content storytelling

Your Guide to Content Storytelling: Why Emotionally Connecting with Your Audience Produces More Traction, Sales & Results

Hello,  2018!

Isn’t it crazy we’re weeks into the New Year already?

For one of our first Write Blog posts in 2018, I’m beginning the year with a powerful topic.

I want to unveil the what, how and why of a rare content epidemic that can transform our marketing world as we know it.

What is this epidemic, you say?

Content storytelling.

Research has proven that emotional connection is EVERYTHING in marketing:

On average, emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable than customers who are only highly satisfied.

Emotionally connected customers engage with your content, buy products, and keep coming back.

In a study of retail banking customers, those who were emotionally connected to the bank were 6x more valuable than highly satisfied customers.

This is because:

  • They remained customers much longer
  • They held more products at the bank
  • They concentrated more of their balances at the institution

Just look at the average lifetime revenue of highly satisfied customers ($10,189) versus emotionally connected customers ($59,500).

There’s a difference there that adds up to tens of thousands of dollars.

It’s pretty clear that when you connect with your audience/potential customers on an emotional level, amazing things happen.

Your customers become better, more loyal, and invested in what you do.

They don’t just like or trust you; it’s deeper than that.

So, how do you get to that level with them?

Content storytelling can be the lynchpin.

To get a better idea of how it’s done, let’s start by looking at how a major credit card company, Chase, courted millennials and plugged into an emotional connection with them for awesome results.

Ready to dive in?

your guide to content storytelling

How JPMorgan Chase Courted Customers and Won Their Hearts with Content Storytelling

JPMorgan Chase has had a lot of success with millennials. They recently introduced a credit card targeted at this generation with the intent of inspiring emotional connection – with lots of success.

What happened?

Use among millennials rose by 70%, while account growth increased by 40%.

Big gains, right?

Let’s analyze a piece of their strategy and look at how they used storytelling to tap into millennial emotions. They did it with TheSkimm, a targeted daily newsletter that briefs its readers on world news and issues.

First, there’s something you should understand about TheSkimm.

It’s not just a news briefing delivered to your inbox daily. It’s also a wildly popular newsletter with a distinct tone of voice that offers tips for living a better, more successful life.

It’s generally well-regarded and loved by celebrities, influencers, and average readers alike. (Among its fans: Oprah, Trevor Noah, Lena Dunham, and Sarah Jessica Parker.)

However, according to Bloomberg, its most notable demographic makes up 80% of its readership: professional females ages 22-34.

Along with that, TheSkimm gets great engagement when you look at its open rates (anywhere from 35-40%).

Of course, the draw of TheSkimm for its readers mainly has to do with the way it presents its content. The newsletter has a style that’s fun to read, and it elegantly covers an array of news topics from various angles so readers feel informed and knowledgeable.

It honestly reads like an email from a worldly, well-informed friend who has a hefty dose of wit.

Here’s an example of a news snippet from TheSkimm’s daily digest:

It’s important news in an easy-to-swallow format, with linked text so you can read further in depth.

The thing is, this news outlet also includes affiliate advertising in their content. The other thing is, it’s not intrusive or annoying, and its presented in a way that’s meant to be helpful.

And, it works:

There’s no mention of brand names. But, these are obviously coupon offers (at least, to anyone with a marketing eye). They’re presented the same way as the rest of the information in the newsletter. It fits.

Plus, these seem like offers that any millennial woman would be interested in.

Enter Chase.

Media Logic explained how the credit card company managed to take advantage of TheSkimm’s native advertising and seamlessly appeal to their built-in audience (even with branding!).

Chase was able to tap into TheSkimm’s storytelling style and direct readers to their own blog:

It only works because Chase is continuing to build the narrative that TheSkimm started: “You’re a young professional looking to create a successful life. You need help getting there. We have your back.”

There is no tie-in to Chase’s various products or services. The Chase links within TheSkimm take you to content that meshes with the story already in progress.

The results (particularly that 70% rise in millennial credit card use) attests to how well this strategy worked.

Stories tell – and stories SELL!

How to Use Content Storytelling to Emotionally Connect and Inspire Brand Devotion

So, now you know how stories can sell.

