I’ve been consuming stories since I was 3. My parents ran out of “age appropriate books” to give me in 3rd grade. So, Mom handed me Watership Down and then The Chronicles of Narnia. A story junkie was born. So much for lights out at bedtime. I was published for the first time at age 14. I insisted on going to a university with a good English program so I could be a WRITER. (My dad cried.) I graduated from Vanderbilt at 21 ready to take on the world of written story telling. Hollywood and the tech industry had a different idea… 

I did my time in the trenches by getting experience producing every story-telling modality that existed over three different industries. I’ve been a journalist. I taught public speaking skills to Ted Turner while running a teleprompter and editing his speech while we were going live for his 1996 TBS state of the union. I’ve been a commercial director, video producer, and even an actress when talent fell short. I’ve written scripts, pitched script ideas, red-lined scripts, given writer notes on shows I’d never personally seen, and found TV writers jobs. (Who had time to watch TV when working a desk at CAA?) I even found new writers ready to emerge into the (then) burgeoning reality TV world.

I wrote web copy for the first “converged” Cable/web media outlet. I’ve been a web producer, written marketing content, served as a managing editor, interviewed celebrities, and stayed up late at night hand coding my columns before nifty online publishing tools like WordPress were even an inkling in Matt Mullenweg’s eye. I spotted original stories that could be turned into serial digital content. I learned web 1.0 and had a hand in shaping web 2.0.

I curated content, sold content plans, developed content strategy, and managed teams of 2-20+ content contributors for verticals ranging from technology to travel and everything in-between. I took courses on business, marketing, human psychology and learning. I wrote my own daily blog while crafting professional brand stories that got people excited about things like… data storage. I assuaged my insatiable curiosity by learning about every form of storytelling that existed.

I even took improv classes to learn more about impromptu story-craft.

In short, I learned to spot a good story faster than the Roadrunner can outrun Coyote.

It all brought me to this amazing crux in marketing and media history. We are seeing the apex of visual imagery and delivery. Virtual reality is quickly becoming a real marketing reality as our audience demands more and more transparency from brand storytelling. Sensory experience is about to take the stage as brands get back to the basics in a wholly new technology-enabled way. Allowing users to smell the virtual campfire around which we share our stories.

And brands unwilling to take the plunge into an increasingly ad-free, experiential and mobile world are quickly losing relevance in our fast-paced, consumer-led digital age. Original, value-add, addictive, and highly creative content is sought after by consumers and brands alike. Storytellers own the spotlight. And brands who tell an audience centered narrative own the stage.

I’m most curious to see what will replace the advertising and subscription models and who will rise above the tide. I suspect that the brands and studios who have created a reputation for producing high-quality, delightful, and audience-focused multi-media journeys will be the winners as we roll into the 2020’s.

We’re walking through a new wardrobe and this one is likely to be as fantastical as the one that transported me to Narnia when I was just 8 years old. I can’t wait to see where the story goes…

About the Author Kelli Lawless

In everything I do, I believe in growing human connection and extending a sense of belonging. I build meaningful connection by nurturing conversations that are authentic, valuable, and relevant. In some circles, what I do is called content or experiential marketing. I just call it a great way to bring people together.