The Story on Storytelling – 3 Bloggers Who Do It Right


Like most of you reading this, I spend time every day reading advertising, branding and social media blogs. It's how we keep up, how we learn what's working, and sometimes what's not working. We as an industry spend a lot of time on our blogs in conversation about what people are saying, but rarely about how they're saying it. 

And for as often as I read people making the connection between good storytelling and good branding, I'm surprised that they do so only with their content and rarely with their form. Yes, these are blog posts and meant to be a somewhat free-form reaction to things in our industry. And God knows I heavily utilize that structural freedom. But on the other hand, when bloggers apply the very tools they tout for their clients to their own writing, the effect is powerful. 

Three industry bloggers stand out to me as great examples of this. They tell good stories about how to tell good stories. They show personality while talking about why it's important to show personality. 

Guided by the principal that what comes out of a writer is often inspired by what goes in, I asked each stand-out blogger to tell us what sort of storytelling most inspires them.


Shannon Paul

"I absolutely love reading Roger Ebert's movie reviews, and his blog. There are several dog-eared copies of his books lying around our house. My husband really got me into reading his reviews, and even though I don't always agree with his assessment, I always appreciate his point of view. The man can definitely turn a phrase, he has a wicked sense of humor and he shares so much of his experience in his reviews, I can't help but feel like I know him. Lucky for me he now has a very prolific blog and active Twitter account."

I find it fitting that one of Shannon's favorite inspirations offers his thoughts on an industry, yet his writing feels like its own kind of story in which he incorporates bits of himself in his shrewd analysis, because those are the very same reasons I enjoy reading her writing. Shannon's unique ability to give thorough and useful accounts of topics like ROI while breathing life into them with her own brand of wit is apparent even in the title of her site, the one and only Very Official Blog

Shannon Paul is the Social Media Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. You can find her writing at her site and, my personal favorite, engage with her deft and thought-provoking debates on Twitter


Chris Reed

"There’s part of me that’s jealous of musicians. They have the luxury of people hearing their lyrics the way they were meant to be heard. Writers, no matter what kind, face the challenge of interpretation…of slow readers…of fast readers…of monotoned readers. Writers can’t italicize or bold every other word. Musicians and songwriters can. There’s a lesson in that.

It’s usually the simple things that kick my ass with their brilliance. It’s usually the simple things that make me wish I’d thought of them. The Avett Brothers, a new addition to my iTunes library, did that to me by sticking the word 'and' between those three little words: 'I And Love And You.' Seriously. Simple brilliance." 

Though he listed several fiction titles that have influenced his love of storytelling (both his heavily dog-eared copy of Hornby's High Fidelity and Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird reflect his inclination toward straightforward prose), it was his thoughts on lyrics that I see most prominently reflected in his dynamic professional writing.

I generally agree with Chris on most things, but as a self-confessed tone-deaf reader, even I can hear the cadence in just this short excerpt. I regret to inform him that the regular beats separated by repeated ellipsis, melodic repetition of "It's usually the simple things" followed up by short, quick, heavily-punctuated bursts of words create the rhythm he envies in musicians. 

Chris Reed is a Brand Catalyst and Writer for Talent Revolution. You can read (and tap your foot to) his humble musings on branding and copy at his TR Blog, his personal site, and in smaller, poignant increments on Twitter.


Seth Simonds

 "Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck was the only book I brought with me when I got rid of all my belongings that wouldn't fit into a backpack and gym bag. His simple, matter-of-fact telling of a story that relies more on interesting characters than complicated prose stands as a constant permission for me to just write." 

I love that Seth, in a mere two sentences, tells us something about himself, offers an apt analysis of a favorite author's writing style, and a mission statement regarding his time in this space—to just write. In short [very short], his form stays true to his message. His deft strokes and straightforward approach are what keep me coming back to his writing, seeking plain talk about often tough issues, and keep me leaving feeling as though someone's respected me enough to be honest. 

Seth Simonds is a Social Strategist at Mullen and Founding Editor of Find him on Twitter or occasionally, and eloquently, at

I absolutely love great synergy, where the keystrokes follow the advice they give. If you know of any others who fit this category, please share. I can't get enough.

Jenavatar-1 Jen Wright, Social Strategist who is currently making her way through the works of Thomas Hardy, as she is fascinated by writers who manage to find the pulse of social conventions with their pens.

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Shannon Paul says:

    Thanks for all the kind words, Jen! This post is a very refreshing change from all the how-tos and nascent criticism floating around out there about the tactic du jour.

  • Jen Wright says:

    Absolutely. It was nice to break away from the usual and celebrate the things (and people) that inspire me.
    Thanks for all the great posts,

  • Park Howell says:

    Hi Jen. I’m not even quite sure how I tripped across your post; but what a delightful chance encounter. I, too, am honing my storytelling skills on my “Sustainable Storytelling,” blog. I am excited about attending Donald Miller’s, “Live a Better Story” seminar in Portland this week. If you haven’t heard of Donald Miller, he’s worth a look: Judging by your post, I think you’ll find him fascinating. And no, I’m not his P.R. guy. Just a fan.

  • Jen Wright says:

    First, love your name. You’re halfway to living a great story just with that.
    And I’m glad you stumbled upon the post and enjoyed. I have heard of Miller and am sure the seminar will be wonderful.
    Pop back in and tell us how it went. After all, we love good stories.
    Jen Wright

  • C_reed says:

    Absolutely honored to be included in this post. And, I’ve never been so happy to find someone disagreeing with me.

  • Jen Wright says:

    Anytime, Reed. Anytime.

  • As the article at Inside CRM (linked in this post) declares, display and text advertising are prominent and easy sources of revenue. You can work with an ad network or sell directly to brands that may be interested in your blog.

  • i think it’s right.

  • Vanda says:

    Chris Harden – Hey Guys,That was a real treat. Nice production work nice anticg and writing from the creative team. My favorite has to be the granddad asking everyone to wish him luck before he takes the big plunge fabulous opener to a cute story. Thanks for sharing Chris

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