Content marketing is the heart of inbound marketing, ideal for engaging with your target audience and ideal customer. It's also one of the most effective ways to generate leads and sales for any business, regardless of industry or size. Nowadays, content marketing is everywhere we look, from real-time video content to emails to search engine optimization blog posts to niche memes. And to make the most out of your piece of content, good storytelling skill comes at the forefront.
Storytelling has been used to give life to something fictional, namely abstract ideas or emotional connections. The purpose of storytelling in content marketing strategy is to persuade the audience. Today, advertisers tell their brand's stories, and the digital marketing landscape is being taken by storm by good storytellers.
Let's see how good a content marketer turns their products or services into something more engaging and relevant than they used to be with storytelling skill.
What is Storytelling?
Storytelling is an art of narrative using words and visual content that encourage the audience to think, feel, and act. Some stories are factual, and some are fabricated to explain the core message.
Storytelling is an art form that has been around through cultures and time. It is a universal language that everyone can understand, regardless of dialect, origin, or heritage.
Telling a piece of content is like painting a picture with words. Even though anyone can tell a compelling story, not all of them can master the art and become a storyteller. Certain positions in the business world, such as PR professionals, copywriters, or visual content creators, are storytellers who utilize valuable content marketing strategy on behalf of their organization or brand.
Now that we know what storytelling is, let's talk about why we tell stories.
Why Do We Tell Stories?
To sell, persuade, entertain, educate or brag are some of the reasons why people tell stories. Today, storytelling is a selling device that brands use to affect how customers and producers interact. It encourages customer engagement with the brand. Here are some reasons why we tell stories in business.
Stories simplify complex messages.
Stories make abstract concepts and complex messages easy to understand. One of the biggest strengths of telling a story in business is taking a non-tangible concept and relating it to concrete ideas that people can grasp, just like how Apple sell their techie products to the typical consumer. They find ways to make people with little to no knowledge about these innovative technologies understand what they do and how they make their lives easier.
Stories connect people.
Storytelling is a universal language that everyone can understand. Emotions of hope, despair, pain, and anger can be shared and responded to the same way. Sharing a story brings people together, creating the feeling like they are all in the same place.
Stories inspire thoughts and motivate actions.
Stories make us human, and the same goes for brands. Consumers connect with brands and the people behind them when they get transparent and authentic. When stories tap into people's feelings of good and evil, they inspire thoughts and motivate actions.
An excellent example of this is the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. This platform allows talented and deserving individuals to tell their digital stories online and appeal to readers so that they donate to their cause, project or venture. Behind every campaign lies a story of pains and obstacles and the determination to build a better future for people who suffered the same experience. In this way, Kickstarter has become an excellent platform for digital storytelling enthusiasts because it allows people to share their ideas and dreams through compelling narratives.
What Makes up a Good Story?
Regardless of the story you're telling, a well-told story should contain these three components.
1) Characters: Every story has at least one character, which will be the key to helping your audience relate to the story. The character is the bridge between you, the storyteller, and the audience. If your audience can empathize with your character, they will be more likely to follow through on your call-to-action.
2) Conflict: The conflict is the lesson of how the character overcomes a challenge. Conflict in your story makes the audience feel emotions and connects them with real experiences. The power lies in what you tell. It is likely not a good story if there is no conflict in it.
3) Resolution: Every good story has a closing, but it is sometimes not a good one. Your resolution should conclude the story, provide context around the characters and conflict, and leave your audience with a call to action.
These components can be illustrated better and in more detail with 'The 5 Act Structure.'
The 5 Act Structure
The presentation or pacing of a narrative is the most crucial aspect of storytelling. Story structure marks the beats or moments in a story that move the audience through stages of emotions.
Gustav Freytag, a German playwright and novelist, wrote a book called "Die Technik des Dramas." He created a five-act dramatic structure in it, which today we refer to as "Freytag's pyramid."
The five essential parts of any high-quality content according to The 5 Act Structure include:
ACT 1: The Exposition
This introductory part of the story is where the storyteller builds up the background or previous events that lead to the present situations.
