Last week at BIMS—after speaking for 30-plus minutes about the vital nature of digital design and the reading revolution that digital has thrust upon us—Mario Garcia, a Columbia professor and author of the new book, The Story, closed his well-received keynote by saying: "The takeaway is if you have a good story, people will stay with you... I don't sit here and lament what was. I celebrate what is. These are the best times to be a storyteller, but you have to explore all that is there."
In line with that sentiment—and the spirit of the south (Garcia is from Miami)—I want to go back to a whitepaper titled Storytelling 2020: What You Need to Know About Storytelling in Marketing from the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association.
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 [audiences], adding value to—and ultimately becoming part of—their everyday lives."
Here are some of their takeaways with some SIPA-fication:
Unpack your data. "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, co-founder of Kademy and formerly Melcrum. "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."
Embrace emerging technologies. "There are 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."
"No one should be intimidated by podcasts," said Access Intelligence executive editor Zach Rodgers. "It's a good way to do journalism, and it can really be a key arrow in your quiver for any media brand. It's extending the ways you can touch people."
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."
"Make failure productive," wrote Simplify Compliance's Elizabeth Petersen. "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."
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.'"