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Search algorithms change. Social networks evolve and sometimes fizzle away. One thing that isn’t going anywhere is the consumer’s need for relevant, educational, compelling and helpful information. The brands that feed this need — in the most relevant manner — will have the most customers, advocates and will make the most money!
Helpful information is different – for the most part – from traditional marketing messages. Helpful information is authentic and is told through the use of stories. I call it authentic storytelling.
So what’s authentic storytelling?
Authentic means that we share information that is true, honest and doesn’t try to manipulate.
Storytelling means that we share information in the form of a story. That usually involves including people who were impacted by whatever we are talking about. This is important for two reasons:
- Our brains react differently to stories than they react to somebody reading a PowerPoint to the audience word for word – for example. Compelling stories grab our attention and will be remembered.
- People relate to real people – people they trust and who the audience believes are authentic, truthful and believable.
As more and more consumers take to the web to gather information and educate themselves about a particular topic, it will become more important than ever for organizations, nonprofits and businesses to tell their stories. It’s easy enough to share your story on your website, a blog and social media. Doing it authentically takes commitment!
The key is to decide that your organization indeed wants to share authentic stories that are not just traditional marketing messages or advertisements moved to the digital world.
This takes a shift in mindset, workflow and metrics. Let’s take them one by one.
Why does an authentic story need to go through five layers of approvals? What is getting approved? Its truthfulness? Its authenticity? Its accuracy? Or that it’s on message?
These are important questions to consider as organizations decide to share authentic stories to connect with today’s and tomorrow’s consumers. We want stories to sing, be concise and clear. We also want them to have something to do with your business goals and help you reach them – but that still doesn’t mean authentic stories are advertisements. They are stories that connect your customers and potential customers to valuable information that is engaging and also helps them solve problems.
In the long run, they may do business with you and even recommend you to their friends – sometimes without even having bought from you. They know you are the expert on a particular story and that you seem honest and authentic. They like you and people do business with businesses that they like and trust.
In addition, authentic stories don’t start with the marketing department. Sure, the marketing, communications and related departments will be able to help, but don’t expect them to come up with all the authentic stories on their own. It takes just about everyone in an organization to keep an eye out for shareable moments.
Anything new in an organization impacts workflow – even when in theory it shouldn’t take all that long. Chances are that it will take time. Authentic storytelling is no different. Stories worth sharing have to be spotted. Content then needs to be created. This includes somebody documenting the story in a way that allows it to be shared. Typically, that means the story is written, recorded as a podcast or a video is produced. All these methods take varying degrees of time.
Somebody has to have or be given the time to produce these stories. Even the simple stories take some time.
What will success look like? It’s important to set success metrics early on. Ultimately, sharing authentic stories will help your overall business goals and lead to more revenue. This will take some time: You won’t see those results after weeks or even months. It will take at least a year to start showing some results toward the overarching business goals.
However, you can measure many digital metrics by how many people are viewing your content, the number of newsletter subscribers, the number of people sharing your content with their friends on social media and so on.
Building trust through authentic and relevant storytelling builds long-term relationships with the people who are most interested in our products. It’s a new(er) way of marketing and will just become more and more prevalent.
Christoph Trappe, of Marion, works with hospitals across the United States on content marketing and authentic storytelling strategies. He also blogs and offers tips at Authentic Storytelling.net. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ctrappe.
He will speak to a global audience about this topic at the Internet Marketing Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas in September. To get 20 percent off registration visit AuthenticStorytelling.net/Impact14.
This first ran in the Aug. 4, 2014, print edition of the Corridor Business Journal.