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Storytelling is a tool to take people beyond than what they see, to open their minds and engage with them on a deeper level. It’s more than stating the obvious, it’s about inviting your audience on a journey that promises to make their lives better.
It’s not just about writing out some fiction. Crafting a narrative allows you to be intentional and imaginative and relevant, captivating the attention of your target audience and standing out from the competition that just states the facts.
In this episode, we get more into the “how” of storytelling, exploring different methods of delivering a story and producing content that is interesting and relevant.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- If you don’t know the why of your brand yet, you’re heading in the wrong direction.
- People want to know what you’re all about, but you need to know first.
- Your brand exists to make your customer’s story better.
- Engage with people by being compelling, authentic, transparent, and having interesting copy that’s not just about you.
- Make the story interesting to the people you’re wanting to reach.
- Story is about taking something beyond face value.
- Write to a single person, not a group of people.
- If someone identifies with you first, then later on they can identify with others through you.
- You can get stories by reaching out to the audience you’re trying to attract.
- Have conversations with your audience and find out what words they’re using.
- You become successful by creating an environment where people will buy into your brand because it’s about them.
- 01:01 Cory: The first part of this series on storytelling is about the what and the why of a brand’s story. What is a brand’s story and how do you start to understand what that is? Part two is the how and we’ve decided this should be a rapid-fire value packed episode.
- 01:38 Kyle: Coming from the previous episode, there’s a lot to think through related to brand story. This is the launching point into how you can really get started.
How Do You Craft a Story?
- 02:08 Cory: Sarah asks, “How do you craft a genuine story when, for now, your brand is just about ‘making cool stuff’? How do you craft a genuine story when you don’t know the why of your brand yet?” Sarah is a hand lettering artist in France. She’s a dear friend of mine and she’ll also be speaking at seanwes conference, along with Kyle. I’ll be frank with you Sarah:
If you don’t know the why of your brand yet, you’re heading in the wrong direction.
- 02:49 You have to know your why. You have to know what you’re about. You have to know what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. Otherwise, how are people supposed to know what you’re about if you don’t even know? People want to know what you’re all about, but you need to know first so you can bring them into that larger story. Kyle, when we were talking about figuring out the why of your brand, you mentioned writing. Why would you mention writing, and how does writing help you figure out how to write your brand story or content?
- 03:40 Kyle: I was really struggling with a client project I’m working on the other day. This brand has some goals that aren’t completely concrete in concept and they could be presented in a very cliché way and I was trying to avoid that. I was trying to think through the heart of their message. What is it that they’re really trying to get across? I started writing about that in my daily writing and suddenly a lot of things came together. This whole new thing opened up and presented itself to me through me simply writing about it and expressing my feelings about what they had told me about their brand. A story came out of that and the same is true for your brand story.
- 04:44 This applies to everyone, but speaking directly to Sarah since she asked this question: if you’re unsure what your why is, ask yourself why you’re doing this. You’re a hand lettering artist, but why should anyone care about what you’re doing? What are you helping them with? How are you bettering their story? If you ask yourself those questions, then you’ll begin to craft a story. These aren’t questions that people will ask you often, so they’re probably something you haven’t answered if you haven’t written about them. I don’t walk up to Cory and say, “What’s your brand doing for me? Why do I care? How is it bettering my story?” Have that time with yourself, ask yourself those hard questions, and write about it. Even if it’s 20 pages long, just write it out and there’s clarity that comes from writing.
- 05:55 Cory: I want to make sure people understand that even nice-to-have brands are telling a story, because you’re communicating to your audience or customers that you get their story and you’re here to amplify their story. Your brand exists to make your customer’s story better. When you start asking those questions about your brand and what you’re doing, you start getting to the point where as you write, create content, and engage with your audience, it will start to flow because you know what you’re all about. You’re all about them and their particular niche, lifestyle, or story.
Story is about taking something beyond face value.
- 06:52 In the previous episode, we gave an example of a pretend company that makes speakers for offices. I did a search for “Artisan Speaker System” and there was actually a company who’s tagline was, “Saving the world from inferior audio.” That’s way more compelling than, “We make speakers for your office.” It’s taking that idea and going beyond face value. It’s not just about facts, it’s about something larger and compelling. You could say, “This is a rock,” which is cool, or you could say, “This is a rock from the top of a volcano that erupted in 1988 and spewed ash all the way around the world.”
