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5 story starters you can add to your content strategy

In a world saturated with content – from blogs, case studies, press releases, ad copy, social media posts, videos, and so much more – it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Your company might have the best product of its kind, but unless the right people know the right place to look for it, your message won’t break through.  

So how do you counter this? With storytelling. 

A good story can draw people in, pique their interest and encourage them to engage with your content – in other words, it can get your customers through the door. The London School of Business found that people retain 65 to 70 per cent of information better in story form versus only 5 to 10 percent of information through statistics, so storytelling online is the way to go if you want customers to remember your message. Storytelling can include social media content, video content marketing, blogs and more.

What many companies fail to recognize is how difficult it is to tell a good story. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a catchy headline and a smooth CTA; it takes the right story, told at the right time, in the right way.  

Here are five different types of stories you can (and should) be telling to hook a captive audience: 

  1. The Hero’s Journey 
    This story trope, defined by Joseph Campbell, has the hero being called to a quest, leaving home, facing struggles, completing their quest and returning home successful. Sound familiar? This trope is seen in movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars and more.  
    But how can you use it for your business? Easy. Tell the story of your customer looking for your product in your digital storytelling strategy. 
    Example: You’re a dish soap company. Your customer has dirty dishes and nothing they do is working. They go out and try lots of different soaps, but nothing is working; they are frustrated. Finally, they find your soap and their dishes are clean.  
    This storyline strategy sounds basic, but it works. It works because it shows that the average, everyday person can become a hero and change their world – with your product. 
    2. The origin story 
    This one can be tricky but if done right, it can be very effective. Remember, your company’s existence in and of itself is not a story. But how you came to be might be. If your company’s founders have a good story about how and why they started their business, use that!  
    Put their origin story on the website, repurpose it into a blog, conduct a video interview to incorporate video content marketing, or even record a podcast with them.  
    A particularly interesting example is Coca-Cola. In the late 1800s, Confederate Colonel John Pemberton was wounded in the American Civil War and became addicted to morphine. With his medical degree, he began a quest to find a substitute for the drug he’d become addicted to. In 1885, at his drugstore in Georgia, he registered “Pemberton's French Wine Coca nerve tonic,” which is said to have included cocaine, as well as the African kola nut, a source of caffeine (you can see where the name came from). Then, in 1886, when Atlanta passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, a nonalcoholic version of his French Wine Coca. 
    Origin stories are effective because they can inspire or humanize a product. If a customer feels like they can connect to the reason behind a product, they’re so much more likely to invest in it.  
    Another big US company that uses this storyline technique effectively is Toms, the shoe brand. Their origin explains how their founder “witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes” while traveling in Argentina in 2006. “Wanting to help, he created Toms Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.”  
    3. The how-to story  
    This storyline can be useful for both you and your customer. You can present your product as a way to solve a common just have to be subtle about it.  
    Think of a company like Hootsuite. They write how-to blogs on all sorts of topics, like how to use social media marketing for small businesses, which is both widely applicable and easy to optimize for SEO. However, they also make sure to plug their own product throughout the story, so by the end, their product solution is top of mind. It’s clever and effective.  
    4. The employee story  
    Customers are naturally curious about the people behind their favourite product, so consider doing employee spotlights on the people in your office. This is especially effective if employees use the product themselves.  
    Typically, employees like to expose their companies for their flaws, especially on social media. So, when employees are clearly passionate about the product they make/support, it creates a level of trust and transparency amongst customers.  
    A company that does this well is Kraft-Heinz! Heinz’s LinkedIn is full of its own employees, not just their iconic ketchup. They use their employees’ stories to share what they like about the company, and as an effective recruiting tool.    
    The reason why sharing employees' stories can be so valuable is because it allows people to view your company and product from a different angle. You can use this technique to share values, your commitment to work-life balance and can give potential new hires a sense of what it would be like to work at your company.  
    5. The vulnerable story  
    In today’s culture, people are drawn to authenticity, and that includes vulnerability. People want to see how you’ve overcome obstacles, that you’re willing to admit to your mistakes and what you’re doing to constantly improve as an organization.  
    A company that did this well was Avis. They released a powerful ad campaign in the 1960’s when they were struggling to compete with Hertz. They put out an ad that said, “When you’re only No.2, you try harder, or else.” These ads were so successful that Avis went from losing $3.2 million a year to earning $1.2 million. By being vulnerable about not being as successful as they wanted to be, Americans started using their car services. Who doesn’t love an underdog, right? 
There are hundreds of ways to tell your story and each way can be used multiple times. Don’t forget that your audience wants to hear authentic, true stories that will touch their hearts, make them laugh, or make them think!
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