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Pit Bulls, Pie And Storytelling For Business

By June 25, 2015October 29th, 2017Podcast, With Guests
Pit Bulls, Pie And Storytelling For Business

A Princess And A Pit Bull Enjoy Some Pie…

And thus begins the story of today’s podcast!

That’s a whole lot of Ps and I wouldn’t mind a gold star for getting them all out during the intro.

So What Does That Mean?

Today we welcome storyteller perfectissimo Katherine Kotaw of Kotaw Content Marketing. Storytelling isn’t just something she does – it’s something she is. A storyteller, that is.

Katherine and I bonded over pie (virtually) and somehow every conversation we have begins and ends with one.

And as for the pit bulls, well, Katherine realized that pit bulls are actually quite adorable and charming and snuggly. So she decided to rebrand them as such and figured if she could do that… she could do anything.

Pit Bulls For The Win!

I recommend following Katherine somewhere online (links to find her are below) because you may just fall in love with pit bulls, too. Especially when they are adorned with flowers and tiaras.

If you listen closely you can hear Ivy, Katherine’s pit bull princess, snuffling and jingling in the background.

What Makes A Storyteller?

Katherine defines a storyteller as someone who can hear all sorts of random stuff and turn it into something compelling with a beginning, middle and end. A brand storyteller takes all that stuff and makes the person (or company) it’s about stand out from everyone else.

Can Everyone Do It?

Actually… no.

Let’s throw a little tough love into the fire. Everyone has a story but not everyone is good at telling it.

Take a story and have three different people tell it. We bet it will sound different each time. And this isn’t exactly The Three Little Pigs we’re talking about… though now that you mention it, I bet you’ve heard fun versions of that story and not so fun versions.

It really does depend on the telling.

How Do You Know If It’s Time For Some Storytelling 911?

Katherine puts it bluntly: some companies need to come to grips with the fact that they stink as storytellers and get someone to help. We agree.

Ralph calls this someone “a muse”.

Katherine calls this someone “an extraction specialist”.

If you feel stuck – or worse – think you don’t even have a story to tell then that’s a good sign you need to get some help.

It may be that you need someone to listen better or to ask the right questions. Or that you need a change of setting or a glass of wine… or pie.

Everyone has different storytelling abilities so rather than trying to go it alone, work with someone who can make you shine.

What If You Don’t Have A Story?

Hold on a sec… you read what I said about how Katherine thinks everyone has a story?

That sounds great but… I’ve met a few people who seem to truly, well, not.

I ask them questions about their business and they all seem to fall flat. These people don’t have an origin story or a “big why” or a passion. Maybe they’re doing it just for the money. Or they saw an ad for a business for sale and decided to try it because they needed to do something with their lives.

Katherine thinks that if you don’t believe you have a story your business will ultimately fail. It’s story that helps you withstand the tough times because you’ll understand your motivation and fight for your passion.

But I still want to know… what about the guy who is in it for the money? Who doesn’t seem to have anything to say about why he started his business except, “Because…”

Katherine says that all good businesses have a story even if they can’t articulate it.

Sometimes people think their story is too personal. Or they’re afraid people won’t like them because of it. Sometimes they just haven’t dug down deep enough.

She shares an example of working with a client who didn’t think he had a story, was in it “for the money”, but found out his story rooted back to his grandfather wanting to start a business. Like Katherine says, you need someone to extract that!

Sharing Vs. Oversharing: Where’s The Line?

Some people think our Kim Anami episode about business, sex and relationships was oversharing. Other people loved it.

So where are the lines?

Katherine is not to be stumped on this one, either! She says… wait for it… use your judgment.


Amazing how common sense wins, isn’t it?

She says that most people err on the side of under sharing because they’re too afraid to get personal. But others seem to spew out any old thought onto social media, which can get them into hot water at some point.

Ask yourself: how much of your story are you willing to own?

Then own it!

Ben Affleck Makes An Appearance

Well, not literally, but it did sound cool to say that. Maybe he should sponsor the show.

We talk about a recent documentary in which it was discovered that one of his ancestors had owned salves. Ben tried to cover it up and you can imagine how well that went.

