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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.

personal branding

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Using Storytelling & Other Tactics for Successful Personal Branding in Content Marketing with Tara Clapper

In our latest #ContentWritingChat, we talked all about storytelling and personal branding. If you’re ready to take your personal brand to the next level, this is the chat for you. Keep reading for the recap!

#ContentWritingChat Recap: Using Storytelling & Other Tactics for Successful Personal Branding in Content Marketing

Our guest host this week was one of our own team members, Tara Clapper. Tara is our talented Content Development Specialist. In this chat, she shared some helpful tips on personal branding that you’ll want to put to use for your own brand.

Q1: What is personal branding and who needs to develop their own personal brand?

To kick off the chat, we wanted to hear how our chat participants defined personal branding. We also wanted to know who they felt needs a personal brand. To find out what some of them said, check out these responses:

Tara said your personal brand is an expression of who you are, both online and off. It should also be genuine. There’s no need to be fake, so keep it real and true to yourself. And as she said, everyone needs one!

Great answer from Julia! She said if you’re in marketing or running a business, you have a brand. You need to develop that brand in order to stand out online.

Kristen agrees that everyone has a personal brand and that it’s all about reflecting that brand to the outside world.

Cristy brought up a great point for those who work as part of another company. If you have a public role within that company, you have to be careful about the image you put forth, as it reflects on the company as a whole.

Chris feels anyone who is serious about career development, digital marketing, or who wants an online presence should be focused on personal branding.

Q2: What are the key steps someone should take when developing their personal brand?

Now that you know why personal branding is so important, you need to know what steps to take in order to develop a brand of your very own. Here’s some advice straight from Tuesday’s chat:

Great response from Tara! When developing your personal branding, you need to define your brand, have clear messaging on social media, consistency within your branding, and you should also make it multi-faceted.

Gabriela shared some helpful steps to ensure you effective craft your own personal branding. She recommends the following: define your purpose, discover the value you can provide, develop your voice, and deliver your message consistently.

Julia’s advice is to start by defining what you want to stand for. You should create a mission statement for your brand so you and your audience know exactly what you represent. You can then develop that into slogans and share it on social media. Don’t forget to have a nice logo and color palette to create a great brand image as well.

Kristen knows you can learn a lot from other brands that are already established. Make a list of the brands you look up to and ask yourself why you love them so much. While you don’t want to copy them exactly, you can implement what you love about those brands into the creation of your own.

This tweet is a very important reminder from Cathy. As she said, you need to be authentic in everything you do. Being fake will hurt your brand because people will see right through you.

Q3: What is storytelling and how can brands use it to their advantage?

You’ve likely heard all about storytelling by now, but what exactly is it? And how can brands use storytelling to their advantage? Check out these great tips from the chat:

Tara feels storytelling is the truth and the why behind your brand.

Gabriela said storytelling is using a narrative to give context to your message. She followed that up by saying storytelling can help make your content memorable and relatable while also helping you build trust with your audience. It’s always a great way to communication your brand’s personalty with others.

Storytelling allows you to connect with your audience and take them on a journey with you.

You can tell an effective story through a variety of ways. Tony suggests using video, photos, and written content to take your audience through your story.

As Breonna said, brands can use storytelling as a way to humanize the brand overall and give emotional context to their content. It’s a powerful way to make a connection with your audience.

Mallie knows that people respond to stories, which is why it’s so important to share your story with your audience.

Keira said storytelling puts your product into context for customers. It’s a great way to encourage your customers to be part of your journey and the story you’re telling.

In a time where people are all about automating everything, storytelling helps to show your brand is human.

Q4: How do personal branding and storytelling work hand-in-hand?

Check out these tips from Tuesday’s chat all about making your personal branding and storytelling efforts work together:

Personal branding and storytelling equal innovation in Tara’s book. She feels your natural story will progress like a good character would throughout a book.

Julia knows you can weave your story into every element of your personal branding. Use it in your slogan, your about page, and more.

You can allow your audience to grow alongside your brand as it develops. The story you tell will take them on that journey and make them become loyal fans.

