When people think of content strategy they often think of it as a creative process. In reality, creating content should be both creative - telling a story - and data-driven.
As human beings we are often drawn to stories, narratives give us something to relate to and a character to resonate with. Including data within these stories adds extra value to your audience and helps to illustrate the point you are trying to make, giving proof to your claims.
Why You Need Storytelling In Your Marketing Strategy
You probably keep hearing “Content is King” and think if you just churn out content regularly, that will be enough to attract visitors to your site and generate leads.
The saying should really be “High-Quality Content is King,” one piece of powerful content can have ten times the effect of 100 pieces of poor content that does not provide value to your audience.
With the sheer volume of content created every day, it is becoming more and more difficult to create lasting and meaningful connections with your audience.
Using a narrative within your content will give your audience more reason to remember it, and can set it apart from your competitors content.
“If you really want to attract people, you need to tell a genuine and interesting story. Stories are a great medium to express your views, impress people and make a human connection with them.” – Jeff Bullas
Looking for more great advice on your content strategy? Check out these 242 Content Marketers You Need To Follow.
How to Use Storytelling In Your Marketing Strategy
These are the 4 most important steps to using storytelling in your brand:
1. Make Your Audience The Hero
One of the most important rules of storytelling in your content strategy is to remember you are not the hero - your audience is. Focusing your story on yourself will cause your audience to lose interest, no one likes listening to somebody who is always “me, me, me.”
2. Use a Framework
Storytelling doesn't always come naturally to everyone an even if it does, the best way to ensure that your story has the effect you want is to use a framework. You want your story to connect with your audience so you need to put a strategy in place.
There are a load of great frameworks already out there that you can use, it’s all about finding one that works well for your business.
The Cross Roads framework is one that works really well, and the Story Engine has even put together an easy to ready infographic to show how you can incorporate it into your content marketing strategy.
3. Incorporate Visuals
Adding visuals to your storytelling will help your message come across clearly and help your audience remember it.
90% of all the information transmitted to the brain is visual, so images are an incredibly powerful tool for storytelling in content, and when used correctly can have a huge impact on your audience
Visuals can be used to break up large blocks of text, adding structure to your content and keeping your reader engaged. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and if used well, your images can help communicate ideas and feelings words on a page are not able to.
4. Stay consistent
When you tell your story it should be consistent with your brand and match your tone of voice and style. You can also tell a story over multiple pieces of content, keeping the message the same and giving readers a reason to come back and consume more of your content so they can finish the story.
Creating Data-Driven Content
Data-driven content can be some of the most useful content you ever create.
Adding stats and figures into your content can convince your audience of your point and push them through your sales funnel in a way thin and unplanned content won't.
You are probably thinking “that's all well and good, but my business doesn't have the budget to conduct our own research.”
Not to worry, most businesses can't afford to, the time and resources it takes to conduct research can be out of the realm of possibility for a lot of companies, especially if you are not sure that it is going to deliver the data that you want.
So, what can you do instead? You can leverage third-party data.
Businesses, Universities, and all kinds of organizations conduct surveys, experiments and other data-driven research that you can use to create content around.
The key to using data that is not original is to display it in a new and innovative way.
Look through all the data and pick a key area that has not been covered and will support your content in a positive way.
Often, you will only need one or two stats from a whole report and you can just focus on these areas in-depth to create an original piece of content that will hook your audience.
Finding Data You Can Use For Your Hook
Leveraging data is great for creating content with limited resources, but where can you look for this data?
If your business can afford to conduct its own research, this data can prove invaluable to your content marketing strategy. It’s data no one else has so you won't have competitors presenting the same statistics.
If you can’t afford to conduct your own research, you will still be able to get your own private data using your businesses CRM.
Government databases hold a wealth of data just waiting there for you to come and find it.
This data is not always readily accessible but due to the Freedom of Information Act you can request public data and the government is required to give it to you.
Google Data Search is a beta tool currently being tested by Google that should be in every content marketer's toolbox.
It is a search engine that was released last September for the purpose of helping data journalists and scientific researchers locate online data that is freely available for use.
It is easy to use and has access to a tonne of great papers on a range of topics - if you're looking for data to support your content this is where we recommend you start.
Telling The Story With Data
A lot of key elements come together in harmony to create an effective content marketing strategy.
Understanding them all, how they can help you make impactful content and how you can incorporate them into your content strategy will help ensure all your content is performing as well as it possibly can.
Stories and data can seem like they are at opposite ends of the spectrum but great content will incorporate them both, using creative storytelling to capture the reader's imagination and connect with them emotionally and using data to appeal to their logical side and convince them of your point.