Storytelling in content marketing, needless to say, is integral.

Via Content Marketing Institute

The power of stories has followed human civilization since the cavemen first painted figures on cavern walls, telling the story of their way of life as hunters. It’s been with us since human language first developed, allowing us to entertain and regale each other with experiences both real and made-up.

Emotion has always been at the core of stories. Stories make you feel something, whether that’s delight, surprise, sadness, fear, joy, or plain old empathy.

Stories are how we communicate. What is a conversation but a series of intertwining narratives?

Storytelling is also a better way to present content.

To tell stories in your content, draw on what you know about them intuitively. Use these aspects to make your content come alive for your readers and create that emotional connection.

1. Be Personal

When somebody gets personal, we automatically feel more invested in what they have to say.

A personal story or point-of-view has far more emotional resonance than one told from a third person or objective perspective.

Example:

This Quartz article about the secret of creativity is well-written and full of good points. However, it mainly approaches the topic from an objective, facts-only perspective.

The author addresses the reader as “you,” but we still feel removed from this piece. We aren’t necessarily drawn into it on an emotional level.

Compare it to the following piece by Jennie Spotila on JessicaAbel.com. (Jessica Abel is a productivity and writing coach with a great blog.) This piece is also about creativity, but it offers tips for honing your creative focus when you’re chronically ill:

It’s not just facts-based – she also supports her points with her own personal experience.

Suddenly, when she plunges into her personal story, we find ourselves nodding along – even if we have never dealt with the obstacles from working or writing with a chronic illness.

This is how hard it can be to work creatively, but Jennie guides us through her story and shows us how it’s possible.

This read is far more intense, and pulls at your emotions much more effectively, than the Quartz article about a similar topic.

That personal element makes all the difference. If you want your content to be as addictively readable as well as informative, don’t be afraid to weave in your own personal tales or add a personal element.

2. Give Examples and Supporting Information

What makes a good story great? It’s all in the details.

As William Sarto writing for JeffBullas.com says, “Deep research is what differentiates a remarkable story from an okay one.”

Especially if you’re trying to convince your readers of something, your story is nothing without details.

This definitely means facts and statistics from reputable sources mentioned in your writing, but it also ties into point #1: Be personal.

Back up what you say, what you purport to be true, with personal anecdotes and examples as well as facts and statistics that help add solidity to your assertions.

Never just state something baldly and leave it at that.

Provide evidence.

A good story becomes great when you pad it out with details, evidence, scene-setting, and more details.

Don’t be afraid to get descriptive. It helps your readers visualize what you’re saying and connect with it personally.

3. Try Different Mediums and Methods for Connecting

There’s more than one way to tell a great story.

If you find that the written word isn’t quite the best way for you to tell yours, try something else.

If you’re more comfortable with speaking, for instance, why not try a podcast?

A FANTASTIC example is the Fueled by Death Cast.

This podcast from Death Wish Coffee Company asks a question that neatly connects to coffee as fuel (“What fuels you?”) and tells stories that revolve around it. They record it live on film and audio, so you get to see the speakers as well as listen.

A podcast about coffee with a name as crazy/cool as “Fueled by Death?” Yes, please.

fueled by death cast

Episodes range from band features to interviews and more (whatever creative fuel gets you through the day along with your coffee, natch), but they also do stuff like employee features, too. And, they even record it live as a video and upload it to YouTube, giving what would be only an audio podcast a much more invigorated, lively, and visual feel. Example:

It all ties back to the brand and their voice.

This is a fantasic way to tell a brand story.

Note, too, that the podcast doesn’t exclusively talk about coffee. They found a way to branch out while still making the episode topics relevant. It’s a smart way to tell stories without coming out of left field with random topics.

Other Methods for Telling Stories

Creating a podcast is a great idea for storytelling if you’re better at speaking than writing. There are even more mediums to try, though.

If you love telling stories through visuals, try out a YouTube show. It can be as simple as you sitting down in front of a camera and addressing topics in your industry. Or, you can really get creative and do more – graphic presentations, interviews, etc.

Heck, if you’re musically inclined, you could even write and perform songs that tell your brand story.

