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Talking Stick Marketing


Talking Stick Marketing

Why Every Company Needs to Embrace Storytelling to Succeed in Today’s Social Sharing World

During my time at Bentley, I took a variety of business courses. We all know that to be a successful business person in today’s world, you need a variety of skills and exposure to many different ways of thinking.

In one class, Professor Tim Anderson introduced the talking stick.

He explained to us that it was an ancient tradition. Whoever held the talking stick was the person talking. They could hold on to it as long as they wanted, say whatever they wanted  and everyone else had to allow them to speak and not interrupt.

Every so often we’d take a day off from a traditional class and pass the talking stick around the room. You never knew what you were going to hear.

Today, every company is competing for attention. There is a constant rush of new content being published in every medium imaginable and it is impossible to see, read and listen to everything.

Content marketing is something we are all trying to master. There are new tools every week, new sites to examine and waves of options to get you started.

Since I wrote the bestselling book on the topic, people ask me all the time how they can get started. Today I’m going to share that advice with you.

You need to start thinking of the talking stick with all of your marketing.

It doesn’t matter if you are a small accounting firm or a Fortune 500 company. The rules are the same for everyone.

Start with telling your own story. You know it better than anyone else. Start thinking beyond the advertising copy and find the nuggets of uniqueness that make you who you are.

GORUCK is a lifestyle brand that makes a variety of military-quality gear for everyday use. Its website has the standard product pages full of photos and specifications — but take some time to read their blog and look at their social media accounts and you’ll see they rarely talk about the products.

Instead, while they are holding the talking stick they are sharing photo essays on their CEO’s visits to American manufacturing facilities around the country. Stories about their mascot Java and how much he loves to play can’t help but make you smile. Profiles of their latest class to go through a GORUCK Challenge with heartfelt congratulatory messages are prominent.

So why are they not promoting their products? Shouting about the latest sales and special offers?

Remember how a key part of the power of the talking stick is passing it on to the next person?

People like me and the legion of GORUCK fans are the ones promoting the brand. When we have the talking stick, the promotion is authentic and true because it comes from our heart and is said with our voices. Every tweet, status update or blog post comes with a level of honesty that no brand can ever get away with.

The great thing about this approach, in addition to it working, is that there is a never-ending stream of new content possibilities. The brand shares what it loves and what makes them unique, so creating new content doesn’t ever become a chore. Add in all the content being created and shared by everyone else and it adds to the pile of information that they can share across all social channels.

Ford was an early adopter in realizing the importance of storytelling and created Ford Social. This dedicated site not only collects both the corporate-created content, but openly encourages every Ford owner to share their own stories and ideas.

Spend some time on the site and you’ll quickly realize that you forget if what you are looking at is something from the company or from a customer. The lines blur and what the consumer cares about is getting the information they are looking for.

Storytelling is an art, but it is also a skill that you must develop and get better at. The only way to do this is to start today and keep doing it over and over.

We now live in a social world. Technology allows each of us to carry a production studio in our pocket and tell our story from anywhere in the world.

Pick up the talking stick today and determine how best to pass it to your community to help you and your business.

C.C. Chapman is a Boston-based storyteller, explorer and humanitarian. Since graduating from Bentley in 1996, he has launched and sold a successful marketing agency, spoke to audiences around the world and written two best-selling books. His newest book, Amazing Things Will Happen is out now. Find out more at



I need to learn to pass the stick to others more often rather than hit them with it :) Great post.

*laugh* I often dream of a day when we won't have to hit so many people with it. Hopefully this article will help a few more brands start thinking a bit differently. That is my hope.

CC, I couldn't agree more. At the heart of every person, every brand, every company and every org is a story people make an emotional connection to a story. I love how you capture the value of storytelling. Keep pushing out great content!!!!

Thanks for chiming in. I'll be sure to keep writing and creating content that I think is compelling. That is always my goal.

Capturing the essence of a brand (or a human for that matter), is much more potent than any mix well construed words and fancy graphics. Great thoughts here, CC. Thank you for sharing!

How does it apply? Same way it applies to any company that is looking to get money from someone. Bentley needs to showcase to their alumni the work they are doing and why they should give back. Bentley needs to show high school seniors and their parents why they are the best business school to attend. Bentley needs to show employers how their graduates are the ones that they must hire if they want to have the best possible employees. Bentley needs to show the world what makes them a top tier business school. All of this is better done through creating content that is compelling and tells their story from the appropriate angle. Hope this helps you out Mr/Miss Anon.

Thanks, C.C. It makes sense to break it down by audience (high school seniors, biz, etc) - but I'm still struggling to understand why the world would care about Bentley - it's people that change others. If we're shaping great leaders then yes - that's the message. Otherwise our academic ideas are just concepts or recommendations that need people to implement/ foster them.

Great insight. I have been testifying to various government boards and commissons about our product lately. And frankly my message has come across as a rather dry and uninspiring data dump. What I should be doing is telling a story about what inspires me about renewable energy regardless if its a fun radio interview or stuffy senate hearing. Give me that talking stick!

I'm glad that you brought up that even a dry topic can be improved through creative story telling. It works for everyone!

This is a nice post in an interesting line of content.Thanks for sharing this article, great way of bring such topic to discussion.

Your site give me some important information, thanks a lot! Very impressive work from you, your blog is sensational. Keep up the good work, thanks.

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August 4, 2015

Bentley University is named one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education in the just-published 2016 edition of The Princeton Review Annual college guide, “The Best 380 Colleges,” (Random House/Princeton Review).