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Why Storytelling Done Right Will Captivate Your Audience

By February 5, 2014July 1st, 2015Writing & Content Marketing
Why Storytelling Done Right Will Captivate Your Audience

It’s no secret that the art of storytelling is becoming a more and more popular approach to marketing. Organizations are finally moving away from hard selling in favor of compelling stories that draw people in by making an emotional connection.

But why?

Aside from a universal numbness to soulless, self-serving sales messages, we’re living in an age in which constant communication and content sharing drive business success, from SEO to relationship building.

The line between personal communication and business communication has blurred. Businesses are being forced, some kicking and screaming, to abandon old school marketing tactics and embrace the way people communicate with each other – through storytelling.

Here are a few reasons why storytelling is such an effective way to have your message remembered and shared.

Storytelling And Marketing Are A Natural Fit

A story has a sequence of events with a central character, the protagonist, who faces a conflict or struggle because of a dastardly antagonist. This conflict or struggle is eventually resolved – for better or worse.

Effective marketing does essentially the same thing.

The protagonist could be your target audience. The resolution to the conflict or struggle occurs when the protagonist uses your product or service.

The resolution may also occur when the protagonist fails to use your product or service. Hey, if everyone lived happily after, we would have no Shakespearean tragedies.

The moral of the story? This is what happens when you use product X. Or, this is what happens when you don’t.

Of course, the story doesn’t have to directly involve how a product or service impacts someone’s life. After all, the best marketing-related storytelling, like any other good marketing, has no jargon and focuses on the needs of the audience, not the product.

Back in my radio days, I was asked to write a commercial for an Irish store that was introducing a Claddagh jewelry collection. The owner wanted to convey true love and romance, and I asked her why the Claddagh symbolizes such strong emotions. She answered by sharing the origins of the Claddagh:

More than 400 years ago, a man from the village of Claddagh, which once overlooked Galway Bay in Ireland, was kidnapped, made a slave and sold to a goldsmith. He created a ring for his wife with the hopes that they would someday be reunited.

In the center of the ring was a heart for love, surrounded by two hands for friendship, topped with a crown for fidelity. The legacy of the Claddagh – “with my hands I give you my heart” – remains one of Ireland’s most enduring romantic symbols.

We easily worked this brief but touching story into a 60-second commercial script. Think this story might sell the jewelry more effectively than a list of products and price points?

Everybody Loves A Good Story

A study by Jeremy Hsu of Scientific American found that 65 percent of our conversations are made up of personal stories and gossip. People communicate by storytelling.

Look at most Facebook posts. People are telling stories to friends and family in their comments, photos, videos and links. Yes, some people go way overboard, so we pay attention to the stories that are most relevant or interesting to us.

Instead of simply explaining how your product or service works, tell a story of how it worked for one of your customers. In addition to formal case studies or testimonials, tell these stories more casually in blog posts, social media posts or on a page of your website.

Better yet, let your customers tell them in a video.

A story doesn’t have to be a full-blown “once upon a time” story, although it could very well be. It could be a brief anecdote. It could be 500 words or 140 characters.

Share the story of how you started your business on the “About” page of your website. Just like people can relate to the daily problems and needs of your audience, they can relate to the struggles and joys you experience on the way to achieving your dreams as a business owner.

The key is to make every story believable, relatable and relevant – both to your target audience and the product or service you’re selling.

We’ve Been Telling Stories Since We Were In Diapers

Storytelling is something we’ve all been doing since before we could read or write. My daughter, Caitlin, tells me stories every day, whether they’re about her friends, Disney princesses or the birthday party at “the bounce place.”

She’s three years old and learning how to write letters and numbers.

The stories may not be perfectly constructed and the events may not be crystal clear, but they always keep my attention and I often share them. Isn’t that what you want from your marketing content?

Dozens of scientific studies have proven the brain is wired to process events, experiences and behaviors through a story-like structure, with a beginning, middle and end.

Storytelling is especially effective when it comes to understanding new concepts. It activates the part of the brain that gives meaning to words, allowing the storyteller to plant thoughts and ideas into someone’s brain.

However, context, relevance and clarity are critical if you expect the story to be remembered and retold.

Everyone has a story to tell. Some people are clearly better storytellers than others, and some stories are more interesting than others. That’s why it sometimes helps to have a good copywriter who can help you tell your story so your audience will want to hear the sequel. And beyond.

How are you incorporating storytelling into your marketing? Have you seen any great examples of storytelling? Share them here!

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Claire Pitts says:

    I’ve started using story telling in courses – following the lives of 2 mums setting up businesses. It makes it easier to give examples, such as cash flow, if we’re using someone that the reader already knows and understands.
    I can also use these characters to make mistakes that many make without having to directly accuse the reader of making them.
    It’s a wonderful tool and, as you say, doesn’t have to be ‘once upon a time’ full blown story.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Claire – Sounds like a smart approach. People can relate to these kinds of stories, and if you tell the story effectively, they can become attached to the characters. Keep us posted about how your storytelling is working!

  • Hey Scott,

    I love stories, but I don’t think I have used them effectively on my blog posts (I do talk about my own experiences and challenges – perhaps that is the story I want to tell).

    But, I want to do more…perhaps tell the story from a different perspective? I am considering of making a ‘mascot’ for my blog – it will provide me with the perfect…gives me an opportunity to make up a personality for the mascot (along with different stories).

    Anyways, thank you for the tips, Scott 🙂 Appreciate it!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Well, Jeevan, the more authenticity, the better. I share my own stories whenever I can make them relevant to my target audience and the topic at hand, and I’m sure you can do the same. Interesting idea about the mascot, although you don’t want to create stories out of thin air just for the sake of telling stories. Storytelling is a great approach, but not the only approach. It has to be believable, relatable and relevant.

  • Don says:

    I like storytelling and it sounds like a good approach. In fact, i remember a time when someone told me how they read how story telling is a good marketing tool. This really interested me because I am always looking for new, innovative ways to help my business and I always liked to write.
    He told me that he read the report and it told him such things how someone else told him a story, where to place a story on a website, a statistical report in a scientific magazine, scientific studies how it affects the brain and how people love stories. What he found most interesting was that they were selling storytelling but presented a list of facts and figures, While he found this interesting, he felt that there was no story to the story but more of a report, He said that he found that odd.
    We both agree that it sounded odd. then we agreed that we present a story to the author of the report to help him see how he could help himself because we all try to help each other in business. We felt that this would be too easy and might sound, what’s the word, uppity or sarcastic. In the end, we felt that it would be good practice, fun and maybe helpful to the author and ourselves. We felt that the author would have never brought to this point if not for him so that we could excuse him for not writing the report n a story form. It actually might not have kept our interest? Not sure,I would have to see it done. This would definitely show his talents or not and felt that he has a very good point.
    In the end we wrote the comment and felt better for it. Now we wonder hw that author felt?
    What do you think? Maybe he would hire me?

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Don, I have to admit that you lost me somewhere in that story 🙂 I do agree that you can’t sell the concept of storytelling with a list of facts and figures, although facts and figures could be used within the framework of a traditional story. As for the author’s reaction, your guess is as good as mine. He may have appreciated your feedback or he could have been insulted. I hope your roll of the dice pans out!