Storytelling is as old as time. Long before the written word was invented, people shared myths, legends and moral tales with gestures, words and images.
Some of the oldest – and most famous – prehistoric storytelling is visible in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in Southern France, where figurative images of animals depict Palaeolithic life from up to 33,000 years ago. And while the mediums may have changed, our desire to connect with others by sharing stories remains as strong as ever.
Content marketing is about telling a story. And no matter your company or your communication goals, every brand has a story to tell.
Sharing that story with your audience should form the crux of the content your company produces. You can optimise and amplify to your heart’s content, but without a story at its centre, any content marketing effort will fail.
The story behind the brand
Don’t think your company has a ‘brand story’ to sell? We’d argue that any marketer or brand that claims not to have a story just doesn’t know how to find it, or how to share it.
“A brand story is made up of all that you are and all that you do,” says Debbie Williams of SPROUT Content. “It’s not about creating something worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, but bringing together your history, values and people.”
Consumer giants such as Apple, Cadbury and McDonald’s are masters at telling their stories. However, in a recent survey from OnePoll, less ‘exciting’ companies such as Marks & Spencer and Aldi also ranked in the top 20 ‘storytelling brands’. Political and charitable organisations like UKIP and Macmillan also scored highly, proving you don’t need to be a global giant to weave a compelling and memorable story around your brand.
Telling your story
So how can you use storytelling techniques to create content that will build your brand? The most important thing to remember is that telling your brand story is not about pushing a corporate message – it’s about creating a connection with your audience.
1. Create a persona
Every story needs a point of view. Creating a persona to use across your content marketing efforts will give your brand a clear and consistent voice and can help your customers develop an ongoing relationship with you.
2. Make your people your heroes
According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 56 per cent of the UK population trust businesses, while our trust in media brands has fallen to a new low of 41 per cent.
We’re much more likely to trust the people on the ground – employees and consumers – so make your staff, customers and fans the main characters of your content marketing.
3. Highlight your history
Even if your company is a startup, the history of how it came to be is a ready-made story in itself. Return to your roots and tell the story of your birth then use this as inspiration for an ongoing brand narrative. It worked for Saddleback Leather, which has built its whole website around the story of how the company came to be.
4. Embrace transparency
Being transparent will build trust and engagement with your audience, and unless your customers and fans trust you to give them credible information, they’ll go elsewhere.
Even if you’ve made mistakes, embracing your ‘failures’ rather than trying to hide them offers a human side to your business that customers will respond to.
Effective content marketing is much more than corporate messaging. The technologies and mediums we use to communicate will continue to evolve, but as yet nothing comes close to the value of a compelling story.