When it all came out he finally said that he was embarrassed by the whole thing and didn’t want to admit it.

Ralph wonders whether this mistake now defines his story or if we can be more forgiving because we are already immersed in his story and we understand that this was just one blip on the radar.

Katherine agrees that for people who are already part of the story, they are likely to be forgiving and understand that one moment does not define a person.

What To Do When The Bad Stuff Gets Out Into The World

Sometimes things get out. Things we didn’t plan to share. Sometimes we look bad.

Then what? Do you cover up? Play dead? Tell everyone to go fly a kite?

Actually, Katherine says, take charge. You can’t control the story but you can control how you handle it.

You can admit your mistakes, share your thoughts and move on.

Eventually the bad stuff dies down and you can pick up your story again where you want to tell it.

The Responsibility Of The Listener

Ralph wants to know whether people have a responsibility for how they interpret the stories they hear.

Katherine thinks they do have an obligation – to understand the context and to judge it as part of a bigger whole.

I think they’re both crazy because… have you met people? I don’t think that “take responsibility for how I interpret someone’s story” is high on anyone’s agenda.

I do think, however, that if we’re diligently building our fan base and we’re true to ourselves and our audience, people will forgive our transgressions.

What do you think?

Your Story Is Not Linear

Yes, stories have beginnings, middles and ends. But when it comes to business and marketing, people may jump in at any time. So the beginning for one person may be the middle for another. How does this affect messaging when businesses aren’t really in control of where someone will start in their story?

Katherine says business owners too often think they have one story, tell it once and are done. But our stories have to keep evolving and we have to keep telling them – everywhere, all the time. It doesn’t really matter where someone jumps in. They’ll catch up!

There Will Be Blood…

Or misunderstandings. But blood sounds more dramatic.

Anyway, Ralph tells a story of someone who jumped into the middle of our story and without the proper context, took all sorts of offense.


Actually, Katherine says… oh well. It happens. You just have to keep going, keep telling your story, keep marching.

Don’t apologize.

You are going to offend some people. And that’s a good thing.

It’s More Than Your Origin Story

Lots of times we think of our story as “how I started my business”. But there is a whole lot more to it than that.

Katherine says you’ve got to think about how you want to be known. What will make you memorable?

You can be the person who always has a thoughtful opinion… or the one who is supportive of others, even competitors. You have to decide how you want to be recognized and work to build and grow that every day.

Three Types Of Story

When it comes to baking the perfect marketing pie, there’s the written story, there are visuals and then there is social media.

Mix all three together to make some delicious marketing magic.

Writing is not good enough. Your story has to appeal visually, too. And once you’ve got those two pieces, you need to share, share, share on social.

If you don’t share your story, says Katherine, often and repeatedly – it won’t go anywhere.

Does Your Audience Play A Role?

I want to know: does your audience factor into your story? (I’m looking at you, Fred!)

Katherine says yes! (I knew we were kindred spirits in pie.) She is often inspired by what people say and then will tell a story to and about one person, speaking to that one person. It’s always better to think of others before your own self interests.

I tell her that our audience has been part of our story all along, helping us tell it and being part of it with us.

When Does Your Story End?


Drops mic.

What Makes A Good Story?

A good story makes you feel like you’re there.

A good story makes you want to be a part of it.

A good story makes you feel like you never want to get to the end.

A good story makes an emotional connection with people.

And remember, it’s not always about mechanics – it’s in the telling.

Ralph Forgets To Mispronounce Katherine’s Last Name

In an ongoing bid to annoy Alisa Meredith, friend of the show and host of the Superheroes of Marketing podcast, Ralph set out to mispronounce Katherine’s last name (which is pronounced like the “kota” in North DaKOTA).

This apparently bugs Alisa but Ralph forgets and ruins the joke.

Sorry, Alisa.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Katherine: if you want to succeed in business and be happy succeeding, find your story, tell your story and then keep on telling it. And if you’ve got one, Katherine wants to hear it! Share with her anywhere online. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind hearing about your favorite type of pie, too.