ACT 2: The Conflict
Then the first conflict appears, getting in the way of the character. From here, the tension continues to rise until it hits the peak at the climax. To see how your characters will hold up, things get worse and worse. This is where good storytellers get creative in finding ways to keep the audience entertained and not drop off along the way.
ACT 3: The Climax
The conflict resolves here. It's when characters have a breakdown, where we need to find motivation for them to strife. In a commercial, this stage is where we show how the brand or its product can end the struggle and change the character's life for the better.
ACT 4: The Resolution
The action falls, but the result of the climax is slowly revealed. The characters learn from it, and their lives change. They can either win or lose, but brands often make them win to show how the audience can win like them.
ACT 5: The Conclusion
This is where you tie the loose ends. Everything in the previous stages leads to this ending. The tension is relieved, and the only thing left to tell is where to go from here. Advertisers usually show where in life they can take their potential customers to and leave them feeling what the brand wants them to feel.
The Storytelling Process
Storytelling is an art form, so it requires creativity, vision, skill, and also practice. Like any artist, storytellers follow their own process of making art. It helps them figure out where to start and how to perfect their technique over time. The same applies to storytelling in the business context.
Why does this process matter? Your brand probably come across many facts, figures, and messages to communicate in one story. Taking the first step is essential. From there, you can move on stage by stage.
1. Know your audience.
Who you will tell the story to? Who will want to hear your story? Who will benefit and take action from the content? Which types of content will be suitable for these people? You need to answer these questions about your ideal customer to be the foundation for your next steps.
Before writing anything down, do some target audience research and define your ideal customer persona and define their customer journey. This process will help you determine the right people who might be reading, viewing, or listening to your story.
2. Establish your core message.
Your story needs a core message, no matter how long it might be. You need to make it clear what you want the story to tell the audience about. The whole storytelling effort will just be pointless and useless without one. Try to summarize your story in six to ten words. The core message will be the foundation for you to continue in the following process to create consistent content.
3. Decide what kind of story you're telling.
You need to figure out how you want your audience to feel or react as they read. Do you want to incite action? Or introduce yourself to them? Or inform about specific abstract ideas? This will give you an idea of how you will tell your story and which types of content to utilize.
4. Establish your call to action.
Let's say your objective is to convince the audience to do something; a clear call to action will come in handy. It will establish the action you'd like your audience to take after reading or watching your visual content.
Do you want them to make a donation, subscribe to a newsletter or buy something? Make sure you outline this with your objective.
5. Choose your medium.
Storytelling content can take a wide range of shapes and forms. Some pieces of content are read while others are listened to. Some are interactive storytelling, which allows the audience to communicate with the engaging content being unfolded. Your choice of content channels and medium depends on many factors, including resources like time and money.
6. Time to write!
You're ready to pick up the pen (or keyboard, or quill, or whatever) and start crafting your story! Remember your target audience, take hold of your core message, write down your call-to-action, and use your creativity to prepare relevant content for your brand!
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of content marketing are there?
In modern content marketing, there are many different content types, including:
- Search Blogs
- Video content
- Visual content
- Lead magnets
- Slideshare presentations
- Slide decks
- Free apps
- Social media posts
What are content channels?
Content channels are the media through which you share and promote the content you create. Three overarching types of content channels cover several more specific distribution channels: owned, earned, and paid.
What is a customer journey?
The customer journey is a map of the route a customer takes from the time they first meet your brand to the time they purchase. It can be meandering and circuitous. Each customer persona goes through a particular customer journey towards buying a product.
What is a customer persona?
A buyer or customer persona is a well-researched representation of your ideal customer. A made-up character who embodies the characteristics of your target audience based on data and research from the target market. They help you focus your strategy and resources on the best potential prospects, guide your brand's marketing communication, and put everyone across your organization on the same page.
How do I create a customer persona?
Creating a customer persona can help you greatly in understanding your ideal customers. Read more at Creating a Customer Persona for Marketing.
Need a hand to craft engaging storytelling for your brand?
As we said, mastering the arts of storytelling can sometimes get overwhelming, but we are here to help. Our Content Marketing team at Sphere consists of creative minds and strategic doers who make brands come to life with high-quality content creation through words and visuals. We help brands reach their target audience through social media, search engines, video content, and more. See our Content Marketing Strategy Services and contact us today!