The way we communicate has moved on so much so that now, just having a set of articulated brand values isn’t enough – business storytelling is the new black in content marketing. In an age where there are so many new technologies and channels that you could and should be using to communicate with your customers, and where theoretically your content can go viral in less than an hour, a clear, consistent and credible story about your company, and its message, are a vital tool.
To craft this message, start by communicating your company’s vision story internally, marking out key people from the team as characters and describing their risks and obstacles in a storytelling style. A “narrative” approach to branding your business may sound like a radical approach, but, really, it just cuts to the heart of what branding actually is. Like the storytelling process, it requires a solid, coherent background and a healthy amount of individual, memorable details. This approach will help you to present a consistent message across all the different channels you use – which is a vital part of business storytelling. You need to present the same image at all times!
So what does this mean for content marketing? Well, today’s customers expect to be offered more and more ways to engage with the businesses whose products and services they use. They expect to be able to find useful and current information about you online and on social media channels, and they expect to be able to recognise you by the consistency of your style.
While this can make communicating more challenging in some ways, it’s also exciting and an opportunity to be creative, experiment and find out what mix of channels and approaches work best for you. Here are five suggestions for you to explore…
1. Communication begins at home
In my experience, too many companies forget that their staff are their greatest assets as well as being important vehicles to communicate their company’s message. So, make sure you invest not only in sharing your company’s vision, but also explain to your staff how you’d like them to help you to get the message out there. Otherwise, how are they supposed to communicate your business story to those outside your organisation?
Once you’ve decided what your vision is, make sure you articulate it in a document and that everyone internally has access to it. This will be the best chance you have of shaping your corporate story from the inside – so someone else doesn’t do it for you!
2. Video and animation
When it comes to communicating your messages to the outside world, video is still relatively under-used as a marketing tool, but a video or animation can be powerful, particularly when it’s posted online. YouTube is visited by more than 800 million unique users each month and it goes without saying that is a big potential audience. Plus, posts with the word ‘video’ in them are shared 30% more on Facebook than posts that do not*.
Also, make sure to use your video or animation on your company website and make sure it links to your YouTube page, where you can further encourage your audience to browse other videos you have online.
*HubSpot, The Science of Facebook, 2011
You may have some nuggets of pure gold in your company report, but if it’s as weighty as a gold bar, who’s going to read it? Infographic design uses a mixture of illustration, pictures, icons, written stats and maybe a pie chart or two for good measure to turn a lot of information into something visual an audience can immediately get to grips with. Infographics are also great for sharing across a variety of social media channels.
4. Social media
A coordinated social media campaign can help you to create a buzz around a new product or service, plus it helps you present yourself to followers in a more rounded ‘human’ way. Getting social media right can help build stronger brand recognition, and a lot of brand love. Of the brands that made it into the Social Brands 100 for 2013, 100% are active on Facebook, 99% on Twitter and 94% on YouTube. If your story isn’t being told on social media you’re probably missing out. Don’t be daunted by the vast amount of different channels – take a look at which ones both your customers and competitors use and then choose two or three, define how you are going to use them and what your goals are, and keep measuring to see how it’s working.
5. Use a storytelling approach
Finally, no matter what channels you’ve selected, be sure to ditch the “business speak”. Storytelling techniques are fashionable right now – both in the B2C and B2B communications. It’s also more common in employee internal communications, which I’ve already mentioned in this introduction. The reason is quite simply because information is so much more appealing this way, and it’s also much more likely to be memorable.
The storytelling approach can be a tricky one for those in the B2B sphere, mainly because these businesses are often afraid of saying the wrong thing and offending someone. But don’t be tempted to resort to business jargon – it may feel safer to hide behind meaningless umbrella words and a heavy use of the passive voice – but unfortunately, it also makes what you’re saying less personal, more difficult to understand and, therefore, instantly forgettable.
You may feel that it’s easier to tell a personal story than it is to tell a business one, but, believe me, it doesn’t have to be. Businesses are made up of people who are just trying to talk to other people who happen to be their customers, after all. They are effectively the same thing, and you can definitely do it – hopefully some of these tips can help you along the way!