Storytelling in Content Marketing: Lessons From the 2nd Most-Watched TEDx Talk Ever

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Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

lessons in storytelling

We talk a lot about the power of storytelling in content marketing.

Storytelling is the single most powerful tool to spread your brand’s reach – and some 92% of customers want you to tell your brand’s story.

But what does that even mean?

No, it doesn’t mean you need to open every intro with a quick anecdote, though that certainly is one option.

It doesn’t even mean your story needs to look like a story – in the traditional sense of the word.

In content marketing, storytelling involves the creation of an emotional connection between your readers and your content.

… but what does that mean?

To answer that question, we’re going to look at the second most-watched TEDx Talk ever given. It’s called My Stroke of Insight by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.

If you haven’t already seen it, go watch it. It’s right here. I’ll wait.

5 Lessons in Storytelling by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Personally, I’d consider Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TEDx Talk among one of the most powerful examples of storytelling in content marketing.

And there’s a lot we can learn from it.

Here are five lessons in storytelling that we can take from her twenty-minute speech. Apply these to your own content marketing, and you may just have the next piece of viral content out there.

1. It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

As a culture, we’re not great with emotions. For the most part, it’s like we’d prefer they not exist rather than deal with the confusion and mess they sometimes cause.

Yet emotions are one of the most powerful tools out there for growing our brand.

According to Nielsen, an emotional connection can increase sales by as much as 23%. And the more emotive power behind a brand, the more favorably people tend to view it.

How do we evoke emotion?

By being authentic in how we present ourselves, but also by being vulnerable. That means:

  • Being willing to expose our feelings and things close to us. Your readers know there is a person behind the brand. Take the time to let it shine through.
  • Taking the time to express our thoughts. Create space in your content strategy to really express yourself – even if you’re simply doing that from a professional angle.
  • Slowing down and practicing presence. Engage with your readers and customers. Or, just take the time to reveal a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what life at your brand is really like.
emotive power and brand favorability

The more emotions you evoke, the more they like you. Source: Nielsen

2. You’ve Got a Unique Perspective

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor has a Ph.D. in neuroanatomy. She could have launched into a highly technical, dry explanation of the mechanics of a stroke.

But she didn’t.

Instead, she explained neuroanatomy from the perspective of having a stroke – and not just having a stroke, but the way her two brain hemispheres interacted with the world.

In the process, we were treated to a humorous, trippy, poignant lesson on peace and being a decent person.

You can do that, too. You don’t even have to have a brain stroke to accomplish it.

Everyone has a unique perspective on the world born from their own walk in life. I refer to this perspective – this “it factor” – as the content differentiation factor. It’s a primary foundation for storytelling in content marketing.

Dr. Jill isn’t the only person to have ever had a stroke. But the way she told her story was singular.

You won’t be the only brand in your industry. But you do have a story that no one else has.

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3. There’s a Story Behind Everything

Speaking of stories… there’s a story behind everything. Anything can turn into a story if you look carefully enough.

Even those topics that you don’t think can be “storified”, like technical pieces and “how-to” articles.

Last April, when the pandemic had only begun to rage, I used storytelling to create a video on processing anxiety.

I could have just given you a bunch of tips. But this is content marketing, and storytelling reigns supreme.

So, instead, I fleshed it out with the story of my life and glimpses into what was going on behind the scenes in my world.

There’s a story behind everything – sometimes, it just takes a little vulnerability to reveal.

storytelling in content

I used my own story to add more depth to the tips I offered on beating anxiety and getting back to a high-performance standard.

4. How (and Where) You Tell It Matters

The story matters. How and where you tell it also matters.

Do you think Dr. Jill’s story would have gone viral if it had been told somewhere other than on a TEDx Talk? (Hint: probably not.)

What about the fact that it wound up on the third most trafficked site on the web? (Hint: probably.)

There are amazing stories out there posted every day that will get almost no attention because of where they’re posted and how they’re told.

This is why the distribution and promotion phases of your content marketing matter. It’s not enough to simply create content and put it out there. You need to actively put it out there in the path of interested audiences.

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5. Descriptive Clarity is Key

There’s one other feature of Dr. Jill’s TEDx Talk that’s worth mentioning because it’s part of what makes the entire experience.

It’s her crystalline, visceral, unrelenting clarity throughout the entire story.

You know exactly what’s happening at all moments, even as she walks you right through technical explanations of the way the brain works.

And while her story is powerful in its own right, the clarity of it delivers the payload.

Imagine if she’d mumbled along using purely academic language.

Fortunately for us, she didn’t. And the whole time it’s as if we’re standing right there next to her.

That’s what you must develop in your own content.

Pro-Tip: If you’re struggling to achieve that kind of clarity, it might be because you haven’t developed the skills for it. Consider taking a course like the Unlearn Essay Writing course to polish up those skills and serve up a sharper story.

storytelling and props

A picture is worth a thousand words, but so is a well-considered prop. Use them to develop descriptive clarity. Source: My Stroke of Insight

Embrace True, Raw, Authentic Storytelling in Content Marketing

In content marketing, storytelling will be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. It’s how you bring out your unique voice and perspective while creating an emotional connection with your viewers.

Did you walk away untouched by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TEDx Talk? I doubt it.

Would you have had it been a dry lecture on brain hemispheres? Probably.

Storytelling matters, just like your story matters. Don’t be afraid to share it. It’s what your customers want to see.

Ready to learn to tell your story as part of your powerful brand presence? Ready to get out of the grunt work of business-building and into the delight zone of proven strategies, systems, and skills?

The Content Transformation System is my 12-month mentorship program that gives you the keys to the kingdom. 🗝

Inside, we’ll coach you on sustainably and successfully growing and scaling your business, including the systems, strategies, and skills I used to build my own brand up from less than $30k revenue months all the way to $70k months and beyond.

Apply today to see if you’re a good fit.

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