Think stories are being replaced? Think again. Storytelling still holds meaning for people – and content marketing. Good stories can yield powerful results for your brand.
The purpose of storytelling is to tell a great story. It’s supposed to draw in the reader allow them to get immersed, and what’s most important for content marketers: Get them to want more. It is ultimately the content creator’s job to compel the reader enough and get their message through in the most appealing way possible.
With the explosion of its availability, content has taken new shapes and forms. For me as a writer, there is no more powerful tool for building stories than words. Yet brand audiences do not expect just text anymore – they expect content experiences. That's why it's important to make the reading experience also look good.
So if there’s such a multitude of ways to get your message through, why exactly is storytelling still so important?
Powerful Words can Evoke Powerful Reactions
Whether it’s a 140-character quote, or a 1000-word blog post, all that matters is the power of the message being pushed through. It can be the element of suspense or surprise, but the outcome, i.e. reaction, is what matters. Successful storytelling can invoke these reactions by appealing to the individuals rather than the audience as a whole.
Stories reveal so much more than what is perceivable in the here and now. They also provide the context of what’s been and what’s to come. They leave things to imagination, while feeding on people’s curiosity.
Compare: "The Dark Tower coming up"
The Dark Tower is close, now. The Crimson King awaits. Soon Roland will raise the Horn of Eld. And blow. pic.twitter.com/rqGSKM3dWL— Stephen King (@StephenKing) May 19, 2016
Ok, so it's Stephen King we’re talking about here, professional teller of stories. But he knows what it takes to get readers interested. By providing a compelling backdrop for his work, he is maintaining interest among those already eagerly anticipating his next work, while allowing those unfamiliar with it to want to find out more. Maybe upon this update, they'll run out to the bookstore and buy the previous parts of the series.
Storytelling Propels to Take Action
Stories provide us with the knowledge and inspiration to act. So says psychologist Gary Klein in Made To Stick, written by Chip and Dan Heath, which presents why certain ideas live and others die.
The three types of plot, which the authors highlight for their ability to inspire us to act, are 1) Challenge, 2) Connection and 3) Creative plots – tools that can also be leveraged for storytelling purposes in marketing. Whether it is about 1) removing consumers’ commonly shared obstacles, 2) creating connections with other communities, or 3) finding fresh ways to solve problems, content can appeal to specific needs the audience may have, while better targeting their business motivations.
Encouraging action is sometimes as simple as writing effective calls-to-action – necessary gateways for readers becoming more involved with the brand and making those storytelling efforts count in the purchase funnel.
Long Content Works Well
Short content can really grab the audience’s attention and garner that retweet pretty fast. However, it’s a lot easier to appear to be an expert on something through a couple of sentences than through an ebook or a full case study. Longer content also gathers more social engagement, comparisons between the benefits of short- and long-form content reveal.
Obviously, length does not equal quality. But quality does equal better chances of making a positive impact and relaying a more thorough understanding of what it is a brand does. It also signals that the brand is actually investing in its content and what it shares to its audience.
It’s Emotional Marketing at its Finest
Stories are excellent building blocks for emotional connections with consumers. They allow for the reader to establish an emotional connection to them, having long-lasting effects. Imagine reading a story about who came up with a brand’s name vs. a story on what led up to that discovery.
Ads with stories allow brands to take on a whole new set of positive associations. Take Volkswagen’s Super Bowl commercial for Passat in 2011. The one with the little Darth Vader.
It's designed to appeal to the aww emotion (it's definitely a thing). This is not a misplaced motivation; the most shared ads from 2015 include cute animals and encouraging good deeds. But mere click-baiting is different from building a real connection with the reader.
It Increases Authenticity
Stories reveal a great deal about a company’s values, their motivations and what they stand for. These 5 cases of brand transparency reveal how it can be done. Sometimes it’s as simple as setting facts straight (McDonald’s). Sometimes brands allow consumers to tell their own stories by testing the products (Canadian Tire).
Employee Advocacy is also an excellent way to allow employees tell the story of their brand.
Consumers expect authenticity from brands to build their trust. It’s also the path to creating strong connections; people can relate to brands if they can relate to what the brands truthfully represent.
Telling Your Own Story
Establishing lasting connections with audiences is no easy feat. While the success of content marketing is more reliant on targeting and measuring than ever before, marketing messages are and will always be received by humans. The more powerfully you are able convey the things taking place behind a brand and boost interest in things yet to come, the better your chances of truly reaching your customers are. Start with encouraging your employees to produce and share content, and you're on your way towards a more humanized brand.