Do you remember story time at the library or bedtime stories with your mom or dad? There was only one story being shared at a time to a captive audience (you and maybe a small group) that was confined to a limited space (the story rug or tucked safely in bed).
While your memory of these times may be a bit hazy, there are some great qualities of storytelling and storytellers that can help marketers better engage with a brand’s audiences according to a recent presentation from the MarketingProfs University Marketing Writing Bootcamp.
As a marketer, you may not need many reasons to explain the importance of storytelling. But if your upper management team doesn’t quite understand the benefits, here are some ways storytelling can proactively and reactively help your organization’s brand:
- Become full color – Storytelling allows you to share more dimensions of your organization (from a typical work day for employees to how holidays and festivities are celebrated to community involvement) and helps people see more than just black and white (or sales and products).
- Stand out from your competitors – It’s easy for people to clump organizations and brands into categories based on what they do, the solutions, or industry. But a brand that is great at storytelling can stand out from the competition and hopefully rise to the top of a prospect’s short list.
- Engage new customers – By standing out in a crowded space or perhaps establishing a thought leadership position, storytelling can get your brand out to the right audiences and help your prospects get to know you both before and during the sales pursuit.
- Build loyalty in current customers – Second to your own organization, current customers can be the next most important brand ambassadors for your organization. Make sure they know your story, are excited about working with your team and share positive stories about your brand.
- Overcome negative perceptions – There are a number of elements marketers cannot control—your competitors, customer responses, company perceptions, media coverage and customer service resolution—but you can influence them. With a consistent and the right story, your brand can overcome bad publicity.
Now that we know the benefits of storytelling, it’s equally important to focus on the delivery of the story and qualities of the storyteller.
During story time long, long ago, did your favorite storyteller change his/her voice for the different characters or adjust the tone and speed to reflect quiet creeping, a loud boom or an exciting chase? Could they tell when other kids got distracted from the story or ask questions? Did they know what to say even as they were turning the page? If so, you likely had a talented storyteller and the same awareness is necessary for telling your brand’s story.
The best story/brand tellers:
- Think on their feet – Be aware of audience response (are they actively listening and responding?) and shape the story to the audience’s interests. If you see expressions of disbelief or puzzled looks, be prepared with more than one angle to your story and adjust accordingly.
- Know what to leave in and leave out – By focusing on details that connect with your audience, you can keep the story moving forward and avoid distracting your audience with irrelevant details. This helps keep your message clear and concise.
- Cover what they know – Know your audience including what messages resonate with them and what their pain points are. Know your brand inside and out so you can best express the value of your message and offerings.
- Know the ending before starting – Be ready with a positive result at the end. If you’re sharing a case study example, make sure you know the results, ROI and anticipate any questions that may arise. If you’re sharing a more general story, ensure that the conflict is fully resolved.
- Read the crowd – The crowd could change during the delivery of your story or they may become distracted. Shift your story if you’re not getting a good response and listen to feedback (from your customer service teams, social media channels and any other resources you may have). A restless or booing crowd is a clear indicator that something needs to change before they begin throwing tomatoes at you or your brand.
Your brand is your story. There’s a clear beginning, a conflict or opportunity and hero followed by the happily ever after. So be sure you’re sharing your story (effectively) everywhere from web copy and collateral to social media and customer testimonials.