It seems as if we are seeing a more emotional approach to communicating, selling, and promoting services and products today. I’m guessing we’ve seen enough sex, shock and violence in our marketing that we are now craving love, happiness and real-life stories.

Coca-Cola has been doing this from way back; community, sharing and happiness is a part of their brand message. Their Super Bowl commercial, “America the Beautiful” wasn’t a big surprise. I mean, come on, we have all come to associate Coke as the means to world peace. At least that is what they want us to believe.

Many of the other 2014 Super Bowl ads reflected this change in communication strategy, shifting away from raunchy, sexy and manly ads to instead incorporate more family-oriented advertising than I can ever remember. Budweiser, the “king of beers,” used a puppy and a horse, and they got us. (I confess I teared up.)

Plug into Digital Storytelling

But it wasn’t the commercials that made me realize that the power in today’s marketing is without a doubt in digital storytelling. No, I don’t mean little white internet lies. Real heartfelt, honest stories. For big events such as the Super Bowl, these are the backstories, character profiles and branding pieces for the teams and the NFL itself — each strategically choreographed and strung together, including the commercials, to lead us to the main event.

News programs like “60 Minutes,” “20/20,” “Barbara Walters” and, my favorite, “CBS Sunday Morning” have been telling stories and creating video profiles for years. I record “Sunday Morning,” and I often go back to certain vignettes and use them as reference or inspiration.

One of my recent favorites was on doodling, which I do. On one level, it helped me understand what’s behind the action of doodling, but on another level, it gave me insight about a human activity that I could have easily perceived as boredom. Now that I have this information, I expect it to help me in future business development meetings and presentations.

The point is video vignettes and stories — whether they are a Coca-Cola commercial, a Super Bowl ad or a segment on the news — educate, entertain and provoke thought and emotion.  I believe they should be — and will be — an important part of legal marketing and media relations communication strategies.

It’s Time to Get REAL

We laugh. We cry. We idolize. We emulate. We relate. We share. We connect. That is the way businesses are finding success today: exposing themselves and sharing the “human side” of their genius.

This goes against everything a CEO, law firm leader, lawyer and law firm marketer believe to be best practice for promoting their services and generating new business. Law firm videos still talk at me, not to me. I am not learning about the firms or the attorneys in a way that connects with me. It just isn’t real.

Recently we worked with a law firm on a video series. One of the videos we developed told a story that was bigger than the law firm and bigger than the attorneys. It made you feel good and educated you with a terrific example of humanity at work. But also, through this story, you learned in a relatable way about the firm’s culture of caring and sharing without a “look-at-me” presentation. The law firm’s video tells us and shows us a real place, a real story and real people.

The legal industry is connected to everything, so I know that there are hundreds of stories to be told like this one and thousands of audience members who will relate to it … and share it. I realize this goes against the grain in the legal realm, but I would like to help change that.

The 800-Pound Human-Interest Storyteller

When it comes to digital storytelling, the Olympics is the 800-pound gorilla. No other event finds as many human-interest hooks as the international spectacle.

As you watch this year’s events, imagine your law firm as the Olympic brand; the countries as the practice groups; and the attorneys as the athletes. Notice the many layers of storytelling weaved into this global event. Notice they all have a purpose and invite us to connect, learn, emote, and develop compassion and loyalty toward the athletes, the events, the countries, and the Olympic brand itself. These are all stories about hard work, dedication and determination.

No matter whether we are a successful lawyer, CEO, entertainer or politician, as human beings we all have backstories, we all like a compelling story, and we love to share stories. Olympic stories create idols and heroes by sharing their lives, their wins, and their losses worldwide. It works because we see the human side. We can relate to that feeling of triumph or defeat and, therefore, feel a connection and a trust with a particular athlete — which hopefully leads to being on the Wheaties box, but I will save that for another post.

When you watch the Olympics and the backstories, make note of the ones that interest you or move you. Take notice of how they are produced. A lot goes into telling a human-interest story, like scripting, creative direction and editing. Don’t just think sitting in front of the camera and telling your story will cut it. Notice how the individual story, the event, the country and the Olympic brand are strategically organized to engage the viewer.

The takeaway here is to share something real and create a better opportunity to connect. Go team USA! (except substitute “USA” with your firm’s name). Doesn’t that feel good? Tell a winning story and build a fan base.

Have some thoughts on incorporating the human side to law firm marketing? Leave a comment below, or email me a