In marketing, you often hear the words, “Tell your story!". Even here at Local Line, we mention this in multiple different articles. Storytelling is a useful marketing tool that can help your business become more personable and unique to your customer base. Often the term gets thrown around a lot without any explicit instructions.
What is storytelling?
In a resource written by ReferralCandy, storytelling is defined as:
- Useful, informative, and communicated as a narrative
- What motivates you and your team
- What you and your business stands for
- Focused on your customers
- Emotional and engaging
- A journey that has a beginning, a crisis, and a solution
- Interaction between your customers and your brand
Make sure storytelling is not:
- Just any article
- Your sales goals
- An advertisement
- About your branding
- Something boring to watch
- Or, a sales pitch
Why is storytelling effective?
Storytelling makes you relatable. People communicate through stories. From our early days as cave-people, we have used stories to share knowledge, teach skills, and build relationships. This continues today. Stories evoke emotion and create deeper connections between the listener and the teller. By using storytelling as a marketing tool, your customers get a better insight into who you are and why you do what you do. Being more vulnerable to your customers results in customer confidence and empathy for the cause.
Not convinced? Here's some science. In an article written by the Harvard Review, they discuss the release of Oxytocin, a neurochemical, during storytelling. Oxytocin is a signal to the brain that is released when we are trusted or shown kindness, and "it motivates cooperation with others". A great story will cause listeners to share emotions with the characters in it and will cause them to continue to mimic those feelings and behaviors after the story is finished. This is why you feel down after a sad movie or inspired after a motivational speech. This is why storytelling works to sell you something too!
If you look at large companies, such as Apple or Google, all of their primary marketing campaigns, tell a story. They evoke your emotions and give you insight into why you need the business. More specifically for food, take this marketing campaign by the restaurant chain, Panera Bread. This video is co-founder Ron M. Shaich talking about his history at the company, the mission, and how the business is continuing today to stay true to their vision. This short two-minute video tells the viewer their past, what it's doing today, and how it hopes to continue in the future. It takes the customer on a journey leaving them with a feeling of trust and wanting more.
Becoming a good storyteller is a skill that needs to be practiced and improved over time. When telling your brand story, you do not just want to give it half-effort. Remember, you will never have full control of your story. It half what you actually say, and half of how your customers perceive your story. With this being said, you can only put out your best version, therefore, here is a step-by-step process to writing and telling the best brand story:
Step 1: Figure out who you are talking to
Every story has a subject or a goal. This is the message you want to communicate at the end of the story. Just because you tell a story, it doesn't mean that it will be sufficient. Before writing anything, map out where you want the story to go. Don't focus on what you want to say, but rather what your audience needs to know.
The best way to get into this space is to create customer personas. These are the customer types you are trying to reach with your marketing, and the "person" you are talking to when you are telling your story. To create your own customer personas, read this blog post. It provides a step-by-step process along with a worksheet. Make your customer personas as realistic as you can and give them names! This way, you are telling your story to a "real person."
Step 2: Pick the right subject
After you have created your persona(s), you need to determine what you are trying to communicate. Find commonalities and trends within your audience - their concerns, hopes, desires, and challenges. As you are trying to sell your products, you want your story to address their problems and how you can help them.
Here is an example to make this more clear.
Meet Andrew. He is an organic vegetable farmer and started farming 15 years ago after leaving his fast-paced job in the oil industry. He wanted to make a difference and reduce his carbon footprint. He wanted to create food that gave back to the earth and gave he and his community alternative options to traditional grocery store vegetables.
First, he created the Sustainable Student Steve persona because one of his significant sales outlets is on-campus weekly farmers’ markets. Steve wants to reduce his carbon footprint, give back to his local economy, and be healthy. Steve is concerned about his meat intake, and the lack of food transparency in large retailers.
Andrew also created the Concerned Parent Cathy persona. Cathy wants to give her kids proper nutrients through food, and lead a healthy lifestyle herself. Cathy is concerned her kids will not grow up to be healthy.
These two personas are very different, however, Andrew's story must apply to both of them. The appropriate subject for Andrew's story would be the transition to organic farming and increasing accessibility to good produce.
Step 3: Choose the right way to share your story
You can communicate through content in multiple different ways:
- Case studies and/or reviews
- Data visualizations
- Graphics and photographs
The next step in the process is determining the best way to communicate your story. We think the best methods are: through a short summary or an About Us page; through photographs on your social media platform and website; and through a video. Again, this may differ based on your product, your customer personas, and your preferred marketing platforms. This is an essential step, as many factors are dependent on how you are telling your story, such as text length, language and tone, and writing structure.
Step 4: Write a draft (or many)
After you have determined who you're writing to, what you're writing about, and how you're presenting it, it's time to physically write it! If this is where you need help, let's take a short little English lesson:
When writing a story, you must follow a journey. Gustav Freytag (remember him from school?), a German novelist, created a structure that every great story must follow.
- Exposition - This is the introduction and provides the background for the story to follow.
- Rising Action - The rising action is the point of the story where the conflict begins to brew and the reader begins to feel the tension between characters and their environment. In other words, this is the introduction to the challenge.
- Climax - This is the turning point of the challenge.
- Falling Action - This is where the resolution begins, including all the actions that took place for the solution to be found.
- Conclusion - The conclusion is "the now." What are you doing today and how you plan to continue this in the near and distant future.
This structure is the recipe for the best story. Before you write your draft, map out your story using these five points. This will make it easier to navigate the writing process. After you've written your first draft, write another one. Why? Because the first draft will never be the final product. Writing is a process; therefore, you need to assess, re-evaluate, and try again. There are so many ways to write something, so try different methods:
- The first versus the third person
- Professional tone versus casual tone
- Various heroes and “villains”
If you have multiple team members, ask them to write their version of the brand story as well. Telling a story that isn't about you can pull out different "important" points than the teller would. Collaboration is a great way to build a great brand.
Step 5: Get edits
When you repeatedly read the same piece of text, it can be hard to navigate what works and what doesn't. Share it with someone! It is always great to get constructive feedback from a fresh set of eyes.
Step 6: Share it everywhere!
The final step to creating a brand story is to share it. In step 3, you choose the best way to tell your story, now it's time to do so! Your brand story is the backbone of your marketing campaign, therefore be sure to share it effectively. Be sure to keep the tone, mission statement, and themes in all of your marketing activities. This will resonate with your customer base.
Remember, your story isn't static, just as your business isn't static. Your customer personas may change, your product may change, and you may change! Just because you wrote your brand story once, does not mean your storytelling is over. Come back, reflect, and tweak your story over time.