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The Hidden Storytelling Approach

8 min read

Despite what social media would have you believe, “reach” is overrated. Results come from resonance. And the ability to resonate is a learned skill.

Whether you want to align your team or hire top talent, earn trust with a prospect or keep an existing client happy (and ready to refer you to others), your job as a leader is to connect in ways that accelerate trust, affinity, and action.

In this fast-paced, inspiring webinar, author and show host Jay Acunzo will take us inside the process of how the world’s best storytellers tweak their delivery in specific ways to resonate deeper and inspire action — no matter the audience. Can you connect so deeply everywhere you communicate, you spark action? Because without action, we don’t see results.

Remember: the goal isn’t awareness. It’s affinity. Being known is nice, but being picked is necessary.

The Presentation

Jay starts off with a short presentation on the importance of storytelling in communication, particularly in the age of AI and social media. He cites a quote by author Kazuo Ishiguro, who wrote that stories are about one person saying to another, “this is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?” Jay believes this quote encapsulates two important elements of effective storytelling: clarity and connection.

Jay explains that effective storytellers speak with abundant clarity, making complex ideas easy to understand and leaving the audience wanting to hear more. They also create connection with the audience, allowing them to feel aligned with the storyteller and invested in the story.

He points out that there’s a difference between good storytellers and effective storytellers, saying that while good storytellers can create a clear narrative with tension, effective storytellers also create a connection with the audience.

Jay concludes by saying that in the end, the goal of storytelling is to create meaning and connection. This should be our focus as communicator and marketers, in order to align and amplify our message. He also emphasizes that, to achieve the desired results, one must become and effective storyteller and not just a good one.


Jeff joins in and the discussion turns to the importance of resonance in storytelling and marketing. Jay argues that resonating with the audience’s emotions and lived experiences is more effective than simply aligning with their demographic or job title.

Jay uses the example of a company called 360 Learning, which creates a feeling of being seen in their audience by telling the stories of people onboarding to new jobs. He also touches on the idea that empathy and connection can be more effective in marketing than a focus on clarity and the value of the content.

Making A Connection With Your Audience

This leads Jeff and Jay to a conversation about the importance of connection and creating a relationship in marketing, rather than just focusing on providing information. Jay argues that traditional marketing methods, such as replacing ads with content, are not effective in creating a lasting impact.

Instead, the focus should be on creating content that changes or sticks with people. Both Jeff and Jay suggest that marketers should be answering higher-order questions, such as “why” or “so what,” rather than just providing basic information. Jay emphasizes the importance of reaching and resonating with the most influential numerator, rather than just trying to reach the lowest common denominator. They suggest that marketers should be thinking about influence, rather than just trying to reach a large number of followers or subscribers.

The Power of Content

Qunatity seems to be a powerful metric in content marketing, whether it’s the number of subscribers, follower, or content published. However, Jay believes it’s more about the power of content, rather than just the volume of it. He argues that by focusing on creating a smaller amount of content that has a greater impact, marketers can be more efficient in their efforts.

Jay also mentions the importance of thinking like a storyteller and using personal anecdotes and unique perspectives to make content stand out. Jeff and Jay comment on how brands are increasingly acting like media companies, and that people’s unique perspectives and personalities are becoming a key part of a brand’s ecosystem. They also mention the importance of thinking differently about marketing funnels, and how “how-to” content can be used to inspire change, rather than just providing information.

Being Ignorable at Scale

“Being ignorable at scale” is a quote from Jay that really stands out in this conversation, especially given the interest in generative AI models like Chat GPT. Jay argues that a focus on optimization and efficiency in creating content can lead to a lack of personality and differentiation, resulting in content that is easily ignorable. Instead, he suggests marketers should focus on building relationships with their audience and creating an experience that inspires change and leads to greater loyalty and engagement.

Making Generated Content Resonate

Both Jeff and Jay express their concerns about the challenge of creating generative content that resonates with an audience. They believe that the missing piece is the connection between a fact-checking editor and a generated page, and that the solution is for creative people to trust themselves more than technology, conventional thinking, and checklists.

They argue that personal, emotional content is what will separate successful generative content from that created by tools — people are more likely to pay attention to content that aligns with their emotional lived experience. Referring to his podcast (Unthinkable) and membership program, Jay suggests that different categories of stories that can be used in content creation. He questions whether the use of generative AI in content creation spells the death of best practice and early-stage awareness unless it is paired with a story.

Table Stakes

According to Jay Acunzo, relevance in marketing is now considered “table stakes” for success. He argues that best practices are not always the best and that being relevant is no longer enough to drive results. He believes that marketers should focus on creating content that is not only relevant but also enjoyable, impactful, and personal to the audience. Both Jeff and Jay suggest that marketers should include their own lived experiences in their work to make it more relatable and emotionally gripping to the audience — it’s what will make writers irreplaceable.

Creating Differentiated Value

All of this naturally leads to a discussion on creating differentiated value. Jeff and Jay believe that differentiated value in storytelling doesn’t have to be a personal story, but can be other things. As an example, Jay talks about telling a story concerning a coffee company, Death Wish Coffee, and how different people will tell the story differently. He suggests it’s important to understand why and what makes a story more impactful for a particular audience — focus on the internal aspects of storytelling rather than relying on technology to do the work.

Jay’s Bag of Tricks

Jay suggests thinking like an author, not a marketer, and having a “bag of tricks” or a collection of stories that can be manipulated to speak to different audiences at different stages of their understanding of your ideas or buyer’s journey. He explains that it’s important to have a clear brand story that combines the three elements of status quo, tension, and resolution, and a personal story that is not about the individual but about the idea or mission they are trying to convey.

Featured Guest

Jay Acunzo

Author, Coach, & Host of Unthinkable, Unthinkable Media

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Jay Acunzo is one of the world’s most sought-after business storytellers.

He’s worked in marketing roles at Google, ESPN, HubSpot, and the venture capital firm NextView, and both billion-dollar brands and brand new startups have turned to him to develop original podcasts and documentaries to shape their markets.

He’s the author of the book Break the Wheel and host of the award-winning podcast Unthinkable whose stories have helped millions of people question best practices, ship more creative work, and grow bigger by resonating deeper.


What you should do now

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Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.