The interview excerpt below is the third of a three-part series we conducted with Maggie Burke, a Video Leader and head of EMC TV. Below, Maggie shares her thoughts on what inspires her as a storyteller and how she goes about crafting a great story.
What makes a great storyteller?
I think to tell stories well in video, you have to be a visual thinker. You have to understand what little moments in video can do. It’s not just about the big picture. Sometimes, it’s about the little dog sitting next to the guy on the park bench. You know, I’m thinking about a shoot we had in Ireland and there was literally a little dog sitting next to a guy in a park bench and it was a wonderful shot. And things like that, those little moments, are the fabric that makes up a really rich and compelling video story.
What makes a great story?
A great story has emotion. It makes you say, “Wow. I didn’t know that.” Or, “Wow. I never thought of it that way.” Or “Wow. I’ve never seen that.” A great visual story takes you places you’ve never been and adds an emotional component that makes you feel something. It makes you think about things differently, perceive things differently and hopefully you take something away and feel good about what you’ve heard and seen.
Tell me about your history as a storyteller. You’ve had a long background in film and television. When did you first fall in love with the medium?
I have a long history in television. I started out as an actress many years ago, and then I made a transition into news and I was an on-air reporter and correspondent. But, I think I really fell in love with producing and the ability to tell stories when I was at CBS news. I was a correspondent there, but we were telling wonderful long form news magazine stories. And in those days, a long form story would run anywhere from 8 to 13 minutes. And I fell in love with the ability to tell a fascinating story.
How is news journalism different than corporate storytelling?
I think one of the main differences between corporate and news is that the news is all about the breaking story and what’s happening right now. In corporate, there’s a sense of being able to go and look for a very rich story that you want to tell, as opposed to the stories that just happen to come across your desk that day because you are the reporter in the newsroom. You know, you have this leeway to create little mini documentaries, is really what it is. So it’s less like news and more like documentary storytelling.
But why is video a great medium?
I think video is probably the best medium for story telling because we are impacted as human beings first by what we see. And then what we hear and the information that goes along with it. But when you think about storytelling, what we do at EMC TV is always consider the visuals. The story can be the best story in the world but if it’s kind of dry and it doesn’t have a lot of visual detail, then it may not be something that’s appropriate for video, maybe a better print story. For example, our California team did a story with Parker Liautaud who was the youngest kid ever to walk to the North Pole, and then again walk to the South Pole. He planted weather beacons to gather data in the arctic all the way along in his walk to the South Pole. We did a training video with him in Iceland and captured astonishing imagery that helped advance the story of what big data can do in our world today, around climate change, around any kind of research and development, medicine, education, you name it. And that story, in such a visual way, had an impact on the viewer. And so, when you have the visual impact, the rest of the story has impact as well.
Do you think there is an ideal length for a corporate video?
People will tell you that the ideal length is a minute and a half or people will tell you the ideal length should be no longer than two minutes. I think if you have really great content that people will watch for a longer period of time. The story needs to dictate the length of the video. You can certainly do a tighter cut but sometimes you want to let it breathe a little bit. This is also why we’ve started to do audio stories because the video does sort of breathe well at about 4 minutes but an audio story can go much longer. So we are starting to do a little bit of both.
Let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between the stories you are telling and the business. Tell me about how great story telling can impact the bottom line.
I think what works for audiences in marketing today is real stories, well told. And you know, if you look back through history, human beings have always been fond of good stories. So that kind of storytelling really helps put a human face on a corporation. And I think for EMC, that’s what we are doing with our videos. We are putting that human face on a corporation that is doing something of great value on a very broad scale and something that will have an impact on all of our lives.