Powerful storytelling: The key to content marketing success

When you think of the names that have revolutionised storytelling, you think of writers and raconteurs, of artists and actors. Procter & Gamble aren’t likely to be top of the list. But who do you think put the soap in soap operas?

P&G was cleaning up as early as the 1930s, when they saw the power of serialised daytime entertainment; something that would capture a loyal audience—specifically, and vitally, their target market of homemakers—and keep them coming back for more. First on radio, and then on television, they latched onto stories that could connect them to customers.

A lot has changed since, of course, but the core lesson remains the same. Whether your trust is in a sales funnel or a marketing flywheel, grabbing the attention of your target audience is a necessity. Keeping them around is, too; if they scroll past, click away, or tune out, you’re onto a loser.

And the secret? It’s six letters; Five Ws, One H.

The need to knows

It’s a disaster if you’re playing Scrabble, but Five Ws, One H is the secret by which journalists and writers swear. Who, what, when, where, why and how; they’re the foundation of every good story, as fundamental as a beginning, middle and end.

Even at a surface level, these are key tenets to marketing. Customers need to know what your product is, and where they can buy it; who it’s for, and how it works. But in content marketing, where it’s all about forming a true connection with an audience, it runs a whole lot deeper.

What’s your value proposition? Who are the people behind the brand? Where can customers see the benefits that your offering can provide, and how will their lives change if and when they come on board?

You want customers to know your story. In fact, for them to advocate for you and recommend you to their peers, you really want your customers to be able to tell your story. And for that to happen, you need to tell some stories of your own.

Let me tell you a story…

The great Jerome Bruner—whose work has been formative in fields from education to human psychology—stated that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts alone. Mind, we hardly need academic research to know this at a basic level; when was the last time you and a friend spent an enjoyable evening exchanging nothing but statistics?

There are all manner of reasons that stories make an impact; humour, drama, emotion, relatability, and a whole lot more besides. What’s more, you don’t just tell a story, but share it; there’s a communal experience involved. If you’re looking to connect with a customer, you won’t find many better ways than by utilising a form of communication that inherently entails both sides getting involved.

And on top of all of that, stories are unique. When people wheel out that old nugget of how ‘everyone has a story,’ it’s true—and no two are exactly alike. Just think about what that means for your business. In a competitive marketplace, where differentiation from competitors and standing out from the crowd is so incredibly important, storytelling is a sure- fire way to help you do it.

What’s it all about?

So, what story will you tell? Well, take your pick. It might be the tale of when your company first began, and the journey you’ve taken to this point. It might be demonstrating the difference your product has made in the industry and the lives of your customers, or how the lessons you’ve learned throughout the years have changed the way you do business.

You might turn the lens outwards, and tell the story of somebody who embodies the same values as you do; alternatively, you could take a closer look at the people behind your brand, and how their talents have shaped your work.

The work we did with Škoda Ireland on their ‘Simply Older, Still Clever’ campaign is a great example of this in action. Our videos told individual stories—but in reality, said far more than that. It offered insight into brand values, reinforced a message of community, and sparked emotional connections that only great content can achieve.

Not only can the story you tell can be just about anything you like, it can take just about any form, too. From longform podcasting to short social snippets, you’ve never had more tools at your disposal in order to convey your message.

Share the stage

Sometimes, it’s about going a step further and placing your audience at the heart of everything. Remember, there are few more powerful feelings than empathy, that moment when you truly relate to a story. With that in mind, what better way to strengthen connections with your customers than by putting their peers front and centre of your efforts?

The value of this approach increases ten-fold when you consider the importance of diversity and inclusion in content marketing today. Identified as one of the three biggest trends in content marketing in recent years, prioritising diverse representation comes from a need for customers to see themselves reflected in your brand—which makes sharing their stories a fantastic tool.

Nobody likes a person who only talks about themselves, so your marketing shouldn’t be all about you in the first place—and if you truly value your customers as part of your community, then incorporating their stories into your communications is a must.

The better way

It all comes back to that popular old chestnut of ‘show, don’t tell’. If traditional marketing involves shouting the virtues of your brand to all within earshot, content marketing is about proving it, and to the people that matter. It’s less about selling and more about informing— empowering your audience to reward your business with the loyalty that straight selling can’t achieve.

So, if you provide a list of ways your product can serve your audience, or a barrage of figures as a testament to your excellence? That’s one thing. But if you can show them how great you are, where you add value, demonstrate the benefits that your brand can deliver, and build the types of relationships and trust that help engender long-term success? Well, then you’ve achieved the type of connection that goes a long way to securing success.

So go ahead and tell your story. And if you need help, just ask; email paula@zahramediagroup.com today!