Storytelling has earned its stripes in the complex, abstract and often misrepresented world of Content Strategy.
Rather than being simply deemed as a poetic take on content creation and communication, storytelling and its associated features have come to play a very functional and insightful role in content strategy.
Creative writing is often perceived as frivolous, imagination-driven entertainment as opposed to the highly structured, highly focused writing it is. Plot, pace and characterisation are meticulously detailed tools, and are features just as relevant to the world of content strategy as say playwriting.
Long live the brand story.
Many of the principles of creative writing can be adapted and utilised to plan, create and communicate meaning via content. User experience and the emotional design are moving up the ranks when it comes to website planning, so it only makes sense to consider the role of content in this.
Creative writing gifts the world of content strategy a host of tools and frameworks that can enhance and develop new practices and forms of content for use across the board.
Social media, marketing campaigns and website content can benefit in the long-term from a content strategy that is rooted in meaning, relevant to audiences and that invests in the importance of brand story and user interaction.
Plot – Mapping Meaning.
You don’t have to have a brand story full of drama, disruption and against all odds success.
The word ‘plot’ is in itself associated with dramatic connotations, but I see plot as examining what I want to say and when to say it.
Your objectives – Do you want to inspire, educate, demand?
Your vehicles for meaning – This could be language, images or even CEO lifestories.
Timing – When to make what info available at what points. How do you want to map out the customer journey, do you want them to interact with you on Twitter or respond to a CTA?
Gaps are your friends, if you see one, so will your audience. A good ‘plotting’ can help you test the stealth of your current strategy and perhaps influence necessary change.
This storytelling principle can help you develop a narrative with the audience at its centre, as opposed to giving them the afterthought treatment.
A good narrative typically revolves around a customer problem followed by presentation of different solutions, topped off with the benefits of its eventual resolution.
Quest Narratives are an engaging yet highly functional way of tracking multiple boxes at once.
Pace – Slowly slowly, Catchy customers.
Pace and timing really do go hand in hand. Presenting milestones for meaning and directing the audience to such is a fine art, dependant on well constructed content and experiences.
The romance of engagement takes the typical structure of boy/girl meets content, boy/girl follow and fall in love with content. And the same rules of attraction and trust apply.
It’s a delicate balance; too keen, slow or boring and you lose that connection that moves customers from A to B to C.
Much the same as ‘Plotting’, using content to sculpt a pace and pattern of subtle timings can be the difference between success and failure. A great way to align content with this pace and timing is to create an Experience Map.
A combination of an UX strategy and editorial calendar, this Experience Map outlines the roles that content plays in these experiences, setting mini-goals in the journeys laid at the feet of the user.
Back and forth dialogues – Creating content that sparks questions, guides curiosity and offers reassurance.
Develop relationships via digital and real world connections.
Predict and build opportunities for interactions and their responses – Script content that meets business and customer aims.
Character – Create a brand hallmark.
The best brand stories are the ones that integrate history, values and audience.
Characters are the perfect way of embodying all of the above without making business objectives too obvious or impersonal.
These characters transcend medium and have the ability to become bigger than the brand itself.
Look at Old Spice. I bet even as you read this you have ‘that’ advert in your head.
Yep, the Old Spice ‘The man your man could smell like’ advert showcased their new poster boy. Targeting women, this new brand character went viral and become as synonymous with the brand as its classic white bottle is.
Sharability and social media friendliness were non-existent factors 20 years ago, but now these probably top the list. Creating a character that targets your market, holds attention and encompasses brand values is worth its weight in gold.
Character doesn’t have to be a person or solo representative. Your company can become a character in itself. Some brands instill their content with such honesty and sincerity that their brand or product is sold merely on its history.
Jack Daniels and denim masters Hiut Denim, are such brands that characterise their origins and the people that represent their unique ethos.
Condense your ethos into a handful of headlines, or brand statements – Do you have a USP or definitive identity?
Gauge your tone – How should you speak, what language will you use?
Are there people, symbols or points of origin that represent the above?
Make Stories last.
Developing a long-term story arc that includes plot, pace and characterisation is a commitment.
The best brand stories are the result of consistency, original delivery and honesty. As like all good stories, the most memorable one are the ones we adopt and share.
Of course, sharing it what determines the future of many a brand.
Brand stories have little resemblance to their traditional siblings. The need to be concentrated, flexible and less open to varied interpretation. Although still very much the emotional heart of a brand, its story needs to perform and stand the test of not only time, but medium too.
This is where the tricks and tools of the creative writing trade preserve the human engagement of a story while meeting the practical, business-driven aims of a company.
This is a guest post by Nic Evans. Nic is a freelance copywriter based in Glasgow; she believes that no matter what the medium, brief or platform, using the perfect words in the best possible way can create a story, a natural communication between people, their ideas and the rest of the world. You can learn more about Nic over on her [beautiful] website, and you can also follow her on Twitter.