Michelle said your personal brand shows authenticity while storytelling provides a narrative for your product. Together, they’re powerful for growing your brand and building a fanbase.

Storytelling encourages your audience to engage and connect with your brand.

Q5: How can you improve your personal brand using social media?

Social media is just one way you can improve your personal brand and connect with your audience. But how do you do it? We asked this question during Tuesday’s chat and got some great advice in response. Check it out:

Have conversations with others, start conversations yourself, and find your tribe. Make sure you’re engaging with others so you can grow and develop your brand.

Gabriela’s advice is to focus on building your tribe, sharing and consuming great content, showing thought leadership, sharing your USP, and building trust. Make sure you’re also being consistent!

Mallie’s advice is to keep your voice consistent on all platforms. This is essential when working on your personal brand. Don’t be afraid to make tweaks along the way when you’re still in the early phases.

Jeremy said to be yourself on social media. If you aren’t true to who you are, your audience will see right through you. You should also take the time to listen to others and help them in any way you can.

Julia said to make sure you’re engaging with your followers on social media. Use it as a platform to start real conversations and make connections with others. This is key when it comes to personal branding.

Michelle recommends participating in Twitter chats. She knows it’s a great way to connect with others, but can also provide an opportunity to share your expertise. Make sure you’re listening to what others have to say and help them with the issues they’re facing.

Cathy also agrees that participating in Twitter chats is a good idea for your brand.

Q6: How can you craft a personal brand story that builds trust with your audience?

We all know that building trust with your audience is essential. Having a level of trust is key to ultimately making sales and landing clients for those who are running a business. To build trust, here’s what you need to do:

Tara says to credit when necessary, be personal, apologize when you mess up, and be transparent with growth.

Jeremy knows that people need to get to know you and start liking you before they can build trust. You can encourage trust by chatting with your audience and actually listening to what they have to say.

Be a source of information and engage with your audience.

Be yourself! You shouldn’t try to be something you’re not because it’ll only turn off your audience.

Cathy encourages you to be vulnerable and share the real stories even if they aren’t all that pretty. Those are the stories that people can connect with.

Sarah agrees with taking that open and honest approach. She recommends sharing when things go wrong. It’s relatable because we all make mistakes and your audience will appreciate that you’re sharing things like that with them.

Varun’s advice is to be approachable. When people feel like they can reach out to you, it helps to establish trust within your personal branding.

Engage with your audience! Ask questions, answer the questions they have, and don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor when talking to them. It shows you’re real.

Q7: Which content formats are key for best telling your brand story?

There are all kinds of content formats available to us: blog posts, videos, podcasts, and more. Which one is the best way to go? Here are some responses from the chat:

Tara’s advice is to consider how you best express yourself. For her, that includes blogging, podcasting, webinars, and live events.

Sherri agrees that you have to consider what works best for you. Determine your strengths and embrace that.

Pamela loves Snapchat and Instagram Stories as a way to share behind-the-scenes content.

There’s no denying that video is a great way to go! It gives your audience the opportunity to see you and hear your voice.

For Javier, it’s all about that long-form content. We’re big fans of valuable, longer blog posts here at Express Writers as well.

Whatever format you use, you need to bring your audience along on your journey.

Q8: Which personal brands do an amazing job at storytelling?

Who does an amazing job with their personal branding? You’ll want to check these people out:

Tara is a fan of our own CEO, Julia, as well as the actors behind the Marvel characters.

It’s no secret that Gary Vaynerchuk is pretty impressive! Both Julia and Zachary are fans of his.

Sherri thinks Gala Darling does a great job at sharing and connecting with her audience.

We look forward to seeing you at the next #ContentWritingChat! Mark your calendars weekly for Tuesday at 10 AM Central Time for great chats centered around content writing and marketing. Follow @ExpWriters to stay updated on our new topics and guests!

what is larp

What is LARP & 7 Ways It Made Me a Better Brand Storyteller

Like most writers and many content marketers, I’ve been a natural storyteller my entire life.

Over the years, I’ve practiced my storytelling skills in a variety of ways: by earning an English degree some people branded ‘useless;’ through active participation in theater groups as an actor, crew member, and playwright, writing collaboratively with others I trust, and by creating and participating in LARPs (live action role playing games).

