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In this day and age we have access to prolific amounts of online content be it through websites, social media, video platforms–the list goes on and on. According to Zippia Research, 6 million new blog posts are published every day. We are consistently inundated with media, so the question stands, how do you get your business message above the noise?
It boils down to the art of storytelling.
After years in the newsroom, StoryTeller Media and Communication's very own Ed Heil shares trade secrets on how to create a compelling brand story. It all starts by understanding your audience, then learning how to identify what makes a memorable and impactful story, discovering where to find stories, deciding what to capture, how to share your story, and finally how to measure and monitor your success.
UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
Understanding who you are trying to reach is paramount to telling any story. For example, pretend you are telling a bedtime story to a child, the way you present this would be completely different if you were recounting the same story to a group of friends. Understanding your audience informs your tone, language, and overall information you include to make the story pertinent to your audience.
Think about these key factors when deciphering your audience:
- What are their biggest pain points?
- How can you help them?
- What information do they value?
- What point of view is most meaningful to your audience?
Answering these questions will help lay the foundation for a powerful story.
A couple of years ago we worked with Catholic Charities of St. Paul/Minneapolis to produce a capital campaign video that would be used in fundraising efforts to build a new Dorothy Day Center, which is a center for people in transition between homes.
The team at Catholic Charities wanted their video to be a shareable, compelling story that would drive views. In order to do this, they thought the perfect person for the job was their CEO, Tim Marx. He was great in front of a camera, a strong speaker, and he knew the brand messaging really well. They figured that adding a few board members to speak on the video would round out the idea.
This sort of capital campaign/fundraising video model was very popular at that time. However, with the amount of information that's online today, people want to see and learn more. People disengage when they hear messages from spokespeople who say things they are “supposed to” say. It's not interesting and it's certainly not going to be shareable nor will it be the type of video to drive a lot of views.
So instead, StoryTeller recommended a more narrowed focus, telling the story from the point of view of a person who actually uses the Dorothy Day Center.
The resulting video performed fantastically, leading to thousands of views (and still growing), and jumpstarting a successful campaign. Catholic Charities used this video on multiple platforms, even winning an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy award–the first Emmy that Catholic Charities had ever won.
This was all made possible by understanding the audience Catholic Charities was trying to reach. By telling the story through the point of view of someone in need of programs like the Dorthy Center, viewers could see first-hand how their donations would make an impact.
Pro Tip: The most important thing about capturing a video is not controlling what people do or say, it's how you make your audience feel.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT STORY
So what makes a story great? Stories have the power to teach you something or show you something you haven't seen before. Stories can take you to new places. Through video, you have the ability to engage your target audience in ways other mediums can not.
All of that considered, we think it comes down to producing stories that evoke emotion.
As marketers, we want people to care about the information we’re sharing! In many ways, the worst thing that people can do after looking at a video or reading a blog is to feel nothing or feel like it was a total waste of time because they didn't really learn anything. So how do you avoid that? It starts with empathy for the audience and understanding what is most important to them. So often, people approach “marketing videos” only from the perspective of the business selling the product or service. Instead, consider the viewer’s needs, questions or pain points.
If you watch enough marketing videos, you’ll notice they often include a spokesperson communicating information you expect to hear or read. The delivery may be insincere and flat lacking emotion, honesty and authenticity. Feature reporters are trained to avoid “officials in suits” and instead focus on people who are impacted. In other words, avoid the CEO and feature the person who relies on the services of the Dorothy Day Center. Your stories will be memorable and, if produced well, include all the key information you need to communicate.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that the best stories are not about the products and services you sell, but about the people who benefit from the products and services.
The bottom line is consumers are looking for the truth. Well-told stories about real people is an authentic way to build trust with the viewer.
WHERE TO FIND STORIES
The best stories come from the people who are closest to the customers. So who is that? Your sales team! Whether it be inside sales, outside sales or the customer service team, these are people who are closest to the pulse of your customers’ stories. Quite frequently, these are the people who are most exposed to customer challenges and triumphs. They also know the meaningful impact of the work your company or organization provides.
Another way to drum up stories is to notice the inquiries you receive when you're attending social events. What questions are people asking you about your business or organization? The natural curiosity they have is great fodder for stories.
SHOOT THIS, NOT THAT
The term “storytelling” has become popular in marketing circles in recent years and marketers are eager to “tell their story.” However, some marketers confuse stories with marketing messages. For example, you may hear someone say they have a story of “value” that they need to communicate. Or they might say they have an important story of “variety”, but these aren't actual stories, they are key messages. Once again, these messages lack empathy, compassion and insight.
As Maya Angelou famously once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Remember this quote as you determine who you should feature and what stories should be told.
Pro Tip: Share solution stories.
Tell stories about things that you do that are solving problems for people instead of a highlight reel of your new product. Show viewers how the product actually works. Show them success stories.
Avoid telling stories about your earnings and revenue. While there is a time and place for this information, when we're talking about storytelling for businesses, tell the stories about people.
SHARE YOUR STORIES
If you have a blog, make sure your stories get published there. When you have them on your blog or on your website, share them across social media channels!
Remember, not every channel is created equally so be sure to optimize your content to each platform.
MONITORING & MEASURING
It's simply amazing how much more accountable marketers are in this day and age due to the amount of measuring tools at our disposal. We have visibility into blog and video views, conversion rates, email open rates, and so much more. With the right tools, you can see exactly how you’re getting your organic leads. All of this information allows us to create and share stories and then have the liberty to tweak the messaging that fell flat while boosting the content people connected with.
Monitoring and measuring is a necessary piece in storytelling. Without it, there is no way for marketers to know what stories people really care about. Remaining agile is key.
Try to do your best to discover what the real stories are in your business. What are the stories about the people? What are the stories that people care about? Find ways to become interesting and relatable. Once you have that, share your stories through videos, blogs, and social media. Be sure to measure your success and adjust accordingly.
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