The late, great novelist Pat Conroy—author of The Prince of Tides and The Water Is Wide (made into an excellent film titled Conrack with Jon Voight)—said that "the most powerful words in English are, 'Tell me a story.'"
In line with that sentiment—and the spirit of the south—the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association recently released a whitepaper called "Storytelling 2020: What You Need to Know About Storytelling in Marketing."
According to the whitepaper, storytelling allows brands "to foster engagement in ways that inspire [people] to take action, whether it be a click, like or purchase. Even more, it creates an evolving narrative that naturally connects with [aidiences], adding value to—and ultimately becoming part of—their everyday lives."
Here aretheir report takeaways with some addedSIPA-fication:
Be authentic. "Success demands you know your customer. Spend time unpacking your data to learn the behaviors, habits and expectations of your audience. Consider creating a customer journey map to have a more solid understanding of the journey your customers take when they interact with your brand."
"When was the last time you sat opposite a prospect and listened to their objections?" asked Robin Crumby, founder of Melcrum and now Novatum Group. "When you come to make recommendations about changes, it's so powerful to be able to quote customers. If it originates with the customer, it has so much more power."
Consult the experts. "There are many digital agencies and consultancies that are already working successfully in this space and, as a result, know and understand the opportunities and hazards of things like emerging technology. Lean on their expertise to help push boundaries, assess risks and think creatively."
Said Charity Huff, CEO of one of those companies, January Spring (and a Pre-Conference Workshop speaker at SIPA Annual 2018): "Niche publishers do a great job at producing high-quality content. But wrapping all the marketing that needs to go around that and layer in a social strategy too can be very demanding. You need to answer a lot of questions: How many uniques are coming to my site? Where are they coming in through? Why are they coming? Is the journey easy for them?"
Embrace emerging technologies. "There are a number of new technologies than can be used to extend and evolve your brand story. Consider allocating a portion of your budget to new technology and innovation testing. Supporting testing encourages teams to put analysis into the things they are interested in. It also gives your audience a say, which is important when you're seeking a connection with customers."
"Innovation isn't just a tool to grow, it's a survival tactic," said Greg Hart, director of marketing for PSMJ Resources (and another SIPA 2018 speaker). "We put on a two-day project management boot camp. It went over budgeting, scheduling and other important areas" that were in their information arsenal. "It proved to be one of our most popular products! The market actually took it on itself to be PMSJ-certified."
Reward failure. "Brands that embrace emerging technology must also change the culture of "failing" within their organizations. Team members need to be shown that taking small, calculated risks is key to creating new experiences, and the only true way to learn."
"[You must] make failure productive," wrote Simplify Compliance's Elizabeth Petersen in The Oswald Letter recently. "Acknowledging that a mistake occurred is a necessary first step... But after admitting failure and allowing a (very) short period of self-doubt, start to conduct a clinical, unemotional analysis of the event. What went wrong? Why? How can I prevent this again? And what have I learned that will make me a better employee/colleague/family member/friend?"
Develop a plan for measurement. "Be prepared to isolate the data that matters to your storytelling efforts. Then analyze what messages had an impact, which ones didn't and where there is room for optimization. Also, leverage this data to get a better picture of your customer and where there are opportunities to extend the relationship to create stronger, even lifelong, connections."
"When the representatives are having phone conversations, we set up a database that allows them to document responses in real time in data fields we create," said Christina Dekhtyar, executive vice president, QCSS, Inc. "Anything that falls outside of the capture fields we have created gets documented in a free form text field."
Build a framework. "Stay true to your brand story by creating a framework or a charter that your internal and external teams can use when acting as the voice of the brand. This will ensure that your narrative stays authentic and consistent across your brand's entire marketing ecosystem."
"It's about finding the right people who can make an impact," said Brittany Carter, president of Columbia Books & Information Services. "For a company of our size to keep growing, everyone has to be on board."