Without stories, we wouldn’t be human. Novel, short story, Twitter. It’s all an extension of our very basic need for story. But what makes a good story good, and a great story great? And how do you find that story? What is the message you want to share? Who are the main characters? What do they want? Where does the story take place? And how does it relate back to your brand philosophy?
As lifelong writers, journalists and storytellers (who, yes, actually studied the art of storytelling at one of those big, expensive universities), story is sort of an obsession for us at TypeA. So we started thinking. If we had to break down the anatomy of a story, what would it like?
1. Your Audience
Granted, this is Story 101. Great stories are always written with a specific audience in mind. Who do you want to talk to and why? If you’re a kitchen range manufacturer, you might want to talk to only architects, designers and kitchen designers. If you sell high-end real estate, you might want to talk to only luxury brokers or affluent lifestyle consumers, or perhaps, both. You know that saying, “If you try to please everyone, you will please no one”? Watering down your message for the masses will only lead to misses.
Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imaginations of their audiences. Think back to some of your favorite stories. They inspired you. Gave you hope. Renewed your faith in humanity. Challenged you to think about a subject in a new way. Maybe they made you laugh, cry, punch a wall or change your sofa pillows. The point is, that they inspired you enough to take action or have a reaction…and we’re pretty sure that didn’t happen by appealing to your logic.
A great story is true. “Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic,” wrote Seth Godin, A.K.A. “America’s Greatest Marketer,” in his post “Ode: How to Tell a Good Story.” “Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.” For example, if you’re a company known for creating traditional styled bath products, it isn’t going to fly that you’re telling stories about contemporary-minded designers choosing your products. The same goes for stories about your leadership history. Nobody is going to buy it if you’re a start-up.
4. Brand Promise
Great stories make a promise. Brand stories can promise anything from entertainment and information to inspiration and life improvement. When it comes to a brand’s promise, it should be bold, clear and downright exceptional. If you can’t promise your readers something in your stories, then why are they are reading your content in the first place?
Remember the good ol’ days when marketers could plop a 800 number at the end of an advertorial article and call it a day? Notsomuch anymore. Tying your brand name or website to every blog post or tweet will only turn off your audience today. Content marketing is much subtle, focused around giving people information, resources and inspiring stories…so they can discover your brand on their own. Let people draw their own conclusions without being so in-your-face…you’d be surprised at the outcome.
Stephen King, one of the most prolific storytellers of our generation, once said that good stories “seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” Actually that’s our job at at TypeA. When the story shows up, we make sure we are the ones answering the door.