The Art of Storytelling in a Digital Age

The Art of Storytelling in a Digital Age

By: Natalie Major

With World Storytelling Day being observed recently, we took a deeper look into the art of storytelling in a digital age. And with storytelling being so close to our hearts, we wanted to share some insights into how to craft meaningful stories in a world that is constantly bombarded with overwhelming messaging.

For a start, stories are the very essence of humanity. They help us interpret meaning, connect us with generations and build our imaginations. In essence, stories are timeless.

The fundamental begins of the advertising media industries were built on their ability to tell compelling stories. In the “Mad Men” era of advertising agencies, the ability to tell a persuasive story was the differentiating factor. Brands would blow their budget for a story that would sway their audience into buying.

So what’s changed? How has storytelling adapted in a digital age? And how can you create stories that ignite passion, love and brand loyalty?

There’s quite a big difference between a direct pitch and what we at our agency refer to as storytelling. The former can often get lost in the constantly rising sea of information, while true storytelling builds a captivating, memorable and lasting impact with your broader audience.

Storytelling might seem like a buzzword, but it’s so much more than just a word and there really is a lot to be said about authentic, genuine storytelling. It’s all about presenting your company’s unique and true story in such a way that it provides interest and meaning to prospective clients, partners and consumers alike.

Relaying your company’s vision in a more subtle manner that informs and engages is far better received than trying to shout “buy into us” as was the way before. It’s vital in allowing us to assist our technology and B2C clients develop convincing stories, especially digitally.

The model has changed and we now live alongside an infinite medium. In a social-mobile age, we can produce and publish content at a whim, without restriction. And we are given the freedom to spread a good story at the touch of a button.

As the volume of content has blown up and our attention spans reduced, audiences that were once held captive by selected mediums are no longer in existence. We are no longer held hostage to what is being said and we can set our own filters, we tune into those we trust or those who we feel aligned with and it goes without saying that we tend to ignore those that have commanded our attention for so many years.

While our ability as humans to create is limitless, the ability to broadcast what we create is somewhat restricted. There are only a select number of full-page adverts to fill a newspaper and there’s only a certain number of 30-second slots available during prime time broadcasting. Of course, if it’s outdoor locations you’re after, there is even less visibility to warrant a billboard.

Hungry for attention, advertisers scrambled to secure social media space to broadcast their stories, and media owners happily packaged up every available spot for sale.

As the power to produce and spread content moves away from traditional media owners and into the hands of the individual, the role of marketing teams, and the role of the agency partners they trust, is perhaps in the midst of its most fundamental shift to date.

Brands must more than ever before become artists of storytelling rather than simply creating advertisements. But the good news is that old school values are back! This in turn means that quality products and meaningful causes inspire people to spread the word and media is once again earned not bought.

Below are some of the discoveries that have aided us in the journey for better storytelling:

  1. What do your clients really, we mean REALLY, want?

Before you can build a truly valuable story, you must first understand what dilemma your clients face and what worries them and possibly keeps them up at night? Then, work on how can you uniquely resolve it? For great storytelling, you must first start with what your customers truly want or need. This is their journey, and your story should always be about them, with your business as the end solution.

  1. Colour with all your crayons.

The written word isn’t going away any time soon, but there is so much more than just words to use when telling a story. We have so many other engaging mediums at our disposal. Imagine for a moment, a Facebook or LinkedIn post that’s just text. Now re-imagine that post replaced or complemented by an embedded video. Which form of storytelling do you think will have the most impact? Of course, a picture paints a thousand words so use these to your advantage. Whether it’s; infographics, animations, web-based video or mobile apps, these are all ways to reach and better engage with the audience. The competition is fierce for consumer attention so make sure your story is presented most compellingly.

  1. Make it personal.

Even in the digital age, people are seeking connections that are true, emotional and above all else, personal. Customer case studies are a great, personal way to convey how a real company is benefiting from your solution. Tell stories that involve real people, be it your customers, your management team as well employees and in real-world situations. Stories that demonstrate how others think and feel about your company are far more engaging and authentic, than ones that merely tell prospects why they should buy into your business.

