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#31: The Chief Storytelling Officer

Product marketing's new path to the c-suite

Imagine holding the reins of your company's narrative 📚

This is the power that comes with being a Chief Storytelling Officer (CSO). And no, this isn’t a fictitious job title I’ve invented. It’s a real role, and it was originally popularized by Microsoft’s CSO Steve Clayton. More importantly, it's another potential career option for product marketers looking to ditch the traditional path to CMO.

A Chief Storyteller:

  • Designs strategic narratives

  • Builds a differentiated POV

  • Brings stories to market

In today’s edition, we’re going to dig into the core responsibilities of the role and identify 3 areas you can focus on today to shape your career in this direction.

Storytelling Superheroes

CSO’s are responsible for shaping the narrative of a company, crafting compelling tales that resonate with customers, employees and the market.

Why is this role important? Well, stories have the power to evoke emotions, build trust and create lasting memories.

According to Forbes, companies with a strong brand story outperform their competitors by 20%. And a study by AdWeek shows branded content that tells a story is 22 times more engaging than a simple ad. The proof is in the math - stories are good for business.

A CSO ensures that every touchpoint of a company's journey is filled with a cohesive, impactful story that leaves a lasting impression. This means everything from employee onboarding to the website to the product itself.

Like most roles, this will take a slightly different form at each company. But generally the work can be bucketed into three core areas:

Craft Narratives

  • Own the top level category narrative

  • Develop a compelling and differentiated point of view (POV)

  • Create and own the brand messaging house

  • Collaborate with PMM to build product positioning and messaging

Find Stories

  • Identify customers with impactful stories of transformation

  • Uncover employee stories that move the brand narrative forward

  • Discover opportunities to showcase shareholder and investor stories

Engage Audiences

  • Bring stories to life via creative assets and campaigns

  • Own the long-term narrative roadmap

  • Champion the narrative inside the company to build advocates

Do any of these responsibilities sound familiar 🤔 There’s a ton of overlap with product marketing, if you ask me.

Sponsored by Journey

Product marketers build compelling stories that sell. But, often, we spend more time designing slides than shaping narratives. Journey helps product marketers tell personalized stories at scale. Think Notion meets Google Slides meets ChatGPT 🪄

Their AI presentation tool builds sales decks and enablement materials in a fraction of the time. Plus, you’ll see higher conversion and engagement rates too. The best part? They have a free forever plan.

I’ve partnered with Journey to bring your stories to life - and the winner will receive $500 cash. Sign up, create a Journey, and then share on social media. The winner will be announced by August 16th.

Learn how to get started with Journey for free (and enter to win that $500 💸).

Your Action Plan

If this career path piques your interest, here are three areas you can focus on to refine your skillset.

  1. Master the art of storytelling

Sharpen your storytelling craft. Read books, attend workshops and study the art of narrative. Experiment with different storytelling techniques and mediums to find your unique voice. Ask to participate in projects at work that focus on category creation and company-level messaging.

  1. Champion customer-centricity

Get to know your customers deeply, conduct customer research, and engage in conversations. Use these insights to craft narratives that genuinely resonate and solve their problems. Remember, the hero of your story is your customer, not your business! Start building a portfolio of customer stories that go beyond the traditional case study.

  1. Embrace data as your sidekick

Supercharge your storytelling abilities with the power of data. Dive into analytics, gather insights, and track the impact of your narratives. Data-driven storytelling ensures that your stories are not only captivating but also drive real business results. Use data to understand what stories resonate most with your audience and iterate accordingly.

Want to see the power of storytelling in action? Read the Nike memoir Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, which shows how the popular shoe brand use narrative to stand out in a crowded market. What are some of your other favorite books on storytelling?