“The most powerful visual merchandising is the most emotionally evocative,” said Paul Price, CEO of CreativeDrive, which is in the business of telling stories for retailers and brands such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, the Limited and Restoration Hardware.
In today’s world of information overload, marketing executives are doing anything and everything to make their brands stand out. Be it paying for prime spots on social media or sponsoring digital influencers to tout a product, there are a plethora of ways brands are growing visibility to stay top of mind for today’s digital savvy consumer.
As technology continues to drive the what, how and when of brand communications, research shows that brands with strong storytelling content cut through the clutter organically and remain top of mind for customers. While the ability to shape and communicate a strong story trumps all other digital strategies, it can prove challenging for top tech brands, such as IBM or Microsoft, that have complex messages to communicate. (In fact, IBM is turning to screenwriters and creative masterminds to help shape a compelling, innovative story.)
We believe any brand or thought leader can tell powerful stories. Here are three tips to help.
Tip 1: Know Your Audience and Channels
The purpose of stories are meant to resonate with their intended audiences. Taking into consideration who the audience is and where they’re digesting the story may seem like a basic step, but so many brands overlook this important criteria.
This first step will not only help direct the message and story, but will significantly improve the delivery. For example, a story about pregnancy to make a point will probably not resonate with a room full of men. Yet, a story about how a soon-to-be-father or brother supported their loved one through a pregnancy would hit home with this audience.
Similarly, a blog post story vs. a keynote presentation should have a different tone, voice and length. As research suggests, the attention span for digital readers is mere seconds, while the estimated attention span among audiences listening to a speaker is 10-12 minutes. Consider how long audiences will pay attention or what device they’re reading your story online. These criteria will dramatically improve the effectiveness of storytelling.
As storytellers better understand their audiences, message channels and how the stories are consumed, they can craft relatable messages that are more receptive and essentially, more impactful among audiences.
Tip 2: Embrace Brevity and Simplicity
As Shakespeare says, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” The ability to tell a powerful story in fewer words is essential to crafting a strong brand and building loyalty among customers and partners. I’ve worked with many a client who used impressive words such as “galvanize” and “menace” to craft an important message or brand tone. I found myself asking clients specifically, "what do you want your audiences to walk away knowing?" By asking this simple question, the entire brand message changed, lofty words were eliminated and simple stories were elevated to give context.
In order to embrace brevity, first ask, “What do I want my readers and listeners to walk away with?” Whether you’re a CEO, sales manager or product marketer, what’s the point in giving a speech, writing a blog post or conducting an interview if you’re not sure exactly what you want to say?
Just like writing an article or research paper, start with a thesis statement and structure the story around this message. As your story grows and expands, think about ways to emphasize this thesis in each point and chapter, as well as summarize at the end. The strongest of stories are crafted from the most simple, yet powerful concepts.
Tip 3: Be Transparent
Transparency is one of the pillars to being a great storyteller. Part of becoming more transparent is to reveal flaws, along with successes. Look deep into your personal experiences to draw out stories that emphasize the key message; talk about mistakes made, awkward moments or things you would have done differently. When the story of your struggles is told against real antagonists, the audience sees you as an exciting, dynamic person, notes the Harvard Business Review.
Revealing that you’re not perfect is a great way to connect with others, because the truth is that no one is perfect, which is why audiences remember and relate to flaws better than they do to perfections.
In sum, storytelling is not a new concept, but it remains crucial to cutting through the clutter and reaching customers among a fragmented media landscape. While it may seem easy to craft a story that communicates brand messages, experts must not overlook basic steps in doing so. Audiences want to engage with individuals and their stories, not brands with corporate lingo. Only by truly understanding audiences, defining the messages to communicate and being totally transparent in the process can brand and marketing pros craft a strong story that evokes action and, ultimately, drives revenue.
Need help crafting a storytelling strategy for content marketing campaigns or brand messaging? We love telling stories. Give us a shout!