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Why Your Content Creator Should Be a StoryTeller

Storytelling in Marketing

We all love a great story. Maybe it's just how we're made.

Despite the fact that much of our free time is spent streaming Netflix Originals, feel-good movies from our childhood or a great cop drama, we still want more.

So when surveys show that 92% of people prefer content that tells a story, are we surprised? But what is a story?

What makes a story so powerful? What is business storytelling? These questions we will explore as we look at why people love storytellers.

What is a story?

Let's first look to the Cambridge Dictionary for a definition. I'll paraphrase:

a. A description of a series of events, either true or imagined.

That's easy enough. But anyone can tell a story, a series of events. That doesn't make them a great storyteller.

Animation by George Redhawk

My mother-in-law is full-blood Pima, and spent her childhood on the tribal lands in the Western US, near Phoenix.

She once lamented during one of our many discussions about her younger years: The great storytellers are dying out. The stories of our people will be lost forever.

Despite the fact that I am a storyteller by trade, I gave a quick and thoughtless response: Why doesn't someone write them down?

The look on her face I remember well -- a mix of sympathy and frustration that someone so close to her did not understand what she was trying to say.

And in that moment, seeing her expression, I understood.

She was not referring to a "series of events, either true or imagined". Storytelling is so much more. It's the facial expressions. It's the hand gestures.

It's the rhythm and pace. It's the dramatic pauses. It's the little details. It's the order and the word choice. It's the slow unwrapping of a tale for an audience. It's a feeling.

And in the case of a Native American story that has been carried down through generations, such as would be the case here, it's the unique way in which the storyteller chooses to tell that story.

Of course, we're talking about verbal storytelling in the above example. But this applies to digital content creation like videos, infographics, blogs, About us, testimonials, etc, etc, etc as well. We'll explore this a bit further after we examine the power of storytelling.

What makes a story so powerful?

The golden rule of writing a story is: show don't tell. By explaining the what, why and how instead of just "preaching" or touting your service, stories keep attention.

79% of content is skimmed rather than read, particularly in the B2B world. When you tell a story, you lock their attention into the piece. They read more thoroughly, because the information is organized in such a way, that skimming means they miss something important. Whether it's a business blog or a travel site, people connect to stories.

What makes a great story will vary as the creativity of the human mind is boundless. And as creators of content we are always looking for new ways to tell our stories. If the story were told the same way every time, I doubt we would be so drawn to a story. That's because it's not just the story that's important. It's the storyteller -- Your Content Writer

I will, however, list some major components of a great story.

  • The hook

  • The opening

  • The pace

  • The organization of information/events

  • The realizations or climaxes

  • The conclusion

The above could apply to visual, auditory or written content, just in slightly different ways.

Let's look a bit closer at each of these.

The hook - how do you draw someone into your story? You have 3-5 seconds to do this so you have to make it good. It could be an image. A slogan. An offer. A question or statement that is cutting or clever.

Many people share content off a hook alone, getting your story out to a broader audience.

The opening - Don't think you've got their full attention after the hook. In the days of fast load time, the back button is a very enticing option if you lose their interest. Anyone who has ever gone fishing knows that just because you hook a fish, does not mean that you can reel it in.

The opening should continue to draw in the viewer/reader/listener. It should help the audience become invested in your content and want to know more.

The pace - This one is hard to describe. As a writer of thousands of content pieces, I can only say that it's something you can feel. It is a rhythm and flow of your words and ideas. It is poetry in a way. In mechanical terms, it's mostly determined by your

  • word choices

  • sentence variance

  • eliminating of unnecessary words that cause the reader to stumble or cringe.

  • paragraph and heading breaks

  • Images (do they attract to or detract from the message?)

I'm sure video editing is much the same.

The organization of ideas/events - If there's one thing we learned from Quinton Tarantino, it's that you don't have to tell a story sequentially. But in order for your audience to follow you, the flow should be logical and easy to follow. Organize your ideas. This involves considering:

  • what the audience might not know that you need to explain

  • what order ideas/events are best explained in

  • how you will make connection between ideas/events

  • how you will sum up the ideas

The Realization or Climax - If you are creating content, you should be sharing something that audience doesn't already know or hasn't seen before. This is "the good stuff". Maybe it ties into your hook.

It's what the customer came to see. And you need to make it good. Earn their loyalty by delivering what you promise, making the pause for a moment to say "wow." This is your shareable content.

The Conclusion - How do you wrap things up? Do you have a call to action? Do you summarize ideas? Or do you say something inspiring? There are many ways to end a content piece. And how you end it determine whether you leave a lasting impression.

What is business storytelling?

Our brand has a story. How do your customers use your products/services? How have they benefited? What connections do they have to the brand?

You can take this from the practical to the fictional, as long as you are clear that it is a work of fiction. Tell your brand's story to get attention and increase engagement. You can do this with a 1000 word blog or a single image. It's all about how you want to tell the story.

As we've discussed, storytelling is much more than just relaying events. It's how you share ideas. And it might not even be a "story" at all.

It could be a blog that tells the story of how to do something, why one thing is better than another or 10 ways to tell a great story. Every piece of content we create should tell a story. And how we tell the story it what really matters.


What do you think makes a great storyteller?

How Can Storytellers help businesses create better content?

Leigh Clayborne is a Hubspot certified freelance content marketing / SEO content writer & strategist with 10 years of healthcare management experience on 15+ years of creating content. She is a strong proponent of creating the right customer experience to meet business goals.

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