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  • Sara Tiefenbrun

Why TV writers make great marketers

In the current job market there are many former screenwriters and journalists making their way into marketing as copywriters, content writers and communications strategists.


As one of them, I sometimes struggle to succinctly explain my background; screenwriter, director, producer, researcher, documentary-maker, arts journalist, copywriter, content producer, facilitator. Then there’s that hokey word that encompasses it all – storyteller.


I’m a natural born communicator, but these days I’m competing against digital natives in the marketing and content creation space.


While the rate of technological change can feel uncomfortably fast, it’s reassuring that the key aspects of memorable communication remain the same.


Yes, there are countless amazing marketing tools available today. But Google AdWords won’t get you far if you can’t effectively tell the story of your brand.


Your brand story is the foundation you need to establish first. And the story of your brand should be seen from the perspective of your target customer.


  • Some questions that you should be able to answer:

  • Who is your target customer or the hero in your story?

  • What is it that they want?

  • Who or what do they have to overcome to get what they want?

  • How does your product or service help them? How can you position as their guide?

  • What is their likely fate if they don't accept your help?

  • And, what will happen if they do get what they want, with you acting as their guide?

  • What does your product or service give them on a deeper level; do they need it to survive? Does it help them provide for their family? Improve their status? Give meaning to their life? Or connect them with their tribe?


If you can clearly articulate this simple story, other marketing decisions will fall into place.


If your brand message is unclear, the chances are you’re not putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.


A larger company is likely to have customer personas built through customer research. These can be a huge asset. For many small business that’s too costly. A cost-effective alternative is to mine all your existing customer feedback to gather details about your customer’s needs and pain points and to build your persona or target customer profile with that.


Screenwriters are used to stepping into a narrative and seeing how the story looks from the perspective of a protagonist (your target customer). This lets them see the help your customer needs, the challenges they face and what they stand to gain emotionally in the course of the story.


In television we ask in each scene, “What’s at stake?” You need to identify what’s at stake for your target customer. When this rings true, people buy into a story. When this seems false – like the manufactured drama in some reality shows – people tune out.


You can achieve a powerful brand story using a variety of approaches.

  • The screenwriter’s approach is derived from Hollywood storytelling and has been distilled by Robert McKee in ‘Story’ and adapted for marketing purposes by Donald Miller in the brilliant book ‘Storybrand’.

  • In PR, a brand story or brand positioning is achieved through articulating key messages, which are backed up by proof points.

  • In marketing, a brand’s unique value proposition is linked to a brand archetype, brand personality and tone of voice.


You can distinguish yourself from your competitors with the ability to distil your brand into a simple distinctive message, which is relevant and repeatable. Every employee should be able to clearly explain what you do in an elevator or at a BBQ.


And if you would like any help with clarifying you're story, I'm here to help.


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© 2020 Sara Tiefenbrun.