The Role of Storytelling in Content Marketing in 2021
Stories have been woven into the fabric of human lives since time immemorial. For centuries now, stories have been used to transmit information from one generation to another in a memorable yet educative manner.
Your earliest memory regarding a story will most probably be listening to your parents reading a story to you at bedtime or sitting on your grandparent’s lap watching them with awe as they enact and tell you stories of kings and queens.
But did you know that storytelling has a very important role in content marketing? When used correctly, it is a powerful tool to have your audience hooked to your content.
In this article, we will cover what storytelling is, why it is important in content marketing, and how to include it in your content to take your content marketing to the next level.
What is storytelling?
In simple words, the activity of writing or telling stories is known as storytelling. It is considered an interactive art where the storyteller uses words to convey elements of the story which in turn encourages his audience to use their imagination to visualize it.
Stories have been a part of all cultures as a means to entertain, educate, and pass on morals and values from one generation to another. Human beings are blessed with the necessary cognitive tools to remember and retell stories.
Besides, human thinking is largely mirrored in stories as we tend to use story forms to process facts. Consciously or subconsciously, we tend to think in narratives.
People love stories and a great way to get them to pay attention to what you are trying to say is to convey it in story form.
Storytelling in Content Marketing
Storytelling is a powerful tool. It takes forgettable and bland content and turns into interesting pieces. Presenting facts in narrative form is more appealing to the audience.
For example, say you have a company that sells paper bags. You could present your product in two ways.
1. We sell the best paper bags.
2. On a fine summer day, my friends and I were enjoying a pleasant picnic on the beach. Suddenly, a friend who was walking by the water called out to us in dismay.
We went over to him and saw what upset him. A dead fish had washed ashore. It was caught up in a plastic cover. We felt a surge of guilt.
Looking back at our picnic spot, we noticed most of our belongings and food were in plastic bags. That got us thinking about the lack of an environment-friendly alternative to plastic bags.
On our ride home, we decided to do our bit to change the world. We wish to introduce to you our economical, strong, and durable paper bags.
Which of the above options would interest a potential buyer? People are driven by emotions. Hence, a good story that the audience can connect with would drive them to purchase whatever you are selling.
At this juncture, it is worth remembering that a few years back Vicks India came out with an advertisement about the relationship between a daughter and her mother. It was based on the story of the Mumbai-based transgender activist, Gauri Sawant, and her adopted daughter, Gayatri. Their relationship was beautifully portrayed.
The ad ended with the daughter saying that she would become a lawyer and fight for her mother’s rights because everyone deserves to be cared for. The tagline was everyone deserves a touch of care and this was followed by Vicks India’s tagline, ‘Caring for families for generations’.
Without appearing in a single frame of the commercial, Vicks managed to get their brand tagline across with a beautiful, socially relevant story. This is the power of storytelling in digital marketing.
Role of storytelling in Content Marketing
Now, let us take a look at the role of storytelling in Content Marketing.
Stories give a personal touch to the content:
People use stories to make sense of the world around them. When explained through storytelling, even complicated technical jargon could be understood by people with different comprehension levels.
It also helps them remember your product better. The story gets associated with your product and hence makes it easier for them to recall your brand.
Builds a bond:
A good story can help you connect with your potential customers. The personal element that a story provides enables them to link with you.
This connection soon turns to an understanding and eventually motivates them to trust you. This trust is a building block to a long-term relationship with your customers.
It is said that most decisions to purchase a product are taken in an emotional state of mind. When your client population understands your product, they are emotionally driven to buy whatever you sell. This emotional connection can be established with good storytelling.
However, fret not if you feel you are not good at storytelling because, like any other skill, it can be learned. There are a format and a process of storytelling, which, if practiced and done right, can boost your content marketing abilities.
Essential components of a story:
Every good story has a format. By following this you can ensure that your story is organized and effective in conveying your message.
Given below are the parts of a story that are essential to the storytelling component of your content marketing.
Every story needs a hero. The main character of your story connects you to the audience. People empathize with the protagonist.
The audience feels involved in his journey as they read about the difficulties he faces and how he overcomes them. This connection is crucial to building a relationship with them.
A perfect world with no problems does not interest people. In order to connect with your story, and thereby feel attracted to your product, your customers should be able to identify themselves with the story.
In order to achieve this, there should be a conflict in the story. This should form the basis of your plot. How the protagonist faces the conflict and emerges successful would draw the attention of the readers to your content.
The structure is the most important element of storytelling. For any story to make sense, it should be coherent. The structure ensures this balance and unity.
All stories should be structured to have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should introduce the protagonist and give a background of the story.
The conflict should be established in the middle and the end should detail how the hero overcomes the difficulties. It is also important to connect your story to your product in the conclusion.
This is a crucial component of storytelling. You have to pace the story just right to keep your readers engaged.
If you spend a lot of time on unnecessary details your audience will lose interest before they reach the part of your product.
If the pacing is too fast, on the other hand, people will not be able to form an emotional connection with the story and hence will not purchase what you are trying to sell.
When you introduce storytelling in content marketing, it is extremely important to ensure that these components of the story are included.
Questions you need to answer before you start writing the story.
Before you start writing the story, it would be helpful to write down some prompts to guide you in writing a story that aligns with your goals of content marketing.
For this, ask yourself the following questions.
What is the narrative behind your brand and what you do?
This may include the following points:
- The obstacle you faced that prompted you to start your business.
- Fixing the hero of your story
- How your past has helped build who you are today.
