Boy Reading a Book

What makes a good story?

How do you catch your audience’s attention? Once you have it, how do you keep them engaged?

The answer is simple: Tell stories in your content marketing strategy. 

As human beings, people are more naturally drawn to stories than just data or statistics. While showcasing numbers and factual evidence is important in supporting your claims, it shouldn’t be the highlight of your content. 

Stanford University research shows that statistics alone have a retention rate of up to 10%, but when combined with stories, the retention rate increases to almost 70%. For a customer to engage in and become invested in what you’re saying, you need to offer something that establishes a genuine connection.

Storytelling can be a powerful tool in creating connections and memorable content. Information by itself can be clinical and easily forgettable. It can be shrugged off because it failed to convince them that they should care about the data or facts that were presented. But structuring your content into a story will immerse your audience in the narrative you’ve created and they’ll recall your core message more easily.

“Facts tell, but stories sell,” said Bryan Eisenberg, bestselling author and professional marketing keynote speaker. He goes on to mention that effective content marketing is about mastering the art of telling stories. Without it, your content can come off as boring, monotonous, or irrelevant. 

Why storytelling in content marketing is more effective 

Impactful stories can build an audience across different channels and platforms. This is the reason why people love different movies, books, and even music. Every type of content tells a storythe best and most memorable ones anyway. The same goes for business.

Because so many businesses are competing for the attention of the same people, it’s important that you’re proactively developing strategies to stand out with your content. And one of the best ways to do this is by incorporating stories within your content marketing strategy. 

A story in content marketing serves a dual purpose of delivering a brand message while evoking a genuine emotional connection with your target customer. A well-crafted story leaves a long-lasting impression on your audience and, in business, motivates them to act (i.e. purchase your product or service) because purchasing is an emotional action.

Storytelling has often driven the success of many brands’ content marketing campaigns. Nike is well-known for its inspirational and dynamic storytelling, and their “Just Do It” tagline has become ubiquitous and associated with the brand even as it’s constantly reused and updated in their new campaigns. 

The Metro Trains “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign is another example of effective and memorable storytelling. The music video reached the iTunes Top 10 chart within 24 hours of its release in 2012. There were minimal efforts in promoting this campaign, too, so it genuinely went viral because so many individuals talked about it and viewed it on platforms such as YouTube and Reddit. 

It had a clear narrative and message (i.e. for more people to act safer around trains, avoid accidents and “dumb behaviour” on train platforms) that was structured in a fun, light-hearted, and quirky way. 

To become a great storyteller in content marketing, every element in your piece needs to be carefully considered and crafted. This ensures that your piece of content is immersive, relevant, and coherent.

5 ways to tell a good story with your content

Here are five tips that will help you create compelling and engaging stories for your content marketing strategy

1. Identify the message you want to share

Every great story starts with the question: “What is the message I want to share?” Think of your message as an end goal: If your audience identified and understood it within your story, then you’ve successfully conveyed your message. 

It will give you direction on the themes, details, and elements you need to incorporate into your content. It also ensures that your story’s message has clarity so that when it reaches your audience they can easily understand and remember it, too. 

Having a clear message results in a relevant and impactful story because it’s carefully thought out from beginning to end. Spontaneously picking a random idea and then turning it into a story can lead to a disjointed and incoherent piece of content.

2. Think about the best way to tell the story to your audience

Remember that every person has different preferences for the stories they want to consume. This is why everyone has different favourite movies, books, and even songs or albums. To understand the best way to tell your story, you need to have a deep understanding of your target audience.  

If your customers are highly visual, they might prefer a dynamic video that contains a great story and uses beautiful effects. If your customers are within a younger demographic, they might enjoy quirky and funny social media posts they can easily engage with or share on their own feeds. If they love to read and their first go-to is consuming articles and blogs, then long-form content is the way to share your story.

Choosing the right framework, style, and tone will resonate more deeply with your audience and make your story more memorable.

3. Find inspiration from life experiences

Good storytellers draw inspiration from their own memories and experiences to share their message. Anecdotes that genuinely illustrate how you can overcome specific struggles (i.e. pain points) will strengthen your authenticity and authority as an industry leader while building your audience’s trust.

However, it’s important to balance how much you use your life experience to form your stories. A Hero’s Journey that intentionally focuses on you can be effective. But if this isn’t the intent of your content, then the story can come off as arrogant, self-centred, and irrelevant to your customer. 

Ultimately, a story is for your audience’s sake, not yours.

4. Use believable conflicts (aka your customer’s pain points)

Every great story has its own dragon. Without conflict, it’s dull and uninteresting. In content marketing, your story should highlight challenges that your audience can relate to. This keeps them invested throughout your whole story because they want to see how it ends (i.e. they’re engaged the entire time).

Dove is well-known for its emotional and powerful storytelling strategies. Their Real Beauty campaign showed that there’s a stark difference between the way women perceive themselves and how others see them. This is definitely a struggle (aka a believable conflict) that their target audience resonates with. The video ends in a positive way, that women are more beautiful than they think. The story was inspiring and authentic, which allowed Dove to build the loyalty and trust of their audience.

5. Keep it simple

Majority of impactful and powerful stories are simple and straightforward. One of the reasons that people remember Nike’s “Just Do It” campaigns is because the tagline is concise and the message is clearly conveyed in their content, from their evocative photos to their storytelling videos.

As a storyteller, you need to choose which details must be included in the story, so that they only add to the main message, not detract from it. Well-placed details will keep your audience immersed in the world you’ve created, which allows them to enjoy the story even further. 

But if you overwhelm them with unnecessary information, photos, or even scenes, your audience will stop trying to understand your story and turn to something else.

Storytelling is an essential part of effective content marketing. It humanises your brand and sets you apart from other businesses trying to catch your customer’s attention. But to make a great story, you need to ensure that every element is well-crafted and planned out. This will ensure that your story leaves a lasting impression and creates an emotional connection with your audience.

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