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Learn how to develop your storytelling skills to elevate your brand and connect to your audience.

A guide to effective and measurable branding.

Not a process, method, or technique. Storytelling is described as anart the art of storytelling.

And like art it requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. Storytelling isnt something you can grasp in one sitting,after one course. Its a trial-and-error process of mastery.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, and rightfully so because storytelling has become a crucial component of the most successful marketing campaigns. It sets apart vibrant brands from simple businesses and loyal consumers from one-time, stop-in shoppers.

Its also the heart ofinbound marketing.

Storytelling is anincredibly valuable toolfor you to add to your proverbial marketing tool belt. Thats why weve compiled this guide, to help you discover and master storytelling and weave gorgeous, compelling tales for your audience.

Pick up your pen, and lets dive in.

Storytelling is the process of using fact and narrative to communicate something to your audience. Some stories are factual, and some are embellished or improvised in order to better explain the core message.

While this definition is pretty specific, stories actually resemble a variety of things. Thisgraphic from ReferralCandyhelps outline what storiesareandare not.

Storytelling is an art form as old as time and has a place in every culture and society. Why? Because stories are a universal language that everyone regardless of dialect, hometown, or heritage can understand. Stories stimulate imagination and passion and create a sense of community among listeners and tellers alike.

Telling a story is like painting a picture with words. While everyone can tell a story, certain people fine-tune their storytelling skills andbecome a storytelleron behalf of their organization, brand, or business. You mightve heard of these folks we typically refer to them asmarketers,content writers, orPR professionals.

Every member of an organization can tell a story. But before we get into the how, lets talk about why we tell stories as a society, culture, and economy.

There are a variety of reasons to tell stories to sell, entertain, educate or brag. Well talk about that below. Right now, I want to discuss why we choose storytelling over, say, a data-driven powerpoint or bulleted list. Why are stories our go-to way of sharing, explaining, and selling information?

Weve all experienced confusion when trying to understand a new idea. Stories provide a way around that. Think about times when stories have helped you better understand a concept perhaps a teacher used a real-life example to explain a math problem, a preacher illustrated a situation during a sermon, or a speaker used a case study to convey complex data.

Stories help solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages. Taking a lofty, non-tangible concept and relating it using concrete ideas is one of the biggest strengths of storytelling in business.

TakeApple, for example. Computers and smartphones are a pretty complicated topic to describe to your typical consumer. Using real-life stories, theyve been able to describe exactly how their products benefit users instead of relying on technical jargon that very few customers would understand.

Like I said above, stories are a universal language of sorts. We all understand the story of the hero, of the underdog, or of heartbreak. We all process emotions and can share feelings of elation, hope, despair, and anger. Sharing in a story gives even the most diverse people a sense of commonality and community.

In a world divided by a multitude of things, stories bring people together and create a sense of community. Despite our language, religion, political preferences, or ethnicity, stories connect us through the way we feel and respond to them Stories make us human.

TOMSis a great example of this. By sharing stories of both customers and the people they serve through customer purchases, TOMS has effectively created a movement that has not only increased sales but also built a community.

Stories make us human, and the same goes for brands. When brands get transparent and authentic, it brings them down-to-earth and helps consumers connect with them and the people behind them.

Tapping into peoples emotions and baring both the good and bad is how stories inspire and motivate and eventually, drive action. Stories also foster brand loyalty. Creating anarrative around your brandor product not only humanizes it but also inherently markets your business.

Few brands use inspiration as a selling tactic, but ModCloth does it well. By sharing the real story of their founder, ModCloth not only makes the brand relatable and worth purchasing, but it also inspires other founders and business owners.

Words like good and bad are relative to user opinion. But there are a few non-negotiable components that make for a great storytelling experience, for both the reader and teller.

Good stories keep the reader engaged and interested in whats coming next.

Good stories spark curiosity and add to the readers knowledge bank.

Good stories are relatable to all readers and tap into emotions and experiences that most people undergo.

Good stories follow a succinct organization that helps convey the core message and helps readers absorb it.

Whether through inspiration, scandal, or humor, good stories stick in the readers mind.

According to HubSpot Academys freePower of Storytelling course, there are three components that make up a good story regardless of the story youre trying to tell.

. Every story features at least one character, and this character will be the key to relating your audience back to the story. This component is the bridge between you, the storyteller, and the audience. If your audience can put themselves in your characters shoes, theyll be more likely to follow through with your call-to-action.

. The conflict is the lesson of how the character overcomes a challenge. Conflict in your story elicits emotions and connects the audience through relatable experiences. When telling stories, the power lies in what youre conveying and teaching. If theres no conflict in your story, its likely not a story.

. Every good story has a closing, but it doesnt always have to be a good one. Your storys resolution should wrap up the story, provide context around the characters and conflict(s), and leave your audience with a call-to-action.

