Typically a marketing strategy exists to drive awareness, engagement, and results for your business or organization. Often, storytelling is identified as a way to reach your marketing goals. But what does “storytelling” refer to in the marketing context?
Well-told stories can clarify complex ideas and concepts and provide people with information that helps them make their decisions. Moreover, these stories can create emotional responses, inspiring readers by speaking to their needs and aspirations, as well as with their backgrounds and personal experiences.
The best stories do more than just entertain; they invite the listener to see things from a different perspective and take action. This goes not only for literature, movies and journalism, but also for blog posts, social media, and newsletters.
Through good storytelling, you can:
- Improve brand awareness. Creating high-quality content is a way to distinguish your brand from the competition and get well-known.
- Build trust with the audience. When your content is relevant, you build authority. This increases audience loyalty and your chances of conversions.
- Boost your search rankings. Well-written content helps your SEO, which means that more people will find you on search engines.
- Increase engagement. The higher your content quality, the more likely people will share it and get in touch. This gives you more exposure and conversions.
This article will explore six copywriting tips to help you craft better stories and discuss how they can lead to better marketing results.
6 Tips to Improve Your Storytelling (and a Bonus)
1) Keep It Simple
One of the most important things to remember when writing for the web is to keep it simple. In fact, you get 36% higher response rate to copy that is understandable by third-graders. Essentially, keeping it simple means using plain language—writing and speaking in a way that reduces complexity, avoids jargon, and uses words the broader audience would know.
This doesn't mean you should write in a simplistic or juvenile way. All you need to do is to be clear, meaning:
- Avoid complex language and jargon
- Use the active voice
- Make your copy easy to scan
- Make it conversational (address the reader, ask questions)
- Encourage feedback to boost engagement
For example, if you are a non-profit organization targeting donors, you wouldn’t want to be vague with your requests by saying, “Your donation will be placed in a distribution fund allocated to cause areas based on need.” This is too technical, impersonal, and vague. Instead, you could say, "Your donation will help us provide food and shelter for homeless families in our community." This is a clear, concise message that’s easy to understand.
2) Be Relevant and Timely
Great storytelling also means keeping your content topical and relevant to what's happening in the world. It means addressing the needs of your target market in a timely way. But presenting the right information to the right people at the right time takes some planning.
For example, you can map out your main topics and relevant dates using a shared content calendar. This helps you organize your strategy with the entire marketing team and plan for timely publications around important dates and events.
A content calendar will help you avoid last-minute scrambling to develop ideas. They also ensure that your content is well-rounded and covers various topics and themes throughout the year.
Let’s say that you’re a university which publishes blog posts leading up to application deadlines. By understanding your audiences, you can anticipate their needs and prepare timely posts about the admissions process, campus life, and student finance well in advance of the application deadline.
3) Format Your Text for a Better Experience
One of the biggest challenges of writing for the web is capturing —and keeping—people’s attention. In fact, about 8 out of 10 people only read the headlines of articles and skip the body copy.
As valuable as your content might be, you want to avoid publishing big chunks of text since it hampers the reading experience. Give your text some breathing room, breaking it up with headings and subheadings and using resources such as bullet points.
When you write headings, try to make them informational, giving the reader an outline of the content. For example, an article about heart health could include the following headings: "Criteria for heart health", "Benefits of a healthy heart", and "How to improve heart health."
Also, try emphasizing important words or phrases, using pre-selected formats available in the authoring interface. This will make your content clearer, better-looking, and more scannable to your readers.
4) Include Facts and Figures
Another challenge in storytelling is convincing your audience. As authoritative as your content might be, supporting it with metrics and stats is a great way to boost your credibility.
If you’re running a donation campaign for your non-profit organization, using a figure like "95% of donations go directly to our programs" would be much more appealing to your potential donors than simply saying "Your donation will make a difference."
One crucial aspect of using facts and figures is ensuring they come from reputable sources and are up-to-date. Nothing will damage your credibility more than using outdated or inaccurate information.
Apart from stats, you can include testimonials and quotes to further support your story. Your clients or users for example, can provide first-hand accounts of how your organization has helped them. These references can be a great way to convince users to take action.
5) Provide Real-World Examples
In storytelling, it's important to be as relatable as possible. This can mean using practical, real-world examples to illustrate your point.
For example, if you're promoting a PTSD treatment program at your hospital, you might want to include a first-hand account of a patient who benefited from the program. Or, on your university’s website, you can tell the story of an international student and their journey to both a new country and a new school. Giving concrete examples paints a picture for readers. It helps people connect with your organization and see themselves in the experience of your users or clients.
6) Leave the Audience with a Call to Action
When you wrap up your story, make sure to include a strong call to action (CTA).
A CTA is a brief text that encourages the reader to take action. This might be \signing up for a mailing list, making a purchase, or simply taking the next step in the user journey.
If you’re a non-profit and you want to attract donors, you can include your CTA in a button or a highlighted piece of text to entice readers to get in touch with you. Specifically, you might want to focus on the following:
- Telling a personal story that relates to your cause
- Asking for donations in a specific, actionable way
- Making it easy for potential donors to get in touch with you
- Thanking your readers for their time
By following these tips, you can improve your website’s storytelling and make it more effective in driving donations.
Quick tip: be intentional with the words you use in your CTA. Studies have seen that even the slightest changes in CTAs can shift conversion from 60% to up to 94%. For example, using the word “because” can help to increase readers’ curiosity and motivate them to click. Using the word “you” can also be effective in making potential donors feel as though you’re speaking directly to them. Play around with different language and see what works best for your target audience.
Bonus: Use Images and Videos
Images and videos are a great way to complement the story you’re telling. They can capture the user's attention, make your ideas clearer, and drive engagement. Research has shown that people spend 88% more time browsing websites that have video than those that don’t. Moreover, using images and embedding videos helps break up your blocks of text and make for more attractive content.
There are some things to consider before you start adding images and videos to your content, though. The most important is making sure the media you use is absolutely relevant to your content and your audience. Relevance can be measured in many ways. It might come as a graph that helps readers visualize stats or an animation that shows the steps in an application process.
As part of a recent project for York University’s Future Students website, we suggested the use of imagery that reflects the diverse community that the university attracts. These images help users relate to the content, see themselves in the community, and feel more comfortable about applying.
Storytelling Is About Connecting
When you use storytelling on your website, you can connect with your audience in a more meaningful way, which can ultimately lead to improved sales.
Be clear about what you're communicating and who you're speaking to. Following these tips for web writing can help you improve your business, regardless of your industry.