tribute to her than that!

      Your comments also give me a chance to share the nicest thing my mom ever said about me in public. I was being feted for a writing accomplishment and people were flocking around my mom saying, “You must be so proud of Katherine.” My mom demurred, replying, “Katherine’s accomplishments are her own — I had nothing to do with them. But I am proud of the person she’s become.”

      Damn, now I’m crying! While my words are still somewhat coherent, I will sign off with many thanks for YOUR words and for your presence in my life.

  4. Tina Willis says:

    Fantastic article from the first in your series Katherine! I love your sentiments on this post, especially because I have a lot of passion for my clients’ causes, just like you obviously have passion about your branding and marketing message. (And I love your inserted Tweets, which are always such perfect quotes–who could ever resist retweeting them?!) Thanks again for all of your awesome comments lately and sorry I am just seeing this now. Great job!!

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      It means so much to me that you read and commented on this blog, Tina! It warms my heart to know you now know about my mom and her ice skates story because her story is such a meaningful part of my existence so it is extra special being able to share it with someone who has become such a good friend :) Thank you so much for everything you say here (and all around social media) about my branding and marketing message. And about my inserted tweets — so happy you like them so much! Thank YOU for all your awesome comments and for your friendship and kindness.

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