Even as a recent college grad at a self-publishing company, I realized the thrill in completing and marketing work – especially when a long-term success pays off.

It’s not just about having a story, but selling it.

Each media – theater, collaborative writing, formal scholarship – has taught me something new about storytelling, but LARP is the culmination of these skills. The medium itself is also flexible enough to warrant explanation and innovation. Scroll past the infographic for the full story by Tara!

What is LARP & 7 Ways It Made Me a Better Brand Storyteller (Infographic)

What is LARP Storytelling Infographic

What is LARP?

LARP stands for “live action role play.” In this interactive medium, participants create a story collaboratively while representing a character in the LARP, sometimes to a very immersive degree. LARP covers a variety of genres such as medieval fantasy, sci-fi, western, and post-apocalyptic. Some games include boffer or ranged weapon combat; others focus on personal interaction and emotional intensity or a combination of the two. Styles vary greatly depending upon genre, region, and participants’ preferences.

Like a consultant might encourage participants to role play sales and customer service scenarios, LARP is also a very effective educational tool. It’s used heavily in schools in Scandinavia and it can be very similar to military combat simulations. Depending on the LARP, you might do something similar to Model UN – or you may feel like you’re in Lord of the Rings.

edularp

Young LARPers explore their creativity as they portray characters in a cyberpunk LARP. Photo by Matthew Wright, courtesy of the Wayfinder Experience.

There are several ways in which LARP helps participants hone their storytelling skills:

  • You drop any pretense of the ‘real world’ (except for physical and emotional safety). As adults, we’re often encouraged to focus on reality. LARP sparks your imagination and allows you to focus on building a story with others. This is not unlike how a marketing team can function at a brand of any size.
  • As in real life, LARP worlds and scenarios often feature problems and solutions. Innovation helps you get things done, complete objectives, and reflect on your progress – almost like a more natural agile marketing process.
  • LARPs do not always have a beginning, middle, and end format, but they can. Participants often reflect upon their role in that story. LARPs may provide the opportunity for you to be less rigid and confined in how you tell your story – and that’s a great lesson to take into the business world.
  • By portraying someone else, you can become more empathetic (deliberately or not). Imagine if you could understand your readers this way – or your customers!
Grand Masquerade

Through LARP, participants can discover unexplored sides of themselves by portraying characters. Photo: Joshua Heath: Vampire: The Masquerade Grand Masquerade: Blood and Betrayal 3

I’ve been an active LARP participant for a decade – that spans most of my career in publishing and marketing. I’ve participated as a player, non player character (NPC – a scripted character who helps the game master tell the story), and as a game designer, marketer, and staff member.

7 Major Lessons for Brand Storytelling from LARP

When it comes to storytelling, LARP has taught me seven major lessons that I deliberately apply to business:

1. Just Provide Setting: The Secret to Community

Successful marketing brands like HubSpot know that building a community around your brand requires a long-term strategy and an investment of time and money. They do it because it works.

This LARP takes place in a cyberpunk setting. Photo taken and edited by Mark Chadbourne for Oblivion LARP.

This LARP takes place in a cyberpunk setting. Photo taken and edited by Mark Chadbourne for Oblivion LARP.

While brands can and should provide spaces for enthusiasts and customers to discuss their brand, ultimately the community usually works best with guidance instead of harsh motivation.

At Seventh Kingdom IGE, a medieval fantasy LARP in New Jersey, a small staff handles the logistics of events. But with extensive lore and an ongoing story, players also take responsibility by taking on leadership roles in game. In the real digital world, existing players are to credit for a great deal of recruitment, which usually happens by word of mouth and by players posting about their positive experiences on Facebook.

While players love the game and its brand, what they crave most is the ability to be the hero (and villain) in the game world – similar to a video game or a tabletop RPG like Dungeons & Dragons.

2. Customers Invest in Experiences

When you sell a LARP ticket, what are you selling? The game may include basics like lodging and meals, but people are really investing in the story and in the experience – and, if your LARP is particularly impactful, in a person’s transformation and education.