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Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • “A Storyteller’s Story”

    Businesses tend to discount
    Things that make them special
    Katherine can take your story
    To a magical meaningful level

    So when does your story end?
    That would be never, ever, ever!
    Your biz story must march on
    Evolvement is the key endeavor

    The power of a really good story
    Is when it artfully draws you in
    It captivates you in such a way
    You don’t want to get to the end!

    Your business is slated for failure
    If you don’t believe you have a story
    Give Katherine the role of debriefer
    So you can revel in victorious glory

    Katherine loves pie and Pit Bulls
    She’s a snippet extractor divine
    Her stories are always memorable
    Proud to say she’s a friend of mine

    Once upon a time, Katherine Kotaw told the world her story … and they’re still listening. 🙂

    [The End]

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I can’t thank you enough, @melanie_kissell:disqus, for recommending me as a guest on this show! And this storytelling poem you wrote for me is definitely getting printed out and put in my scrapbook!!! I’m so grateful for your friendship and your beautiful words. Thank you with all my heart.

      • Believe me when I say the pleasure was all mine, Katherine. So happy you enjoyed the poem. 🙂

        I treasure you more than you know and I’m thrilled you were on the show! Please come back again.

        • LOVE IT ALL! Before Katherine I did not love pit bulls – but now I can’t resist 🙂

          • I’m convinced we have to get rid of stereotypes. Everyone was always fearful of the very first dog I ever owned, which was a fawn-colored Doberman. Even when I’d inform people he was bred for temperament, they feared him. Truth is, he was the biggest lap dog on the planet! Lovable, playful, sweet, and GREAT around kids.

          • I’d like you to try rebranding Dobermans. If you can get me to like them, that would be a serious win. When I was a kid my neighbors had a Doberman that they never leashed and this dog loved to lurk under the steps at my house. So I would come home and all I would hear was the dog growling at me from my own door. It was torture to get into my own house!

          • Jesus Pete! That must have been freakin’ frightening, Carol Lynn!! Shame on your neighbor. They certainly didn’t take responsibility for their dog and I’d venture to say that Dobie was mistreated. At a minimum, it had zero training.

            No matter the breed, you have to do your due diligence and know exactly what you’re getting in a pet. My Doberman was A.K.C. and bred to be a family pet. I visited the breeder several times, checked her credentials, and I spent lots of time with the pups before I picked him out of the litter.

            I know there are Dobermans (and Pit Bulls) who are vicious. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out “why”. In case anyone is wondering, the culprits are humans.

          • Very true. Some people raise them that way and it’s certainly not the dog’s fault for being a dog. Put them in a loving home and get a loving result. Just like people!

          • Yes, just like people. 🙂

          • Katherine Kotaw says:

            The best and saddest quality about dogs is that they love unconditionally. And they want to please their people more than anything else in the world. So if people train them to be aggressive, the dogs will act aggressively in order to please their people.

            The sad thing about pit bulls is that they are genuinely the sweetest and most sensitive dogs I have ever known (and I have known A LOT of sweet dogs!!!) So the thought of this naturally sweet and loving dog being thrown into a ring and forced to fight with another dog in order to survive just sickens me more than words can describe.

            Because Ivy has been in playgroups where other dogs have gotten into serious fights and she just backs away. All she wants is peace. When LuLu, the poodle-doodle we adopted last summer at 11 years old gets persnickety and snaps at one of my daughters, Ivy RUNS to kiss whichever daughter was snapped at to make up for LuLu’s snapping and so that my daughter’s feelings won’t be hurt! All Ivy wants to do is make everything better. Then once she knows my daughter is OK (after about a million pittie kisses, just to make sure!) she will go and kiss her poodle-doodle to make sure she knows she is still loved too!

            Just as a side note, yes, people are to blame if they are abusive to animals (and making sweet dogs fight is the epitome of abuse) but how a dog is raised does not have to determine their personality.

            So many pit bulls are abused, forced into dog fighting rings, left to die at a shelter and then miraculously adopted, and they go on to be sweet and loving family dogs, just grateful not to be surrounded by violence any more. If a dog is born sweet and forced to fight to survive, they will do what they have to do, as any of us would. But that does not mean that when in a situation where fighting isn’t mandatory, they won’t just be their sweet and loving selves.

