How did you start your company? How did you come up with your business or product idea, and how did you get it accepted by investors, partners or customers? What was the path you took to finding success and how have your customers been impacted by doing business with you? Have you considered telling your story?
Somewhere in your professional or business history or during the development of your product or service, there is probably a story (or two or more). If so, it’s a story you can leverage to establish your brand, connect with your customers and help them relate to you and trust you.
Why We Tell Stories
People like good stories. We get hooked on the latest bestselling novel or intriguing new television series, and we get drawn to the characters, often relating to or feeling an affinity for them. Stories make us think as well as feel and help us understand messages and remember concepts better than a simple piece of text on a page. With a good story, people often also relate to or have affinity for the storyteller.
Stories have always been used in marketing to create emotional appeal and connection with the target audience, particularly customers. Stories have been used for decades in advertising (think of the Hallmark or Chevrolet commercials that tugged at your heart strings) and we use them in public relations to provide angles for capturing media attention and coverage.
Story-telling or telling your story has become an even more crucial tactic in marketing campaigns conducted today. Smart marketers understand that they need to do more than differentiate themselves from the competition — they need to provide content that resonates and connects them with their target customers. There’s no better way to do that than to tell an engaging story that inspires, evokes emotions, imparts a meaningful or motivating message, or shares a relatable customer experience.
What Makes a Good Story?
Depending on how you want your target audience to respond or react, there are different types of stories you can tell, for example:
- Stories that educate or inform, such as describing a problem or challenge and the experience of overcoming that challenge or finding a solution to that problem and what was learned in the process.
- Stories sharing a relatable experience or situation that inspires readers to say “Me too,” thereby fostering a community.
- Stories that describe how taking an important step or action initiated a positive change or outcome, encouraging readers to feel confident in taking the same step.
- Stories that authentically feature your own struggles, failures and eventual wins, making you “human” and instilling a connection to your brand.
To give you a more specific example, a current client that is a state-wide softball league for players over age 50 wanted to use public relations to recruit new members. Part of the group’s appeal is its camaraderie and the life-long friendships formed among teammates. To convey this, the press release and my media pitching incorporated stories of players’ experiences with the league that impacted their lives. One member recovering from addiction and another dealing with cancer attributed the success of their recoveries to the support and friendship they received from their teammates. These stories not only show the human side of the league and make it relatable, they also give the media something more to write about.
Telling Your Story – The How
There are several different ways you can tell your story:
- Written content such as articles, blogs, press releases or e-Books.
- Spoken content, either in-person or online, such as presentations, panel discussions or TED-type talks.
- Visual and audio content such as video, animation, infographics, slide shows and podcasts.
Even more than public relations, social media is a highly effective platform for telling or showcasing your story. It is through story-telling on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that you’ll more successfully build your following on those sites, but also move followers and visitors to want to read more (ultimately driving them to your website). Email is also an effective medium for presenting your story or promoting its availability in content on your website or in an upcoming presentation. Regardless of the medium you use to tell your story, you should always have some call-to-action for the reader, whether it be to click on a button or link for more information, to download some content or subscribe to a newsletter.
Story-telling is more of an art than a technique, and it takes some creativity, vision and practice to master it. A savvy marketing person can help you with uncovering your stories and creating narratives that are woven into your content development and your public relations, social media and email campaigns. You want to ensure your stories resonate with your audience, tie into your core messages and project the image you want to convey. With the right stories, your business can become more relatable, believable and trustworthy in the eyes of your target customers. When you establish that trust, you can gain the loyalty that will not only draw customers in but keep them for years to come.