"Endgame," A LARP by Hans Olai Martinsen and Anne Marie Stamnestrø - Run for The Art of Storytelling Through Gaming group. Photo by Aaron Vanek.

“Endgame,” A LARP by Hans Olai Martinsen and Anne Marie Stamnestrø – Run for The Art of Storytelling Through Gaming group. Photo by Aaron Vanek.

Experience means you’re selling them the experience; transformation means you’re flipping non-fans into fans or even altering their worldview with their product. As LARP can be a very social and personal experience featuring high levels of immersion, participants often enjoy both the experience and the transformation.

As internationally renowned professional game designer Claus Raasted said, “I’m not only an experience designer, but a designer of transformations.” That’s storytelling full-circle.

What would change about your business and how you market it if you took this approach?

3. Play Your Own Story

We all know that employee engagement is necessary and enthusiastic employees are the most productive advocates – but what about the management? Are you playing your own story?

A LARP could be a week-long epic battle scenario or a two hour experience at a convention. One thing I’ve learned about successful game masters and game designers is that they play their own story.

Sure, this happens out of necessity sometimes – just like a business, the game can be short-staffed or someone calls out sick and upper management needs to fill in. However, I advocate for intentional insertion into the game world (or business) you’ve created. With a small investment of time, you’ll possibly learn more about your LARP (or business) than you would by conducting various customer experience surveys.

Here’s a LARP example of how that can work:

At New World Magischola (a LARP about being a student at a magical college), the game designers recently participated in their Yuletide events. The Yuletide events took place in a smaller area than the usual college campus the game requires, and it allowed the designers to more actively participate in the game.

This allowed them to not only gently guide scenarios and pay attention to safety (like when we were outside in the snow) while still allowing players to make decisions, but it showed they were a part of the community. They were also able to experience their game design first-hand.

As a former staff member at a fantasy boffer combat game, I’ve also noticed a wider gap in communication between players and staff when staff members aren’t out there on the field fighting on the same side as the players.

If your customers don’t see you fighting alongside them, they might not hang around for any rough transitions you face. Do they view you as a partner, or someone potentially fighting against them?

4. Your Goal: Innovation

If you’re a successful marketer, you understand that your brand needs to offer something that your competition doesn’t. You’ve probably worked on your USP (unique selling proposition) and have determined how to express that as your brand. Once you’ve established that, then what do you do?

Like business and entertainment niches, LARP is centered around innovation that is quite literally game changing. Through online communities and by supporting new game designers, innovation is an intrinsic part of the LARP community. From new hobbyists to professional LARP studios, getting involved means giving and gaining a great deal in terms of how you impact the hobby as an influencer.

Unheroes larp

While this may look like a charismatic and engaging leader conducting a business meeting, this is actually a LARPer contributing to a collaborative story. “Unheroes” by Joanna Piancastelli run in Hilton Hotel restaurant in full public view. Photo by Aaron Vanek.

Related to that are the LARPs themselves. Most LARPs involve problem solving, creative thinking, and portraying a person who is different than yourself. These are the cornerstones of collaborative storytelling as the character is the basis of a LARPer’s interaction with the game environment and other participants.

If you didn’t have the restrictions of the real world, what kind of spell would you cast? What kind of fortress would you build? Who would you be? Deliberately embodying this way of thinking by regular LARP participation has changed me as a person and as a professional.

Similarly, we constantly adapt and innovate to serve our customers better at Express Writers. The other day, a customer asked me about a service we don’t offer. After speaking with our CEO and expressing that I am able to execute this product, we built out the service and quoted the customer. This took less than 48 hours.

That’s not just agility and teamwork, it’s innovation that only happens through:

  • Trusting your employees
  • Listening to your customers
  • Analyzing budget and ability
  • Responding to customer needs.

5. Most People Crave the Opportunity to Be Loyal

It’s clear that LARP has allowed me to identify and pursue changes in my life – and applying that to business development skills has been especially useful. After LARPing for so long, I’ve also noticed that the wide variety of characters I play have something in common: they crave loyalty.

