Refine your storytelling skills to create better content

Dan Brooks

08 December 2017

Storytelling is a vital element of effective content marketing.

Successful storytelling draws in the reader, immersing them in a compelling narrative. Whether it’s delivered in a 140-character tweet, a blog post, email, video, presentation, ebook, or customer case study—what matters is that the story resonates with the audience.

Jaded consumers are beginning to ignore content that doesn’t provide relevance. This leads to lower ROI and increased frustration for marketers. If content doesn’t engage an audience emotionally, you will lose their attention.

Brands have a remarkable opportunity to use storytelling techniques to strengthen customer relationships. Storytelling can create, build or restore, perceptions of a company and its products.

Elements to consider when planning your storytelling strategy:

The role of emotion

We tell one another stories and we connect emotionally—through both hearts and minds. Too often in B2B, brands equate storytelling to dry, factual case studies rather than emotional descriptions of customers' experiences and the higher order problems or challenges they overcame.

Data undoubtedly persuades but it doesn’t always inspire. Even in B2B, many purchasing decisions are influenced by emotions and personal perspectives, as much as by an underlying business case.

People are rewarded by stories that hold personal meaning and create an emotional connection. An effective insight program can help an organization refine output and focus practical storytelling techniques. Discover which emotion your audience is feeling before and after they encounter the narrative surrounding your product or service. How does it affect their perspective of the business, or your product or service? Better audience insight will help you connect with customers and refine the overall brand strategy.

Evolving human needs

Businesses need to take a step back to evaluate whether the story they’re presenting matches their audience’s interests and resonates with their lives.

A compelling brand story begins with a greater purpose or cause. Big-picture stories that make sense of the world and define your purpose within it will inspire people to think differently and engage with your story.

Identify your hero

By giving your products and services an identity, you can take your target audience on a journey. Consider a character to help you to tell the story  a hero. Quite possibly your customer but it might also be the ultimate user of the service in the front line, rather than a senior purchaser or manager.

Heroes and villains, suspense and adventure, all these narrative techniques will help you to help to form a compelling story.

Give audiences a role in your brand story, and they’ll see themselves as an extension of it. Provide a guiding narrative that helps the reader understand how you are different from the competition. Express personality. Make the story relevant to appeal to the motivations and needs of your prospective buyer.

Tailor your storytelling to the format

Any format can be used to tell a story, including video, email, social channels, and case studies. However, each vehicle elicits a different reaction from your audience. Each one has its advantages—and drawbacks. To make your story work for all audiences, regardless of their preferences for content types, you should tell it through multiple forms of media.

Personalize your content by using listening tools and analytics. Use words, images, and sounds to ignite passion or evoke a strong emotional response based on the platform and strategy you’re applying.

Prepare better for storytelling at scale

Storytelling can be hugely improved by the use of listening tools and insight programs to better tune content to target audiences. However at its heart, good storytelling relies upon the application of individually learned skills and techniques.

So far, at least, AI hasn't fixed the content challenge.

But for larger organizations hoping to improve the quality of storytelling at scale across thousands of pieces of content, hundreds of products and multiple businesses and languages, there are particular challenges and strategies.

It is a big subject, so more on this topic in another post, or get in touch for a conversation.