Telling The Best Stories With Your Content

Stories aren’t for bedtime, they’re for compelling content.

Everyone loves a good story. I dare you to show me someone who doesn’t. Go on - I’ll wait.

An appreciation of narratives is written into our DNA, like eating good food and breathing clean air. Regardless of the culture, we can all to connect to stories. They help us make sense of the world in a way that pure data does not.

This is why, as a content creator, results count on proper use of our shared narrative connection. We create this connection by understanding narrative structure and establishing stories that integrate with the branding and content marketing strategy we want to achieve. If we want people to buy into our message, they have to trust us. To gain that trust, we need to provide information in a way that connects with our target audience.

The Narrative Paradigm

Some old, dead white guy named Walter Fisher created this thing called the Narrative Paradigm. It tries to help make sense of how people think, based on the theory that humans are storytellers. Because we love and connect to a good story we’re more persuaded by this than your average, garden-variety argument.

Scene: Consider the time you caved and did a favour for a friend that you had no desire to help. Nobody likes to help people move - that’s a universal fact. It was only after they told you how important it was that you changed your mind.

For anecdotal proof, look at your own life experiences.

Remember the time you loved the first film of a trilogy (if your first thought was Twilight you can leave right now), but hated the second film? Despite your disillusionment, you still went to see the third film. You did this even though you’d already decided it was going to be terrible, and you were right. That’s the power of good storytelling. It frames everything from the stakes to the emotion, to who is affected by an action and how.

That is the narrative paradigm at work every single day.

Storytelling In Content: Marketing 101

Whenever we hear that a client wants “compelling” content, or “interesting” concepts, we take that to mean they are looking for better structured narrative elements in a project. Or they like buzzwords. They want information folded into a story people can care about. Something more than a corporate pitch about how great their brand or product is.

Storytelling is a sequence of information that has a set up and a payoff. It's the setup that generates interest, and the payoff that gives the meaning. Basically, a nice way of saying why anybody should give a shit.

Even the most well thought out value proposition falls on deaf ears without good storytelling. This is why, for instance, we remember scenes from our favourite show more than anything we hear in a classroom. The story makes it matter. The meaning makes it stick.

No matter how witty the words, pretty the picture, or well shot the video is, if the message is facts without a story, then it's very easy to forget.

Your reader has more to latch onto in a story. Now, there's nothing wrong with pure content. Sometimes, telling people about an opportunity as simply as possible is the best approach. The most successful companies are able do more with the limited spaces of social media, billboards, and ad spots. 

Rather than offering information, set up scenarios that make it pay off. You can do this in a variety of ways thanks to all the tools and media available to businesses these days. The possibilities are endless.

Storytelling Possibilities Know No Bounds

You have a social media presence, whether personally or as your company. Depending on where your audience is, there are a variety of methods you can take to add better stories to your content. Buffer has done a great job giving examples on how to better leverage storytelling on all the most popular apps and networks. The types of visual stories you can tell on Instagram are different than the type of stories you can tell with a tweetstorm on Twitter. Maybe Donald Trump should get Insta.. wouldn’t that would be next level hell.

Regardless of your media preferences (no judgment here), there are 3 things to keep in mind when shifting your content style to incorporate more narrative.

1. Base Ideas Around Your (Kickass) Brand*

It sounds like a given, but your mission statement and company feel should be your guideline when presenting new stories. Figure out what you do best and who your target is. To market effectively to them, you need to create stories that surround those two things. You need to show how you fit in with this and bring it together in an authentic way. Because people are so saturated with media, we can tell a cheesy pitch from a mile away. Don’t be that asshole.

*If it’s not kickass yet, you know where to find us.

2. Try Different Stuff

If your company has been focused on Facebook marketing, try creating more picture based stories on Instagram. You can also try introducing videos and playlists to your Youtube channel. Or, shift your perspective on the existing platform. If you’ve used lots of pictures on your Facebook presence, try adding a longer form story that people need to click to read. It could be a fantastic way to resonate with deeper meaning than you have before, and result in greater engagement. Brainstorm blog ideas constantly.

3. Keep it Real

Sometimes, the storytelling people gravitate toward the most are the things that seem unprepared and honest. That’s why Facebook Live, Snapchat Stories, and Instagram Stories are taking off right now. Don't be afraid to speak directly to your crowd. Go live via Facebook, or offer up a real look at what happens in your company. Making your writing sound conversational is a great way to make your writing better.

More than that, never think you know exactly what kind of stories people want. This is where testing comes in. Test, analyse results, do more of it or move onto the next one. You won't know until you try, but you will have a whole different level of understanding about what your brand means to the people that connect to your content strategy.

The Takeaway: Everyone loves a good story. More than anything, they love the people and services that bring those stories to them. Develop your content strategy to incorporate the kind of stories that matter to your audience.

elizabeth mcintyre