Storytelling is an art, and requires creativity (a lot of it), vision (thoroughly), skill (of course), and practice. You cannot master this art in a sitting or two. It’s a trial-and-error process that takes a lot of practice. Storytelling has become a crucial step in successful marketing campaigns, it smartly sets vibrant brands apart from simple businesses and loyal consumers from one-time shoppers. Further, it’s the heart and lungs of inbound marketing.
If you can’t understand why it’s so important, consider this: what does a copywriter do? Sells with words. What do salesmen do? They sell by telling awesome stories. And the most popular copywriting story that at least I have heard of a billion times begins with the headline, “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano, But When I Started to Play!-” Read the story here if you know nothing about it and then proceed with this post. On a side note, you may or may not know that Salman Rushdie, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Joseph Heller all started as copywriters before becoming excellent novelists!
One thing that moves people to action is good stories. Stories create sympathy and empathy that makes people willing enough to open their wallets for purchase and donations. Not just that, a good story can start a revolution of sorts, it is memorable and a great influential component that can increase sales. When you use a story in your content, you are essentially painting an imaginary town for the reader that they reside in, so that they can envision themselves using your product or service without even buying them.
For those who believe in scientific evidence and facts, this has been proven in theory so you can trust it. Let’s pick up our pens, keyboards, or whatever you use to write and start mastering the art of storytelling and dive in.
Stories sell; you can tell stories to entertain, educate, or brag. They overshine data-driven powerpoint presentations because –
Stories simplify complex messages and solidify abstract concepts
Have you ever been confused by a brand new idea that’s doing the rounds on the internet? Say, a viral video of a man protesting something and the world is talking about it, while you’re wondering what the beef is about? Those ideas can be simplified by storytelling because they can help you understand the concept by putting you in the shoes of who it is around. It generates empathy and sympathy. For example, think of how your math teacher used to give you real-life examples to explain math problems, which was a much better way of doing it than just drawing characters and numbers on the chalk-board.
Apple has been able to describe computers and smartphones, which are rather complicated to a typical consumer, and has been successfully selling them too. They do so by using real-life stories to describe how the products benefit the users instead of using technical information that consumers rarely find enticing.
Stories bring us together
Cavemen used to imprint their stories and messages using characters and pictures. We don’t fully understand them and are still trying to decode them; but this draws attention to the fact that stories don’t have a language. They themselves are a language – very universally so. We all understand the hero, the heartbreak, the underdog, the emotions the characters go through, and everything else a story depicts. We, in fact, go through those emotions as we read a story or watch it in a film or a play. Sharing a story gives people a sense of commonality and community. They feel the same emotions as they are shown, in unison.
Despite the multitude of things that differentiate and divide us, stories can unite people, removing the differences that our religion, ethnicity, language, or political preferences make; stories bring us together through our common humanity.
TOMS shares stories of both customers and the people they serve through purchases. By this, they have greatly benefited and created a movement that hasn’t only increased sales but also built a community.
Stories inspire and motivate us
When brands are transparent and authentic, they are perceived as down-to-earth, which helps consumers to connect with them. Stories tap into people’s emotions and bare both the good and the bad and therefore motivate and inspire. Stories, eventually, drive action. They also foster brand loyalty. When you create a narrative around your brand, you aren’t only humanizing your brand, but you’re also inherently marketing your business.
Some brands also use inspiration as a selling tactic, but some like ModCloth have done it all too well. It shares the touching, real story of their founder, which makes the brand relatable and worth purchasing. Not only this, but it also inspires other founders and business owners.
How to Write a Good Story
What is a good story
Good and bad are relative terms. But there are a few components that we can’t negotiate on that make for a great storytelling experience for both the teller and the reader.
In all aspects, – Good stories are:
- Entertaining. They keep the reader involved and intrigued in what’s going to happen next.
- Educational. They spark curiosity and adds to the reader’s knowledge.
- Universal. They are relatable and sync with the emotions and experiences that most people commonly undergo.
- Organized. They follow a succinct structure of the organization that conveys the message easily and help readers to grasp it.
- Memorable. They stick in the reader’s mind for the message they convey.
In essence, there are three components that make a story successful, no matter what message you’re trying to convey:
- Characters: A story should feature at least one character, and this character is the key that audiences relate to. This component is the bridge between the storyteller and the audience. If you can put your audience through the very emotion that the character goes through, your job is done. The audience will be much more likely to comply with your call-to-action than otherwise.
- Conflict: The conflict elicits emotions and connects the audience through relatable experiences. Though the conflicts vary in everybody’s lives, they are a lesson of how the character overcomes a challenge and, consequently, how the audience can too. When you’re telling a story, the power lies in how you’re conveying what you’re conveying. If a conflict isn’t there in a story, the story isn’t going to be received as a story.
- Resolution: Each and every good story has an enclosure – whether or not it’s good. Your story’s conclusion should wrap up the story and provide context around the characters and conflicts, thereby leaving the audience with a call-to-action.
