4 Tips for Mastering Storytelling in Your Marketing
What IS the secret to a good story? One that stays with someone long after they have read or heard it? One that can change things – a person, an action, a moment? Here are four tips for that will help you move from pushing content to mastering storytelling in your marketing.
A Great Story isn’t a Long Story
Today we are battling for mere seconds to interrupt and impact each other, and we are coming up against incredibly limited attention spans. A Microsoft study released in 2015 found that the average adult can remain focused for only 8 seconds, a full second less than a goldfish. So what can you say in 8 seconds?
Remove One Accessory
Coco Chanel famously advised that every woman should look in the mirror before leaving her home and remove one item. We have a tendency to over explain, over talk, and over sell. Find the distraction, the superfluous – and remove it.
Use a Photographic Eye
I began my professional career as a photographer in the 90s. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and photograph some remarkable people, from the cast and crew of Cirque du Soleil to the First Lady of Uganda, Mrs. Janet Musevini. One of the biggest challenges is finding that shot, the one that says everything without having to say a word. A great photo tells the story of a person, creature, or perhaps a place – in a moment in time. It captures and translates the moment into that 8-second digestible story.
When you look at the top of this post, what do you see? What story does it tell you about that moment? What does it make you feel now?
Write What You Know
Having a hard time telling the story? Stop looking at it from the outside. If you can’t relate to it, no one else will. It doesn’t matter whether the topic isn’t your specialty because THAT isn’t the story. The story is the dilemma your reader faces. It is the common relatable emotion or motivator that many people would feel when facing similar circumstances. Find yourself in the story and you can find others.
60 Second Read – Marketing to People
I’ve been working in marketing in some form since 1996. What began as a crash course in promotional marketing as a photographer evolved and grew into a long career in B2B and B2C marketing. From architecture, pharma, tech, food, and even pet care, countless hours have been spent in strategic meetings with clients and partners discussing our “audience” and how to best market to that “consumer”, “brand”, or “target audience”. As marketers and business people, we have a tendency to over analyze. Even when we think we are lasered in and we talk about the personas, we are disconnecting ourselves from the easier answer, we are over complicating things.
I believe personas and target audiences are important, I also can speak to unique challenges when marketing as a B2B business provider versus direct to consumer as a B2C. However, I firmly believe that we need to remember that no matter what we are marketing and to whom – brand or consumer, we need to peel back the layers and remember that at the core, who we are marketing to is quite simple.
We are marketing to people. People like us.
The challenge lays not in who, but what. Are we marketing a product or service? A solution, distraction, education, or entertainment? Figure that out and then we just need to remember that all people are driven and motivated either intrinsically or extrinsically. There is no magic around basic motivational behavioral psychology.
Determine what you are marketing and how it serves the intrinsic and/or extrinsic needs of yourself and others and then tell THAT story. Step back and stop over thinking, and stop wasting hours on meetings that over complicate the process.
Thoughts on Branding
One of the most frequent conversations I have with friends, colleagues, and clients about branding revolves around what branding truly is. Many believe that it is logos and physical collateral, while others get a bit closer to the truth and believe that it is the statement a company makes about themselves from a cultural standpoint, a mission statement or manifesto of sorts. The way I see branding and how I approach it, is to first and foremost stop talking, and to start listening.
A company can continually TELL me they are one thing, but if it isn’t what their users FEEL it is, if it doesn’t represent their story and what the overall user / consumer experience is, then it is not their brand.
One of my past projects was to help a small business create their brand identity, one that they felt was built on integrity and community commitment. My approach is never to build a brand identity around just what a company TELLS me they are, but to listen and observe and flesh out the real story, the real identity. I spent two weeks sitting back and watching the customers. I talked to employees, the owners, the customers. No one was sure what the business was trying to say, it was over reaching and trying to solve a perceived problem, without actually taking the time to determine what their customers’ real problems were…. and then working on solving those.
Five weeks into opening to the public and their brand story was shaping into one of disorganization and disjointed confusion. The company was constantly short of a solution to anything and it showed in the staff who were confused on something as simple as staff roles and didn’t have the ability to clearly explain the stories behind the products or even the company hours. When asking the GM and the buyer of the business to give me a one sentence response to who they thought the business was, they didn’t know. When trying to creatively capture this from them by asking them out of the box questions, their own lack of confidence came through and it seemed evident that they were afraid of the “stupid answer” or the “wrong answer”, yet there is no wrong or stupid answer in the process of getting to know who you are. So, how could they have solved this?
Every employee should be equipped with a simple, yet powerful, 10 second elevator pitch on who and what the company was. Ask questions, all the time. As long as you are asking questions, you are moving forward, by not asking, by fearing failure, you also block out the opportunity for success. It was obvious that one of my biggest challenges in defining this business’s brand identity was the business itself.
Any great story has multiple layers and a consistent backstory which, adding depth and believability, contributes to the overall theme. A company must foster a culture in which the employees, from owner to hourly worker, are all confident in who and what the company they work with is all about.
A company can have two types of employees, those who are there only for a paycheck, and those that are there because they believe in the company and love the culture. People who love their work, the company they work with, they become powerful advocates, talking about how they love their job and wanting to share it with others. “Come in, it’s awesome!” Yet, the opposite is true for those employees who only work for a paycheck, they become powerful anti-advocates The owner would reuse the word integrity, that the brand was one of integrity, yet the actions, words, the employees and even the merchandising of product, all of these were saying different things.
If a company knows who they are, if they are confident, then the consumers are confident and have trust. Then the story begins to form.