Storytelling Through Video, Data and Content Features Can Drive Big Engagement

“I don’t ever take for granted what it is I get to do every day. That at any given moment, if I’m having a rough day, I can go jump on a roller coaster or I can go eat a funnel cake.”

That comes from Sharon Parker, communications manager for Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor, speaking on one of three videos for the IAAPA Expo 2019 Return Attendee Promotion. IAAPA is the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

The videos represented three personas: an exhibitor, a repeat attendee and a first-time attendee. The repeat attendee video was launched with registration and received 12,000 views, 7 shares and 51 responses. It was then edited to serve in their video pre-roll advertisement campaign on YouTube. The video’s VTR (view thru rate) was a strong 71%. The first-time attendee video debuted on social media prior to the early-bird deadline and received 21,000 views.
The Food Marketing Institute opened its virtual meeting with footage of members talking about the importance of grocery stores and communities during the pandemic, the role they played, and how they gave back to their communities. “Opening the event with the stories was so powerful,” said Margaret Core, VP of marketing and industry relations. “That’s engagement: We let the actions of our members tell our story.”
These are two great storytelling examples using video, but, of course, stories can be driven in other ways. At SIPA 2019, Emily Laermer, managing editor for Ignites at Money-Media, presented an excellent session titled Numbers Drive Engagement: Telling Compelling Stories Using Data.

“At Money Media we recognize engagement by how many times stories are forwarded or saved,” Laermer began. “Even if a story doesn’t get a lot of clicks, if it does get a lot of forwards and saves, then we consider that to be a highly successful and engaged story.

“Data and visual stories are pretty consistently among our most saved and forwarded content,” she continued. “In the most basic sense, data stories are ones that just have a ton of information. So they can be generated from a huge spreadsheet or Excel file. But they don’t necessarily have to be numbers driven. They can be stories that have a lot of facts. So for example, new rules and regulations are great data stories. The first story I worked on at Ignites required that I read a 400-page rule on mutual fund regulation and how the funds were going to have to change their reporting. That’s a data story.”

Okay, suggesting you read 400 pages of rules during a pandemic is not the best way to encourage data stories, but there are easier ways to do it. Timelines can be very effective. In reporting on a company that had been acquiring other companies, Laermer went through annual reports, press releases, etc., and built out a timeline that proved very engaging.
A third way to tell stories is through content features. MedLearn Media rolled out three new weekly segments on topics that they don’t traditionally write about, “which are more lifestyle pieces then our traditional news on healthcare rules and regulations,” Angela Kornegor, their executive director, said earlier this year. The segments are Frontline Friday, Stay at Home Kids and The Saturday Post. “These have driven our traffic up by 40% during the pandemic, and we are developing additional sponsor and advertising opportunities within these new segments and laying the ground work for a new subscription model.”
Last but not least, Haymarket Media’s PR Week started three regular features that focus on people in their community telling their stories: Lockdown Life, Coffee Break and A Day in the PR Life.
Haymarket also launched another kind of story: a coronavirus briefing “where we took content from all of our brands and put it out as an email newsletter,” said Steve Barrett, VP, editorial director, PRWeek & Campaign US at Haymarket Media US. “Whereas B2B is usually about going deep in a vertical, this was a horizontal slice across one topic and presenting it out. That was really interesting—I could see that happening on other issues like the future of work, or diversity would be an interesting thing for B2B publishers to look into.”

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