Content is a popular topic right now. Brands are heavily focused on how to create, distribute, and measure their content – with the belief that content will lead to customers.

It’s true, the distribution channels that brands have access to put them closer to the consumer than ever before. And, the time that people spend online is higher than it’s ever been – and with smartphones, people are always just a tap or swipe away from these channels. In short, the opportunity appears to be huge to connect consumers with branded content. But, is this really the case?

Mitch Joel of Twist Image wrote a great article called The Drug Of Content that focuses on the misconception we have about the need for content and the value that it can have. Joel outlines a few key problems. First, it asks a lot of consumers. Messages pass by consumers as fast as cars on a freeway. How can you be sure that your consumers (or future consumers) will even notice? Second, the speed at which content can be distributed risks that we focus on the quantity of content we can produce and therefore, the quality suffers. So what’s a brand to do? Joel writes:

Kill the content. Step away from the publish button and take a breather. Instead of looking at your content calendar or barking at someone in your organization to tweet more frequently, take a fifteen minute siesta and ask yourself this one question: what great stories can we tell? Stop thinking about content as the endgame and consider (even if but for a moment) that the content is the container, but the true value is the stories that you tell.

Of course, I could not agree more with this articulation of what brands need to focus on in order to be noticed in today’s complex ecosystem of society, technology, and commerce. Brands need to re-define what content really means. Every single piece of content that a brand creates should unequivocally map back to a greater story.

So, if the future of engaging content is telling stories, then we have one bigger hurdle to overcome first – making sure our teams and organizations are set up to tell great stories. Right now, many companies have old school models in place where one team makes the product and another team tells people about it. We need to turn all this upside down in order to create great stories. We need to establish new models of innovation that foster storytelling, encourage the exchange of stories, and embrace the editing and co-creation of these stories.

Where do we start? First, we can look to teams that are great at storytelling. We should study how charities and socially conscious companies tell their stories – organizations like Charity Water and Toms Shoes do a phenomenal job at telling their stories. When it comes to process, we should study teams in the entertainment industry – those that create the best stories. For example, Pixar has some amazing ways or working that create an environment that’s rich for storytelling.

I’m curious, what do you think? What companies and teams are telling great stories right now? And, how can we change our organizations to help foster more storytelling?

PS: Follow Mitch Joel over on Twitter @mitchjoel