- 07:36 All of a sudden, there’s this huge, literal story that captivates my imagination and brings me in more. As you start to understand that better, your begin to use words and phrases your audience is using. You go beyond face value to make people think—that’s what you want people to do! You don’t want people to be mindless drones looking through your stuff, you want to engage with people.
Engage with people by being compelling, authentic, transparent, and having interesting copy that’s not just about you.
Bring Your Audience Into Something Bigger
- 08:21 Kyle: A great example of this from my own experience is TOM’s shoes. I had heard the whole “buy a pair and they give a pair to someone in need of shoes” thing before. That’s a great story in itself, but I was also fortunate enough to be at a talk by the TOM’s founder at the University I was at. It was interesting to hear the story of how the company came together: it was him in his apartment wondering how he could do more with a product. He went on a trip and saw people without shoes and he thought, “How can I start making this happen?”
- 09:15 He started making these shoes out of his apartment and then he outsourced them to help people in need of money. He was helping people by having them make the shoes too by sourcing from the place he visited and was concerned about. It’s a long story but it he brought home the story of why this brand exists and why buying shoes from him makes a difference, and has purpose and meaning behind it. It’s more than liking how some shoes look, it’s really doing something. You may even be compelled to buy a pair of them even if they’re not your favorite shoes because he’s woven then really good story together and it appeals to what they want to happen in the world.
- 10:28 Cory: In that example, it started with: “Imagine buying a pair of shoes and giving a pair of shoes. You buy a pair of shoes from this company and they’ll give a pair of shoes to a person in need.” Whoa! That’s interesting and you want to be part of that. What’s the back story? Then, you can bring your “about us” story into the picture. A lot of people have ask, “Is story when you go to my website and you just go to the about page?” That’s part of it, but that’s not all of it. You have to bring people in and make it compelling, then you give the “about us”, tell how you got started, and your plan to accomplish this thing you’re about—“This is how we got to the point where you can buy shoes and give a pair.”
- 11:24 Kyle: The home page content is about the here and now. Why you would want this thing and how it appeals to you. It’s telling the story of the brand as it relates to you and how it can work into your story or your business. The about page is more of a history of you, what you’re doing, and why you started this thing. It’s a deeper dive into this brand beyond what you’ve seen on the home page with the here and now. With the about page, you’re looking at the past or the future. You can say, “We plan to go here and we’re trying to do this.” With the example of TOM’s shoes, they’re trying to give children in all these countries shoes and their ultimate goal is to give all children shoes. They might share that on the about page, but they won’t mention it on the home page because it’s more about why you’re there and why they want you to be interested in what they’re doing.
Literal vs. Figurative Story
- 12:50 Cory: Another question we get a lot is, “Is the story figurative or literal? Is it a fictional story, or did it actually happen?” Those questions are often based around the copy people are writing—newsletters, blog posts, etc. How do you construct that in a way that’s storytelling and not just fact-sharing? Honestly, there’s a really simple way to get started on this: make the story interesting to the people you’re wanting to reach. You can use fiction and a great example of this is a couple of guys in the Community, Felippe and Rafael. They’re based out of Brazil and they have a company called Mowe Studio. If you go to the projects section of their website, you’ll see an animation reel and their recent projects.
- 14:13 They did a great project recently for an app called Hip Pocket, which is an app for real estate agents so they can improve workflow and have more time for themselves. They crafted a literal story about a real estate agent named Joe and they have a fantastic case study about this project. I recommend checking it out. It’s a story about this real estate agent named Joe, who wants to do XYZ, and how this app helps him accomplish that. Real estate agents will look at this project and say, “I’m like Joe!” Joe isn’t a real person but they used fiction to tell a story that connects with the target audience. It’s brilliant. This is a great case study to see how to use fiction to connect the audience with an idea of the way their life could be. It’s saying, “Your life, your work, and your productivity can be better, like Joe, who’s just like you. We’ve got the solution to your problems.”
- 16:26 Kyle: Something I’ve heard a lot when looking more into brand story is if you want to start writing about our brand story, don’t convolute it by thinking of all these different angles or people. We’ve talked about getting to your target audience, but I’ve heard people talk about creating an “avatar” or an ideal person. Who’s your ideal person you want to speak to? This should be one single person who would be most interested in what you want to share. Figure out how to tell your story to them in a way that makes sense to them and motivates them to do whatever the action is you want them to do. Your story is there to bring people in. The page Cory referenced says, “Meet Joe, the modern real estate agent.” That line right there is outlining a single person’s story. Your story doesn’t have to say, “Let’s talk about joe,” but it’s to a single person.
