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August 11, 2016 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
There’s a reason Americans watch an average of five hours of television every day. It’s because people love to watch and listen to stories. Whether it’s a reality television show about people who embrace a unique culture or a police procedural drama that combines suspense with emotionally charged storylines, stories attract us because they engage our emotions and provide entertainment.
Storytelling, however, isn’t just for television and books. You can use storytelling principles to create compelling content regardless of your business or brand. Our Creative Spotlight last week described tips on how to use storytelling in your content. Let’s explore a little more into storytelling and how to create stories for your content.
Image via Flickr by flash.pro
Think about the last time you disappeared into a Stephen King novel or found yourself engrossed in an amusing tale your best friend told you over a cup of coffee. Whether they’re displayed on television, written in a book, or shared verbally, stories help us understand ourselves as well as the rest of the world.
Storytelling can do the same thing for your content. Studies show that people derive and remember more information from stories than from plain data. You can spout numbers all day long, but if you can craft those numbers into a believable and emotionally-driven story, you’ll increase engagement.
Consider the recent Liberty Mutual commercials, for instance, such as the one about the woman who named her car Brad. She speaks lovingly about her car and about how much they went through together before she totaled it. She’s telling a story that connects with audience members on two levels:
People who relate to that story might prove likely to call Liberty Mutual and get a quote on car insurance.
Of course, commercials aren’t the only storytelling medium. You can also use blog posts, articles, white papers, case studies, and infographics to tell stories as you develop your content marketing campaign.
In his highly-rated TED talk, visionary Simon Sinek reveals that “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Sinek illustrates this theory with Apple products, stating that Steve Jobs gained market share by explaining why he made computers rather than simply trying to sell computers.
If you share your brand’s story, you can connect with your audience on an emotional level. For instance, maybe you started your personal security firm after you experienced a home invasion. Telling that story in detail will connect with readers who already fear for home safety and can relate to your emotional process.
You can share your brand’s story through any medium, whether it’s the home page on your website or a blog post that reveals details about your history. Add photographs and other media to further engage the reader and to pull him or her into the story.
Brands don’t consist solely of logos and taglines. They need real people behind them to get traction in the market. If you showcase your customers and your employees through compelling content, you’ll directly engage your readers. Customer testimonials and employee profiles can have different but equally powerful impacts on your business’ success.
You can even post user-generated content on your blog or social media. Ask your customers to film themselves using your product, for instance, and send it in to win a prize. You’ll use those videos to create a blog post or interactive infographic that shows real people enjoying your product.
Educating your market can prove essential in certain industries, but who said education has to bore your readership to tears? Use stories to explain why certain principles, solutions, and ideas matter. For instance, if you’re a plumbing company, you might want to write a blog post about why consumers shouldn’t use commercial drain cleaners.
You could start the post with an amusing story about a client’s clogged sink. The story lures your reader into the article before you start bombarding him or her with facts. You can even draw it out by continuing the story throughout the article, dropping tidbits of information in between narrative sentences.
All products and services evolve from a pain point. The entrepreneur recognizes a problem that a certain subset of the population experiences, then creates a solution and brings it to market. If you know why your target customers need or want your product, you can craft stories that help potential customers understand how your product or service can resolve those pain points.
The Liberty Mutual example above identifies two pain points and uses a story to capture the viewer’s attention. You can tell a story about someone who found relief from a problem by using your product or service, and it becomes even more compelling if you tell the story through the subject’s voice. For instance, you could interview the customer to learn about how your company changed his or her life.
Infographics are highly visual, which makes them a powerful tool in your content marketing arsenal. They dispense information in little chunks while using graphics to keep your readers interested. Infographics can also tell stories if you root the facts you give in a narrative.
Use characters in your infographic to give it more appeal and take your characters through a story as you describe pain points and product benefits or any other information you want to convey. Link to your infographic from your blog, social media accounts, and other online forums so that people can find it.
Don’t stop with just one story. Become a storytelling brand instead. The more you share, the more market share you’ll gain because readers will connect with your content. You could even spread a single story over multiple blog posts or create several case studies to illustrate how real customers use your product or service.
Storytellers come in all forms, from novelists and television writers to painters and musicians. Content marketers can also use the power of storytelling to improve their reach and attract more eyes to your online pages.
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