Once upon a time… there were advertisers and PR professionals who knew how to engage audiences, nurture customers through a sales funnel, and leverage the art of storytelling… all without today’s overwrought jargon.
I’m old enough to remember marker comps, rooms full of poster board mechanicals, and creative brainstorming meetings that looked suspiciously like happy hours. But the ideas we generated and the stories we told 20 years ago still moved audiences and drove results – whether we called it “nurturing” and “storytelling” or not.
Of course, today’s digital media landscape enables us to measure these results like never before. And because there is so much more competition for consumers’ eyes, ears and minds, we are challenged to up our game. We must improve the stories we tell to even get a chance at engagement and driving customers to a sale.
There are three time-tested questions to consider in developing stories that drive to action:
Every story we tell as professional communicators must have a goal. There is an outcome we’d like to achieve: increased awareness, purchase intent, sign-up, website visit, phone or email inquiry, brand positioning, etc.
Too often, storytellers forget to start with the end in mind, and instead fixate on a neat idea. From that idea, they explore creative angles, fun graphics, expensive video effects or longwinded blog posts. These storytellers might get readers and even engagement – but to what end?
Today’s consumers are used to click bait – interesting stories with no substance, intended to get them to visit a site and get advertised to. Luring readers so you can advertise unrelated products and services is a short-term approach that won’t ultimately achieve your brand’s goals.
The best online content (storytelling) is up-front, relevant to the reader, and developed in a way that both the brand and the audience are honest about the end-game.
To make sure you’re on-track to answering this question:
Once you clearly understand your communications intent, the creative task of storytelling begins. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is story flow – segueing from key message to key message smoothly and naturally. Making big jumps in topic or logic confuses (and loses) your audience. A story has a clear beginning, middle and end, which you can outline up-front.
Creativity is best in smaller doses unless you’re in an experimental fusion band. Don’t make your audience work too hard to cut through metaphors and vocabulary to understand your point. People will seek out your brand’s story because it’s relevant to them and they want to learn something. Help them do that by communicating your key messages simply and concisely, with a smooth flow from point to point.
It’s been said by many: we follow those we believe. Why should people read your story? Why would they believe it?
Achieving believability is not about pumping up your bio, or elaborating at length about your businesses’ successes. Who wants to read a treatise about how great you think you are? Instead, simply insert yourself – your personality, your perspectives – into the story.
Speak less about theoretical situations and more about real challenges, real questions, real successes. What’s at the heart of your brand? What made you embrace your organization’s mission? What challenges have you faced in building your success?
“I” and “we” are critical words in storytelling. People will believe – and follow – the individual and organization that share relevant and personal perspectives.
Whether you’re new to crafting content or public speaking, or an old-timer who begrudgingly appreciates the new measurability of modern digital tactics, there is always room to improve your storytelling chops.
Interested in learning more ways to improve your storytelling abilities? Check out Tipping Point’s customized trainings in storytelling, media interviews, crisis communications and media relations.