I can still remember the feeling, after getting lost multiple times and then arriving 30 minutes late. With palms sweating and heart beating fast, I finally pulled my car into the dusty makeshift car park. My little city car was almost as much at odds with all the big rugged trucks surrounding it as my corporate attire was with the sea of high visibility vests, hard hats and muddy overalls.
I sure as hell felt like a fish out of water.
I was a young, ambitious marketer, sent out from corporate head office straight into the coal face to meet with the site manager of a big construction project. My brief was to put together a range of case studies and communication pieces to assist the contracts team in securing future projects. Up until this point, I had sat comfortably in my office, and any research had been of the desktop variety.
Nervously, I entered the site office and was quickly put at ease with a smile and a friendly handshake from the site manager. Before I knew it, I was decked out in all the safety gear and off on a guided tour of the site.
Much to my surprise, the site manager was extremely passionate about his job, the project and most importantly the people working with him. Each person I came across was a different character, and so many had great stories to tell. One even had a strange obsession with Kermit the frog – but that’s a story for another day.
After a couple of hours, I left the site with my head spinning, madly jotting down notes on all these different observations and stories I had just heard, before I forgot them.
Suddenly it dawned on me that what was being built here went far beyond the bricks and mortar. It wasn’t about how many steel girders or how many tonnes of concrete were being used. It was about the people. The passion of the people who were working hard to build something new, as well as all the people who were going to benefit from the project once it was completed.
I quickly realised that if I was going to create some powerful communications that are going to really connect with the target audience, then I need to focus on telling these great stories.
I learned two key things that day – the benefits of getting out into the field, and the power of storytelling.
Since then, I’ve come to appreciate storytelling even more—especially in marketing. Whether I was developing content for a radio commercial or a billboard meant to be read at 100 km/h, I’ve kept in mind one simple question—what’s the story? People communicate through stories—not just words, so it’s natural for narratives to be the driving force behind content.
From my experience, here are the top three ways story-driven content can have an impact on your audience.
- It helps guide your audience.
Let’s face it. We’re bombarded with ads every day, and sometimes there’s only a few nanoseconds to catch our attention and give awareness on a product or service.
How stories can benefit here is by organising key points and guiding the audience from A to Z in a natural and memorable manner. For example, in the above story, if I had simply listed the different basic facts on that construction project, instead of offering an insight into my feelings and the people involved, you probably would’ve stopped reading by now.
Stories are a powerful organizational tool and are vital when conveying pretty much anything to your audience.
- They connect with your audience.
People resonate with stories – not products or services. Aside from guiding your audience, stories also help your audience relate to your brand. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all laughed or teared up from a commercial at one time or another. We laughed or cried because we related to the story in some capacity.
Remember, you’re writing for people, not mindless drones. They need to be able to imagine themselves using your products or services and to accomplish that, you need to be mindful of their everyday motivations. In my introduction, I tried to convey the anxious emotions I felt before setting foot on that construction site in an effort to relate to your own personal experiences with anxiety of feeling like a fish of water. If your audience can resonate with your story, they can resonate with its purpose.
- They’re more memorable.
Without cheating, what did I describe as muddy in the opening paragraph? If you remembered correctly, I did my job. If not, you might remember how nervous I was pulling into that car park for the first time, which in turn will help you remember this story.
Either way, I’ve make some kind of impression.
In short, good stories are memorable, and good storytelling is designed to make the reader/listener/viewer feel something. You could bombard them with a bunch of facts or stats, and they will most likely forget them. But, if your story made them feel something, then that is what they will remember.
As the old saying goes, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
From a commercial perspective, if you can associate your product or service with certain desirable feelings from your customers as they approach the point of purchase, then your storytelling has done its job.
Author: Cameron McIver