            Just like people can come from abusive families and grow up to be the nicest people in the world. It doesn’t always happen with people or with dogs, but the sad thing about pit bulls who have had a hard life is that they seem to go overboard to prove that they’re sweet because otherwise, they won’t be adopted. Most pit bulls who have been in shelters are the most calm, well-behaved dogs you will ever meet because they have learned to be “model citizens” in order to get the love any other dog would naturally receive.

            Thank you, Melanie and Carol Lynn for all your love and insights. PS: My dog Woofie, a Golden Retriever-Chow-Chow (Ivy’s big sister) met many sweet dobies that she became friends with in her 15 years. Woofie was always attracted to sweet, which is why she chose Ivy to be her sister!

          • YOU are making such a gigantic difference in the doggie kingdom, Katherine! No, scratch that. A MONUMENTAL difference! Keep preaching that sermon. 🙂

            It breaks my heart to think any animal is forced to fight … or be killed. May all those unsavory people involved in dogs fights burn in hell!

            Got a feeling Ivy would try to kiss my face off if we met! 😉

          • Katherine Kotaw says:

            I think my daughters are going to have to buy me another scrapbook for all of your sweet comments to me, @melanie_kissell:disqus! The current one is stuffed to the brim with your kind words! And this is definitely getting printed out to save forever! Thank you, with all my heart, for everything you said.

            And yes, Ivy would absolutely LOVE to kiss your face off!! Her tongue gets so dry from kissing my daughters non-stop for 10 minutes that she always has to hydrate to continue her kissing! She is such a pittie kiss monster! And she would love you so much!!

          • Katherine Kotaw says:

            That is the best compliment I could ever ask for, @carollynnrivera:disqus. My daughters say that your words fulfill their life purpose!!

            Thank you, with all our hearts, for falling in love with pit bulls because of our pittie-pie Brand Ambassador Ivy! And for making our mission to rebrand pit bulls as the sweet and loving dogs they are such an important part of my episode. That was a true gift. Ivy has been doing her happy pittie wiggle dance even more than usual ever since this podcast aired! And that is thanks to you!! 🙂

  • Ok, I have to know, did Ralph really get shit for talking about that judgemental, racist, bigot? grrrr… My thinking, people who had a problem with that, NOT gonna be huge fans of your show in the long run.

    I love that this episode came right now.. the combination of this, Monday’s episode and the podcast that Carol Lynn posted on FB this morning truly resonated with me and really cleared a path for me and helped me understand a particular direction I have been trying to figure out for my blog…

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you so much for listening and for your kind words here and on Facebook, @tammierampley:disqus! The good thing about brand storytelling is that it gets your message out there, and if your message is strong, a lot of people are going to disagree with it, but I think that’s a good thing. When I was a journalist, I always kept letters to the editor from people who disagreed with my articles. I actually still have these letters in scrapbooks.

      When you don’t have a strong opinion, there’s nothing to disagree (or agree!) with. So people disagreeing with you just means you have a strong opinion. And that’s something to applaud. The awful thing about the Internet is that it gives people license not just to disagree, but to be hateful. Some of the comments I see online that have gone unmoderated by the publisher of the site are just appalling. In my journalism days, those who disagreed with me had to write something well-thought out in order for it to get published, and the editor had to approve it. So it was a differing opinion, not an attack on me.

      The good thing about having a strong message that gets disapproval is that there are just as many — if not more! — people who are going to agree with you and want to stand by your side. And that’s where brand loyalty comes in, which is an integral part of the brand storytelling mission!

      So happy to have played any part in helping you figure out the direction you want to take with your blog! I look forward to reading what you come up with!!

      • I’m adamantly opposed to personal attacks online … or offline. I find that type of behavior disgusting and childish. Thanks for bringing up the topic, Katherine. For some strange reason, people seem to have looser lips online. 🙁

        • Katherine Kotaw says:

          I was having this conversation with my daughters the other day, @melanie_kissell:disqus, after I happened upon an article with so many comments that I thought I would have nothing more to add to the conversation. But then I started reading the comments, and the majority of them were so negative and just plain cruel that I was appalled and saddened for the author who would have to read all the hate. (So of course I left my positive comment and I hope it was read after so many hateful ones, because what the author had to say was truly beautiful and heartfelt.)

