Everybody is talking about applying “storytelling” to content marketing these days. Rapidly growing into just another buzzword used by wannabe marketing experts, however, the whole concept of storytelling is hard to grasp and even harder to master.
So instead of making this potent word into a parody to showcase in resumes and cover letters just to appear even more ridiculous, let’s have a look at the immense power of “telling stories” when you build your content. Stay with me as I walk you through the charming and compelling story of how the art of narrating can make the difference between good content and “I will remember that article for the rest of my life.”
What Storytelling Is Not
Before we start walking the walk, we must arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge to be able to fully understand all that’s relevant to our story – the story of how you can bring storytelling to your content. And just like a wise traveler knows what he must bring with him, and what he needs to leave at home to avoid overpacking, it is important to know what storytelling is not before diving deeper.
The first, and probably most common mistake is to think storytelling as a content cure-all that is applied vertically on every article to optimize it. Well, storytelling is a little bit more than just adding a few internal links or fixing the headings. You can’t just read a guide about “how to apply storytelling to your content,” tinker your pages like a mechanic, and “fix” them, so they’re optimized for conversion. It is a work of art, and a way to communicate emotions and feelings through a compelling narrative arc – it is something impalpable and volatile that is as variable as humanity is diverse. You don’t need to be a novelist, but you definitely need to put something more… humane in every piece you write if you want it to really strike a nerve.
Stories Are Not About You
This concept is a little complicated to grasp fully. Many writers simply focus their narration on themselves. But that’s a mistake. You’re writing your content for other people – you have to guide them through a path, catch their attention, and let them feel like they’re the protagonists of these stories. If you’re the hero, you’re just telling the world how good you are. Frankly, who cares? You should make your readers, your audience, your followers the heroes of the story, not you.
The story must make sense in their world, let them feel like they can relate to it, and, in the best scenario possible, see you as a wise mentor or commentator whose advice must be followed. The success you are describing at the end of the story must be theirs, not yours.
The Many Types Of Stories You May Tell
If you want to use storytelling techniques effectively, you must know exactly what you want to achieve. Stories are told to shift the perspective of your readers, to overcome their objections, and to convince them to choose your brand over the others. So what’s the difference with a traditional sponsored post? The devil is in the details here, and a narrative arc serves one fundamental purpose: connecting with other people at a more “humane” level. Good storytelling helps your customers see the “humanity” behind your products and services.
You can discuss your company’s vision with them so that those who share your same opinions will identify themselves with your brand. You can share your hardships and struggles, so that people may empathize with your cause and choose to help you. Or you can portray your successes by establishing the groundwork needed to establish the trust you need with your audiences.
Past, Present, and Future
You can tell many different stories, about your past, your present, and your future. Just try not to make them do all these things at the same time! Stories may talk about your past, who you are and why you’re here. People can find common ground on which they can connect with your brand and drop their prejudices against your company. The past can be useful to provide your readers with the chance to learn from a mistake without ever having to make it. And if you’re humble enough, they may see how humane your brand is.
They may talk about your present, teach people something they didn’t know, and help them understand how many solutions they have available. Obviously, these stories should point them in the direction of a solution that suits your needs or, at least, that makes them more inclined toward choosing what you offer. You can use the present to focus on the core values you want to reinforce by providing positive examples. For example, your company may pride itself on a set of core ethical values which are narrated by describing how you participated in a charity event.
Stories may tell about your future, explain to your customers what’s in it for them if they choose you. It’s an easy way to show your leads how positively your brand may impact their lives, and how bright their future may be without that problem your product is able to solve. Or you can be more generic, and provide an insight into how things are going be. Think of it as a “sneak peek” in the future of your company, and how you’re going to evolve your service or product into something new. The future also allows you to get ahead of problems and anticipate an objection from your audience.
The Bottom Line
You don’t need to be a novelist to harness the potential of storytelling fully, but at the same time, the average run-of-the-mill content you were used to writing is definitely not enough if you want to pull off this feat. The power of a story is immense, but you need to walk the extra mile to bring it