How to use storytelling in your content marketing strategy
Let's face it, everyone loves a good story. Thinking of a good story takes you back to being a child snuggled up in your favourite blanket having your favourite book read back to you hundreds of times. Or that great experience you had on your overseas adventure that you'll never forget. Even those times you've spent experiencing highs and lows, and the emotions you felt going through them.
Stories keep you entertained, help you make sense of an experience, and gives topics meaning. They allow us to connect on some kind of emotional level and communicate effectively across generations and cultures.
This is why many marketers have adopted a storytelling approach to their content marketing strategy. However the problem with today's marketing is that it is saturated with brands trying to reach their audience with their story. This makes it difficult for your own story to be heard and understood as consumers either don't have time to listen, or they intentionally ignore stories they don't immediately connect with - so how can you connect with the right people?
According to HubSpot, in just one minute:
- 1,388 blog posts are published.
- Facebook users share 2.5 million pieces of content.
- YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
- Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
- And Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
That's a lot of content! But hope is not lost - by following a few simple tips (and consistently practicing to improve your skills) you can tell your story well, and have it heard among the right people at the right time.
Start with your goals
This doesn't just mean what you want people to do at the end of the post. Start with ensuring your brand's values and mission are going to be reflected in the content you create. After all, it's these values that will resonate with people and develop that connection. In the realm of content marketing, it's also about helping people with a challenge or decision they are struggling with. If you're unsure about a piece, step back and ask yourself these three questions; does it align with the traits I want my brand to be known for?; will people genuinely find it helpful on their path to discovering the best solution for them? and; have I taught my readers anything with this content?
This is what will set your content apart from your competitors. Let's face it - your competitors probably sell a very similar product or service to you, but building that emotional connection with people is what drives loyalty and connects you to the right customers. How many times have you purchased from a brand because your values aligned with those that the brand portrayed?
What do you need to tell a good story?
When creating content for your brand, it is very easy to launch into the 'what' and 'how' of the topic. But when you're telling a story, it's important to start with the 'why'. Why are you doing what you're doing? - address the pain points you are trying to solve or the goals you are trying to achieve. This will help you to set the tone, communicate with feelings, and acknowledge behaviours that your readers will be able to relate to.
Once you've established the 'why', you can launch into the 'how' (how will this help your audience?) and the 'what' (what are you offering?). This will cater to the logical side of your story, and give your story direction.
Now that you have the baseline of your story in order, you need the essential elements: characters, conflict, and resolution.
What's a story without characters you can relate to? In content marketing, these characters will be your readers. As mentioned, you're trying to help solve their pain point or achieve their goal. To ensure you're able to connect with your audience, refer back to your buyer personas and journeys. This will help you put yourself in your reader's shoes and empathise with them - remember you're trying to understand and portray why these people will want what you're about to offer them (are they a time poor business owner, or a knowledge hungry student?).
Next comes the conflict, which teaches the reader how the character either breaks through their challenges or achieves their goal. The key word here is 'teaching' - this section is meant to help develop the story and your reader's emotional reaction towards the topic. If you review your content and find that there is no real conflict present, it's probably too much of a pitch, tagline, unique selling point, or a plain statement - which isn't ultimately helpful for your readers and you'll lose them quickly.
It's important at this stage to ensure the conflict aligns with where your reader (or character) will be at in their buying journey. If it's not relevant to the stage they're at, they won't make that important emotional connection.
And lastly, there's a resolution - make sure you don't leave your readers hanging! A resolution can be happy or sad, and will usually be in some form of a call to action. This will reveal or fulfil the purpose behind your story.
Here's a great example...
Everyone needs shoes to protect their feet, but not everyone has the money to pay for them. TOMS is striking an emotional chord with their audience by raising awareness of people who don't have the money to pay for shoes, which is an issue they’re passionate about. The TOMS resolution is that when you buy a pair of their shoes, they’ll donate a pair of shoes to a child in need.
Here's some other things to keep in mind when telling your story:
- Pick an emotion that will resonate with your audience - fear, survival, guilt, energised, amusement, maybe even hope?
- Be consistent with your values and be authentic
- Keep your story clear and concise - no one likes a story that whaffles
- Be specific - your story won't have much impact if you try a 'one size fits all' approach.
So there you have it - a basic guide to begin your storytelling journey. Remember to define your goals, consider why you're telling your story, and define your characters, conflict and resolution. If you're still in the process of defining your story, make sure you start with defining your characters (personas) and their journey using our free guide here.
words by Bek Possingham