There are four major pillars to any content marketing strategy. Your audience, your story, your distribution and your goals. These are the four things you need to think about when developing your strategy. This week we’re going to focus on your story.
Everyone Has A Story
Storytelling is an inherent part of being human. We use them to convey information and to make sense of the world. A company’s story goes beyond a simple sales pitch. It is a crafted tool that gives context to your company and evokes certain emotional responses from your audience. Your story is not why people should do business with you. Rather it is why they should care about you.
We like stories and, more importantly, we share stories. Your story is what takes your company from something that is a simple commodity and turns it into something people want to share. Having a story transforms your company into a brand.
From Commodity to Brand
People internalize stories and make them part of their identity. The stories that we internalize and that resonate with us say something about who we are. It communicates an identity to our peers..
Coffee is coffee. Some people like coffee, some people don’t. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who uses their love or hate of coffee to define themselves. Loving or hating coffee does not tell a story. However, people do love or hate Starbucks because loving or hating Starbucks tells people something about themselves. Because Starbucks coffee is a brand, not a commodity. Because a coffee from Starbucks is more than a coffee.
Starbucks has a story and that story has woven itself into our social fabric. When you buy a coffee from Starbucks you’re buying a story. And whether or not you realize it, you are retelling that story.
So how does your company weave itself into the social fabric? How do you start to create something people identify with? How do you start to tell your story?
Storytelling is an art. If you’re not well versed in crafting a story, the best place to start is with the basics. And the most basic place to start is with what you know and, presumably, you know your company.
The initial phase of any story is brainstorming. So break out that pen and paper and start writing.
- What does your company do?
- Who does your company serve?
- How did you start your company?
- Why did you start your company?
This is just a list to prompt you so once you get on a roll, keep writing. The more material you have to pull from, the better.
Refine, Rewrite, Refine, Rewrite
After you exhaust all iterations of the who, what, when, where and why of your company it’s time to refine what you have. Go back through what you’ve written and look for things that
- Are unique – something about your company no other company can say.
- Resonate with you – things about your company that make you feel something.
- Resonate with your audience – things about your company that makes your customers feel something.
Once you do that, rinse and repeat until you have something you like. Hopefully by the end of the exercise you’ll have a few compelling stories. Now comes the really hard part. Picking the one that will be the foundation for your content marketing plan.
Like I said earlier, storytelling is an art and there are no hard rules for choosing the best story to tell. There are, however, somethings to keep in mind.
First, you are writing for an audience. If your story doesn’t speak to that audience or if it is not relevant to that audience, you’re dead in the water.
Second, a story is more than “and then this happened”. A story has a setting, a plot, an arc and, most importantly, a story has a meaning. Make sure your story has structure and make sure it means something.
Last, but not least, your story needs to be true. People can tell the difference between an authentic story and a manufactured story. Authenticity always wins the day.
You’re Already Telling A Story
Whether you know it or not, your company is already telling a story. Every time you interact with your customers, make a sale or tweak your website, you are telling a story. And every time someone interacts with you and your company they are going to retell the story you have, up to this point, been unconsciously telling.
All you really need to do is identify what that story is and give it some structure. After you do that it’s time to amplify your story. But we’ll get to that next week.
Photo credit: Wade M – https://www.flickr.com/photos/wadem/