Storytelling is at the heart of everything we do in business—from branding companies to selling products to retaining employees to capturing programs. Whether you are in the public or private sector, you can’t risk losing out on a deal due to poor content.
She was the CEO of a women-owned small business that worked with the biggest and best prime defense contractors. She was the first woman CEO I had ever met personally. I asked how she did it, in other words, what was her story? She was surprisingly transparent about what it meant to create a business from the ground up. The advice she gave me included to let go of fear and do it anyway. No one is going to believe in you more than you, so don’t listen to any naysayers. Step into the arena. Her story moved me. I tucked it away for “someday.” Years later, I revisited her story when I felt the calling to start my own business.
Storytelling inspires. Storytelling keeps ideas and dreams alive. Storytelling matters because it allows people to connect with your company or organization. When done well, it connects your customers to your products. And the very best storytelling inspires action.
But when companies don’t put the resources toward strong strategic communications, everything begins to blend together in a world of content chaos, and it becomes difficult to stand out. Have you noticed company content on social media and websites lately where it all sounds the same?
The solution is meaningful storytelling. Stories that describe the human experience. I’ve been a truthteller for as long as I can remember. I was always a writer—from my years as a journalist covering the Department of Defense to leading a journalism program at a university to working as a brand journalist and bureau chief of a global defense company. The one thread that weaved it all together is the art of storytelling. I constantly ask, what’s the story? In fact, I wrote a textbook with that title in order to teach the art of writing and communication to a new generation of storytellers. It is my passion.
Move To Action
We are all working toward an end where we need connection and action. But how do we get that if our storytelling falls short? It is essential to create content that’s insightful and provides a unique point of view. Content that’s personal and human and that solves a problem or provides a solution. Content that touches your audience and inspires them to come closer to your business rather than lose interest and move on to the next business.
Get personal with your storytelling. Tell data-driven stories. Pull ideas from your customers or clients. Cover what matters most to them. When creating branding stories, develop ways to be immersive. Seek out writers to tell your stories. Audiences are smarter than you give them credit for; they can see through PR-speak, which is a turnoff because no one wants to be spun. Tell narratives with real people and include your employees and leaders in the content with personal anecdotes.
For example, if your company hires veterans, celebrate that in a story rather than saying you’re proud. Find veterans to interview and connect their stories with your services or programs so customers can see the action and feel the connection. You become believable this way.
Content Is Queen
To be savvy with your brand, take time to understand how to be an intelligent, creative engine. In their “2022 Global Marketing Trends” report, Deloitte points out that marketers need to move “at the speed of culture.” Keep internal and external teams close to the culture and demographics of the consumers that your brand wishes to reach by getting personal and finding stories to tell. Content creators, a.k.a. storytellers, are needed more than ever to create authentic content that is personalized and accessible.
Interestingly, Pauline Butor of Google France takes content to the next step, advocating for more shoppable content. I take more of a traditional approach to storytelling where I recommend designing a story around a person or a truth to make the real connection, but Google’s digital marketing trends cut right to it, which can also be a good storytelling approach and works well for businesses with tangible products with a sales focus. The suggestion is to hook and sustain customers with an immersive story, brand early and often, get people to feel something (which should always be part of a well-conveyed story) and then direct them to take action.
In essence, this approach goes well beyond a written story and advocates various content as a tool in story-driven marketing campaigns, which makes your team of content marketers not only storytellers but also sellers.
Call To Action
Make sure to tell dynamic stories in all industries. Demand strong writing in corporate and external communications, proposals, captures, bids, executive summaries, white papers, product materials, briefings and company websites. Whether you are targeting the public or private sector, everyone should be trying to reach out and affect someone.
In order to do this, rethink your content strategy and team. Try bringing in former journalists and writers to brand, create content and interview employees to dig in and find the stories. Allow your content team the time to conduct interviews and investigate what makes your company or program unique. Bring in a storytelling consultant or content leader to assess your current internal and external content. Reignite your storytelling process.