“His greatest talent was storytelling, sometimes embellishment and always with humour. Please remember Donnie by making someone laugh.”
This weeks episode of Social Media Questions (#SMQ) was in honour of my late uncle, Donnie MacFarlane – one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever known. The truth is that I was getting lessons in marketing and how to entertain an audience with stories long before I realized I’d get into the storytelling business. Now I can fully appreciate the effort that goes into a great story, I’m happy to share what I know.
The Myth Of Storytelling
There’s a myth in the marketing world that storytelling is a new thing to be leveraged, but it’s not. Sure – there are new ways to tell a story; we can use new tools to share our stories visually (video, audio, augmented reality.) But marketing has always been about sharing a great story, while inviting your audience to be part of it.
What do I mean when I say ‘great storytelling’?
Nothing gives a person greater satisfaction than having an audience lean in, laugh at the right moments and cry at the right moments – that is the magic of storytelling.
I grew up in Cape Breton, a place where you’d be hard-pressed to find someone on the island who wasn’t a storyteller, or at the very least didn’t know one. For many of us, our ancestors were from Scotland and our history was passed down orally: “Story-telling and the recitation of historical lore and genealogical connections were part of every family gathering.” We grew up listening to stories from my grandmother. [This is where I also tell you I took Gaelic as a child.]
But Capers aren’t the only ones who know how to tell a story, check out this video from Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism.
“In Newfoundland and Labrador there’s a story around every corner, and you’ll often find them in the most unexpected places: from kitchens to coves, pubs to tour boats, and everywhere in-between. It’s one of those places that can make a storyteller out of just about anyone – including you.”
We use stories in our marketing to better connect with our audience. To pass the emotion of what we see and feel to our audience – Newfoundland Tourism did this beautifully. But how?
ASMR – Autonomous sensory meridian response “is an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.” (Wikipedia) In the video, you may notice that you can actually hear the motorbike along the road, the crickets, the young child running through the grass. For some, the stimuli causes you to actually have a reaction (e.g.: hair on arms stands up.)
Musical Composition – When we add appropriate music to our stories, we can enhance how it is absorbed and perceived by the audience. In this video, the music matches the imagery and the feelings and emotion they want to transfer from screen to the viewer.
Visuals – As the story progresses and the viewer is hooked in, the visuals match and there is something for everyone. They’ve included the positive experiences a person can have in Newfoundland & Labrador and brought them to life through cinematic videography (rather than flat.)
Narration – The most important part of good storytelling is having the right person tell the story. In this video, the purposeful…
CTA – A call to action to end the story is important, especially as it relates to marketing. The journey doesn’t end with the last word, it continues on. In this case, they want the audience to start planning their trip by calling “Shannon”
What makes a good story? [Kat’s Checklist.]
Before you sit down to consider your story, Think. What was the greatest story you were ever told? Something that has stuck with you forever? What was it about that story that made you remember it? Now, go do that for someone else.
Establish A Goal For The Story.
What are you trying to do with your story? Are you trying to educate? Inform? Entertain? Inspire? What do you want your audience to do?
In the tourism story, it is obvious that the goal of the story was to generate awareness of a place to visit and have the audience take steps to plan a vacation.
Know Your Audience.
Yep. It’s cliche. It’s also critical. You need to know and appreciate who you’re speaking to. The story isn’t really about you. It is about what the audience is going to get from you. Inform, educate, entertain. What do they care about? What drives them nuts? What will they appreciate?
In the tourism example, this ad (when I saw it) was targeted in Western Canada. There are a lot of Newfoundlanders that live in Alberta; there is an effort to encourage them to come home. While I don’t know if this is an explicit attempt to draw them back, you can be sure that it will catch their attention and the attention of those who “know a Newfoundlander”. It caught the attention of this Caper and pulled on the heartstrings!
Be A Good Listener.
We can listen as businesses via literal social listening, or we can talk with our customers and clients. Ask them open-ended questions. What are their fears? The things that keep them up at night? What gets them excited? What makes them feel at peace?
Don’t Forget Your Unique Angle.
We need to think about what we do. We’re competing in a space that is vying for the attention and time. Time is not a renewable resource. We need to think about how we capture their attention with our unique position and story.
Always Be Real.
Good stories can’t be replicated. Show people who you really are and don’t be afraid to use emotion in your storytelling.
Belief In Your Story.
It is important that you so believe the story that everyone around you who hears it, not only believes it but feels it too! (Cause if you don’t believe it, who will?) You don’t want to be known as the bull $h!tt3R!
Don’t Forget Delivery.
How will you tell the story? Through written words? Images? Audio? Video? A mix of both? Think about the audience – what will resonate best with them?
Don’t Forget A Promotions Plan.
What’s the point of a great story if we don’t share it? If it’s your business story, where will it live? On your website? In your email signature? Your social channel bios? If it is a blog, how will you get it out to others – will you use Social Media – which channels? When? What about paid promotion? Have you considered syndication? Are there other websites, blogs and publications that would benefit from placing your story among their content?
Are you a storyteller? Drop a link!