“Storytelling” has been one of the most popular content marketing-related buzzwords of the past few years.
Why? Because storytelling has a powerful natural appeal to us as human beings. Stories with a distinct beginning, middle, and end give us a framework to follow, which makes it easier to absorb and remember key details. Plus, stories demand some kind of central character — even if it’s an inanimate object or something conceptual — and as social creatures, this makes the content even easier to approach.
So how can you integrate storytelling into your content marketing strategy?
These are just a handful of ideas:
1. The history of your brand. First off, you could tell the history of your brand or company — and this isn’t relegated to companies of a certain history. For example, companies that have lasted for decades have the advantage of having a greater volume of content to explore. But on the other hand, startups and younger companies generally have more exciting, recent stories to tell. Let your customers know why you started the business, how you started it, and where it’s been the past few years. It will make your brand seem more approachable, and communicate some of your most important values. The only downside here is that you can only tap this once or twice as a source of new content.
2. The history of your industry. Along similar lines, you could also explore the history of your industry or some element of your industry. For example, if you’re developing data storage technology, you could describe the early days of floppy disks and how that technology has evolved. You have a number of options here, including exploring the high-level conceptual history of your industry or digging in deep with a timeline-based approach. If you want to heighten the appeal of your story, keep it chronological and make it accessible to your target audience by eliminating jargon.
3. A client success story. This is a clear type of story, and it’s one you probably already have the details for. Essentially, this is a case study framed as a narrative to make it more accessible to your target audience. For example, you could start it off by describing who your client is, what challenges they faced before your company got involved, and any significant metrics or peripheral circumstances worth noting. Then, you can walk your readers through the process you actually took to improve those circumstances, eventually reaching the (happy) ending of the story. It’s a good way to show off your brand’s capabilities at the same time as you’re telling an informative story.
4. Overcoming a key challenge. If your business has overcome a key challenge lately, tell a story about it. For example, let’s say you recently launched a new product that didn’t quite live up to expectations. You could document your process of discovering consumer complaints, understanding the core issues, redesigning the product, and re-launching it to the public. This helps you promote an idea, depending on your choice of subject, but also gives reader’s a first-hand look into how your company operates, demonstrating how invested you are into improving the business.
5. Illustrating a complex subject. You can also use case studies as a way to illustrate a complex subject. For example, when you’re talking about certain departments or operations from a theoretical perspective, it can be tiring to read; going over the logistics of supply chain management isn’t exactly a fun topic. However, you can use a story to make it more exciting, using dynamic central characters to illustrate how supply chain management actually works in the real world (again, with a beginning, middle, and end).
6. Using a narrative metaphor. Your stories don’t have to be based on real people, or even real situations. In fact, sometimes they’re strongest when they’re used as metaphorical structures. For example, if you wanted to compare inbound and outbound marketing, you could illustrate the difference by telling the story of a person trying to throw a party. This person may try metaphorical inbound strategies, like offering free pizza and beer, and outbound strategies, like asking more individuals to come out.
7. Inspiration, motivation, and horror stories. This last idea is a broad one, and it can take a practically infinite number of different forms. The general concept is to evoke some strong emotion in your audience deliberately. For example, you might post about an inspiring story that encourages your readers to work harder for their own goals. You might post a story that’s interesting or competitive to motivate your readers. You might even post horror stories about strategies gone wrong to evoke fear, caution, and a touch of amusement.
When you create or revise your overall content marketing strategy, be sure to incorporate elements of storytelling throughout your editorial calendar. That might mean creating more dedicated “stories” as articles or eBooks, or simply adding more narrative elements into the content you’re already doing. Either way, feel free to lean on these ideas as sources of inspiration, or go off on your own creative path to make something unique. As long as you’re giving your readers some kind of narrative arc to follow, you’ll stand to reap the benefits.