The inspiration for this blog didn’t come from a Fast Company article, witty HubSpot piece, or departmental meeting. It came from memories of a great storyteller, my favorite history professor at the University of Wisconsin.
While scrolling through my Twitter feed one evening, a retweet caught my attention: “Every time I see something about storytelling, I like to promote the wonderful AHA speech by @wcronon on Storytelling in history.” I didn’t “Like” or “Retweet” the message, instead I followed the link, and proceeded to read and later watch Dr. Cronon’s 2013 address to the American Historical Association (AHA). Why did I watch his 75-minute speech entitled Storytelling? It was the very practice of great storytelling, and brought me right back to campus, where I spent countless hours in the Humanities building listening to wonderful accounts of the past.
Much has been written about the art of storytelling in the marketing process, but it wasn’t until I re-experienced my professor’s captivating style of weaving together facts, dates, and personal narratives, that I was moved to develop the subject into a blog.
My take on the topic is meant to remind us about the power of a good story (how it educates, motivates, and helps convey identity in a meaningful way) and how it is used in marketing. I see no reason why storytelling (Dr. Cronin’s “answer” to the future of history) can’t also be the answer to one of the most common challenges facing salespeople, business owners, and the marketers looking to help them. A strong brand demands a well-told story. And, as I seek to help clients tell their story, I thought some research into storytelling would be worth sharing.
What Makes a Good Story?
In today’s “click here”, “download-this”, “act-now”, marketing world, a story can be refreshing. What makes a good story? While I would like to say I dug deep into the stacks for primary sources for my research – I didn’t. Google did not let me down. Of the countless results I found, two stood out. An Inc. magazine article from several years ago, “The 5 Common Elements of Good Storytelling” broke it down rather simply. Here are the commonalities, paraphrased:
When I think of some of the best stories I know (brand stories or history lessons) they are some combination of these five elements. An old Content Marketing Institute post “How to Create More Powerful Content Marketing Stories” touched on many of the same elements – emotional, unique, simple, and shareable. This last quality caught my attention. In the age of social media, the word shareable has taken on new meaning. If you think back to a story you were told, how did you share it? By retelling it yourself. Perhaps you also added your own experience to your re-telling, adding to the “real” element.
Creating a Shareable Story
Wise marketers understand the importance of leveraging social channels to share their stories; but the more I think about storytelling, the more I am reminded that the quality of the story determines if readers chose to share it, not the number of channels used to distribute it. Quality content drives sharing. Content is (still) king.
Creating Quality Content
The elements that contribute to a good story are the same elements that build quality marketing content: material that is straightforward, unique to your product/service/business, emotional (affecting the heart and mind), shareable and/or actionable. Material that resonates with its intended audience makes for quality content. Marketing and storytelling sound a lot alike, because storytelling makes for good marketing.
Telling Your Story
If these are the critical components of a good story, how should we tell our stories? As marketers today, there are so many options. Let’s start with a brand or product story. Simple, honest, and emotional copy is a powerful way to share the story of a brand. And it is the story, not the facts, figures, or statistics about a company or product, that has the power to create a meaningful connection with the defined target market. Stories can cut through noise – connect, differentiate, and elevate a brand. In Dr. Cronin’s address to the AHA, he poses the question: “How do we make the past come alive? By telling stories about it.” I think you can re-word the sentence: “How do we make the past a brand come alive? By telling stories about it.”
When carefully chosen words are paired with quality photography, video, and intuitive page design, a story can be told through a website. When was the last time you read an “About Us” page and felt a connection? No one wants to be “sold to”, but we all like to be educated and entertained, especially when we feel the storyteller is honest and has a simple takeaway. When considering how to connect with your audience, remember the power of a good story.
Looking for a storyteller?
Contact Sikich Marketing & Design to learn more about our approach to storytelling and content creation.