Today’s guest post is written by Lindsay Bell.
“We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.”  – Samuel Goldwyn

Traditional advertising is dead.

Content marketing is the new traditional advertising.

Phew. Glad *that’s* out of the way.

Ok, that opening statement is an exaggeration (bet it caught your eye though), but it’s no exaggeration to say that marketing and advertising have been irrevocably altered by a communications revolution.

Social media, mobile technology, and word-of-mouth marketing have been serious game changers. People today communicate around the world 24/7 and are flipping past magazine ads, voicing displeasure over banner ads and pop ups, and watching less and less TV.

In order to reach today’s tech savvy and attention span deficient consumer, companies must stand out in today’s clutter of information overload. And they have to reach people in ways that transcend bullet points and snappy ad copy. In today’s world, corporations have to focus a significant amount of time and money towards content.

Content IS King – It’s Just Not New

In the worlds of social and digital marketing, you can’t swing a cat without hitting an article about content: Why you need it, how to write it, and how to make it relevant and sharable.

No question great content is a powerful marketing tool – consider 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles vs. an advertisement. Sixty percent say company content helps them make better product decisions.

Those are impressive stats. But why is it so powerful? And what exactly is content?

Not the blog or vlog or Tweets or Facebook updates. Not the ad campaign or podcast or video.

See, those are the media through which you share the content. Now you’re scratching your heads. But this isn’t difficult. And it’s been around since The Epic of Gilgamesh was chipped into a stone tile sometime around the third millennium B.C..

Content = storytelling. That’s it. Simple really.

Storytelling Actually Isn’t Simple

Yes, making sure your content tells a story takes work, but it’s incredibly effective.

If you’re not a history geek and didn’t click on The Epic of Gilgamesh up there, let’s put that particular nugget into perspective. Homer wrote The Odyssey around the 8th century B.C.. Well, The Epic of Gilgamesh was written 1,500 years before that and is considered the first recorded story in mankind’s history.

There’s a reason for that longevity. Evolution has created brains that are wired for stories. Go back further than Gilgamesh, back thousands of years. Even in picture form on cave walls, our knuckle-dragging forefathers were sharing stories: Stories about adventure and hardship. About shared experiences and intimate connections. About understanding our place in the world. And people remember stories. Not facts.

Good stories are sticky and embed themselves in people’s subconscious. There’s a reason why you remember your best friend shooting you in the left thumb with a BB Gun 30 years back, but can’t recall where you left your phone an hour ago. Getting shot by your best friend is illustrative and emotional. Misplacing your cell phone? Not so much.

But Storytelling Sounds Hard!

Storytelling isn’t hard. But it’s not easy either. The c-suite needs to embrace the “out with the old, in with the new” concept. If the higher-ups are balking at change, toss this statistic from above their way: 70 percent say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company. That’s a lot of eyeballs. And a lot of warm and fuzzy emotion.

The key is to keep that warm and fuzzy feeling – and make it warmer and fuzzier! But bear this in mind – when marketing with content, the worst possible thing you can do is just dive in, unprepared.

If you want to keep your consumers happy, and ask them to spend 10 or 15 minutes reading a blog post or listening to a podcast, invest in whoever and whatever your organization needs in order to make that content sing.

When you communicate with your customers – not at them – through storytelling, you are developing a unique and collaborative connection with them. And you are inspiring genuine interest and loyalty towards your brand.

We live in what some call a ‘participatory culture’ – because there is more information out there than we can store in our heads, we are motivated to talk about and share the content we consume. Tell a good story and this increased conversation creates buzz and builds trust in your content. Tell a great story, and your audience not only looks forward to your daily/weekly/monthly marketing, but also actively shares it within their own tribes. The reward, in the long run, will be increased content sharing, leading to increased interest, leading to increased sales and customer conversions. And that’s no bedtime fairy tale.

Lindsay Bell is a Canadian freelance writer, story teller, editor, and grammar freak. A former television producer, she is a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. At home in Toronto she has an incredible husband, a rocking 12 year old son, and an extensive music collection. And she blogs here.