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3 key steps to telling your brand story: A Drum webinar recap

by Khoros staff | Jan 17, 2017

This post was originally created by Spredfast before Spredfast and Lithium merged and became Khoros.

Audiences on social media have nearly unlimited choices, and attention spans are shorter than ever: the average human attention span is now just 8.25 seconds. So what makes people engage with content? What draws an audience in? These questions, and more, were addressed by our expert panel during a webinar titled Experiments in Storytelling that we sponsored along with global media platform The Drum on January 16. The answers our seasoned panelists offered were all about the power of stories.

Our own Eb Adeyeri, EMEA market director, joined Jennifer Brett, AMER Insight Manager at LinkedIn, Leah Davis, Head of Marketing for Team GB, and James Whatley, Planning Partner in Innovation at Ogilvy & Mather. During the webinar (which is worth listening to in its entirety—the panel offered pearl after pearl of wisdom), panelists kept coming back to the idea of change within storytelling. It was indeed a question about change that spurred the webinar’s formation: what’s the point of telling a story if nothing changes? Panelists also teased out how to define a story. A story, each argued, is a specific thing: it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s conflict, or tension, and there’s relief–or resolution–of that conflict. If nothing changes in your content, and if there’s no tension, you haven’t found the story. And, if you aren’t really telling a story, you won’t be able to connect with your audience or help them form deep and lasting connections to your brand. You won’t, quite simply, be able to motivate them into action (i.e., purchase).

If telling a story was easy, everyone would do it, wrote webinar organizer Graham Forsyth, while previewing Monday’s webinar. Panelists agreed: telling a story isn’t simple, and often brands get it wrong. However, there are crucial storytelling elements brands can tease out to improve their content and create real resonance with their audience.

If telling a story was easy, everyone would do it.

1) Find the villain

During the webinar, Eb Adeyeri argued that, “all good stories have an element of villainy that must be overcome.” Most brands, he says, have a villain somewhere within, but it’s a difficult element to address. The real story behind engaging social content is finding that point of tension and offering it to your audience as a way to connect with the content.

2) Maintain consistent themes that evolve over time and add new meaning

Adeyeri illustrated how some brands are able to hang on to what they stand for while applying it across different themes and how they are therefore able to achieve brand staying power. For instance, he explained, Lego is still resonating with kids today, as it has for generations. Lego has been able to accomplish such a feat by sticking to the brand identity at their core while at the same time adding new meaning for a new customer base: today’s generation of young people. In addition to themes, the medium delivering the message needs consideration: Adeyeri advised brands to first ensure the story their content is telling is the one their audience wants to hear, and then think about technology (across social platforms) in the context of that story. Brands should ask themselves, how will the story work across all platforms and within each company department?

3) Find the story your data actually supports

LinkedIn’s Jennifer Brett implored brands to make good and proper use of data in storytelling. Audiences, Brett argued, can smell insincerity (and, gasp, subterfuge) a mile away, so rather than fudge your numbers to fit your pre-ordained narrative, begin with the data and involve analysts, marketers, and the creative department in the creation of a story that’s true to the data. Data can shine light on new insights and opportunities and identify trends, connections, and causes that we wouldn’t otherwise recognize, said Brett. But, Brett cautions, don’t only present data: good stories appeal to audiences on emotional and intellectual levels—they are, in a word, human. To humanize your story, explained Brett, connect your data findings to something emotional. For instance, a good way for LinkedIn to connect with small business owners would be to talk about how the platform can increase leads, but it would be far better to connect emotionally by explaining how LinkedIn can make their business stronger, how it can ensure the business endures.

Finally, we’ll leave you with a word of caution: brands, said Leah Davis, often don’t really understand what their audience wants and therefore can’t deliver truly engaging content. “If you don’t know what your fans want,” said Davis, “just ask.” That’s the beauty of social, said Brett: you can engage and interact with your audience and customers, so incorporate that two-way communication into the stories your brand tells.

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