You can’t swing a laptop without hitting a blogger writing about storytelling these days. It seems to be the current buzzword in marketing.
The word “storytelling” makes you think of an audience hanging on every word as the teller spins a captivating tale.
How can you capture some of that same magic? Some brands seem to do it effortlessly. But when something looks effortless, you can be sure a lot of thought and practice went into it.
Even though storytelling is in our blood as humans, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Fortunately, like any other skill, it can be learned. And you won’t have to sign up for a workshop at a groovy weekend retreat.
Below is a collection of seven articles that will be valuable to anyone who is trying to tell the story of their brand. The topics range from the importance of storytelling, to the science of why it is so powerful, to nuts and bolts advice about how to make it work for your company. There is something for everyone here. I think you’ll enjoy it. I hope you find it useful. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.
Storytelling beats production and not just for video.
In this video blog post from Vidyard, Michael Litt explains why you’d be better off putting your effort into story development rather than spending your resources on highly produced videos.
This advice applies to more than videos. Think about where your marketing team is spending time and effort on high touch production that might be better spent producing helpful content. Is it really worth creating custom email headers for a trade show? Can you think of ways to employ the skill of your designers that better serve the customer? Why not use them to create something a customer will value and hold on to? That is what content marketing is all about. If it doesn’t serve the customer, don’t do it!
People are “naturally greedy” for stories.
Jonathan Gottschall, the author The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, wrote two posts for Fast Company.
The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction Like Nothing Else explains how stories so easily command our attention and what happens inside our brains when we are engaged in a story.
Although the mind tends to wander naturally when unoccupied by a serious task, a great story can pin it down for hours. The science shows that we imagine ourselves in the center of a good story. If we identify with the protagonist strongly in some way, we feel what she feels.
Have you experienced this? I know that the movies I enjoy least are the ones where I can’t relate to any of the characters and don’t care at all about what happens to them.
The takeaway for marketers is to create a story in which your customers see themselves as the heroes.
Read a good story lately? It might show up in a blood test.
Tolstoy said good art infects the audience with the storyteller’s emotions and ideas. It’s truer than he imagined. This borders on spooky, futuristic science fiction, but a story can change hormone levels in your blood.
Jonathan Gottschall’s second post in the series, Infecting An Audience: Why Great Stories Spread, describes how stories can transfer ideas and emotions to the audience in a way that a more direct approach cannot.
Many content marketers understand this, but it is worth repeating. Telling people what to think doesn’t move them. As Hamid Ghanadan makes clear in his book, Persuading Scientists:Marketing to the World’s Most Skeptical Audience, scientists are especially resistant to infection by this route.
On the other hand, stories that allow the audience to experience the emotions and ideas of someone else can change their thinking. This article makes that clear with good examples.
What Che Guevara and Fidel Castro learned about content marketing 50+ years ago.
At the basic level every story is about a problem, but there needs to be something deeper. There needs to be a message.
In this post from TopRank, Jesse Pickrain tells three short stories from a CMI presentation by Shane Snow to guide your own efforts.
The deeper message I mentioned above can invite people to be part of a mission. Elon Musk understands this and has used the idea to keep investors passionately interested in a mission to Mars.
In a second example, the author points out that, of course, your story (or your mission) has to pass a sniff test. If your audience detects BS, you are finished.
Finally, he describes what Che Guevara and Fidel Castro learned about content marketing 50+ years ago when Cuba’s previous dictator wasn’t following the advice in example #2.
Start with a framework to build your story
By now (and probably long before) you understand the importance of stories and how they work. But how do you actually tell one over time? This post from the Content Marketing Institute should clear that up for you.
All stories revolve around a problem and a solution or outcome. The Hero’s Journey has been a common theme throughout history. This article describes seven ancient archetypes, all around problem and solution, that can be considered when developing a framework for your story. Think of them as different palates from which to paint your brand picture.
Study this article carefully to see which one might be right for your company or product. The examples will require some thought, but will help you see possibilities you might not have imagined.
Understanding how the brain stores information can make your story memorable
In The Cognitive Importance of Storytelling, Christopher S. Penn describes how data is stored in the brain and what that means for ensuring that your brand story is remembered.
Because familiar elements make stories easier to recall, the key is to tie your story to something people already know and care about. It makes good sense when you consider the (sometimes surprising) associations your mind makes. Think about it this way. You want your brand story to go in a file that is frequently used by your customer rather than being stored in a new one that will rarely be opened.
Removing obstacles with content marketing
In Storytelling, Positioning & Personas for More Effective B2B Content Marketing, Lee Odden of TopRank summarizes a talk from Ardath Albee presented at Content Marketing World.
While the article is largely about positioning and finding your company’s distinct value, the most valuable advice is about removing obstacles with your content marketing and 6 mistakes you should avoid in your storytelling.
At this point we’ve come full circle. Content must always serve the customer’s needs. If it doesn’t help them, it probably doesn’t help you, either.
To get started, think about the story your customers see themselves in as they go to work each day. What do they help their customers do?
If you want help telling your story through a life science content marketing plan that is entirely focused on helping your customers solve problems to generate leads and sales for your business, contact me and tell me about your biggest content marketing challenge.
photo credit: Gratisography.com (CC2.0)