So, the equation is now once again incredibly simple.

Produce a product of quality, deliver delightful experiences and ensure you are worth talking about. If you can get that right, people will happily engage with the story that you’re telling and just as happily, spread the word.

Are you making these 6 online marketing mistakes?

In business terms, online marketing is a relatively new discipline.  It therefore stands to reason that, in its adoption, some mistakes will be made. This blog lists some of the common online marketing mistakes companies are making and provides tips on how to prevent or remedy them.

Mistake #1: Traditional marketers can easily transition into online marketing

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Traditional marketing and online marketing are very different disciplines. While both attempt to achieve the same objective, their methods and tactics differ drastically. Just because someone has been in marketing for a number of years does not necessarily mean they understand the elements of digital or online marketing. In fact, a traditional mindset can cause havoc in an online environment.

 

How to fix it? Remember that on-line has not completely replaced traditional marketing. Done correctly, the two can complement each other. It may be worth your while to have separate teams for traditional and online. If you are unable to hire properly qualified online staff, you need to get your staff adequately trained and certified. Remember when hiring that SEO is integral to all things marketing and thus a good understanding of SEO is non-negotiable.

Mistake #2: Online Marketing is cheap and easy

It’s a given that online marketing is far more cost-effective than traditional marketing, but that does not mean it is ‘cheap’ – nor is it easy. There is a particular skill set and understanding required to get to grips with how people behave on the web, what your target audience is looking for, how to be on your audience’s radar and how to measure and monitor your efforts. Spend your money wisely and you will reap the rewards.

 

How to fix it? Find out what your company has been spending on traditional marketing in the past. Establish what sort of a budget you have to work with online and prioritise your spend accordingly. Every situation will be unique. Work on a formula that will help you understand how much the acquisition of a lead a) costs your company and b) Is worth to your company. Use all the tools at your disposal to measure your ROI. In upcoming blogs I’ll provide more detail on how you can keep your PPC costs down by optimising your content as well as other strategies for monitoring your online spend.

Mistake #3: Planning is not a pre-requisite

This applies to everything in business – not just marketing. Too many executives fail to appreciate how much planning is required in order to be effective. Any good online campaign requires in-depth keyword research, and understanding of the audience, online competitor research as well as an understanding of what is trending in the marketplace. While access to information is made very easy on the web, it is still time-consuming.

 

How to fix it? ALWAYS build time into your strategy for planning and research and NEVER go into a campaign blind. A myriad tools exist for your research, some of my favourites include: the trusted favourite keyword research tool (Google it because there are a number of different options), Google trends, Moz tools (www.moz.com).

Mistake #4: B2B instead of P2P

Too many businesses write in a robotic, disconnected way because they believe that is correct for business to business communications. You may well be in a business to business environment, but you should be engaging with a person. Please remember that a lot of online communication is person to person and a more individual style of writing is the type of communication that will get you results.

 

How to fix it? Drop the traditional writing styles, forget ego, chuck out the jargon, be sincere and authentic. Whenever you write ask yourself what you are trying to achieve and how you are adding value?

Mistake #5: Guessing

The days of putting up a billboard and guessing the number of impressions based on traffic estimates are long gone. There are a heap of online tools that will completely obliterate any form of guessing games. Don’t guess who your online audience is, cheack your analytics and get the facts.

 

How to fix it? The beauty of online lies in it’s measurability. Measure and monitor in order to constantly improve your presence. Most social media platforms come with their own metrics dashboards. Use Google Analytics. Link your site to the Google Search Console. Do your homework.

Mistake #6: Trying to be original

In a world where billions of daily searches each result in millions of possible results, do you honestly believe that you can be original? You could try, but I’m not convinced it would be worth your time. Give up on trying to be original. I’m by no means giving you a license to plagiarise, but stop trying to come up with that one idea that nobody else has thought of.

 

How to fix it? If you have an idea for a campaign or content type that will benefit your audience, run with it. As long as you are adding value, you can’t really go wrong. If you are being transparent and authentic and honestly trying to add value, chances are that you will.