Successfully reported this slideshow.
Your SlideShare is downloading. ×

Let Me Tell You a Story: Finding the Narrative in Your Content Marketing

Let Me Tell You a Story: Finding the Narrative in Your Content Marketing

Download to read offline

Storytelling isn't just one of many creative options in the marketing toolkit. It is an essential part of communication. If your content doesn't guide the story, the reader's brain will create its own — and it might not be the story you want.

An exploration of how our brains really work, why story is the grammar of our minds and how you can get your message across more effectively by integrating storytelling techniques across everything you do.

Storytelling isn't just one of many creative options in the marketing toolkit. It is an essential part of communication. If your content doesn't guide the story, the reader's brain will create its own — and it might not be the story you want.

An exploration of how our brains really work, why story is the grammar of our minds and how you can get your message across more effectively by integrating storytelling techniques across everything you do.

More Related Content

Related Books

Free with a 30 day trial from Scribd

See all

Editor's Notes

  • I’ve always been obsessed by stories since I was a child.
    But then, so are we all. As I’m about to show you, storytelling sits at the heart of not only our ability to communicate, but also the way we think and make decisions.
    We see and interpret and make sense of the world through stories, whether told to us or imagined in our own minds.
    So I’m going to take you down the rabbit hole here. Instead of trying to convince you that storytelling is just another creative technique you can choose to use or not, I want to convince you that you ignore it at your peril. That everything, from the copy on your website to a recruitment ad to a social media campaign can all benefit from storytelling theory. Even content that isn’t in itself a story is part of a story – and by recognising that, you can develop not only better content but also better strategies.
  • I’ve always been obsessed by stories since I was a child.
    But then, so are we all. As I’m about to show you, storytelling sits at the heart of not only our ability to communicate, but also the way we think and make decisions.
    We see and interpret and make sense of the world through stories, whether told to us or imagined in our own minds.
    So I’m going to take you down the rabbit hole here. Instead of trying to convince you that storytelling is just another creative technique you can choose to use or not, I want to convince you that you ignore it at your peril. That everything, from the copy on your website to a recruitment ad to a social media campaign can all benefit from storytelling theory. Even content that isn’t in itself a story is part of a story – and by recognising that, you can develop not only better content but also better strategies.
  • This tendency was tested and proven by psychologist Paul Slovic
    As is usually the way with these things, he started with two groups of people, all of whom were given $5 to complete a survey.
    But the real test came after the survey itself, when they thought they weren’t being tested.
    After each survey he asked each person whether they would like to donate some of their fee to a worthy cause
    The first group was shown a boy called Roia, an emaciated child with pleading eyes who lives in famine-stricken Malawi.
    The people in this group donated $2.83 on average.
    The second group was also asked to donate, and were shown statistics about famine in Malawi, where more than 3 million children are malnourished.
    The average donation dropped 50%.

    This is exactly how sponsoring a child programs work. Your money isn’t going directly and solely to little Mbali in Kenya. It’s going into a communal fund that targets the entire region. But by telling you you’re money is going to help Mbali, and by receiving letters and gratitude from Mbali, we’re more likely to donate because we can more easily see the results – even if they’re possibly completely unconnected with our specific dollars
    It’s a fiction that serves a larger truth – which is a whole other presentation!
  • Closer to home, lottery marketing is another example of story’s power to override our reason – though here the story actually helps to hide rather than reinforce the truth
    The statistics of winning the lottery are so minute that it is possibly one of the worst financial decisions you can ever make. You have a greater probability of dying in a car wreck on the way to buy your lottery ticket than you have of winning. Much, much greater.
    So why do we still think the odds of a car crash are low enough that we feel safe driving, but the high odds of winning the lottery doesn’t stop us from believing that, in the words of one well known campaign – “it could be you?”
  • So our brains make decisions by imagining scenarios to test potential outcomes
    Its why we see our own lives as a personal story and leads to belief in destiny and fate and so on, because we cherry pick the memories or information to support the most pleasing view of ourselves
  • So our brains make decisions by imagining scenarios to test potential outcomes
    Its why we see our own lives as a personal story and leads to belief in destiny and fate and so on, because we cherry pick the memories or information to support the most pleasing view of ourselves
  • But the reason storytelling is so effective at passing on information has as much to do with what happens in the brain of the audience as well as the storyteller.
    Our brains crunch through enormous amounts of data every second. So we’re wired to constantly look for meaning in everything, to determine what is significant, to connect the dots between the fragments of information and to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know.
    Every time we do this, inferring a connection or determining the meaning of something, our brains reward us with dopamine. We don’t even have to be correct. Our brain rewards us for the effort of working it out, so that we will continue hunting for meaning, wanting to know more.
    It’s why we love puzzles so much. And it’s also why we love stories. Wanting to know what happens next, relating the information back to our own experiences to learn new things.
    So, in a sense, we are addicted to story.


    It’s also why we’re addicted to puzzles.
    This was necessary for our very survival. We might not see the sabre tooth tiger in the long grass, but we may have fragments of information – what we’ve been told about predators in the long grass, that they like to hunt at this tome of day, that we just heard a growl from that direction… we don’t need to see the cat to know it’s there.
    But knowing it’s there and deciding to walk in the other direction are not the same thing. Our decision is driven by our imagination. We run through the possible scenarios in our head. If I go that way I’m dead. If I go this way, it can probably still get me. If I go back the way I came, I stay alive and I’ll have to find another source of water this afternoon.
    We used story to place the information in context, understand the situation and make a decision.
  • But the reason storytelling is so effective at passing on information has as much to do with what happens in the brain of the audience as well as the storyteller.
    Our brains crunch through enormous amounts of data every second. So we’re wired to constantly look for meaning in everything, to determine what is significant, to connect the dots between the fragments of information and to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know.
    Every time we do this, inferring a connection or determining the meaning of something, our brains reward us with dopamine. We don’t even have to be correct. Our brain rewards us for the effort of working it out, so that we will continue hunting for meaning, wanting to know more.
    It’s why we love puzzles so much. And it’s also why we love stories. Wanting to know what happens next, relating the information back to our own experiences to learn new things.
    So, in a sense, we are addicted to story.


