The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Why Storytelling Counts In Business
Updated: Jun 12
[spoiler alert this is not another CV19 tale speculating about the new normal, it’s more of a timeless classic for anyone interested in growing their business]
Melissa Fretwell, Founder of White Camino
What the Dickens is this really about? This dear readers, is about the power of storytelling in business. I am going to take a little of your time to explain why every product or service has a great story to tell. This gubbins matters, we as human beings are programmed to respond to stories, it’s in our DNA, so unfold those arms, put the kettle on and crack open the *hobnobs.
*a UK household favourite aka the biscuit of dreams. Just never look at the calorie content. Ever.
This is a story of three parts carving up what can become chewy semantics, a feast of marketing jargon into easily digestible bite sized take-outs you can apply to your world, whatever business you’re in. It goes something, like this:
Part One - The beginning is a great place to start Your why Your audience Your values and personality Part Two - The juicy middle Think like a challenger Think like a publisher Part Three - The denouement 11 point storytelling checklist
Part One - The beginning is a great place to start
Your Why - love him or hate him Simon Sinek makes a great point: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” So spend time figuring out your purpose. Ask the big existential questions like, why are you here? What are you trying to do to make the world a wee bit better. Try not to get caught up in the knotty jargon of vision, mission, ambition. Why are you bothering to do what you do is what you need to capture. Sometimes starting with the legacy your business will leave behind and working backwards unlocks fresh ideas. A “what will be written on your tombstone” idea but much less gothic. Make sure it’s achievable. We are all naked on the internet and any over claims will be called out. Reputations take years to build and minutes to destroy.
Your audience - having more than a rough idea of who you are targeting is pretty vital. Yes there’s a myriad of micro-target audiences you can reach on a 121 basis across digital marketing but take a few paces back. Inject some human into what you are doing by getting inside the minds of your consumers and carefully tailor your tone and aesthetic to fit. Buy the cat a new goldfish and commission some research so you are really clear on who your current and target audiences are. Sometimes who you’re attracting right now aren’t as desirable and committed as they could be, so use research to discover new, profitable segments. There are so many other research techniques out there beyond a focus group that dig into actual over claimed behaviours. Genuinely insightful!
Your values and personality - in simple terms what do you stand for and what do you stand against? Having powerful and distinctive values can be core to your proposition. Bring these to life, stick them on a wall, a t-shirt, the [home] office dog. Live by them without cynicism. These become your brand compass which guides you through the big, exciting strategic decisions from who to hire and where you advertise to who you partner with and who you wouldn’t. If they’re not written down they can become twisted marketing myths, echo chambers which could easily take you off course.
Part Two - The juicy middle
Think like a challenger
More David and Goliath shizzle? Partly yes, partly no. It’s become so much more refined, there are more nuanced challenger brands we’ve worked with who aren’t simply fighting the no.1 market leader but they are challenging the definition of a category, societal biases or simply fixing problems we didn’t even know existed.
Challenger brands are ace because they do more with less, leveraging their creativity. They win hearts and minds through delegating talkability throughout their teams, rethinking every touch point as media and using ideas over cash as their currency. If that doesn’t get pulses racing and hairs standing on the back of your neck, we’re not sure what will.
Think like a publisher
Content is of course king. We have heard that many times and for marketing it’s all about creating and distributing really relevant content (videos, infographics, powerpoint slides, tweets, posts, articles, white papers, books and even games) at the right time, that helps the right people - prospects and customers achieve their goals. Compelling content and a tidy ad spend are a match made in heaven. An affordable way to test, learn and iterate with campaigns that are easy to measure and evolve.
Tangent alert! Like all good shaggy dog stories, sometimes we have to go off piste. This detour is about curiosity itself and how it mud wrestles with stories:
“Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close patterns. Story plays to this universal desire by doing the opposite, posing questions and opening situations”
Robert McKee - screenwriter & lecturer
Anything from click bait to polls, newsflashes and quizzes fuel our need to find out more. But here’s the thing, you need to share enough information to get our curiosity piqued but not too much so we are disappointed by the reveal. Curiosity is inspired by puzzles and mysteries. Puzzles are short lived curiosity killed by discovery while mysteries keep us questioning and exploring. Keep these concepts front of mind when planning your content. Curiosity is a driver of that all important and rare bird we call “attention”. We’re all competing for consumer’s attention so experiment with a range of smart ways which drive curiosity and genuinely engage.
Part Three - The denouement
To help tie up these loose ends and bring us back to the why. The “why am I reading this post?” kind of why. Here is your reward. A handy 11 point content marketing checklist which you can apply to plan today:
1. Do you have your house in order? What will you stop, start, continue?
2. Get your brand guidelines written down and visualised so anyone working on your brand gets it
3.Know your audience – figure out their interests and passions and ways you can connect your brand with these
4. Content rules - identify your competition’s efforts and then do better. Steal with pride.
5. Curiouser and curiouser = How are you going to inspire curiosity?
6. Don’t sit on the fence - Be bold with the stories you tell, have an opinion without being offensive. Unless being offensive and provocative is how your brand rolls.
7. Experiment - there’s no silver bullet. Experiments take time, be realistic about how long you’ll give something to prove it’s worth before axing it.
8. Apply Fewer Bigger Better to longer form content, simply put quality over quantity
9. Don’t forget about semiotics - meaning is communicated in many ways, the details count.
10. Plan to react in an always on world. Create evergreen content with space for topical content to live when that trending moment lands.
11. Don’t overthink it.