Storytelling has become popular vernacular in the marketing world, and why not? We love stories! Especially stories that inspire us or make us feel something. Best of all, for marketers, people remember stories and share them (more on that in a moment).
On the surface, it seems like a straightforward concept until people start talking about stories of “value” or stories of “variety.” Say what? I can’t remember reading a book or seeing a movie that was a memorable story of “value,” can you?
To the contrary, stories with a plot, the main character, conflict, and resolution are often wonderfully memorable and, at times, even emotional. These are the stories that evoke empathy, making them memorable — much more than stories of “value.” They are also the stories that your members and prospects are drawn to and remember long after their initial interaction.
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Why people respond to real stories
The best stories are about people and, last I checked, your club has lots of them. Think about it, each person has their own unique story — your members, your staff, even your vendors, and partners. However, before diving into how to uncover these unique stories, let’s start with "why storytelling?" One of the reasons storytelling has become so en vogue is that we remember stories better than we remember marketing messages. Since the beginning of time, stories have been passed on through generations — stories so rich and vibrant you can see the characters in your mind’s eye. The greatest challenge for all organizations is executing on this concept.
On the flip side, as consumers, we’re quite savvy when it comes to sniffing out, what I call, "marketing BS." Traditional marketing and advertising conditioned us to know the difference — historically, we watched our TV shows and went to the bathroom or refrigerator when commercials came on. Today, as consumers, we do everything we can to skip past commercials. And yet, we’ll watch entertaining, informative and helpful content all day long, preferably commercial free.
A primary goal for your internal and external communications should be to create stories that make your members and prospects want to read your content (i.e., emails, blogs, e-blasts, etc.).
How do you do that? Separate the stories from the commercials and use the stories as levers to drive people to your events. Today, most club communication is filled with commercials, disguised with fancy graphics and long explanations of event descriptions. Informative? Yes. Engaging stories? Not even close. Here are some examples of how stories can replace your “commercials” in your club marketing and communication:
John Doe is named Executive of the Year by a local business publication
Hold your next business breakfast at the club
Abby Johnson (daughter of members) wins the state high school golf tournament, finishes top 10, part of the winning team, wins the state swim meet, etc. (pick your story)
Sign up for our junior girl's program. Registration opens next week.
Steve and Larry are on the culinary team and grew up in the same village in a remote part of the world and happen to now be on staff at your club
Chef specials for the week
Sarah Jones leads memorial march to honor breast cancer survivors on Mother’s Day
Join us for our Mother’s Day Brunch. Make your reservations today!
Why Craig Smith became a golf course superintendent — you might be surprised!
Golf course updates
What makes a story worth telling?
On paper, this can look like a simple process, yet the biggest challenge non-journalists face is understanding the difference between stories and commercials. So often we think we have an excellent story when there really isn’t a story at all. It begins with identifying the elements of a story.
A story worth telling has the following characteristics:
- The main character
- A supporting cast
- Conflict or tension
- Conflict resolution
- Positive outcome
Without these elements, it’s difficult to tell a story that people will care about. Think of your favorite books or movies, chances are you can check the box on all of these characteristics. Your challenge is finding these stories.
How do I uncover these stories?
When you’re starting from ground zero, this can be a daunting task and yet, there’s good news — whenever people are involved, chances are you can find a good story. To find your best stories, reach out to your staff members that are closest to your members.
Whether that’s the person working at the bag drop, a server in your dining room, or your member services staff member, ask them what they know about your members.
It's likely they’ll know more about your members than anyone. To find employee stories, talk to managers or department leaders. There’s a good chance they know something about the people they manage. It’s important to create a culture of listening for stories and then sharing them with the marketing and communications team.
Making the stories actionable
If you have an existing staff or department head meetings, I suggest you add an “editorial planning” segment to your agenda. News organizations exist because their staff understands that to survive you have to enterprise stories. If reporters and producers aren’t working their beat, they don’t have stories to share with readers or viewers. They pull all the stories for the day's news in editorial meetings — quite often two a day.
This is simple and need not be a big production. Here’s how: Ask your staff to come to each meeting with a story idea from their department. This could be a story about a member, or a fellow staff member. The one rule I recommend you begin with is that you insist the story is about a person.
Whoever oversees the content production for your club acts as the "Managing Editor." He or she asks questions and digs a little deeper to understand the real story. The Managing Editor is now responsible for organizing the ideas: which stories are going to be in this month's newsletter, what will go in next month’s newsletter, and what will go in a file for future stories. They are the guardian of the content that the club creates. Depending on the size of your team, you can then assign writers for the stories and schedule them for production.
How to distribute stories
Now, the important part — getting your stories found. We’ll break this down with two audiences in mind — your members and your prospective members and guests. We’ve been focusing on the use of newsletters for these stories and while that’s an excellent option, there are other places for your stories to “live,” including:
- Social media
If you’re like most clubs, you don’t have a blog, yet this is the most powerful distribution medium available for your stories. First, to be clear, a blog is part of your website and most people don’t even realize they’re reading a blog when they’re on your website. Blogs are a dynamic tool that can be used to host your stories and they have tremendous benefit as it relates to your search ranking on the internet. In other words, if you want Google to point people to you for membership, weddings, Monday outings, etc., a blog should be important to you. If your club is private and you’re not able to market, you can also make your blog private.
Once a story is posted on your blog, you can then use the URL to include in your e-blasts and in your social media posts. For clubs that have public-facing social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, these stories become a window into your club that can help non-members understand who you are and what your club is all about. The power of suggestion can quickly become a referral when you’re sharing stories that connect with people! The significance of a club blog is substantial for clubs who are actively trying to increase membership and catering events.
Remember, it’s critical that the content you are producing for your blog — which is then also seen in social media and found through organic search — is made up of stories and not commercials. Keep in mind, compelling stories are about people, not activities and events. You can build trust and relationships with content that connects with people’s heart and mind. You can not do the same with your commercials.
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