Now that we know what a good story is let’s talk about how we can craft a story.
Into The Storytelling Process
Storytelling is a creative process that tests your experience and skill. Just like painters, artists and sculptors and potters follow their own creativity when producing their art; you have to, too. They go by their process, and they know where to start, how to go forward developing their vision, and how to perfect it over time. Here are a few cues for you.
1. Know your audience
Who do you want to tell your story? Who is going to benefit and respond with the highest strength?
Before you create a final story, it’s important that you understand your readers and how they will respond to it and take further action.
Knowing your audience will require thorough research on your target market and define your buyer personas. This will get you acquainted with your readers, viewers, or listeners, which will make your story more relevant in its approach. You will be able to write in a direction that’s crucial for your audience after you build out the foundation of your story.
2. Define your message
However long your story is, it must have a message to deliver. And just like the foundation of a new structure, it must be established before the story’s structure is created.
Is your story trying to sell a product or raising funds? Is it explaining a service or advocating for a trending issue? What is the point of your story? To do this, you can maybe try to summarize your story in six to ten words first. If you aren’t able to do that, your story, unfortunately, doesn’t have a core message.
3. Decide the kind of story you want to tell
To determine the kind of story you’re telling, you can try to figure out how you want your audience to feel as they go about reading, listening or watching it.
This helps determine how the story is going to be weaved and what objective you’re pursuing.
So, if you intend to:
- Incite action: Your story should describe how an action was successfully completed in the past and explain how the readers might be able to bring the same kind of change. Avoid excessive or exaggerated details so that your audience can focus on the action or the change that the story is encouraging.
- Tell people about yourself: When you intend to tell a story that describes yourself or your brand, you should tell the genuine, humanizing struggles, wins, and failures too. Consumers nowadays appreciate and trust the brands that market with authenticity and storytelling stands without an exception.
- Convey values: To convey values, you should aim to tell a story that taps into familiar feelings, emotions, characters, and situations so the readers can relate with and understand the story as it applies in their own life. This is particularly essential when discussing values that some people might not understand or agree with.
- Foster community or collaborations: To do this, you need to tell a story that influences readers to discuss and share your story with others. You can use a situation or an experience that people can find relatable enough to say, “Me too!”. You want to keep the characters neutral to attract the widest variety of readers.
- Educate or impart knowledge: You would have to create a story that tells a trial-and-error experience that can make the readers learn about a problem and how the solution was finally discovered and applied. You can also discuss other alternative solutions so the readers can take cues.
4. Establish a call-to-action
Objective and call-to-action are similar, but the call-to-action is used to establish the action that you want your audience to take after reading.
What exactly do you want the audience to do after they’ve consumed your story – do you want them to purchase something, subscribe to a newsletter, take a course, or donate money? Outline this alongside your objective to ensure that they line up.
So if your objective, for example, is to foster community, your call-to-action can be in the lines of ‘Tap the share button below’.
5. Chose the medium of your story
A story can take many shapes and forms. Some stories are watched, some read and others listened to. Your medium doesn’t only depend on the type of story you want to tell but also resources like time and money.
Here are some ways you can tell your story:
- A written story can be told through articles, books or blog posts. These mostly include texts, but may include images. Written stories are the most affordable and attainable method of storytelling as they require just a pen and a paper or a word processing tool like Google Docs.
- A spoken story is usually told in person, like a pitch, panel, or presentation. The most prominent example is TED Talks that are considered as spoken stories. Since spoken stories can’t be edited, they typically require more practice and skill to convey the message and induce emotions in others.
- An audio story is spoken but also recorded so it can be edited – which makes it different from a spoken story. Audio stories are usually in podcast form, and because of advancing technology, creating an audio story is more affordable than ever.
- A digital story can be told through media like video, interactive stories, games, and animation. This option is actually the most effective to elicit an emotional response, and therefore is also the most expensive. But don’t worry, the quality of the video doesn’t matter as much as the message you want to convey.
Next, you write. Take out your pen and paper or your word processing tool to start crafting your story. Keep your message and objective straight in your head and simply start with adding detail and creative flair to your draft.
7. Share the story
Don’t shy from sharing and promoting your story. Like with any piece of content, creating is only half the battle since post-production is also an important step in storytelling.
Depending on your type and chosen medium, you should unquestionably share your story on social media and wherever you find fit, like emails and newsletters.
In addition, your stories can also be promoted on your blog or by guest posting on other platforms. Digital stories can be shared on YouTube and Vimeo. While spoken stories are best delivered in person, you can record a live performance to share later.
The more you share your story, the more engagement you can expect from your audience.
Storytelling is definitely a great way of conveying your message to your audience, whether it’s in the form of a blog, a podcast, a short film, or even simply a newsletter. Stories make us human, and we all connect to them if we can relate to them. So understanding your audience is also an essential part of the process along with the creative and practical aspects.
You can use the art of storytelling to move your audience to subscribe to your newsletters, take up a course, purchase a product or service, donate or just register on your website.