Why Your Content Should Tell A Great Story
Do you know how to tell a great story? Storytelling has become the latest buzzword when it comes to marketing your business. So much so, that the word has probably lost any meaning for you. But there is a reason it became popular in the first place: because the idea itself has a great deal of merit.
I confess at the outset that I am naturally a storyteller. I write novels to entertain people. There is something beautiful and poetic in a story arc, in the resolution of conflict, in the ending that makes you think long after you put the book down. When you think about it, stories in any format have the capability to affect us, whether through novels, movies, biographies, cartoons, music or art.
There is something about stories that capture the essence of our humanity. They speak to us on a deeper, more profound level than a procedures manual or a textbook. The evoke emotion in us: joy, sadness, anger. We might even attach a certain memory to a story, because the emotion involved is so strong.
I remember the effect Schindler’s List had on our society, and arguably still has to this day. It was released twenty years ago and introduced to a new generation the horror of the Holocaust.
Before the film’s success — in addition to the Oscar wins, it also grossed $321 million worldwide — schools generally broached the subject only as a minor aspect of World War II. “The Holocaust was approached as an addendum when history teachers taught World War II,” according to James Jerry Clark, a St. Joseph’s University professor who teaches teachers how to use Echoes and Reflections, a Holocaust education program developed and supported by the Shoah Foundation, Yad Vashem and the Anti-Defamation League. After the film came out, he said, the Holocaust became a topic all its own, one that focused on values, judgment and decision-making.
What transformed a Hollywood film into a change agent? Spielberg has said that he made the film because it was a story that needed to be told, and was a way to craft a definitive response to Holocaust deniers, but he never consciously intended to create a paradigm shift in education. Josey Fisher has a simple explanation for what happened: Spielberg’s film, which was based on Thomas Keneally’s Booker Prize-winning 1983 historical novel, Schindler’s Ark, told a story that resonated long after the house lights went up and the audience went home.
Now you can see the power of a story.
The Power of A Story and Marketing
But what does this have to do with marketing? Well, the principles of telling a story apply to your marketing content.
Stories tell your audience about who you are. The best way to do business with someone is to trust them, and building trust is one of the primary objectives of content marketing. Telling your audience about who you are is one step towards this. Stories about what motivated you to start your business, or why you went into business, or how the family grew the business over three generations are all great stories to tell so that your audience begins to understand who you are and why they might like to become your customer.
Stories can share vision. You have a vision of what you’d like your business to achieve, but do you have a vision for your audience? Your vision could be to see every adult across the country wearing comfortable, high-quality leather shoes and never complaining about blisters again. Or your vision could be to protect the vulnerable people in our community. You may have several visions. What’s important is to show your audience how much you care about them – your vision for them.
Stories teach people about how to solve problems. Give your audience an opportunity to learn from a mistake without ever having to make it. You might be a business that builds protective security into computer systems. Telling your audience about how easy it is for hackers to penetrate their computer systems before this problem even occurs can add value into the lives of your audience. Previously, they weren’t aware of how easy it was for them to lose their data. Because of your story, they know, and they also know they have to do something about it.
Values in action stories. As a business, do you have values? Even they’re untold, most businesses operate according to a loose set of ideals. Perhaps your values are that you provide prompt service, delivery and after-sales support. You can tell stories about how you achieve this, and why it’s important for your customers.
I know what you’re thinking stories. I know what you’re thinking right now. I don’t want to read a story, I just want to buy something I need. And for some businesses, this is precisely the story they need to tell. Because, you see, everything we do tells a story about ourselves – and you might not even realise it.
Consider two online retailers of children’s educational toys. One’s story is that they have the cheapest prices and quick delivery. The other doesn’t have the cheapest prices, but their story revolves around educating parents on developmental milestones. They offer free seminars hosted by occupational therapists and psychologists, and on their website you can obtain free checklists to determine if your children need help in a certain sphere of education or development. Their website is full of stories about how they’ve helped parents and kids.
When a third online toy store opens that offers cut prices and free delivery, which of the original toy businesses will suffer the most?
The point of this is simply to be aware that you are always telling a story, even if you think you aren’t.
As I have always said in the past, good content marketing is about building relationships, and telling a great story is part of this. But good marketing is also about customer loyalty. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that it’s much easier to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Apple does a great job with customer loyalty, because it holds fast to its main values of innovation and design.
Telling a good story will improve your brand loyalty because you are providing them with something of value. This doesn’t mean just your products or services – it also encompasses blog posts, social media posts, videos and more. Every piece of content needs to have a purpose, and it should achieve its goal in an entertaining and educational manner.