There was a time when marketing and communications or public relations, were treated as two different departments, siloed off from each other with their own separate goals and objectives. But now, these worlds are more nebulous than ever, and the commonality that blurs those once clear lines is storytelling.
Leveraging your company’s stories is advantageous for several reasons. As a content marketer, it's important to create the narrative you want your prospects and customers to consume. When deploying traditional public relations tactics, like media relations, you’re helping to shape the public’s perception of your brand through placed, or pitched, stories – instead of letting people make assumptions, or worse, letting people live their lives without knowing who you are because you kept your stories all to yourself.
If you have nothing to say, no stories to tell, how do you expect to sell your products, generate new business or spread awareness?
One of the hardest parts of storytelling is finding and tracking down the stories themselves. For some companies, there is a never-ending supply of good stories (higher education institutions create thousands of new stories every year), but for others, you may have to do some digging.
Start by finding the customers you have who will become champions of your storytelling efforts. Who is passionate about what they do and who they serve? From there, sit down and have conversations with them and start culling those interesting plotlines.
As you sit down to craft the narrative, take the time to think about your audience, their pain points and what message or feeling you’re attempting to evoke. Develop your content in a way that lets your audience experience the emotion or realize the key takeaway for themselves – don’t tell them how you want them to feel.
For one of our B2B clients at The Hodges Partnership, we’ve identified several subject matter experts (SMEs) who effectively talk through customer pain points and how to alleviate them. Using their expertise, we're able to create foundational components of their content marketing strategy to support lead generation, as well as the nurturing of new contacts through their inbound funnel.
Then, as we Hubspot fans like to say, it's time to slice the turkey. Take one story and divvy it up into various formats: a video, a blog post, a press release or case study. If applicable, you can even wrap it up into a piece of gated content.
Once you’ve gathered all the content components (text, images, video, sound), then you’ll need to package everything together – and that’s where good design comes into play.
On your blog or landing page, the layout of the page can actually help your business reach its goals. Through the strategic placement of Calls-to-Action and forms, the overall flow of content, and the integration of the different formats we listed above can assist with attracting and converting new or returning website visitors into leads. Even the styling of headlines can make a difference with respect to how a reader (or viewer) decides to consume the information and take the action you want them to take.
With that same Hodges B2B client, layout and content decisions are made based on the historical data we have on hand – not on assumptions we have about our content and our audience. For example, we’ve found that our view-to-click rates on CTA buttons are higher for text buttons vs. images.
Once you've done the work to develop the content, now it's time to promote it. Think of your story as the center of a wheel with many spokes, an analogy we use a lot. All the spokes are your promotional channels. Organic social media posts, social advertising, media relations, search engine marketing, email newsletters, co-marketing with partners – whatever channels best meet your business goals, get those stories out there through multiple platforms to ensure an appropriate level of saturation.
When our client launches a new piece of content, there are often opportunities to pitch the subject of the content to trade and/or consumer media. There are also opportunities to leverage SMEs through bylined or sponsored content on media properties. We’ve seen contacts coming through as referrals by means of earned or placed media that tend to be more qualified and engaged visitors compared to contacts from other traffic sources.
Storytelling can be one of those buzzwords that is thrown around with little to no meaning behind it. As communicators and marketers, we’re responsible for translating our clients’ goals and objectives into digestible pieces for consumers. By crafting and packaging a good story, through the right promotional channels, your quality content can make its way to the top of the proverbial stack and into the feeds of your audience.
An organizational junkie, Casey Prentice is an Account Manager at The Hodges Partnership who enjoys writing, editing and content strategy. Returning to Hodges after most recently working as a Communications Manager at VCUarts, Casey's work has helped clients like Chesapeake Bank, SleepBetter and VCCS. She graduated from East Carolina University (go Pirates!) with her undergraduate degree in communications, concentrating in public relations.
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