Article

Simon Creed
Simon Creed 13 April 2016

How to Make Marketing Meaningful Through Storytelling

A lot of content marketers talk about the importance of storytelling. But how can you relate this to your brand and how will it benefit you?

 As far as most of us are concerned, storytelling is restricted to books, the cinema and the theatre.

Well, humans love stories. It’s that simple. We can’t get enough of them. They run deep in every social and professional experience we are ever likely to encounter. They even penetrate our dreams. 

That’s all well and good - but what the hell does that have to do with marketing, you ask?

In my short time creating and researching content, I’ve learned that storytelling goes beyond words on a page or actors on a stage. Stories act as a kind of breathing apparatus - they allow us to inhale information and exhale empathy, even when faced by a whirlpool of muddled and somewhat unfamiliar ideas.

Stories Speak Volumes

Research_shows_our_brains_are_not_hard-wired_to_understand_logic_or_retain_facts_for_very_long._Our_brains_are_wired_to_understand_and_retain_stories._A_story_is_a_journey_that_moves_the_listener_and_when_the_listener_.jpg

Stories are universally accessible. They captivate and compel an audience in a way other mediums of communication struggle to match. They can stoke lasting emotional connections, that can result in lifelong loyalty.

The Story Starts with You

Marketing shares uncanny resemblances with the conventional storytelling format. Spanning context, problem, solutions and, eventually, climax (the brand/business achieving its goals).

However, it is the main body of a story where genuine success stems from. Trials and tribulations are the order of the day - week, month and year. Initially, no one person or company will have all the answers. The series of events which unfolds over time will illuminate suitable and attainable solutions. Sound familiar?

It is under this premise that you can start to build on your brand’s story. Customers are much more likely to remember what you’ve done than what you sell. They will relate to your ‘characters’ and rejoice in their successes.

Stories give you the ability to push your brand in an engaging and resonant way. Business jargon, logistics and statistics will more often than not come across as overbearing - or even aggressive - to potential customers. Confuse them and you’ll lose them.

Do not overtly push your product/service. But make sure its advantages are made clear to your audience. After hearing of your past triumphs they will look to you for the solution.  

So, where do you start?

Inside Stories    

After three years of studying, eighteen months pulling pints, a somewhat spontaneous upheaval to Manchester and four weeks of bewildering unemployment, SupaReal plucked me from the abyss.

In just one sentence, I have personalised this conversation with my own story. Makes me sound human right? Do the same with your brand. Of course, you are more than words and pictures on a page. But you’ll need to drive this home to your audience.

Relay company and employee stories in an honest, entertaining way and keep it educational. What are your roots? What challenges have you overcome? What were the solutions?

This is a brilliant way to project yourself to prospective leads. You need them to become invested in your story. Once you paint yourself as the problem-solver, your audience will get right behind you and support your cause.

Be (Sam)Wise  

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You won’t always be the main character, but you can always make yourself loveable.

Your role in customer stories will be to support them in every way possible. If they were Frodo Baggins, you would be Samwise Gamgee (with a higher IQ - of course).

Your duty is to keep them on the straight and narrow. Drip feed them valuable advice and point out their flaws honestly, but not harshly. Most importantly, it is your responsibility to remain human and grounded throughout.

Putting yourself in this light will emphasise your worth. Remember, you may be dictating the plot of the story, but you’re also an integral part of it.

After all, without Sam, Frodo would have popped his Hobbit-sized clogs early doors. Tolkein’s story would have fallen by the wayside. And the resulting multi-million pound franchise would be nothing more than a pipe dream.

How About a Trilogy?

Blog posts, podcasts and webinars don’t need to be standalone pieces of content - disconnected from everything else around them. If you’re struggling to squeeze what you want to say into one post - then don’t.

You want your ideas to be valid and well-written/versed. But most importantly you don’t want to miss out any of the key ingredients.

Stretch the subject across a number of posts, create a series that explores all corners of a single topic. But be sure to offer the reader fresh information each time - no stone left unturned and all that.

Try a ‘Part 1’ - ‘Part 2’ - ‘Part 3’ - approach, something found commonly in popular literature. Leave your readers anticipating the next installment.

This works just like a TV series. Air your content over the course of a week or two, making sure your audience knows when the next ‘episode’ is on. Maybe even include a ‘coming up’ section at the end of each piece of content

You want people to look forward to your content. This familiar and comforting story format can do just the trick.

Note that your series can be longer if needs be. However reader engagement and enthusiasm for the topic will peak and then drop off if you drag it out for too long.      

Earned or Burned

Trust is hard to come by these days. It has to be earned, not bought. A consumer’s trust in their peers far outweighs their trust in brands. So turn yourself into a peer.

Storytelling in social media and other forms of amplification consolidate its commercial benefits.

Turn your employees into storytellers. They have their own social circles, independent of their professional lives. And of course, they know the inner workings of your brand’s practices and values better than anyone.

Giving employees the creative license to share stories about your company will emancipate your brand. Whilst they reel off appealing anecdotes on their social platforms, you will broaden your exposure. Their audience will receive first-hand accounts about your business that are far more personable - and shareable - than generic, marketing spiel.

Get past and current customers to do you a favour and summarise how you’ve impacted on their story. They are your lifeblood after all - and one of your greatest means of positive publicity.

You are fully integrated into their success’, so why not make sure people know it?

It Isn't a Fad

Why is storytelling important in marketing? Because storytelling is a fundamental part of everything we do in our lives.

It’s everywhere. It’s part of the fabric that holds us together as social, emotional beings. So why not make use of it?

Your story is what you make it. Use it to connect with your audience and inspire them. If customers believe in you, they will believe in what you do. Make sure they know where you’ve come from, where you are now and where your future lies.

Who knows, you may even surprise a few people along the way.  

The End. (or is this just the beginning?)

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