Successful Storytelling Helps Your Business

The numbers relating to the amount of information shared by digital users are staggering. According to a report by business intelligence firm Domo, in every minute of the day, there are:

▪  204 million emails sent.

▪  4 million search queries received by Google.

▪  246 million pieces of content shared by Facebook users.

▪  277,000 tweets sent.

▪  26,380 reviews posted by Yelp users.

The deluge of content is overwhelming. Google and social networking platforms are constantly changing their algorithms making it harder for organizations to be seen by customers without paying for advertising.

Social media has changed how people received information. Organizations can no longer talk to their customers, but talk with their customers.

How can a business stand out in this flood of information?

The answer lies in the very old art form of storytelling says Christopher Barger, author of The Social Media Strategist. Storytelling is currently the “it” word in marketing. Everyone wants to tell stories, but most brands are missing the point and creating more noise. It is more than just a buzzword. It is a way to truly connect with organizations and customers.

Barger says that stories are one of the ways our brains convince us to trust people. We are wired to receive stories over other information forms, and when executed properly they elicit trust and good feelings.

Think about Aesop who used storytelling as a method to impart a greater message or wisdom. We still know those stories more than 2,000 years later, says Barger.

How can a brand be an effective storyteller?

Classic storytelling structure involves an inciting event, rising action punctuated by complication, the climax, falling action punctuated by resolution and then a denouement. These can vary by story type and author, but these are the classic elements of story that our brains are wired to pick up.

For brands, the story begins with some form of conflict, problem or need for resolution. Barger says there needs to be a desired end, goal, or “object of desire.”

Barger suggests brands think about their story and consider that even in short-form social content they need: Passion, a hero (your audience), a villain (what’s at stake), appeal (what’s new that the audience can learn), transformation (where it leads the consumer) and empathy (why the audience cares or draws an emotional connection; can they see themselves in this story?).

Many organizations, while getting the structure of the story correct, aren’t telling a goodstory. The major misstep, says Barger, is that brands make themselves the hero of the story when the brand should be the sidekick with the audience as the hero.

How can organizations get storytelling right?

Barger emphasizes six key points for brands to be successful at storytelling today:

▪  Understand your brand narrative and stay consistent with it. Be honest about who you are.

▪  Make sure your narrative is integrated across all channels, both digital and traditional.

▪  Remember that your brand isn’t the hero; it’s the sidekick.

▪  Give your audience something they can relate to, a situation to create empathy, and a character they can root for. If the audience can’t see themselves in your story, they won’t pay attention to it.

▪  Look for multiple stories within your narrative, not just one. You’re not looking for “viral,” you’re looking to capture ongoing attention and investment.

▪  Give them a reason to come back or something they can do for having heard or seen your story.

Through effective storytelling, your business can cut through the noise and be memorable to your customers.

This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on June 26, 2016 and nationally distributed  to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency. 

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