3 storytelling elements behind great brand content
If you’ve ever struggled to find ideas for blog posts, come up empty when thinking up contributed articles, or felt like something was missing from your press release, you’re not alone.
Even if you have an abundance of ideas and your messaging is clear as day, you might run into a brick wall trying to turn them into great content.
Fortunately, we can study existing stories to generate fresh ideas or give our content an edge. If you’re stuck, if your content’s stale, if you want to better engage your readers, give these three story elements a try:
Nearly every story is propelled by conflict. The Rebel Alliance vs. the Galactic Empire in “Star Wars.” Simba vs. Scar in “The Lion King.” Jerry, Elaine, and George vs. the Chinese restaurant in “Seinfeld.”
And while these particular examples might not apply to a consumer or enterprise tech company, conflict comes in many forms. Consider these conflicts that could easily work their way into your content:
- Customer vs. an industry challenge: Show what you or your customers were up against and how you solved a problem: A parent introduces their child to technology without upping screen time. A customer successfully defuses a ransomware attack. An enterprise embraces digital transformation.
- Product/service vs. a problem: Show the way things were and the way they are now: A new material opens up new design possibilities for smartphones and other gadgets. A friendly robot jumpstarts STEM education for kids as young as three.
- Data vs. conventional wisdom: Dig through your internal data or conduct a survey to measure shifts in trends: What devices do your employees really want? What cyberthreat do businesses fear most?
— KUBO (@KUBO_Robot) February 23, 2017
Often the best way to spot a worthy conflict is to simply pay attention to what your customers are asking – those questions touch on the challenges they’re facing or the misconceptions they might hold. If you can present ways to address those challenges or fill them in on a complex or confusing topic, that content is gold.
There are two aspects of context. The first is the information a reader needs to know to fully understand what you’re communicating. For example, describing the state of the kid tech market would set the stage to explain what’s missing or needed.
The second aspect of context is explaining why something matters. This is one of the more common missing elements in press releases, blog posts, and a lot of other content. Let’s look at how the media put Snap Inc.’s IPO in context by looking at some of the questions they were asking:
- Is Snap the next Facebook — or Twitter?
- Does the IPO prove there’s a tech bubble?
- How does Snap’s IPO compare to other high-profile tech debuts?
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) March 2, 2017
By looking at comparable companies, the industry at large, and other IPOs, media give their readers different filters for understanding the story. It all begins with a simple question: So what?
The old “man bites dog” story. One that runs against conventional wisdom, roots out misconceptions, and offers a surprising but rational conclusion. To get this right, you have to know your audience and what they think and believe.
If you don’t read the Quartz Daily Brief every morning, nearly every edition contains “Surprising Discoveries,” a section chock full of stories that run against what we think we know. Consider these recent headlines:
- Sweden’s government would like to collect fewer taxes
- Running could actually be good for your knees
- Mozart outsold Drake and Beyoncé in 2016
Mozart, the best new artist of 1782, outsold Drake and Beyoncé this year https://t.co/PFmr1XFKEX
— Quartz (@qz) December 13, 2016
You probably see the risk here. It’s easy to veer too far in the direction of clickbait (that last one, for example, is technically true, but for a very technical reason). Avoid that at all costs, but for every story you have and every story you plan to tell, think about what your readers already know or believe about the topic and how new data, research, events, or trends turn that on its head.
Content fueled by storytelling
If your content falls flat or never lifts off the ground, some storytelling fundamentals could give it the lift it needs. As you’re drafting your next press release, blog post, or email, try using one or all of these elements to raise the level of your writing and better engage your audience.
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