Pretend you’re evaluating a new software platform. Given the choice, would you rather read an engrossing article about how software helped a small business take off or flip through the pages of that same vendor’s brochure?
Most of us would go with the first option because there’s something compelling in a good story.
Strong storytelling also invigorates content marketing. In her excellent book Wired for Story, Lisa Cron explains why storytelling is such a powerful communication medium.
“The rush of intoxication a good story triggers doesn’t make us closet hedonists—it makes us willing pupils, primed to absorb the myriad lessons each story imparts.” (Wired for Story)
Even before the written word, storytelling was a rich source of learning for primitive cultures. Today, it’s just as powerful as it ever was, especially if you want to build a strong content marketing program.
Why storytelling matters for content marketing
A good story is the most powerful weapon in a content marketer’s arsenal. It’s the mechanism that excites your audience while driving important points home. Stories align with your brand’s message, weaving together a rich fabric of information for your readers.
Here are three reasons why you should include more stories in your content marketing.
1. They give your audience the chance to see practical advice in action.
Sometimes exposition isn’t enough to drive a point home. Examples of thoughts you share through your content can help supplement the message.
2. They offer relatable human perspectives.
Through content marketing, I worked my way up from a lowly copywriter at a sweatshop PR firm to a successful freelance writer with a handful of clients I love writing for. For a while, I found myself frustrated and distraught. But all that hard work eventually paid off.
I’m not the biggest name in content marketing or the most knowledgeable content marketer out there. But I’ve accomplished many of the professional goals I worked towards over the last few years.
My story is validation for content marketers that accomplishing their goals isn’t easy. In this way, a relatable human perspective helps readers envision themselves in your shoes.
3. They help establish credibility.
A good story of professional success helps prove whatever point you’re trying to make. It illustrates the message while giving you insider’s credibility.
Telling the right story makes your brand a witness to success. By default, you share the credibility that the story brings to your content.
Ways to use storytelling in your content marketing
Not sure how to infuse storytelling into your content marketing? Check out these 4 ideas below.
1. Lead with a story to hook readers.
There are plenty of ways to hook your reader to make sure they make it to the end of an article. An anecdote is near the top of the list.
Anecdotes don’t always relate directly to the rest of the content. They may be metaphors. Sometimes they’re personal. Whatever story they tell, they’re meant to grab the reader’s attention early, ensuring they’ll at least read a little further (ideally until the end) before they move on.
2. Make a single clear, succinct point through a story.
People like things simple. A story that tries to say too many things usually loses its message. Combine these two principals into a story with a single compelling message and you can’t go wrong.
This is why stories like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings do so well: They pit good against evil. These are simple storylines to follow because they don’t have complex or numerous messages coursing through their pages.
3. Tell a story through pictures.
Think of your favorite comics—Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, Dilbert, or Watchmen. Remember how you would connect emotionally with them? You can apply the use of pictures to your own storytelling.
Try creating an image gallery of an event to get started. Infographics represent another great opportunity for image-based storytelling.
4. Use video to tell a story.
Everyone connects with video. It’s the most popular medium on the internet. It dominates pop culture. And it’s easier and less expensive to produce than ever before.
The most compelling use of video is to tell a story. Start using video storytelling in your own content marketing program and you’ll connect with your audience in new ways.
How do you use storytelling in your content marketing? Share your tips with us in the comments section.
About the Author
Mark Sherbin is a freelance writer specializing in technology and content marketing. He shares occasionally insightful information at Copywriting Is Dead, where he promotes authentic communication between organizations and their audiences. Say hello on Twitter: @MarkSherbin.