    It’s also why we’re addicted to puzzles.
    This was necessary for our very survival. We might not see the sabre tooth tiger in the long grass, but we may have fragments of information – what we’ve been told about predators in the long grass, that they like to hunt at this tome of day, that we just heard a growl from that direction… we don’t need to see the cat to know it’s there.
    But knowing it’s there and deciding to walk in the other direction are not the same thing. Our decision is driven by our imagination. We run through the possible scenarios in our head. If I go that way I’m dead. If I go this way, it can probably still get me. If I go back the way I came, I stay alive and I’ll have to find another source of water this afternoon.
    We used story to place the information in context, understand the situation and make a decision.
  • Let me prove it to you.
    Comics are one of the best examples of storytelling because they rely on the way the brain continually looks for meaning for them to work
    Here are two panels from a comic
    But have we just witnessed a murder?
  • Well, no. We’ve seen two images, two pieces of information. Our minds draw meaning from each of those images as well as from the sequence.
    We’re wired to see significance in the relationship between the two images, to see cause and effect. Our minds fill in the gaps and we imagine the rest.
    We treat each new piece of information as a puzzle, to determine its meaning based on what we already know – and when our brain comes up with an answer that makes sense to us, we get that dopamine reward
    Trouble is, this process happens every moment of every day, not just in comics. Our brains hunt for the meaning in everything, drawing connections and inferring potential outcome
  • So if we are to communicate effectively, we need to speak the same language
    We need to provide the reader’s brain with enough information to derive the meaning we want them to with the minimum amount of effort
    And that means telling stories
  • There are three questions you should ask to determine whether your story will work.
    1. Who is the protagonist?
    2. What is the point of the story?
    3. What is at stake?

    THESE ARE CLEAR IN LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.
    The protagonist is Little Red Riding Hood
    The point is not to walk through the woods alone because there are dangers out there
    The stakes are high cause it could mean the death of Little red riding hood and it does mean the death of her grandmother.

    Understanding these three things gives you the focus you need to produce a story that resonates and is relevant. That clear focus will let you know what is important and what should be left out. Whether writing an article, a webpage or even a recruitment ad, these three questions can help you to paint a clear picture that the reader will hopefully interpret a you intend.

    For example in a job ad – the protagonist should always be the jobseeker. I get frustrated by job ads that seem to be more about the company than what the jobseeker really cares about. He or she doesn’t care about your business unless you’ve first indicated why all of that stuff is extremely relevant.
    The central point will be the keep selling point of this position. There may well be more than one, but what would be your headline reason why the jobseeker should drop everything to apply right now? If your answer is that it’s a great opportunity or presents a valuable challenge for the right person, think again. Be specific, not vague. What’s in it for me?
    This central point may be related to what’s at stake. Training development, Lifestyle benefits such as travel or bonuses. What is the impact on the jobseeker of getting the job or what will they miss if they don’t apply? If the job ad doesn’t appear to be talking directly to them, doesn’t clearly indicate what the jobseeker stands to gain, or lose, and doesn’t make those gains or losses sufficiently large to compel action, then your job ad is just one of many that the person applies for (or not) without that depth of conviction you’re looking for. You want them to apply to you because they really want to work for you not because they need just any job that’ll take them. Only then will you atrract the best candidates.
  • When I talk about storytelling to marketers, often they think I mean Brand Storytelling
    Our brand has been around for a hundred years and did this and did that and has five thousand branches blah blah blah
    But that story is just not interesting or relevant to anyone
    Instead, brand storytelling should ditch the corporate bio stuff and instead tell stories that people actually care about.
    This is a great example
    TAM Airlines has an inflight magazine as most airlines do, and wanted to include a regular feature that talked about the airline’s actions around sustainability
    But the magazine is highly visual, full of beautiful images – not long articles about the brand
    So what they did with their agency was focus on specific stories that illustrated their commitment to sustainability
    And make them more visual by using comic strips
  • So let’s apply this to content marketing.
    Here, the protagonist is the reader. It is talking about what you would/could or should do in the event of a zombie apocalypse
    The point is to have a clear disaster recovery plan
    The stakes are high because it can mean the end of your business if disaster happens while you’re unprepared.
  • So let’s apply this to content marketing.
    Here, the protagonist is the reader. It is talking about what you would/could or should do in the event of a zombie apocalypse
    The point is to have a clear disaster recovery plan
    The stakes are high because it can mean the end of your business if disaster happens while you’re unprepared.
  • You can apply this to all marketing.
    The protagonist is again the reader. They’re the ones who are on the journey
    The point is finding a place to eat or stay when out on the road
    The stakes are avoiding bad food or an uncomfortable night

    This might seem a lot more trivial, but these three questions give the content a laser focus that will quickly tell you what is relevant and what isn’t - what will matter to the reader and what won’t.
  • You can apply this to all marketing.
    The protagonist is again the reader. They’re the ones who are on the journey
    The point is finding a place to eat or stay when out on the road
    The stakes are avoiding bad food or an uncomfortable night

    This might seem a lot more trivial, but these three questions give the content a laser focus that will quickly tell you what is relevant and what isn’t - what will matter to the reader and what won’t.

×