5/22/16 • The Power Of A Good Story

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(5/22/16) BELMONT, N.C. –  Storytelling has held a distinct place in our culture – to inform, inspire and persuade – for thousands of years. From sitting around the fire communicating with sounds, gestures and pictures to our modern-day dialog, stories have historically engaged the listener. And they can engage your customers, too.

While it may sound like the buzzword du jour, the truth is storytelling has been in the marketing toolkit for decades. Social media’s meteoric rise in recent years has allowed storytelling to expand as a promotional strategy like never before. Plus, it’s so versatile. Adam Toren, contributor at Entrepreneur, says, “Storytelling can be used as a marketing strategy by businesses and entities of all sizes because all it requires is imagination and creativity, not money.” It can mean a lot of bang for very little buck. When used effectively across the right channels, storytelling can be a powerful, cost-effective aid to your communications strategy. Here’s why:

  • Stories engage your audience. Storytelling is emotional branding’s favorite child. Whether you’re a business-to-consumer or a business-to-business organization, your customer is human. And we all love a great story. According to Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping It Human, “Part of the reason many brand stories fail to capture the imagination today is because they are still oriented around companies as protagonists. Companies can’t be protagonists.People don’t care about companies. They care about people.” To truly engage your listening audience, dig a little deeper, be a little vulnerable and anchor your company story in a relatable, personal way. Remember, people make most decisions based on emotion. And few things stir emotion like a compelling story.
  • Stories persuade people to act. While you want your story to be engaging, it should still be tied to your product or service. Otherwise, you’re just entertainment. When you make a connection between the story and the benefits of your business or organization – when you show how you solve a problem or make your customer’s life better – you achieve the main objective of storytelling: persuading your listener to act.
  • We remember stories. People won’t remember facts or figures and your customers don’t care about your marketing strategy. They may not even remember the storyteller’s name. But they’ll remember how your story made them feel. Take the potato salad campaign on Kickstarter, for example. Very few people remember the name of the young man who wanted to raise $10 to make his first batch of potato salad – and ended up raising over $55,000. But many people remember “that potato salad guy” who used the whopping windfall to benefit charity. (His name, for the record, is Zack “Danger” Brown.) The fact is, we remember great stories and we love to share them. And that can be a boon to your business.
  • Great stories have legs. Once upon a time, your company story was limited or controlled by the media outlets on which it appeared. But no more. Toren speculates that this rule has been completely reversed. “The media now runs stories based on how much traction they’ve gained elsewhere. Your customers and advocates are now the tastemakers, giving power to the stories that resonate with them.” By harnessing the massive influence of social media and the many platforms available to you, your carefully executed, relevant story can completely transcend previous advertising and marketing limitations – at comparatively very little cost.
  • Employees love stories, too. Many employees today want meaningful work. They want to feel as if they’re part of something special and bigger than themselves. At Biltmore in Asheville, N.C., thousands of visitors are treated to a fascinating, Gilded-Age story that they can almost reach out and touch. Fans return again and again. But Biltmore’s stories also build loyalty and devotion among the estate’s 1,800+ employees. They feel a sense of purpose, productivity and commitment to the core values of the estate. Ann Ashley, vice president of The Biltmore Company, says, “Purpose-driven organizations build purpose-driven employees, and these employees know why they come to work each day. That’s the power of stories.” As brand ambassadors, your proud employees are often more than happy to spread the word about the benefits of your organization.

Never underestimate a great story’s impact. Businesses that can master storytelling strategies will have a competitive edge in the social media-dominated years ahead. An estimated 78% of Chief Marketing Officers think content is the future of marketing. And two-thirds of marketing professionals believe branded content is superior to traditional advertising methods such as direct mail and print ads. Stories don’t have to be polished or have perfect endings – in fact some of the best ones are unpolished. More importantly, they need to be authentic and connect with your listener in a personal and emotional way – whether it’s humorous or passionate or tear-jerking. When done well, you’ll see the magic of storytelling unfold for your captivated audience.

Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/1Tv3xQ3.