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A Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling for Your Business Content

“Story” is a much-loved term among marketers. From commercial videos to websites, brochures and more, business content nowadays relies a lot on storytelling. Its impact on sales if often lauded, so it makes sense if you consider using it.

But is storytelling just another buzzword used and abused by marketers? And if it’s valuable, how do you go about implementing it?

Photograph by Zinkevych via Bigstock

The Power of Storytelling Is Undeniable

No wonder the cinema and TV industries keep capturing the minds of audiences across the globe while making millions in the process. And it’s not just screenwriters or novelists who can tell powerful stories. Content marketers and writers can do that as well.

No matter what industry you operate in, there are stories waiting to be uncovered. You just have to look at your business from the right angle. Some products and services are seen as “boring”, like medication or accounting, but at their core, they are about people suffering from problems. Telling a story centered around these problems allows you to tap into the emotional side of the industry that customers can relate to.

Storytelling Empowers Your Brand

It’s easier to remember a narrative than a dry product description. Similarly, audiences connect with a character that represents them much stronger than a person in a suit.

Beyond the usual “Here is what we sell and why you should buy it”, your brand messaging should have a subtler, more relatable tone. While you still have to state your offer and its benefits, storytelling gives your brand a strong hook and makes it memorable. In a time where all markets are noisy and crowded, storytelling can give you the edge needed to stand out.

How Do You Get Started with Storytelling?

You know what you sell, but you may not know what kind of story you are supposed to tell. Don’t worry! There are simple steps you can follow to turn on your “storyteller” switch and reframe your activity to fit into a narrative.

Choose Your Hero

The main character of the story can be a customer, the founder of a company (like Basecamp did), or sometimes neither. In HP’s video called “The Wolf”, the protagonist is a villain, not a hero. A hacker explains in a witty but disturbing tone how he gets access to confidential information from printers and computers. HP’s customers are the victims of this story, and the video concludes with HP stating that their products are the most secure in the world.

 

But if you want to keep things simple, go with the customer as your hero. Having a clear picture of your ideal customer will help you create that protagonist. To do that, turn to your sales team because they know your customers best and may even share some of their stories. Write down their profile, situation, aspirations, hobbies, emotional state when facing a problem and the happiness brought by your solution.

Whoever the main character is, show that your story is not about you growing your business, but about clients improving their lives.

Create Your Story

The context: when and where does the story take place? You don’t need to describe the context in detail; only a brief introduction is enough. In a visual medium like video, you may not have to state the context explicitly, as images will do the job.

The protagonist: as seen above, the main character you choose is related to your business in one way or another. Who is she? What is her goal?

The conflict: conflict is at the core of all stories. It’s what makes the audience stick to see what’s going to happen next. Conflict is the problem your protagonist suffers from, the obstacles standing in her way to achieving her goals.

The plot: think of the plot as the sequences of events that comprise the story. The plot shows the obstacles your protagonist faces and how she finds the solution that makes her life better. Most of the time, your product or service will be the solution that resolves the conflict.

  • The initial situation: establish the context, the protagonist and her conflict.
  • The problem: the obstacles that the protagonist faces and the consequences she suffers
  • The solution: how she comes across the solution that your business provides
  • The resolution: your solution solves the protagonist’s problem and now she has reached her goals

This is a simple, tried-and-true template that you can build your story upon, but depending on your ideas you can follow other structures. In any case, make sure that the plot remains simple, easy to memorize and with as few characters as possible.

The outcome: what is the message of your story? What are the values you demonstrate and what is the audience expected to do? As you reach the end of the story, you can include a call to action for the audience, like visiting your website.

To take things a step further, you can try using humor, suspense and plot twists to keep your audience entertained and eager to find out the resolution of the story. This sounds like a job for content writers. Once you have a draft of your ideas, writers can shape them into well-phrased, engaging stories.

Keep Your Story Consistent Throughout Your Marketing Channels

The overarching themes of the story must echo through your website, blog articles, newsletter, brochures, videos and so on. Reuse the essential words and sentences – the ones that describe your mission and value proposition. Consistency and repetition reinforce your brand and make it more recognizable. To maximize its effect, consistent storytelling should be a focal point of your content creation.

Also, to ensure the consistency of your message, your content writers, whether in-house or contracted, must have a thorough understanding of your story so they can get it across faithfully.

Good storytelling raises your brand awareness and helps you connect with your customers. But you don’t necessarily need a big budget to implement storytelling in your content strategy. You can start with website content, blog posts and expand your story as you go to other types of content like videos. Just make sure that your story remains simple, clear, and powerful from the start and all the way through.

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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