So there I was, drinking wine with Gary Vaynerchuk and listening to him talk about his passions with some of Boston’s most influential digital, marketing, media and venture capital firms when a rare white pelican flies into the bar holding a tattered Scottish kilt in his beak…
OK, so there was no pelican, but there was a there was a private dinner sponsored by MITX (The Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange). Gary joined us just after speaking at The Gravity Summit at Harvard University earlier that day.
Aside from picking out the wine for our dinner at the Blue Room in Cambridge (which was excellent), Gary offered several insightful tips. He believes “the middle is being crushed” in many industries and businesses. Social media is providing an opportunity for supply and demand to connect directly (think brands and customers). This is especially true for content providers working for third-party firms. Gary went on to explain that suppliers who can craft a good story and truly engage their audiences will be most successful in taking advantage of this middle-squeezing opportunity ~ “If you can get eyeballs, you can make money!”
This got me thinking about how critical storytelling is to successful brand engagement on the social web as well as at face-to-face events. Here are a few tips that you can apply to your own stories, no matter where you tell them.
1. Have a purpose. Know what you are trying to accomplish as a result of your story. Make sure that every element of your story contributes to accomplishing your objectives. Why are you telling the story? What reaction are you looking for from your audience? What do you want your audience to do as a result of reading or hearing the story?
2. Clearly articulate the theme. Ensure you have defined the ideas, messages or lessons you’d like to get across to your audience. What knowledge or feelings do you want the audience to walk away with?
3. Keep it simple. Start by telling your story in just one sentence. Then expand on relevant points and give enough detail to craft a truly compelling tale. Be careful not to go into too much detail. Leave enough room for your audience to fill in the blanks and become part of the story.
4. Ensure your story has a structure and a well-defined plot. Every story needs a beginning, middle and end. Or as we learned in grade school: Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution. You can tell your story all at once or in parts. This is true whether you make postings to social networks via blogs, tweets, videos, etc. or spread your storyline across audience generation, experience, through case studies, in speaking opportunities and follow up tactics for an event. Also, Use a single, effective narrative device to help guide your audience through the plot. Avoid mixing devices as it leads to confusion and distracts the audience.
5. Use the right tools to tell your story. Photography, Audio, Video, Text and Interactive Multimedia can each play an powerful role in getting your message across. Use them appropriately. Understand the message and the best way to present your ideas. Think of the audience first, and how they prefer to receive your message. Know what the most effective vehicles are for your audiences to profoundly understand retain and share your message.
6. Engage your audience. Wherever possible engage your audience so they become part of the story or at the very least, vested in the outcome. This can be done through digital or physical interaction, imagination or emotions (humor, shock, etc.) Another good Idea is to entertain your audience at the beginning, end and middle of the story. Start and end with a bang.
7. Choose the right protagonist. The best stories in marketing are those that the audience identifies with ~ where they can see themselves as the hero. Remember, its not about you, its about your audiences. Your brand is the enabler. Who is the hero of your story?
8. Defeat the antagonist. Well, first you need to describe an antagonist that is relevant to the audience. This might be a pain point your product(s) address or a new service that propels your audience beyond their competition (perhaps it really is an arch nemesis!) The key here is relevancy. Relevancy to your industry, and relevancy to you audience on both an emotional and rational level. If there is nothing at stake, there is no story. Make sure the conflict is believable and the solution is compelling.
9. Communicate like a human being. Just because you work for a company, doesn’t mean you have to speak like one. Building a brand personality that people can relate to, whether you’re BtoB or BtoC, will help establish and foster relationships with your audiences. It will also help drive emotional connections with your brand. No one wants to have a conversation with a corporation, they want to have a conversation with a person.
10. Be Authentic. Seth Godin writes “A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.” Authenticity drives trust which is critical to long term relationships and engagement between brands and their audiences.
Events and social media alike provide brands an amazing opportunity to connect with their audiences. Whether you are engaging with suspects, prospects, customers, loyal advocates, shareholders, analysts, or the press and media, its critical you can communicate with them effectively. Storytelling, when done correctly can engage your audiences intellectually and emotionally. This will help drive meaningful relationships resulting in long term success for everyone. Engage, interact and become part of the story.