Let’s face it, the Romans were a pretty smart bunch really. Putting aside the miracles of sanitation, politics, andbuilding the A5 – they were also rather good at delivering integrated content (albeit along the sort of lines that made Bolshevism a fleeting success).

What they understood (probably far better than the philosophical meanderings of the Greeks before them) was when you have a message to deliver, mobilizing a crowd through powerful narrative, delivered on a multiplicity of platforms, was very much a good (if bloody) idea.

The central hub through which much of this content was delivered admittedly involved a fairly significant loss of life. But behind that bloody gladiatorial spectacle the level of audience engagement enabled significant economic growth and a fair bit of conquest.

You’ve guessed it. Engaging content that connects to sales.

In the past 2000 years human nature hasn’t really changed. We need a sense of community. We need to hear great stories. And we engage most when emotion is ignited. Ask John Lewis (Remember? Cute kid being unfeasibly selfless at Christmas?). Gratuitous but effective.

But if we are looking at a proposition with longevity, propaganda based messaging delivered via controlled channels has, historically, proved a loser. Gaddaffi, Mubarak and Murdoch all stand testament to the powerhouse that is the democratized media landscape. And that’s because we are in an era where shouty, non-inclusive marketing, gets flicked a towering crowd-sourced ‘v’.

One could therefore argue that effective engagement lays in lobbing out some key messages across all known forms of media (traditional and social) and driving a few well chosen conversations. Surely there has to be more to it than that?

Many talk about story-telling and the efficacy of placing it at the centre of  a content marketing strategy, but few achieve that nirvana of engaging a worthwhile audience. Oh… and selling a few more widgets along the way.

But why?

It’s all so beautifully logical. Human beings thrive on stories. And human nature hasn’t changed. Create a classic narrative arc for your campaign… drive hooks and sub-plot, integrate all the content seamlessly. Engage your audience on the myriad platforms where you know they’re hanging out.  And drive those all important conversations

Brilliant. Or not… as the case may be.

Where does it sometimes go wrong? Why don’t we have endless campaigns oozing brilliance and seemless integration?

Think back to the Romans. Wherever there was an over-arching narrative to be delivered, the messaging was sponsored at the highest political level, this in turn drove engagement and buy-in much further down the food chain.

On a personal level my most recent success have come where there has been an opportunity to deliver some good old fashioned storytelling sessions to key executives. Once they ‘get it’ at the top of an organization, the storytelling bug flows downhill and permeates the corporate DNA. And we suddenly have spokespeople with belief, candour, and credibility.

The key drivers for a truly effective, integrated, content driven campaign don’t sit on a flip chart in the meeting room of your friendly local PR agency – it starts at the top.

I’m not for one minute suggesting board sponsored gladiatorial combat (we all know what happened to the Roman empire), but  top-level understanding of our culture and fast changing media landscape can lead to great results.

Now…where did I leave my copy of “Utopia"?

Nick Lawrence is vice president, editorial & broadcast strategies at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, based in London.