- The failures you faced that became the stepping stone to the successful building of your brand.
The story you tell must align with your brand’s narrative. It does not make sense to make up stories with no genuine connection to your brand. Sooner or later, such false stories will be brought to light and people will lose trust in your brand.
- How to connect with people in a language they understand?
This does not mean that you have to write a story in the local language so that the audience can understand. For the customers to connect with your story, it has to be relatable.
If people cannot relate to what you say, they cannot link with your story and hence will not be emotionally moved to make a purchase. So, think of some ways to keep your storytelling simple and the story relatable.
What are the stories that your audience is already telling and how to include them in your story?
You have to know your audience well to tell stories that make them feel included. This may necessitate conducting surveys, following the trends on Google, etc.
Find out what stories appeal to your target audience and try to include those points of interest in your stories too.
How to combine the available data and your creativity?
Map out ways you can use your creativity to convert data into interesting, entertaining pieces of information. Most people are not interested in reading tables and graphs alone. When coupled with an interesting story, facts and figures have more impact on the readers.
Step-by-step procedure to include storytelling in Content Marketing
Given below is the step-wise procedure for introducing storytelling in your content marketing.
Step 1. Analyze your audience:
Before you start writing a story, you need to understand your audience. What do your readers find appealing? What emotions should you include to connect with your audience? What is trending on the internet?
These are questions for which you should have answers before you even sit down to write the story. Conducting surveys or polls to get opinions from potential buyers also will be helpful.
Also, you could use any analytics tool to find out what people are asking for or what is trending on the internet.
Step 2. Define your goals:
Set out your goals before you start the story writing process. This provides clarity to the components of your story.
Visualization of the objective leads to better storytelling abilities. Without a goal, it is easy to lose track of the important aspects of the content and the story will lose its power to draw the attention of people to the desired result.
Step 3. Align your CTA with your goal:
Call to Action (CTA) is the most important part of your content marketing. It guides the customer to what you want them to do. Whether it is email subscriptions or directly purchasing of the product, a strong CTA is essential to your content marketing.
Therefore, CTA should align with the desired objective. This is possible only if you complete Step 2 mentioned above.
Step 4. Create a structure for storytelling:
As mentioned earlier, the story should have a beginning, middle, and end. But before you start writing, create a word map to write a coherent story.
This helps you visualize the storyline and also aids in eliminating the unwanted parts. This also helps keep the pacing of the story steady.
Step 5. Write:
After you have gathered all the necessary details and have a story map ready, write. This is where you bring your creativity to life.
It is important to keep in mind all the essential components of a story while writing.
Step 6. Edit:
In this step, refine what you have written. Read through and correct all the mistakes or make necessary changes.
Always remember your goal and make sure that the story drives people to buy what you are trying to sell.
Step 7. Ascertain a strategy for distribution:
Last but not the least, decide your strategy to make sure your content reaches people. Not everyone will be interested in your content. Hence, ensure that your content reaches your target audience.
How to make your story interesting
Now that you have written your story, how to make sure it is interesting?
1. Entertainment factor:
Needless to say, your content needs to be entertaining because such a piece engages more people. Engagement of the audience can be converted to leads and further nurtured into a relationship with the customer.
Moreover, the entertainment factor also ensures that people spend a greater amount of time on your site.
If your story is relatable, people feel a connection with your content. This link can be effectively utilized to convert their interest in your content to potential leads.
An easy-to-follow and organized story encourages people to read it completely. Coherent storytelling that is simple and clean keeps the audience hooked to your content.
Try to keep your story unique. People find one-of-a-kind stories more memorable and will associate the story easily with your brand.
5. Support the story with data:
People do not like to read just numbers and graphs, but when paired with a good story it is a powerful tool.
Stories backed by facts and figures are often more trustworthy; they drive people to take positive action on your site.
6. Add visuals:
You might have heard a picture is worth a thousand words.
When good pictures or graphics are added to your story it packs a punch.
With the attention span of people reducing drastically over the years, a striking visual will grab hold of your viewer’s attention and will make them curious to know more.
Things to remember while introducing storytelling in Content Marketing:
When you decide to include the storytelling aspect in your content keep the following in mind:
1. All long-form content cannot be called stories. An inaccurate way to gauge a story is to rely on word count. Sometimes, stories tend to be longer than researched articles, but that does not imply that a story is a long post. Some of the best stories ever told have been short ones.
2. Unstructured storytelling is a grave error in content marketing. The story should include the necessary components like a clear objective, an interesting theme, and relatable characters. The story should be organized and simple and yet potent enough to evoke emotions in the reader.
3. To create a compelling story, remember the formula of the 5Ws – Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
4. The first sentence (hook) should always be engaging. Often, only if people read the first sentence of a story and it sparks an interest, they will continue reading. Always ensure that the focus on including a good opening sentence is given importance.
5. Call To Action should be conspicuously displayed at the end of your story. After the audience is drawn to the content via the story, CTA should drive them to the desired objective of the content.
6. Not all cases require storytelling. Sometimes, short, listicle articles tend to fare better with the audience than a story.
While deciding whether there is a need to narrate a story or not, understanding your target audience is crucial.
To conclude, storytelling in content marketing is an extremely powerful tool. It converts dry and boring content into an interesting and entertaining one. Stories drive people to buy your services and products by invoking the emotional side of their decision-making process.
Like any other skill in the world, storytelling too can be mastered with time, patience, and practice. Though storytelling in content marketing is extremely popular now, it is necessary to know when and how a story should be told.