What Makes Great Content Marketing Storytelling

Being relatable, humanizing your company and engaging with your targeted audience can be easier than it sounds. One way to lower that barrier to entry to reach customers is through storytelling. Stories that spark emotion, for instance, are ones that get talked about, shared or liked in people’s networks. Take it a step further to address a need or identify a solution and that’s where content marketing can work for companies to generate prospects and leads. Lisa Barone, Vice President of Strategy at Overit; and Shannon Kinney, Founder and Client Success Officer with Dream Local Digital; and Kate Fairhurst, Co-Founder and COO of Kontenthaus, discussed what makes great storytelling on Oct. 15.

The word storytelling got a second wind in recent months when it served as the central theme to Kevin Spacey’s keynote address at this year’s Content Marketing World held by the Content Marketing Institute. No truer words were spoken than when Spacey put forth the most important factors of storytelling: conflict, authenticity and audience. He brought home the point that audiences are craving good stories and all we have to do is give it to them. The same goes for customers.

ScribbleLive hosted a discussion on influential content that uses storytelling. Lisa Barone, Vice President of Strategy at Overit; Shannon Kinney, Founder and Client Success Officer with Dream Local Digital; and Kate Fairhurst, Co-Founder and COO of Kontenthaus, shared their thoughts on the topic. Here are five key points from the discussion.  

Why should content marketers use storytelling? 

"To me, it’s subtle persuasion. We remember the stories we hear because they provide context for our experiences. Brands able to provide an emotional response from customers will have a far great influence on their behavior.Lisa Barone 

"It's the 'so what' of who you are.” Lisa Barone

"I think also it's that people want to feel connected to brands, consumers expect a deeper experience and storytelling provides that depth. Also, people are increasingly turned off by straight promotion, storytelling is an excellent way of gaining trust and building brand awareness.” Shannon Kinney 

"Storytelling illustrates the life impact of a brand and takes audiences on a journey that allows them to visualise what a particular product or service means to them. It goes beyond the usual product messaging and advertising campaigns that, as Shannon rightly says, many of us switch off to these days. When we hear a story we can imagine how it could impact on us and allows us to engage and feel part of their community." Kate Fairhurst 

Why does storytelling work so well when it comes to marketing? 

"Storytelling is effective in marketing because it offers the consumer a chance to feel a personal connection and/or feel that the business is relevant to them - as Kate mentioned. The way to stop people in their tracks is to make it directly relevant to them. Also, it offers that additional layer of brand awareness.” Shannon Kinney 

"It works because it so naturally puts the focus on the consumer, not on your brand. As brands, we can use our stories to speak to our customers needs, wants, desires and show ourselves in them. Storytelling acts as that connector.” Lisa Barone 

"Yes! I also love the collaborative approach available with storytelling. Encouraging audiences to create and share their own stories is a particularly effective way of capturing people’s real life experiences and building trust.Kate Fairhurst 

"Many businesses aren't accustomed to storytelling, they're so used to selling on price, features or benefits, which is part of your message, but only part. We end up working with them to to find not their What they do, or How they do it, but the WHY. That's a great place to start for storytelling.” Shannon Kinney 

How should the company team plan in order to make sure they can pull off the storytelling? What do they need to do to be successful?

"Good thorough planning is important for a successful content marketing campaign. It is important to define what your desired outcome would look like, who your communities are and what content formats and digital platforms match their behaviours the best. It is a good idea to spend a while listening to what stories are already being shared and consider how good advocates can be brought into your storytelling programmes. 

It is also important to define what workflows around content creation and approval will look like and how any and all content will be amplified after publication. Analytics are also a matter of consideration, what metrics will be tracked and how these be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure that the campaign gets ever more effective as it continues. But: don't be scared off - it doesn't have to take an age to get that done!” Kate Fairhurst 

"Biggest thing to be successful with content marketing is AUTHENTICITY. And, it has to feel natural. If you're not sure how to do it right, ask for help. We have several examples where we can get content to convert exponentially higher than our clients can themselves because we understand how to optimize the content to be found and for emotional drivers and appeal. How to make the reader WANT to read on, and identify with the message.” Shannon Kinney

"1. Know your audience, in and out - what moves them, what drives them, what do they want, what pain are they experiencing and how do they find solutions. 

2. What resources do you have -- are you a great writer, do you shoot video well, are you hilariously funny and quick on your feet, can you draw? Lisa Barone 

3. What is the purpose of your marketing - what metrics will you track. Content marketing isn't all rainbows and butterflies, there needs to be goals that can be tracked.” Lisa Barone 

"Content is not a wedding dress. You should not wear it only once.” Lisa Barone 

Marketers tend to think of their message; journalists tend to think of their audience. What can marketers learn from the news industry about storytelling? 

"One way marketers can think like journalists is to investigate. Investigate how your customers use your product, what situations are they in while using it, what are they feeling while using it, what part of their lives are they using it in, are their parallels to your product that are more elite, advanced, professional, that your customers strive for or dream about. Could you give them a shot at reaching that ideal?” Shannon Kinney

"Yes, Shannon. Investigation is key and is critical when it comes down to creating compelling content. Journalists pull together material which has incredible insight and are superb at engaging with influencers. This can ensure that content gets very effective amplification.” Kate Fairhurst 

What takeaways would you give content marketers who want to take on storytelling or improve on it?

"Suggested takeaways are: Think about who your audience are, listen to them, engage with them and work with them on creating and sharing great stories. It's lots of fun so it's good to sketch out a plan and get started. Good luck!” Kate Fairhurst 

"I'd say the best takeaways you heard today are to make sure you understand the company's WHY, what makes them tick, why do they do what they do. Then understand your target audience's WHY and your customer's WHY. Why do they use this product or service? What makes it remarkable? Then in each and every post you do, be able to answer the questions -- how does this help achieve my client's goals? How does it make a positive impact on the reader? Shannon Kinney 

"Create personas around your audience to understand who there are, their pain points, their interests, their demographics. You can use analytics to get this information or you can go really informal and simply ask them. You can’t write a good story if you don’t know the people the story is for.

And don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. Do an audit of your site and look for the content that already exists. What can be repurpose or used in new ways? Your customers are giving you the stories they want to hear -- in customer support emails, in in-person conversations. Listen to them.” Lisa Barone 

Scroll down to see the rest of what our expert panel had to say about content volume. To learn more about ScribbleLive, fill out the form to the right.
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