Why Storytelling is Not Just for Kids

July 15 2013

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You’re sitting at the conference room table, mentally preparing for your monthly brainstorming session. You sip your coffee, jot down another item on your to-do list, and take a deep breath as your team slowly saunters into the room.

You glance  at the meeting agenda and remember that one of the topics for today is…storytelling.

You know why it’s important. But now it’s your job to discuss and get buy-in from the rest of your team.

Suddenly, you don’t feel so confident. Your stomach ties in knots. Your hands start to shake. You begin to doubt yourself – along with everything you know.

Well, you’re not alone. Storytelling is an amorphous word, and needs strategic grounding. The word itself lacks structure. And every time you hear it you can’t help think about the little kids you used to babysit who loved the magic of “story time.”

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Your organization is more professional than…story time. Right?

Not quite. Here’s why:

The majority (80%) of business decision-makers prefer to receive information about a company in a series of content versus traditional marketing tactics, according to Demand Gen Report’s Content Preferences Survey.

In other words, the content that your business creates needs to work on your behalf to “soft sell.” The soft sell uses a more subtle, casual, and friendly sales message. It doesn’t put psychological pressure on  buyers. Instead, it  guides customers through the buying process through engaging content – or stories. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B respondents are now using content to soft sell.

But…this doesn’t mean you can show your team the numbers and sashay away. You’ll need concrete facts and examples to get buy-in. Here are a few ideas:

1.    Focus on the “why” of storytelling.

Why do stories resonate?

In the book, “Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives,” psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock argue that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” The more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story alters the way they think. They also found that fictional stories influence the opinions in a way that’s comparable to factual narratives.

Of course, you don’t want to make up fictional stories about your business. But if you can create a story that allows your customers to enter a fictional world, there’s a good chance you can change the way your customers think about your brand.

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Delta managed to do this with their new In-Flight safety video. For 5 minutes, fliers enter a fictional world. The video strikes the perfect balance between humor and education through a series of scenarios that often occur when you fly. This resonates because you truly feel like you’re part of the story. These out-of-the-box scenarios encourage Delta flyers to think differently about the (typically boring) stories about safety.

2.    Use Emotions

If you’ve clicked through and watched the Delta video, you’re left feeling happy. The safety video makes you feel like you’re in on a private joke.

Why? You can relate to any one of the characters in the stories, whether it’s sitting next to someone drinking a hot liquid during turbulence, or not feeling adequate enough to sit in an emergency row. You want to consume the content because you’re in a fictional world where you can relate. The video takes you away from the stressed feeling of traveling and pulls you into funny situations that are typical when you fly.

3.    Relevance

If it’s not relevant, it won’t resonate.

If you tell a funny, engaging story about your cat to a room full of dog lovers, don’t expect hearty laughs. You’ll need to hone in on exactly whom you’re addressing. While knowing the demographics of your audience can be helpful, knowing the psychographics of an audience will allow you to pinpoint their thoughts, fears, desires, and wishes. If you need help with delving into the psychographics of your customer, work with a content marketing specialist.

The bottom line? Story time is appropriate for all age groups, young and old. Despite the connotation, it’s not just for kids.

How do you tell your brand’s story? Please comment below.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Vocus blog.

6 comments
Tsepo letsatsi
Tsepo letsatsi

Thanks for a great article, everyday it becomes clear what content marketing is about.

Tsepo letsatsi
Tsepo letsatsi

Thanks for a great article, everyday it becomes clear what content marketing is about.

KDillabough
KDillabough

I like to think I tell my story every day, in word and in deed. Cheers! Kaarina

KDillabough
KDillabough

I like to think I tell my story every day, in word and in deed. Cheers! Kaarina

itsjessicann
itsjessicann

KDillabough that's a beautiful approach, Kaarina! amen.

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