Think about how all your friendships began and grew stronger – you were there for your friends, you experienced things together, you asked one another for advice, and most importantly you laughed and enjoyed one another’s company. You likely didn’t spend a lot of time telling a new person how great you are and listing off reasons they should like you and why they should be your friend. People don’t want to be told how great you are. They want to experience it and feel it with you. They want to connect with you as a friend, not a company. How do you do that? By telling stories. You experience things together. The same principal applies to current day marketing. Connect with people and be their friend, and you’ll reap the rewards of a loyal, relationship-based audience who’s in tune with your message and brand.
To do this you need to make sure you’re allowing people to experience your brand instead of telling them about your brand and message. That’s where storytelling comes in. Storytelling marketing is the art of using real examples that demonstrate who you are, what you do, and why it matters (without telling).
Here are the fundamental elements to sharing your story:
- 1. Make it personal – be sure that you use an authentic example of something that has happened. How have you helped someone? What did you do? Why? Did you go above and beyond the basic necessity to get the job done? Use your own photos and videos to make it more personal – don’t use stock photos. People can tell when something is a stock photo/video and it makes them tune out. A photo that’s a bit rough around the edges but showcases the actual situation and people involved is better than a polished stock photo with robotic smiles firmly in place.
- 2. Keep it concise – tell people just enough so that your story remains compelling and makes them continue tuning in. We all have very short attention spans and very little time so while you want to give the important details, you don’t want to drone on or give unnecessary context.
- 3. Have a main character – this is incredibly important. Every good story needs a protagonist. It does not have to be you. It should be the person who was crucial in making the story to come fruition, or the person who was most in need. Start with this person. If it’s the customer, paint a picture for people – we can all relate to needing something and feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. Start with the feelings the person experienced and how you or your company made a difference. People connect to the feelings of other people – not to a brand’s capabilities.
- 4. Show don’t tell – let’s keep this simple – be descriptive. Again, focus on the feelings involved first, then describe the reasons behind the actions. Don’t just tell me what happened. I want to connect to the why behind it.
- 5. Make sure there is a plot – any real story not only has characters you can connect to, it has action that is motivated by an event. What made is to that either your customer or you or your employee HAD to do something? Great characters can only hold your attention for a moment if they aren’t doing something important.
- 6. Give people a way to become part of the story – this is your call to action. You have made them feel connected to you, now give them a way to get involved. Maybe they want to get the same service you provided. Maybe they want to learn more about what happened (is the story not over?) or maybe they just want to read more examples of what you’ve done. Make sure you give people a way to continue to connect with you, and make it easy for them to do so. They shouldn’t have to search or think too hard about how to keep the relationship going.
The video shown above is one I made for the SPCA of Northern Nevada in 2017. It doesn’t tell people that really great dogs get put on under-resourced shelters’ euthanasia lists even though they are healthy and really well-mannered. It shows them by using an individual example – Regina. It isn’t the highest quality video, and it’s pretty simple, but it gives an actual example, shows the characters (Regina the dog, Jill the Executive Director, and Karen the adoption counselor), and pivots around action – Regina was going to be put down but was saved by the SPCA and gets adopted out. It then gives people a way to get involved with saving dogs just like Regina – they can donate and become part of the solution. It was used as part of a fundraising campaign that raised over $40k for the organization in just 6 weeks. (I’ll dive deeper into that campaign in a future post.)
Storyteller marketing can really come to life with short videos. If you liked this blog, be sure to check out my other post on How to Make Engaging Videos. Thanks for reading!