Does creating consistent, unique content to lasso a loyal customer base seem like a magical skill that you don’t have?
Don’t worry, you can start telling your organization’s story in a compelling manner with a little push in the right direction.
In fact, by the end of this read, you’re going to be a straight-up storytelling guru.
In this piece, Melanie Deziel, founder of StoryFuel, brand storytelling keynote speaker and former New York Times brand content editor, will explain what brand storytelling is, highlight the three kinds of stories you should tell, and leave you with a downloadable Content Matrix Workbook to help you hit the ground running.
What is Brand Storytelling?
Brand storytelling is when a brand has a conscious and strategic effort behind the way they create and distribute content to their audience.
Every brand has a story to share. And, in fact, your brand is telling its story through each piece of content you publish, whether that’s a written profile of a new employee at your company, a YouTube video series that goes behind the scenes with your customers (with a great voice over) or a photo slideshow of how your products were made.
When it comes to distribution, there are many mediums within the current array of technology to tell your story. So, you need to be wise and choose the platform that makes the most sense for you.
Melanie says her roles at the New York Times and Time Inc. (where she was the director of creative strategy for 35 brands including Time Magazine, People Magazine, Sports Illustrated and more) helped her understand how brands should be telling stories to their customers.
“Brands today, we create a ton of content for our website,” Melanie says. “We’re posting on social media, we’re updating sales pages and product pages.”
However, she also warns that often times, stories are being published in a more reactive fashion, and it’s important that companies become more strategic about their narrative, including what questions your brand should be answering.
“What I like to see is when brands have separate initiatives where they’re being very strategic, [including asking themselves] ‘What are the stories we want to tell? What impressions do we want to be giving our audience? How do we want people to think of us? What sort of value can we add to our customer’s life?’” she says.
Some other important questions you should be asking in order to shape the content your brand creates include:
- What is the content we can create?
- What is the resource we can deliver to our audience that will inform, educate, entertain and ultimately make them become better customers?
The 3 Stories Brands Should Tell
Based on her extensive experience, Melanie has narrowed down the three kinds of stories your company should be telling. Within her methodology, to make the story types easier to remember, she uses the analogy of a three-ring bullseye.
Center of the Bullseye: Product-Focused Stories
“At the very core (of the bullseye), you have product-focused stories,” she says.
“[These are] stories about the product or service: What does it do? How many flavors and colors and sizes does it come in? And what are its capabilities?”
Think of how products and services are described on your website, sales collateral and how-to videos as examples. In all these pieces of content, what you do and/or produce for the customer are the focus.
Middle Ring of Bullseye: Role-Focused Stories
“At the next layer of that bullseye, you have stories about the role you play in the customer’s life,” Melanie says.
“This is a little bit less product-focused, [and] further out from your core offering, but [these stories are] slightly more applicable to your customer’s life. It’s really looking at it from their perspective.”
These stories are where you dive deeper into the benefits, and talk less about the product features.
Some questions you should ask when forming these stories are:
- Can/do we help customers?
- How can we inform customers?
- What’s the role we’re playing in our customer’s life?
- Do they see us as a guide or as an assistant?
- Do they see us a savior for some situation?
- Do they see us as a teacher?
- How do we tell stories that suit that role?
Outside Ring of Bullseye: Emotional-Focused Stories
“The outermost layer of the bullseye, is focused on [telling stories that are] not about your products (which are at the center), but are really going to connect with your customers,” Melanie explains. “These are the emotional stories…They’re important, because we’re all driven by internal and emotional needs.”
These stories often have almost nothing to do with your product, and they may have no mention of product or service at all, but they’re tapping into the core needs of your customer.
Some examples of emotional-focused brand stories:
- Customer has a fear about something and you’re going to tell a story about how to overcome that fear
- Customer needs confidence and you’re there to remind them of their true capability
- Customer feels unsafe and you help them feel secure
- Customer feels alone and they need to be comforted
- Build a narrative on whatever emotion that your products and services are ultimately tied to.
“The stories that are really about the emotion, the connection, the fear, the safety, the achievement…Those are the ones that are going to resonate with our customers in the deepest way,” she says. “Those are the ones they’re most likely to share (on social media), because it touches them in some way, and they know that it will touch others when they share it with them.”
So to recap the bullseye:
- The product is in the center
- The role is in the middle
- The emotion is on the outside ring
It’s important you have a healthy balance of all three categories and unpack them in a variety of formats.
“One [storytelling idea] that’s really easy, that a lot of brands start with, is lists or rankings,” Melanie suggests.
“This can include the top books on a particular subject, the top blogs to follow, the five must-attend conferences for your industry, or the 10 podcasts you have to listen to if you work in this profession. In many cases, you’re just curating other people’s content, but again, you’re creating a valuable resource for your audience and you’re going to get seen as a thought leader.”
How To Start Telling Your Brand’s Story
Still at a loss on how you and your brand should start creating strong content that communicates your story effectively?
We have you covered.
Melanie and her brand storytelling consulting firm, StoryFuel, have put together a fantastic resource for brands to generate content ideas.
Their Content Matrix has over 300 different story ideas for you to get going on.
The StoryFuel Content Matrix Workbook follows her content theory that hinges on two pillars: Focus (what the story is about) and Format (how it’s executed).
“What I did with this matrix is created a worksheet that had focuses listed down one side and formats listed down the other side,” Melanie says.
“Your job is to simply look at those intersections and say, ‘Is there a way for me to share resources in a written format? Yes. Is there a way for me to do DIY audio? Yes. Is there a way for me to do a deep dive as a slideshow? Yes.’ Giving yourself those different prompts and allowing yourself to come up with ideas with a framework makes it a lot easier to fill in the blank.”
So what about your brand, is it in need of an audit before you go any further? How is your company building that customer base through stories?
Tell us in the comment section below.
About Melanie Deziel:
Melanie Deziel, the founder of StoryFuel, is an international keynote speaker and a lifelong storyteller, recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in native advertising and branded content.
She is a member of the National Speakers Association, and has graced the stages of industry-leading events like Content Marketing World, Native Ad Days, Social Media Marketing World, SXSW, and more.
Melanie serves on the board of the Native Advertising Institute, and has judged countless industry awards, including the Digiday Content Marketing Awards, the Native Ad Awards, the WANIFRA Digital Media Awards and the Mirror Awards.
She developed the Content Marketing course for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MS in Digital Marketing program, and now teaches as an adjunct professor.