Content marketing is no longer a foreign term, but many marketers still struggle with how to market content successfully. Content expert Brian Clark recommends putting yourself in a journalist’s shoes. It’s up to you to create a compelling story that people want to read. As PR professionals, we do this on a daily basis by finding interesting angles to news that will draw people to it.
First, think like a media producer. Many popular stories revolve around the dramatic structure developed by Gustav Freytag: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Stories are written like this for a reason: they draw readers in and keep them fascinated until the last page. This strategy is something content marketers can follow, too.
Who is your target audience? What will these readers relate to? Take that information and develop a character – maybe it’s your prospective buyer – and then develop the essentials for a plot line. Then, take your readers through the character’s journey. Keep in mind what your ultimate goal is. If you want your reader to buy your product by the end of a blog post, then your story structure should revolve around the actions that would motivate a prospect to buy. How will you persuade your reader in a fascinating manner?
To keep your audience interested and coming back for more of your content, vary the way in which you tell stories. Content marketers have so many options at their fingertips, so use them. You can write a blog or article, design an infographic, film a video or create a presentation. You can carry the storytelling elements through whichever method you choose (hopefully all the above). One final piece of advice: don’t stop reading. Immersing yourself in work by master storytellers will help you instill similar practices in your own content.
Creating a compelling story about your company resonates much better with prospects than spewing corporate facts. As we all know, content is king, and content marketing is a successful lead generation tactic, as well as a way to position brands as industry thought leaders. But have you thought about why? Consider this example from marketer Arnie Kuenn. At an event, someone handed him a business card that read on the back:
"I had my tires slashed by the KGB; locked myself, while naked, in a hotel fire escape in Las Vegas; worked as a pastry chef at a top London restaurant; and was a deep-sea diver. Which one isn't true?"
Wouldn't this stand out to you among a pile of business cards? The same can be said for content marketing. Your audience will be much more engaged if it can relate to your story. Ultimately, this can separate you from competitors. There have been a slew of successful storytelling companies. Think of the deeply engrained stories brands such as Apple and Levi’s have implanted in consumers’ minds. Never mind the technical differences between a Mac or a PC, or the quality differences between Levi’s and other jeans; consumers are immersed in the cultures of these brands.
No matter your company -- whether it is a B2C or B2B, whether you sell technology or household products -- incorporating a story into your marketing and PR efforts will benefit you in numerous ways. There are many options to easily incorporate content, such as through a company blog or videos.
Beyond what PR professionals can do to spin a story, remember that in our digitally connected world, even consumers can create brand stories. Consumers are constantly creating their own stories about brands on social media, and those brands are missing a huge opportunity for engagement if they don’t join the conversation. Give your prospects a reason to remember your brand. Tell them a good story.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston recently. As I strolled past my favorite Mark Bradford piece (“Black Venus”) a couple of times, I realized that a great work of art and a good PR story share similar qualities in terms of intriguing the audience and keeping people captivated enough to make them come back for more.
Bradford’s artwork is one-of-a-kind. He transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-sized, collage-like installations that speak to minority networks, underground economies and migrant communities within urban populations. They speak to civil rights history, racial issues and diversity – frequently resembling what looks like a city map. At first glance, the pieces are colorful, made of various materials and are aesthetically pleasing. After spending a few minutes, or perhaps even on second or third glance, viewers realize Bradford’s work is made of various and varying materials, has multiple layers and suggests connotations much deeper than what first meets the eye.
Many of us recognize and respond more to complex, contemporary creations over simple, one-dimensional watercolors of fruit, for example. We are drawn to art that tells a tale – art that is different, complex, compelling and rich. Successful PR storytelling provides a similar experience.
As PR professionals, we love a good challenge. We help spread the word about news that industry influencers and reporters want to know. But the real fun for us is when we can create a story that impacts reporters, publications and readers with varying levels and layers of meaning. Tying company news to industry trends creates a story that sticks with an audience. It makes readers stroll through the proverbial PR gallery and come back to a work of PR art for a second and third glance.
When a story breaks, the best newspapers in the country work to find the most effective ways to tell it. After the shootings in Arizona, those news outlets scrambled to determine the facts, of course, but they also sought out other angles, many of them focused on the personal elements of the crime.
If you read any news about the tragedy in Arizona, you might have read about the work of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the shooter’s political leanings, how his parents are coping, the plans of a Kansas church to picket at victims’ funerals, the intention of biker gangs to stop the protestors, the elderly couple who died trying to protect each other, and many other stories that grab readers not only because the subject matter is so horrifying, but because the angles are so personal.
After I read as many of these articles as I could stomach, I moved to Twitter. There were plenty of folks posting links to stories I had already seen, but I wasn’t looking for information at that point; I was looking for sentiment. I found plenty of it. Strangers shared their feelings of doubt, sadness, anger, and in some cases, hate for all the haters out there.
The facts in the Arizona story are important. But the personal angles are often what resonate most strongly - they always do. There are lots of ways to tell an important story, and lots of platforms from which to tell it. When we use all of these venues, we gain the ability to educate and communicate, as well as the chance to connect with others around the world. When the news is important, personal and accessible, our collective appetite for it is all but insatiable.