Storytelling are powerful to an extent that’s difficult to overstate. Events that we’d otherwise ignore become captivating when assembled into narrative structures. This is partially a matter of presentation, but mostly due to the key role that storytelling plays in how we communicate — narratives have traditionally helped us to learn from each other and bond as tribes.
Despite this, storytelling is often overlooked as a business tool. Surprisingly many companies tend to take stick to matter-of-fact copy, both because they fear making creative mistakes and because they don’t entirely understand the value in telling brand stories.
But if you’re running a startup and trying to make smooth progress along the road to major growth, you can’t afford to be so stubborn. In fact, you need to make storytelling a key part of your content strategy immediately — and here’s why:
You can get incredibly creative with stories
When you’re sticking to the significant facts about your latest products or services, or making dry references to industry developments, there’s only so much you can do to make your account stand out. That’s a problem when part of the startup journey is being noticed by the right people. You need something unique about you, and that’s something that stories can accomplish.
While it isn’t generally a good idea to fictionalize elements of your brand story, you can be very creative with framing: you can choose interesting language, focus on specific emotions, or provide it in an eye-catching format (as an infographic, for instance, instead of a passage of text — Sculpt has a handy piece on visual brand storytelling).
Additionally, you’re not limited to telling your own brand story. You can create stories from scratch to promote your products (provided it’s clear that they’re fictional) or commit some time to tell the stories of your customers (it’s a great way to win loyalty and show that you care). Getting interactive your audience is hugely valuable for PR these days.
Stories allow you to show humanity and earn empathy
Think back to when you launched your startup — what did the prologue involve? It didn’t spring up out of anywhere, obviously. There’s a story behind the formation of your startup, and you’re at the core of that story: what you felt, who helped you along the way, why you made the decisions you made, and what you hoped to one day achieve.
Provided you build your story around a classic narrative structure (Jericho Writers has a great story breakdown, so check it out for some pointers), using yourself as the protagonist, you can easily get people on your side. When we read stories, we empathise with the protagonists by default — as long as you don’t include anything in your story that will turn people against you, the readers will end up understanding you a lot better (and strongly rooting for you).
Stories are perfect for providing emotional hooks
Empathy isn’t the only feeling you can inspire in someone with a story: any emotion you care to mention is within your reach. In particular, joy, desire, frustration and nostalgia are all strong hooks that work perfectly for marketing — evoke them well, and you’ll enormously increase the potency of your promotional content.
For instance, let’s say you’re trying to sell people on your new product, but you’re struggling to explain why exactly it’s so worthy of their time. Instead of talking at length about the product, you can tell the story of the person you designed it for: what challenges they typically face, how frustration can overwhelm them, and — of course — how your product can change their life. Identifying someone’s pain points and exploiting them is a core component of convincing someone to take whatever action you’re pushing.
Multi-part content is great for getting attention
While it’s great for individual pieces of content to prove effective, part of building a strong brand is getting it established as worthy of attention, and you need to be convincing those who read your content to keep returning to your blog for more. Whenever you post an update, there should be a solid group of people clamoring to read it right away.
You can push people to return by ensuring some degree of overlap and continuity between your posts (for example, writing one post on how to come up with blog post ideas, then writing another on how to write blog posts, and having each one link to the other), but a story split into multiple pieces allows you to set out cliffhangers.
Supposing you did a multi-part case study about someone who used your product very successfully, and after you talked about their journey, you came to the point at which they heard about your company… and then stopped. “Come back next week for the next part!”. We like stories being doled out in small chunks. It makes them feel more important and gives us things to anticipate. Plan a multi-part story and you’ll see how effective it can be.
People are tired of corporate speak
Finally, one thing that the astounding popularity of social media in the business world has taught us is that people are tired of the kind of generic and bland corporate speak that still gets trotted it out by risk-averse companies. Content storytelling is a fundamental rejection of this kind of blandness — it demands feeling, and momentum, and noteworthy events.
The best time to make a significant change to how you produce content is while you’re still a startup because it gets so much harder to change when your business gets bigger. Get into the habit of producing storytelling content, and it will set you in good stead for years to come.