M+AD interviews Microsoft’s Steve Clayton on the ancient art of storytelling + our new flag and his NZ vacation

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On a rare trip to New Zealand this week to attend the Microsoft Ignite conference – the geekiest show on earth – currently running at Sky City, Microsoft’s UK-based creative director and MS Global Image team general manager, Steve Clayton, took the time to chat with M+AD. 

Steve leads the team responsible for Microsoft’s internal and external company storytelling (yes – that’s a real job!) with a mission to change the perception of Microsoft through stories. Here’s what we learned:

Is this your first visit downunder?

It’s my second visit – the first was a vacation about seven years ago. I started in Auckland, did some scuba diving off Poor Knight’s island, then went to Welly to see some friends … then hopped down to the South Island, explored wine country, hiked in Abel Tasman, went on to Christchurch and Kaikoura, hiked Franz Josef, on to Taupo and wrapped up with some extreme sports in Queenstown (of course).

I’m told that’s a pretty typical tourist holiday here so I may need to come back and do some more off the beaten paths activities.

Any leisure activities planned this trip?

I wish I had time but sadly not – unless hunting down the best pies in the region counts?

What’s the biggest mistake brands make with their storytelling efforts?

The most common mistake I see is not telling a story – and talking about a product. When this happens it feels like the advertorials you see in magazines – content that is perfectly valid in many cases but masquerading at something else.

What other global brands – in your opinion – do a good job of storytelling?

Nike with Instagram in particular, Red Bull with social/stunts/videos and GE with storytelling from inside a giant organisation.

Should New Zealand change its flag?

I’m a bit undecided on it. As a Brit, I like the current flag but like the silver fern flag too from a pure design point of view.

If you could tell young aspiring storytellers/content creators the most valuable thing you’ve learned in 18 years, what is it?

This sounds obvious but all great stories start with people – find the people behind a story and you’ll be on the right path.

Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms – and it really is an art. My advice for people who want to get better at it is 1) read Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate, 2) be naturally curious – ask why a lot, 3) think visually – photos/images really do convey a thousand words.

Thank you, Steve.

About Steve Clayton
He is creative director and general manager of Microsoft’s Global Image team. The team is responsible for Microsoft’s company storytelling both internally and externally with a mission to change the perception of Microsoft through stories. Clayton and his team produce company events that harness the ceo and executive voices along with digital properties such as Microsoft News Centre, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Prior to this, he held roles as chief storyteller for Microsoft and prior to that was director of cloud strategy in Microsoft International and CTO of Microsoft’s UK Partner Group.

He has worked at Microsoft for over 18 years in a range of sales and technical roles – always with a passion for technology and its potential impact on the world.

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