Yvette Pistorio

Storytelling 101: Getting Back to the Basics

By: Yvette Pistorio | October 28, 2013 | 
39

The Power of StorytellingBy Yvette Pistorio

Storytelling doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Yet everyone has a story to tell, including brands.

As marketers, we are constantly telling stories – from our organization’s history and tales of customers and employees to stories about our products and services – and we have an opportunity to share the wealth.

As I said a few weeks ago in Gin and Topics, we are wired for stories. The most memorable stories have real characters people can relate to, who draw our attention or elicit an emotional response.

Keith Ecker, content strategist at Jaffe PR, spoke about storytelling Content Jam. He reminded me, even though we tell stories every day, sometimes we need to go back to the basics.

Storytelling Basics

Here is Ecker’s recipe – the critical elements of a good story:

  • Characters: You need to have at least two.
  • Content: The who, what, when, and where.
  • Motivations: The why, an unfulfilled gap.
  • Conflict: The juiciest part of the story.
  • Resolution: The realization, epiphany, or takeaway

Susan Gunelius, contributor to Forbes adds, “…the best brand storytellers understand the critical elements of fiction writing, which are skills  few marketers have been formally trained to do.”

Three Stories Every Brand Should Tell

Once you have these elements, you need to figure out what kind of story you want to tell. I hate when I hear people say, “But our story isn’t interesting/fun/emotional/insert excuse here.” You can be in a “boring” industry, but you can also tell your stories in a compelling way.

What stories should we tell? How about one of the following.

Employee Stories

Employee stories can be about how someone got a job, their role within your organization, how are they successful, why they wanted to work for your organization, or even what they do on their off time – their hobbies or volunteer work.

For example, IBM used the “Are you an IBMer” as a recruitment tool, and guess what? It was effective.

The employee stories gave the tech giant a human face, and communicated the similar interests, trials, and triumphs their employees have with consumers.

Customer Stories

Let your customers talk about why your brand is so great. Are you fixing a problem? Reducing costs? Helping them run their business more efficiently?

Mailchimp is really, really good at this. They interview customers and showcase the creative ways they use the product. They are like mini-case studies on video.

Brand Stories

If your brand isn’t telling a compelling story, it will be hard to stand out from the crowd. I love how Debbie Williams of SPROUT Content puts it, “Your story is made up of “all that you are, and all that you do.”

TOMS shoes is a great example of how to tell a brand story. They focus on making their philanthropic story the heart of their company. They extended this online with their One for One campaign, they share donation stories on their YouTube channel, and use their blog to explore how their movement affects real people in the world.

People don’t spend time on boring stories. Make sure the storytelling you do is engaging, emotional and creative. Even with all the new technology available today, humans love a great tale – and crafting a compelling one packs a powerful marketing punch.

About Yvette Pistorio


Yvette Pistorio is the shared media manager for Arment Dietrich. She is a lover of pop culture, cupcakes, and HGTV, and enjoys a good laugh. There are a gazillion ways you can find her online.

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