You Are A Storyteller
Storytelling is something I’ve always been interested in. I grew up in and later worked in a family run pub. Storytellers were something I came across almost every day. As a young toddler with a magnificent blond afro, I often sat at the edge of a barstool, idly swinging my legs while listening to the ramblings of an alcohol-addled mind. I was usually rewarded for my attentiveness with a packet of crisps or a ‘fiver’ for the shop. This captivation for the craft of storytelling translated to an educational path of an undergrad in English and History and a Masters in Applied Digital Media. Unfortunately, my degrees didn’t come with the reward of a packet of crisps or a fiver(or maybe fortunately, they didn’t, as that would’ve probably diminished the achievements).
Anyways since the glory days of my sodium enriched youth, I’ve lost the beautiful blond locks and now have to buy my own crisps. This inconvenience aside, what attracted me to go down the digital media path, was the variety of ways digital allows you to tell a story, through blogs, vlogs, photos, websites, videos, podcasts, graphics, games, animations, etc etc. It’s an exciting time for content creation as digital has democratised content. You can tell your story without requiring a massive budget and/or a huge team of people. On the downside, this has led to many businesses completely abandoning the role of editor which has opened the public up to a deluge of poorly edited content (I will give you some tips for editing later in the blog).
I told you my little path into storytelling not to waste your time, but to inform you that this is what your role is in marketing any business, you are a storyteller and your business can tell its story with whatever medium best suits it. But the question is how best to market your story? After all, let’s be real, you are not telling your business’s story for the sake of it. You are creating content with the end goal of it benefiting your company. You could call it inbound marketing or content marketing, whatever way you want to frame it, you are not just a content creator but a content marketer.
In this blog, I will distil some of the lessons I’ve learned from my experience and from the experience of others when it comes to marketing your stories. These lessons can be applied to many roles, for example, if you are creating content for your own business, if you’re starting out as a digital marketer, or if you’re a lowly intern who has been handed the role of ‘Head Blog Writer’. Content is king and it’s time we get your content out to its intended masses.
In The Beginning
Let’s start at the beginning, your task is to create content for a business, maybe it’s your business, this doesn’t matter. What does matter is what type of content do you create and how do you generate enough ideas to consistently create this type of content? First and foremost, choose content that you like doing. Content Marketing is a long haul game, you are going to have to spend many hours creating content, and if you don’t like it, not only will it demoralise you but your consumers will know. I understand that this is not always feasible. It is the nature of the beast that you will sometimes find yourself working on something you don’t like, try finding an angle with that content that resonates with you, for example, tell a personal story that related to the topic. Create a Content Culture within your company, it’s not just up to the content marketer to create the content. Often the role of the Content Marketer is to facilitate other’s ideas and to aid them in telling their story. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts.
When deciding what topics to talk about, identify key problems to target. These problems are ones that your business can solve. For example, if you are a website designer choose problems related to the world of website and design. This will ensure your content is relevant to your target market and that you are being useful to them. Make sure you have an opinion on these problems. Once you’ve listed out a number of problems to solve, develop an opinion on them, you might find you already have an opinion. Don’t be afraid to share it, people will connect with your content more if they feel you are being honest and transparent and not just preaching maxims that you believe everyone wants to hear. Provide your consumer with simple steps to solving your problem. We are in an age of information overload, be kind to your consumer and provide straightforward and easy to follow steps, think bullet points. Struggling to think of enough problems to solve to fill out a content calendar?
- Brainstorm ideas with others, especially work colleagues
- Use hashtags or google keywords to find topics.
- Ask your email subscribers for topics
- If you or your website has a help desk, check it for frequent problems you can solve
- Forums or Groups can be a good source of ideas
- Follow other Industry Leaders on social for ideas
- Look at other Blogs, Articles, or Digital Books related to your area and check the comment sections for consumer’s problems
- Write what you learned from listening to a Podcast on the topic
- Reddit, Quora, etc.
- Reuse Old Content – Example: turn a published blog into quotes, graphics, videos, a podcast, etc.
Made With Love
If you take one thing away from this whole blog I hope it’s this, treat your consumer’s time as more important than yours. This is an important philosophy for any Content Marketer. You are expecting consumers to give up their time, and in many cases money, so the least you can do is provide them with value. If it takes you more time to do something, don’t cheap out, do it. For example, if you don’t know much on a topic; research your ass off; use trusted resources and dive deep. Take that extra time when creating a video and be a perfectionist. I spoke earlier about the problems many companies have with lacking an editor. If you find this is the case, ensure you set high standards for your content and keep them. Keep your content simple, avoid fluffy language, keep a simple layout, use simple headlines, avoid using the passive voice. Free tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway Editor can help with your grammar and avoid overuse of the passive voice. For video editing, graphic design, animation, etc, there are online courses you can use to improve your work, like Lynda.com, or even YouTube can be a good source.
Be generous and transparent with your content, don’t just talk about your success. Share your failures and give away white-papers, blogs, videos, your business tips and secrets, YOUR TIME! Consumers will see you as a trusted and generous resource whose generosity will be returned in favour. Measure their response to your content. This will inform you as to what type of content your target market like and can shape the future content you create. Don’t kid yourself though, measure what’s important to your business’s needs. For example, if your aim is traffic to your website look at Link Clicks and not likes, in this case, likes are just ego-boosting. Re-evaluate your process regularly, make sure you have a sales-funnel for your content and that you are marketing to consumers your business can actually service, e.g. is your company limited by its geographic location? Content is extremely competitive so be sure to craft yours with love to stand out from the crowd.
Reaching The Masses
After putting in so much effort into crafting a beautiful piece of content it can be quite disheartening to see low engagement or that the piece does not meet your company’s KPI(Key Performance Indicator). A very natural reaction to this would be to give up, don’t! Content Marketing takes time, you are selling over years rather than days or weeks. Quite often you are marketing to the wrong person, the person who is viewing your video or reading your blog isn’t going to be the one purchasing from you. However, they may recommend your product or service to another, or they may even end up working for/with you. Content Marketing is about building relationships. Reach out to other ‘Influencers’ in your area. Don’t turn up empty-handed though, offer to do some guest content in return for linking back to you. You could write a blog for their website or even repurpose a successful piece of content they did, for example, turn their blog into a video or a slideshow. They will get some extra content and you will gain you some much-needed attention from a new market. This is networking and you will need to do a lot of it to build a large community around your business. Ask the influencers you reach out to where they get their info from, what blogs, podcasts, books, events, etc. Some other tips for increasing eyes on your content are:
- Paid advertising – (Social Media Ads or Google)
- Email Marketing – Monthly newsletter or Segmented Campaigns for different content areas
- Good Keywords and SEO
- Quoting other Influencers in your content and backlinking them
- Regularly promoting other’s work on your site
- Client Case Studies or an Ambassador Series of emails
The research for this topic has been from my own experience, but also from various talks, podcasts, and books that I’ve read. If you are interested in learning more about Content Marketing, books such as Content Machine by Dan Norris or The Story Engine by Kyle Gray are very helpful. For writing for business purposes Writing Without Bullshit by Josh Bernoff is great. Otherwise, just immerse yourself in the world of good content and the topics you cover, become an expert and that value will shine true in your future stories.