How often are you ensuring that embedded within your content strategy is an overarching story? If those stories are there, do you check back to verify that it includes the classic beginning, middle, and ending? Don't forget a plot that keeps the audience glued to their seats in anticipation of how the scenes will unfold. Your audience NEEDS you to tell them a story.
Content marketing through storytelling is effective because we humans are programmed to react to stories. Even before written language, stories have always shaped our understanding of the world. Stories have a hold on us, a mystical grip that connects us to the storyteller - in this case, that would be your brand.
Quick experiment. My mother retired after working 33 years for Giant to become a nurse. I know what you're thinking. So what. Now, what if I started this statement over with this:
A young 20-year-old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young lady found herself beginning her life anew. Leaving her home in Jamaica, she began following a path that would lead to her dream of becoming a nurse in the U.S. Enrolled in school and supported by an aunt back on the island. She was on her way. Until... She discovered she was pregnant, and now her current path took an unexpected turn. Going to school became too big of a task, the financial support from her aunt ceased, and she was forced to take any position that would support her new family. Thirty-three years later, the job that once was her only way out was now sitting in her rear-view mirror so she could realize a dream she dreamed so long ago. Today, she is a U.S. nurse.
Any difference? Of course, but what is it exactly? An intriguing article from the Content Marketing Institute has an answer provided in, Why Your Audience Needs Stories: It's a Brain Thing.
In this article, Joe Lazauskas, head of content at Contently and co-author of The Storytelling Edge, explains why stories have such an impact on humans — the wiring of our brains make stories matter.
Lazauskas describes how "the neural activity in our brain increases fivefold," when we hear a story that captivates us and as neuron activity increases in our brains, so does the amount of information that is being retained.
Stories also trigger the release of the neurochemical oxytocin, which is more commonly known as the love drug. This hormone is traditionally released when people connect and bond, and it is associated with enhancing warm and positive feelings.
"Stories make us remember, and they make us care," said Lazauskas. "The reason content marketing works isn't artsy-fartsy. Is because our brains are programmed for stories."
Content marketing is multilayered. It involves information traditionally found in data, charts, graphs, and more. However, it goes one step further to locate the narrative being told. Rather than listing results, seen by your business, stories include the tale of how it got there. What does your company value? Why do employees come to work every day? What makes them believe in the mission of the organization? It is incorporating the details that can take your marketing from being good to being great.
According to Lazauskas, even once you understand the narrative of your story, when you start to tell it, there are four key elements that it must include to be effective:
People look for stories that they can easily understand and see themselves in. A story that captivates from the onset is more likely to engage and keep the attention of the audience.
When planning your marketing strategy, Lazauskas recommends considering the question: "If you didn't work here, would you read this?" If your answer is no, then you may want to reevaluate your plan.
As your story is developing, it is essential to consider the role statistics play in it. Stats and results are quintessential, but their value diminishes if your audience isn't interested enough to read about them.
Once you compel readers with your story, Lazauskas recommends drawing in data as "supporting evidence." Individuals are emotional and rational. If you can hold their attention with riveting information, they will ultimately take in the statistics to know that their emotions are in line with facts.
Presenting a story that relates to your audience lets you connect with them, which helps them recognize that you know and care about their interests. Instead of feeling like a number and a source of income, they feel their individuality and humanity is respected.
"The reason we tell stories is to build connections with people," said Lazauskas. Content marketing allows you, as a business, to form essential relationships with your audience. When incorporating stories into your marketing, you can better connect, engage, and educate about your mission.
So basically, some content is better than none. More content is better than some. Great content is better than more, and it should captivate your audience through the power of stories.