Time’s odometer has turned once more, and so, as we enter another new year, let’s take some time to reflect on 2012 and forecast trends for 2013.

The legal vendor community saw a lot happen in 2012, from the mainstreaming of computer-assisted review to the controversies surrounding Autonomy and Hewlett-Packard. Electronic discovery is more important than ever, now that the concept of “Big Data” has crept into every technology and business reporter’s vernacular. Meanwhile, organizations continued to wrestle with social media, both in terms of its discoverability and in how to harness its powers and transform it into a viable business development tool.

So what’s on the agenda for 2013? It’s too early to make any concrete predictions, although the hot topics of 2012 are sure to bleed over into the new year. But one topic that you are likely to increasingly hear about in 2013 concerns a marketing concept that is as old as human communication itself: storytelling.

Storytelling is becoming more and more accepted in marketing circles as the best way to ensure that ideas and emotional sentiment truly stick with an audience. And there’s ample science to back up this assertion.

Since the beginning of civilization, humans have conveyed their thoughts, desires and experiences through stories. Sometimes these stories took a strictly verbal form; other times, they relied more on visual elements, as with cave paintings. But regardless of the medium, the purpose was the same—to foster a bond between the teller and the listener.

Clever marketers understand that, to succeed in the face of increasing competition, they need to become better storytellers. This requires several things:

  • The ability to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of media, including text, video, static images and interactive collateral.
  • The ability to think strategically, analytically and creatively.
  • The ability to understand your brand, your audience and the industry you market to.
  • A thorough understanding of narrative structure.

It is this last point that many marketers, particularly those in the B2B world, fail to understand. Yes, marketing is a means to an end, that end being selling a product or service. But, if you approach your strategy strictly with the end in mind, your means are going to appear disingenuous. To successfully incorporate storytelling into your marketing strategy, you need to concentrate on crafting a compelling story that is capable of standing on its own, regardless of the desired outcome.

In 2013, we are sure to hear an abundance of best practices on brand journalism, narrative marketing, story marketing or whatever other term will be used to describe this tactic. But I can tell you right now that only by concentrating on the craft of constructing a compelling narrative will you actually reap the great rewards that story-driven content marketing has to offer.

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on this growing area.