          I wholeheartedly believe it’s the responsibility of the publisher to moderate and delete hate. Disagreement can spar a lively debate, but hate is never OK and it has made me change my mind about publications I previously respected upon discovering they don’t prohibit hate in their comments sections. Just from a branding standpoint, publishers allowing hate to go unmoderated on their sites and allowing “loose lips” to attack their writers looks really bad for them. Thank you, Melanie, for your strong words on this topic, and always insightful comments! 🙂

          • You’ve probably read some of the same blog posts as me, Katherine, where there’s a conversation about whether a blog owner should delete negative, hurtful, hate-induced comments … or not.

            Surprisingly enough, the majority want to see those comments remain intact. So that puts me in the minority.

            It kinda scares me to think our society seems to feed on hate and violence and tragedy and negativity, in general. The more horrific the act, the more people crave. I’m not sure who to blame but my gut is leaning toward the media as the guilty party.

            You may find this interesting …

            I resided in SoCal for about 30 years. The L.A. media has a “no holds barred” approach to reporting the news. They show EVERYTHING! Dead bodies along the highway, you name it. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Arizona was the big difference in news broadcasts. Here they have a lot more compassion and respect for fellow humans. So far, I haven’t seen any blood, guts, or gore on the local news channel. Amen.

            Anyone who hangs their hat on hate is someone I don’t wish to know.

      • Funny how this conversation seems to come up in different contexts over and over. The truth is, there are good people, there are great conversations, there are true fans – you just have to bypass the people who bring you down. It seems like they are the majority sometimes because they are so loud but the more surround ourselves with good people, the better we are. And I completely agree that healthy disagreement is a good thing. The hate is not!

        • Katherine Kotaw says:

          HERE HERE to everything you said, @carollynnrivera:disqus! Healthy disagreement is A-OK but hate never is. I’m grateful to have found an amazing support system online (including many of the people in this forum!) and you’re absolutely right — the more we surround ourselves with good people, the better we are.

    • Now I can’t wait until I can see your new direction! I don’t know what we said but I’m glad we did 🙂 Also I am not afraid to lose fans – I mean the fake kind of fans who really are just numbers. Real fans are on board.

  • Katherine Kotaw says:

    First off, I have to say that reading the show notes made my day. It reminded me of all the fun we had recording this episode and made me happily nostalgic… and for some reason also made me crave pie!

    I am so grateful that you went out of your way to write and talk about my sweet pittie-pie Brand Ambassador Ivy and my overriding mission for KOTAW to rebrand pit bulls as the sweet and loving dogs they are. You have no idea how happy this makes my daughters and me. For anyone who is reading this and doesn’t know, my daughters Bri and Kelsey are my KOTAW Content Marketing business partners (yay KOTAW Girl Gang power!) and nothing could mean more to us than our mission to rebrand pit bulls as sweet and loving, so having that be such a big part of this show is such a gift because it means our brand storytelling efforts are paying off!

    Thank you, Carol Lynn and Ralph for being such wonderful hosts for such a fun episode. What could be better than getting to spend an entire episode talking about three of my favorite things: pit bulls, pie and brand storytelling?!

    Thank you again!!!

    • Somehow I always need to get myself a piece of pie when I talk to you, Katherine 🙂

      Thank you for being on the show, we had a great time and a great conversation and I know we could talk for hours. I’m starting to think we need an “all pie” episode.

      Glad to be able to help with the continued rebranding of pit bulls as delightful princesses (and princes, too, of course).

      • Katherine Kotaw says:

        An “all pie” episode sounds KOTAWesome, @carollynnrivera:disqus! Just let me know the time and place, and I will be there! 🙂 PS: Ivy says thank you again for all the pit bull princess love! She says her pittie friend Bam Bam (who gifted her with his favorite tennis ball upon their first meeting at the park!) would say thank you for mentioning pit bull princes too!