The Storyteller Agency.Co: Marketing through narratives
When Kesi Gardner, founder of The Storyteller Agency. Co, chose that name for the company in 2019, it was motivated by what she saw as a shift in advertising trends towards storytelling, an element that she felt was lacking in the local market. Recognising the power of storytelling in conveying messages more subtly than traditional hard-selling approaches, she wanted her agency to focus on crafting narratives for brands.
Today, four years after creating the company, this emphasis on storytelling not only distinguishes her agency but also aligns with her belief that marketing and advertising can be more effective and nuanced by connecting with audiences on a narrative level.
“I felt that we could be a little bit more subtle in the way that we approach marketing and reach our audiences, which is why I like PR a lot because you’re able to tell a story about a brand without saying ‘you need to buy this now’,” Gardner related.
With a background of 20 years in advertising, working with top agencies in Jamaica and trained as a graphic designer, she leveraged her skills in writing, designing, and creativity to embark in this new direction.
The Storyteller’s approach to working with clients involves a thorough analysis of the market and competitors, particularly focusing on understanding the client’s industry. The goal is to think outside the box and create solutions that stand out from the conventional strategies employed by competitors. Instead of opting for the comfortable and traditional route, such as placing ads, The Storyteller emphasises lifestyle marketing, aiming at connecting with the target audience on a more personal level.
“You know we live in a world where everything is so fast-paced, there’s the moving image on Instagram, the moving video,” Gardner explained. “So we try to catch your eye whether that be visual or in a story that will make people stop and think. That’s the directive. We recently moved into the luxury space. So most recently, we started dealing with more of the higher end of the spectrum. And that has allowed us to maintain our standards which is a particular aesthetic.”
The concept has appealed to a wide variety of clients ranging from rum manufacturers Worthy Park Estate to Coffee Roasters of Jamaica; the financial management company Sterling Asset Management; Chez Maria; Caribbean Dreams; Cannonball Cafe; and more. Government agencies such as the Tourism Enhancement Fund and Ministry of Culture, Gender and Sport have also enlisted The Storyteller’s services.
It is not just the agency’s approach to marketing that acknowledges the trends of a virtual world such as social media. The approach to staffing and getting the job done also slots perfectly into the modern virtual world. The agency collaborates online with writers worldwide, including individuals in Paris and the Philippines, as contractors to generate content and create stories.
The company does not maintain a permanent staff but rather brings in professionals on a contract basis for specific projects.
“Every client is different and every event is different because I do events as well,” Gardner revealed. “So if it is, for example, for a manufacturing company or food or restaurant, I would bring in a specific food photographer. Sometimes I will do the styling, I will do the creative direction, but it’s somebody that I know who can photograph food well, and that way I give more value to the clients. And if it’s an event, for example, and they need event photography, I would hire an event photographer who can capture candid photographs, who is already kind of out there. So they know who to capture, who is who, who will be placed in the newspaper, that kind of thing.”
In the early stages of the business, the focus was on working with social media influencers. This involved assisting them in gaining brand visibility while arranging interviews, securing media coverage, and pitching collaborations to brands. The Storyteller found innovative ways to showcase influencers and created opportunities for them to be featured in the media and mainstream outlets.
The COVID pandemic, however, interrupted a lot of this work forcing Gardner to pivot the company to more of the kind of public relations work it does now. Nevertheless, working heavily with influencers in the initial period had a positive impact in positioning the company as being social media savvy and having a profound understanding of how to develop narratives through the virtual world.
This foundation remains a key element in Gardner’s vision for The Storyteller’s future.
“The initial birth of the storyteller was founded on influencer marketing and managing influencers,” she said. “The goal is to create an influencer marketing platform which connects brands to influence us regionally.”
And the plan is to achieve this by scaling the business. The agency now has an advisory committee to help achieve this and implement more efficient systems including more advanced automation of various tasks.
“The vision is that of a regional Caribbean company that continues to emphasise storytelling in a world where storytelling has become integral, especially among the Gen Z community,” Gardner said, unveiling her ultimate ambition.