Startups and the Art of Storytelling

As brand journalism and content marketing become more engrained into the way that companies do business, storytelling is clearly becoming more important.

There are a couple of reasons why this is the case. First, good stories are interesting, attractive and compelling. Second, brands will need to become better storytellers as content marketing becomes table stakes. When everyone’s telling stories, you need to be better at it to rise above the crowd – something we’re seeing in social media.

So, how do brands tell good stories?

It starts by being customer-centric, which means looking at what the customer wants to read, listen and watch as opposed to what a brands want to tell them. It’s a slightly differently perspective but surprisingly difficult for many brands who think that consumers like it when they babble on about features.

Truth be told, consumers really don’t care about your products, other than whether they help make their lives better, easier, more profitable, etc. There are many choices for consumers who can pick from products offering ┬áthe same features.

What consumers want is how you’re going to help them. What are the most biggest benefits of using your product? Mint, for example, helps the consumer “understand what’s going on with your money”. Freshbooks “makes billing painless”. WattPad helps you “connect with stories”.

For good storytelling to happen, it starts by taking an inside out perspective. Then, brands can begin to create narratives that are engaging and add value.

Once a brand embraces this approach, they can start to create content that resonates. Depending on the target audiences, it could be blog posts, videos, case studies, white papers, e-books or slide decks. And, of course, brands need a Website that tells an easy to understand story with clear benefits and calls to action.

Not not all content has to be dramatic or have a bad guy or hero. But it should be accessible and engaging in some way, and easily flow so it doesn’t feel like work. Some of it has to do with good writing and video production, and some of it has to do with design and production quality.

There are a few other considerations for good storytelling.

One, you need an editorial strategy that takes into account a company’s goals and objectives (e.g. drive leads and sales), the resources and budget, and how much content the target audiences are willing to consume.

Second, brands need a realistic tactical execution plan that lets them create a steady flow of content that makes storytelling a persistent and sustainable part of how the business operates. It makes no sense to come out of the gate swinging, and then lose your storytelling enthusiasm.

Third, brands can never lose sight of the fact people like stories. And, like children, they will read the same story over and over again if the stories are interesting and compelling.

For more thoughts, here’s a blog post by David Meerman Scott. For people attending the mesh conference, Knock Twice’s Kyle Monson will be doing a keynote presentation about brand journalism on May 16.

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