To Hell With the Facts! We Need Stories!
Fergus Stoddart
This is a post by Fergus Stoddart

As featured in Smart Company

I’ve always been a sucker for a good story. It grabs you, draws you in and provides you with thought provoking ideas leaving you pondering aspects of your own life. Think Good Will HuntingShawshank RedemptionThe Wrestler or Argo. Each story enduring, with a profound impact on the way you view the world around you.

Likewise, song lyrics – think Dylan, Passenger or the Arctic Monkeys – have the ability to steal your soul through their words. It is the power of creative storytelling.

Each of us is hard-wired to respond to stories. As fellow Brit, author Philip Pullman said,“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  

However, this concept is lost on many brands that are still hammering audiences with marketing messages and not telling a story.

Content marketing may be the latest catchphrase, but using content to market is not what will set a brand apart; it’s the bare minimum of what’s needed to cut through the noise of a busy marketplace.

Good storytelling is what makes one brand stand out from another.

Stories connect the audience with a brand’s truth, values and beliefs, making the brand both compelling and relevant. Great brand stories take this a step further and connect emotionally with an audience.

To help brands resonate with consumers and make them want to share a story with others, consider:

Becoming hyper-social

It is no longer enough for brands just to post content on their website; brands must turn their content creation to content sharing. It is all about connection and interaction, and sharing meaningful content enhances that communication.

To do this, consumers must have a reason to want to share content online. The traditional marketing model where brands broadcast the same message across two or three platforms does not work as it once did; consumers are demanding something in return for their attention – and stories hit the mark.

For example, rather than posting a media release announcing your support of a local charity across all digital channels, why not consider a 30 second video which gives consumers “behind the scenes” footage of your team’s on-the-ground support?

Free vs paid content

The plethora of information available has created a tension between paid-for/proprietary and free/open-source content. This divide means consumers are not picky about where it comes from; the decision about whether they consume your content or not is made on quality.

Embracing your truth, but understand difference

Stories must be authentic to stand a chance of fostering a connection with an audience. Consumers are savvy enough to pick up on something that doesn’t ring true, so make sure you are clear about the brand identity, what you want to achieve by telling the story and who you are telling it to before you don the storyteller hat.

Think about the conversation your brand needs to have with prospective customers and how to start that conversation through storytelling. Then consider the platforms, devices and channels that will help your brand tell its story authentically. Different channels need different stories, in the same way different markets culturally and linguistically respond to the same message.

Ultimately the objective is to position your brand so when you say the words ‘once upon a time’, your audience is sitting comfortably, not only waiting to hear what happens next, but bursting to tell their friends how it ends.

Fergus Stoddart is the joint managing partner at content marketing agency Edge.