Storytelling is a hot buzzword in marketing. When done well, it’s a great way for brands to connect with customers in a more meaningful way. Strategic storytelling also helps brands move away from only creating “selling content” focused on your products and services but not your brand values.
While storytelling is not a new concept, it’s been difficult for many brands to figure it out. You may find yourself asking, “What stories do our customers want to hear?” “How do we work our brand into the stories?” and “Where do we get story ideas?”
At a recent (and fantastic) content strategy conference, Confab, I participated in a strategic storytelling workshop by Brittney Dunkins to learn how brands can be more strategic about the stories they tell.
Dunkins’ tips help brands choose stories that relate back to their mission, vision, and values, while also providing entertaining stories that connect with their audiences. To do that, you need to create processes that allow your team to excel at strategic storytelling.
How many of us have had a great idea for a video and jump right into creating it? We’re all guilty of it. Dunkins advised taking time to think through how a video, or any piece of content, aligns with your customers’ needs and your brand’s mission, values, and priorities.
What stories do your customers want?
Every good content strategist, writer, and storyteller is first a good listener. A good listener observes and is responsive to needs and priorities. Take time to observe what stories and ideas already exist for your brand. Some questions to ask are “What do our customers want?” and “How are they already interacting with our content?”
Talk to stakeholders to find out what they’re hearing and observing from customers. Your customer service and sales representatives are some of the best people to talk to. They interact with customers every day and understand their needs.
Another great way to listen and observe is to immerse yourself into the community you are trying to connect with. Put yourself into their shoes. It’ll give you a new perspective about their needs and priorities.
Focus on your brand values
You’ve identified a story idea by listening and observing what your customers want. Now it’s time to create a story framework. The framework outlines the storytelling goal, which needs to map back to your brand’s mission, vision, and values. Strategic storytelling should always lead your customers back to your company’s brand platform.
Build out the story framework by determining what brand values align best with your storytelling goal. Next, decide where on your owned channels the story content will live. Finally, build out the supporting tactics.
Story framework example
Dunkins shared a case study from a large university whose students reported high levels of stress and anxiety. The stress affected their academic success, efficacy, and career outlook. As a result, the university decided to help improve the emotional and behavioral health of their students.
One strategy was to provide useful content to students to address the problem. Here was their process:
1. They mapped out their storytelling goal: to provide mental health resources, support, and information to the student community.
2. Next, they determined what brand values best aligned to this goal. In their case: diversity, community, and inclusivity.
3. There was no place on the university website for mental health resources. So, they created a new “Wellness” section for their content.
4. Finally, they outlined three stories they would focus on: campus resources, national awareness, and student groups.
This framework allowed many stories to come to life that addressed both the audiences’ needs and the university’s brand values. For example, they created a video Q&A featuring the president of a mental health awareness organization sharing his story for National Depression Screening Day. And the university partnered with a transgender student group to share their stories and raise awareness of university resources during Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Strategic storytelling is a process that never really ends. Focus on each step before launching new story ideas. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll share Dunkins’ best practices for taking your story framework and putting it into production – plus her tips for measuring your stories’ success.