Storytelling at the 2014 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference

Storytelling was a major theme at this year’s Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference. The annual gathering attracted members of the state’s $17 billion tourism industry, for discussions, training and networking. Judging from the content of several presentations, the concept of storytelling could be playing a bigger role in how travel brands market themselves.

Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars, was a keynote speaker at the conference. Sachs’ book defines the Story Wars as the battle to be heard in today’s overcrowded media marketplace. He noted how many brand messages can be drowned out in today’s world of noise and clamor. But in contrast, certain brands break through the clutter, connecting by using one of the most powerful tools in history for moving minds and changing behavior – great stories.

In his presentation, Sachs pointed out that humans like to transmit their basic morals and values through storytelling. And he called for a new approach to marketing, where companies create new values-based stories about their brands based on the patterns of ancient myth. Sachs encouraged marketers to leave behind the old ways of selling through status, uncertainty and doubt, instead becoming responsible modern myth creators. His presentation also included an overview of several basic myth structures, and how they might be used effectively by marketers. It was a very thought-provoking blend of marketing, human behavior and mythology.

Jess Todtfeld gave another keynote presentation. Todtfeld comes from a media and public relations background, and presented many tips for pitching brands to the media. But his presentation also highlighted the benefits of storytelling. Todtfeld demonstrated the simple power of a personal story, contrasting its visual impact and memorability to the audience, compared to what he sees as a much more common, and much less effective, approach – the data dump. He has personally seen the storytelling approach provide better results in the world of public relations pitches, and suggested ways for the same approach to make marketers more effective.

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