Writing isn’t the only way to tell your tales. Think outside the box and consider other ways to get your message across. The sky’s the limit when it comes to types of valuable content that will emotionally connect your audience to your brand.

4. Create an Ongoing Narrative Arc

To make your brand storytelling seamless, you should try to stick to an overarching theme.

A theme that underlies all of your brand stories and content will create a narrative arc that, when taken as a whole, provides a bigger picture.

For each story you tell (whether in the form of blog posts, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, or even just Stories in your social media feeds), make sure it ties into this picture.

Think of each piece of content like an individual puzzle piece. They should fit together neatly under your brand’s personality and core message.

Chase’s News & Stories

Let’s revisit Chase for a good example.

On their content hub, they divide their “stories” into different categories. Note, however, that all of them tie back to the theme: “Helping you make the most of your money.”

The Magazine by Birchbox

Another good example is The Magazine from Birchbox.

The theme of the content naturally has to do with beauty, trends, lifestyle, and wellness:

Calling it a “magazine” illustrates the theme perfectly. It’s like an online magazine with all the articles you’d expect, like “Your Guide to the Perfect Holiday Movie Marathon” and “How to Create a Soft Smoky Eye.”

Out on the Wire with Jessica Abel

Yet another example of content that has an overarching theme is the “Out on the Wire” podcast with Jessica Abel.

This is a storytelling podcast about storytelling. Jessica Abel is on the road to writing a story, and this show goes through the whole process along with her.

Lore Podcast

Yet another example of themed storytelling done right (that you may or may not have heard of): “Lore,” a podcast that explores frightening folklore and true scary stories.

The episodes each tell wildly different tales, but they’re all held together with this one connecting thread.

This podcast got so popular, it even was made into a TV series on Amazon.

As you can see, themed storytelling is everywhere you look. Brands, companies, and entities that do it right are rewarded with devoted followings. The power of cohesive tale-telling really helps your audience connect with you and find emotional resonance with your brand presence.

A theme is an incredibly important aspect of telling multiple stories over time. Use this technique to create a compelling big-picture view when you zoom out from the individual pieces.

5. Invite Readers to Contribute to the Tale

Your brand is nothing without the audience, friends, followers, and customers in your community.

Your tale is continually shaped by your interactions with them. Your brand relies on them for its forward motion. Hence, it makes perfect sense to invite them to contribute to your ongoing story.

Lots of brands are already doing this to great effect on social media.

Folio Society

The Folio Society, a self-described publisher of “beautiful editions of the world’s greatest literature,” invites their fans and followers to post pictures of their books and tag them #foliosociety for a chance to be featured on their Instagram account.

Book-loving fans eagerly show off their Folio Society editions “in the wild.” This paints an overall picture of how the publisher’s books are collected and displayed, which adds to their brand story.

A Color Story

A Color Story is a well-loved image-editing app for tweaking and improving snaps right on your phone.

The app has made clever use of social media to highlight exactly what it can do, as well as show off how its users get creative with it.

On their Instagram account, the app developers invite their followers to tag photos they’ve edited using the app. A Color Story reposts their favorites and explains how the photo was edited and which filters were used.

Their brand story, as a result, highlights the collective experience of the people who use their app – people all over the world taking beautiful photos.

And, when you browse the main hashtag, #acolorstory, you can see how that story unfolds across continents:

Want More Traction, Sales, and Results? Tell Great Stories

Look at any successful brand and you’ll more than likely find their name synonymous with some kind of story.

It can be as loose as a theme tying all their content marketing together, or it can be an involved narrative that is continually expanding.

Whatever stories they tell, each and every one contributes to the brand’s voice and persona.

Stories add life, warmth, and personality to a company’s messages. Stories make people lean in and emotionally connect to you with their minds and hearts.

Customers who are emotionally connected to your brand are 52% more valuable than those who are just highly satisfied.

Storytelling requires going the extra mile, but your audience, followers, and customers will reward you handsomely for your trouble.

And, when you can tug on those emotional strings, you’ll find your business going places you never dreamed.

If you’re ready to tap into the power of stories, you first need some storytelling power. We have it right here with our pro content storytellers – check out what we can do and start emotionally connecting with your audience for better results.

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