People love to belong to a group. I enjoyed playing a member of Maison DuBois, a group in New World Magischola. Photo: New World Magischola / Learn Larp LLC.

People love to belong to a group. I enjoyed playing a member of Maison DuBois, a group in New World Magischola. Photo: New World Magischola / Learn Larp LLC.

It’s not just me, either. Many LARPers enjoy portraying people who are devoutly loyal to various factions, religions, political causes, corporations, families, and school affiliations in game worlds. This is an appealing aspect for people to explore without the ramifications of expression real-world political beliefs – and if you can figure out how to provide rewards for that craving, you’ll have loyal customers for life.

6. Creativity is Worth Something: Money

The arts are spectacularly undervalued. Earlier, I mentioned how I was told that pursuing a degree in English wasn’t the best plan for my life, and this lack of value for the arts certainly relates to why many people feel that way. I feel vindicated now that ‘storytelling’ is such a marketing buzzword, but that doesn’t eliminate the problem of society viewing the arts as a waste of time or education.

That’s stuck with me. Like other writers and artists, sometimes I still find it hard to believe I deserve compensation for my work, even though I do – while other writers are tough on people like me for allegedly lowering the value of content based on rates.

Fellow LARPer Kathleen Burns (right) works at SEMrush. We make a great team in part due to the leadership roles we take on in LARPs. Here we are celebrating Halloween as our LARP characters. Photo: SEMrush.

Fellow LARPer Kathleen Burns (right) works at SEMrush. We make a great team in part due to the leadership roles we take on in LARPs. Here we are celebrating Halloween as our LARP characters. Photo: SEMrush.

In LARP worlds, the arts are generally valued. Who else will create songs and epic poems about the adventures and exploits of tavern-dwelling townfolk? Who keeps a detailed chronicle of the events that transpired? And who relays news and tells songs and stories at feast? In most LARP settings, bards in some form are appreciated – and often compensated – for their work. I try to internalize this as often as I can.

In LARP communities, artistic talents are extremely valuable. Costume creation and customization, boffer weapon creation, propsmithing – most LARP communities need these talents, and most other players will pay for them.

Storytelling in practice at Mystic Realms. Photo: Mystic Realms.

Storytelling in practice at Mystic Realms. Photo: Mystic Realms.

In my role at Express Writers, every so often I’ll get into a tough spot with a prospective client: they don’t want to put value on high quality content. I dislike having to justify the exceptional work of our vetted writers and editors – and sometimes I find that it’s best to leave this potential business relationship on the grounds of incompatibility.

Quality content has value – and if the customer isn’t willing to pay the full price, they’re not worth the investment of your time.

7. Embodiment is Empowerment

People want to transform their businesses and themselves. Through LARP, it’s possible to learn more about yourself by portraying various characters. If you’re able to genuinely appraise your experiences in this way, you can really grow as a person. LARP has enabled me to feel more confident in sales and public speaking and to continually sharpen my storytelling skills across a variety of genres in unique ways that set me apart from many of my content marketing peers.

That’s me on the left. I’m creating a collaborative, magical story with three talented friends who also support my personal and career development in the real world. Photo: Darren M. Fitzgerald Photography.

That’s me on the left. I’m creating a collaborative, magical story with three talented friends who also support my personal and career development in the real world. Photo: Darren M. Fitzgerald Photography.

In business, that level of empowerment isn’t something you find by hiring one full-time content writer to handle all of the work your business or agency requires. Instead, invest in the labor of a subject matter expert to ensure your message clearly captures your brand’s expertise and enthusiasm.

Bring a Little LARP into Your Content Marketing

Most content writers can tackle the basics: SEO-friendly copy, proper grammar. We know all about how this helps your search engine ranking. However, human-focused content now takes the lead when it comes to search results.

I recommend adding the LARP BASICs to your content marketing. Always remember how you can be:

  • Brand-positive
  • Adaptive
  • Skill-focused
  • Innovative
  • Creative

Whether you’re out killing goblins in the woods or taking a more active interest in imaginative play with your child, keep these tips in mind when you want to create a more engaging and adaptive marketing strategy.

All LARP photos used with written permission of copyright holders.

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