'Storytelling Inspires Action' - Here Are Some Keys to It

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"Do business owners value the power of storytelling?" I asked Dan Grech, founder and lead instructor of BizHack Academy, last year.

"Not nearly enough. When we survey business owners about what skills would most help them grow their business, storytelling finishes dead last. Yet my seminars on business storytelling, where I ask business owners to articulate why they started their business, consistently rank the highest of everything I teach.

"We've worked closely with more than 300 business owners to identify their deeper mission and higher purpose, the 'something bigger' that they're striving to achieve. We call this their Brand Promise, and that promise needs to be present in every communication with a client, prospect or staffer. One of the business owners we work with custom-prints paper cups, and his Brand Promise is to create unforgettable social gatherings."

The Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association released a whitepaper last year called Storytelling 2020: What You Need to Know About Storytelling in Marketing.

According to the whitepaper, storytelling allows brands "to foster engagement in ways that inspire [people] to take action, whether it be a click, like or purchase. Even more, it creates an evolving narrative that naturally connects with [audiences], adding value to—and ultimately becoming part of—their everyday lives."

Here are their report takeaways with supporting comments from SIPA Annual 2019 speakers. (Have you registered yet?)

Be authentic. "Success demands you know your customer. Spend time unpacking your data to learn the behaviors, habits and expectations of your audience. Consider creating a customer journey map to have a more solid understanding of the journey your customers take when they interact with your brand."

"We talked to our sales director and asked when one of your customers comes to our site, what are they going to want to know right away?" said Rick Wilkes, executive director of marketing, OPIS by IHS Markit. "What commodities we cover? Are they going to want to know about our market segments? He said, 'No, they're going to look for who they are. They're going to say, I'm a retailer, I sell gas. What do you have for me?' So what we tried to do is immediately show buyer personas, and a who-we-help section. You can see all these fuel chain personas and there are a lot of them."

Consult the experts. "There are many digital agencies and consultancies that are already working successfully in this space and, as a result, know and understand the opportunities and hazards of things like emerging technology. Lean on their expertise to help push boundaries, assess risks and think creatively."

"Niche publishers do a great job at producing high-quality content. But wrapping all the marketing that needs to go around that and layer in a social strategy too can be very demanding," said Charity Huff, CEO of January Spring). "You need to answer a lot of questions: How many uniques are coming to my site? Where are they coming in through? Why are they coming? Is the journey easy for them?"

Embrace emerging technologies. "There are a number of new technologies than can be used to extend and evolve your brand story. Consider allocating a portion of your budget to new technology and innovation testing. Supporting testing encourages teams to put analysis into the things they are interested in. It also gives your audience a say, which is important when you're seeking a connection with customers."

"We'll have the 25 top-rated Medicare plans, 10 cities that get healthcare right, things like that," Clive Riddle, CEO of MCOL, said about their microsite Health Sprocket. "We have another site where we post videos with healthcare business interests. B2B can get lost on YouTube among all the consumer videos. Here, people can comment on them, rank them, and it becomes content." 

Reward failure. "Brands that embrace emerging technology must also change the culture of "failing" within their organizations. Team members need to be shown that taking small, calculated risks is key to creating new experiences, and the only true way to learn."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…