Write to a single person, not a group of people.
- 07:53 When I go to a site, I don’t want to hear about a group of people. I want it to connect with me. Everyone wants it to connect with them as an individual and they’ll make a connection with a group later and recommend it.
- 18:19 Cory: You create eventual group identity by identifying with a single audience member first. If someone identifies with you first, then later on they can identify with others through you. Fiction is a tool that can be used as a story, but you can also use historical, real life events. I work for seanwes and Sean puts out a lot of content throughout the week—seanwes tv, podcasts, video content, workshops, etc. A great example of this is when he sent out a newsletter a couple of weeks ago for seanwes tv to share a digest of the content that came out that week and he started off by showing a black and white picture of a guy, and said, “Do you recognize this guy? No? I didn’t either.” Then, he goes into this brief story about what the guy did and then says to watch a video to see how he made $10,000 off a single idea.
- 19:50 It pulled me in because it was an actual story about this man who worked with Ford early on and helped them to develop a part of their company. He used a method to set a certain price for his knowledge and professionalism. That resonated with me and made me so interested to hear what happened with this guy. That was a fantastic use of history to bring me into the point he was trying to make. You can use fiction or nonfiction—just write out a scenario people will resonate with. It’s all about taking what you’re writing about beyond face value, connecting and engaging with people’s minds and their hearts so they become more invested in what you’re trying to say.
- 20:58 Kyle: To take it a step further, if you’re going the fiction route, it’s probably because it’s not something that’s directly happened to you. Maybe reach out to some people and ask them about their story revolving around whatever your brand is. I’m saying this because I used to work at a fairly large corporation and with some of the projects we worked on, I didn’t have an experience with it or any family that had experienced it, so we would go find people who did and talk to them. We would ask them, “How did you feel at the end of this? What did you do during it?”
You can get stories by reaching out to the audience you’re trying to attract.
- 22:06 Cory: Another great way to change something from fact or face value is to make it interesting—just add a couple more words. You could say, “I stepped off the train into the street,” and you just gave me information or you could say, “I stepped off the packed train onto a bustling street in New York.” Suddenly, imagery is flooding into your mind and it becomes more interesting. It’s got this bigger idea and I want to keep reading. Make your copy slightly more interesting.
Improve Your Vocabulary
- 22:48 People don’t do this enough. They think they can use generic words and throw them together for simplicity, but you have to use them right! Connect words that people in your target audience will resonate with. They can be simple, but maybe there’s a better way to say what you’re trying to say. Have conversations with your audience and find out what words they’re using. That’s an amazing way to tell stories. If these people are using particular words, then you use those words back and it will draw them in. They’ll get it. I just sent out a newsletter on Wednesday and the subject of the email was literally a question someone had written to me: how do I do [X]? They’re going to open that immediately because they’re asking that question and using those words. Craft a narrative by using the same words as the people you’re trying to reach.
- 24:04 Kyle: There’s two ways to go about this: to use the terms people are saying to you or if you need to course correct, do it in the way you would a natural conversation. Cory, if you came to me and said, “How do I get my icons to look right with those little colored dots on the screen?” The technical term is pixels, but if that was something a lot of people who weren’t sure about it said, I could easily write some content about what pixels are. That’s moving the vocabulary in that direction. If you had said that to me, I wouldn’t just say, “Pixels are…” without defining the term. That’s how you can potentially shape things in the direction they need to go, or you can use what they said even if it’s not technically correct. That’s ok if it’s what your audience connects with.
- 25:32 Cory: Ultimately, it’s all about building trust and connecting with your audience or customers. You want them to know you relate to them, you get them, and you understand their story. Don’t use a bunch of jargon, just connect with them and let them know you’re on their team. That’s how people buy into what you’re doing. They either buy into your brand literally or they become loyal to what you’re about.
You become successful by creating an environment where people will buy into your brand because it’s about them.
- 25:26 Kyle: The biggest takeaway here is that it’s about your audience and diving deeper. It’s about that single person that’s going to look at this and resonate with it. If you can get them on board, your target audience will start to come on board.