Now that you know what your story should contain, lets talk about how to craft your story.

Weve confirmed storytelling is an art. Like art, storytelling requires creativity, vision, and skill. It also requires practice. Enter: The storytelling process.

Painters, sculptors, sketch artists, and potters all follow their own creative process when producing their art. It helps them know where to start, how to develop their vision, and how to perfect their practice over time. The same goes for storytelling especially forbusinesseswriting stories.

Why is this process important? Because, as an organization or brand, you likely have a ton of facts, figures, and messages to get across in one succinct story. How do you know where to begin? Well, start with the first step. Youll know where to go (and how to get there) after that.

Who wants to hear your story? Who will benefit and respond the strongest? In order to create a compelling story, you need to understand your readers and who will respond and take action.

Before you put a pen to paper (or cursor to word processor), do some research on yourtarget marketand define yourbuyer persona(s). This process will get you acquainted with who might be reading, viewing, or listening to your story. It will also provide crucial direction for the next few steps as you build out the foundation of your story.

Whether your story is one page or twenty, ten minutes or sixty, it should have a core message. Like the foundation of a home, it must be established before moving forward.

Is your story selling a product or raising funds? Explaining a service or advocating for an issue? What is the point of your story? To help define this, try to summarize your story in six to ten words. If you cant do that, you dont have a core message.

Not all stories are created equal. To determine what kind of story youre telling, figure out how you want your audience to feel or react as they read.

This will help you determine how youre going to weave your story and what objective youre pursuing. If your objective is to

, your story should describe a how a successful action was completed in the past and explain how readers might be able to implement the same kind of change. Avoid excessive, exaggerated detail or changes in subject so your audience can focus on the action or change that your story encourages.

, tell a story that features genuine, humanizing struggles, failures, and wins. Todays consumer appreciates and connects to brands that market with authenticity and storytelling is no exception.

, tell a story that taps into familiar emotions, characters, and situations so that readers can understand how the story applies to their own life. This is especially important when discussing values that some people might not agree with or understand.

, tell a story that moves readers to discuss and share your story with others. Use a situation or experience that others can relate to and say, Me, too! Keep situations and characters neutral to attract the widest variety of readers.

, tell a story that features a trial-and-error experience, so that readers can learn about a problem and how a solution was discovered and applied. Discuss other alternative solutions, too.

Your objective and call-to-action (CTA) are similar, but your CTA will establish the action youd like your audience to take after reading.

Whatexactlydo you want your readers to do after reading? Do you want them to donate money, subscribe to a newsletter, take a course, or buy a product? Outline this alongside your objective to make sure they line up.

For example, if your objective is to foster community or collaboration, your CTA might be to Tap the share button below.

Stories can take many shapes and forms. Some stories are read, some are watched, and others are listened to. Your chosen story medium depends on your type of story as well as resources, like time and money.

Here are the different ways you can tell your story.

is told through articles, blog posts, or books. These are mostly text and may include some images. Written stories are by far the most affordable, attainable method of storytelling as it just requires a free word processor likeGoogle Docs or a pen and paper.

is told in person, like a presentation, pitch, or panel. TED talks are considered spoken stories. Because of their live, unedited nature, spoken stories typically require more practice and skill to convey messages and elicit emotions in others.

is spoken aloud but recorded thats what sets it apart from the spoken story. Audio stories are usually in podcast form, and with todays technology,creating an audio storyis more affordable than ever. (For a great story-driven podcast, check outThe Growth Show!)

is told through a variety of media, such as video, animation,interactive stories, and even games. This option is by far the most effective for emotionally resonant stories as well as active, visual stories which is why its also the most expensive. But dont fret: video quality doesnt matter as much as conveying a strong message.

Nowits time to put pen to paper and start crafting your story.

With your core message, audience objective, and call-to-action already established, this step is simply about adding detail and creative flair to your story. Read more aboutour storytelling formulato help you with this step.

Dont forget to share and promote your story! Like with any piece of content, creating it is only half the battle sharing it is the other.

Depending on your chosen medium, you should definitely share your story on social media and email. In addition, written stories can be promoted on your blog,Medium, or through guest posting on other publications. Digital stories can be shared on YouTube and Vimeo. While spoken stories are best conveyed in person, consider recording a live performance to share later.

The more places you share your story, the more engagement you can expect from your audience.

Storytelling is a trial-and-error process, and no one tells a story perfectly on the first try. Thats why weve collected these resources to help you fine-tune your storytelling skills and learn more about the different ways a story can be told.

Storytelling is an art. Its also a process worth mastering for both your business and your customers. Stories bring people together and inspire action and response. Also, todays consumer doesnt decide to buy based on what youre selling, but rather why youre selling it.

Storytelling helps you communicate that why in a creative, engaging way. Plus, isnt storytelling more fun?

Originally published Nov 11, 2020 8:45:00 AM, updated June 02 2021

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