Social media requires compelling storytelling to thrive. As businesses struggle to break through the marketing noise, brand stewards are finding it effective to craft stories that focus on achieving brand goals while giving customers a sense of what a brand stands for. Brand storytellers who embrace social media recognize that emotion is the currency their communities trade-in. For a brand to connect with its communities, it must tell captivating stories that allow fans to become emotionally invested.
A brand must define itself clearly, articulate its core values, and communicate consistently, but that can happen only when a brand defines its narrative. Content strategy doesn't just apply to copy but to visual media as well. Storytelling is an important part of the user experience and, at the end of the day, if a brand's stories are not tailored to audience needs and organizational goals, you are wasting time and money.
Commitment Comes First
To implement successful campaigns, senior management must commit to building storytelling into its overall communications strategy. This sounds obvious, but is too often the missing link. Storytelling can help organizations stand out by fostering emotional connections that provide the building blocks of long-lasting relationships. Hearing stories about your company's work gives your audiences another reason to care about the brand, and why they should support its initiatives.
Once a storytelling plan is green-lighted, a strategic approach to content development tactics is required. Enter content strategy, which provides a framework to plan content, its delivery and management. So let's get started:
Prioritize target audiences, concentrating messaging around groups with the most influence. Learn what those audiences want (research and analytics), then focus brand stories around the content that delivers the most hits. Deliver content in the form that your audiences want, whether it's YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, etc. And, don't forget to consider traditional media, which are always looking for the next great story. Plan your stories to supplement content on your Web site, then create an editorial calendar to manage the campaign over time.
Develop stories that emotionally convey your message, compel action, and have viral potential. Empower your audiences to support the relationship by giving them something to do! Provide the means to donate, volunteer, share stories, etc. Make it worth their while by showing how they will personally gain by leveraging incentives that benefit your organization and brand community.
Stories are formulaic, so try techniques that journalists use. The 5Ws: who, what, when, where and why/how remain the basic building blocks of any good story. Try to fit in as many as possible when building your marketing materials.
1. Meaning Why is this important? Why should customers care?
2. Importance What's the big picture? How does your product/service fit in?
3. Human Interest What are the customer goals, achievements
4. Prominence Add credibility - name partners/experts
5. Timeliness Is this a product launch or an thought leadership campaign?
6. Proximity What does the campaign target?
Always keep in mind the key elements of what it means to be human. In every campaign, design the elements to elicit an emotional response, to share knowledge or address a customer need. Your brand community should feel they are getting something of value from the time they spend interacting with your marketing campaign.
Finally, be honest in everything your brand says. There are countless examples of fudged facts, outright lies and omissions that have damaged brand reputations from Enron to Walmart, J&J to BP, and require substantial expenditures of corporate capital and energy to repair.
Winning brands tell great stories that connect emotionally to key stakeholders. To develop your storytelling skills, study the classics, strive to understand their structure, form and the ingredients that make a great story.