If you haven’t heard already, we’re hosting a free seminar on March 8th. Three speakers will explain how you can find, use and leverage content to create high quality leads for your business. One of those speakers is Jennifer Edwards, a strategic communications consultant. In this blog, Jennifer offers a sneak peek into the expertise she’ll be sharing at the seminar.
“In a world where people have a lot of choices, the story may be the deciding factor.”
— Nick Morgan, author of How to Tell Great Business Stories
Company storytelling — an art or a science?
It’s both. And being a good storyteller goes way beyond PR and securing strategic coverage. The principles behind what encourages journalists to write about you are the same reasons that motivate customers to become advocates, get business partners to do deals with you over your competition, and what makes your employees eat their lunch at their desks working for a company they believe in wholeheartedly.
So I’ll jump right in to share where I think art meets the science to create the ‘secret sauce’ of corporate storytelling. And it involves two key ingredients: stories that create an emotional connection (art) combined with good data (science). Let’s dig in.
So many companies get all wrapped up in selling, selling, selling that they forget to put context, interest, engagement, human interest, or pretty much anything else that is not wholly self-serving, around their pitch. This is where so many companies fall short (hopefully, your competitors are doing exactly this).
An emotional connection to a brand or company leads to truly deep and persistent loyalty. Those happy customers and partners become the best marketing tool a company could ask for. And the Internet has created an extremely efficient way for people with similar interests to connect so a company that acknowledges and cultivates the power of the customer and consistently exceeds their expectations will be a successful one.
Winning entrepreneurs bond emotionally with all their audiences — employees, investors, partners and customers — when they hone their ability to tell meaningful stories about their businesses. These meaningful stories about their businesses turn that boring “buy my product / buy my service” message into something that is much broader and impactful and which will encourage media (and your customers) to share it.
So what do the best storytelling companies do? Here are five steps to follow, which I’ll be expanding on at the seminar. And, if this task sounds daunting, I just so happen to know some great marketers skilled in designing, developing and writing compelling corporate stories.
The origin story. Again and then again.
Do your homework .
Don’t just listen to your customers, understand them.
Tell me something I don’t know
Back in 2011, I headed up marketing communications for Silicon Valley-based startup, BillShrink.com (now gone, the company was acquired by MasterCard), which was a free website that helped people save money on their every day bills.
We had some users, but they weren’t loyal. We had a small team, mostly engineers. We had no revenue and so we had very little budget for marketing or PR. Sound familiar?
What we did happen to have was a lot of data — data about people’s mobile phone bills to be specific. From the insight we gained from people’s phone bills, we decided to calculate how many minutes people bought versus how many they actually used. So we packaged this data into a press release — “Americans overpay $336 a year on wireless bills due to plan confusion”.
And pitched it as a “study” (and while it was not an independent study, we were straightforward about the data’s origins, we listed out our methodology and detailed our robust data set — “From December 2009 to December 2010, BillShrink studied more than 230,000 individuals seeking advice on wireless plans”) and pitched it to C/net who covered it.
Yes! Awesome! Why did they write about it? Well it wasn’t because our zero revenue startup with a bad name was saying we were the best thing since sliced bread. C/net covered our news because we gave them something interesting and unique that no else had — we took a stand and estimated $79 million for services consumers didn’t actually need or use. That’s a meaningful story that impacted a lot of people.
And so we kept going and pitched more outlets with these data insights and other predictions and more estimations. All in all, coverage from these PR campaigns developed on a shoestring budget amounted to $20m ad equivalency in a few months and tons of traffic to our little website:
Let me give you another example from this side of the pond of how you can work ‘data’ into your meaningful story. As a consultant to Midven, a West Midlands venture capital firm based in Birmingham, I learned that they had a requirement to track job growth across all of their investment companies. Turns out there were quite a few good stories in these numbers. So we created an entire campaign around it, which included creating a press release with regional and national press pitches; an infographic; a blog post; posts on Twitter and LinkedIn, and so on.
You’ll note that we didn’t title the infographic “Midven is great and all their companies are golden.” We pulled in a variety of third-party data points to showcase that the Midlands was a burgeoning centre of entrepreneurship and, at the bottom of the infographic, we happened to share a few job growth figures from some of Midven’s portfolio.
It worked. Midven received some solid coverage in strategic regional and venture industry outlets that reached the firm’s target audiences.
But, we also aimed to reach national publications and do some broader brand development.
Again, we knew that the pitch “Midven, a VC firm in Birmingham that you may not have ever heard about is great” wouldn’t cut it, so we positioned ourselves thoughtfully and created a guest article/thought leadership piece by Midven’s director and got it published in The Guardian.
On the heels of this, Midven was also asked to participate in The Guardian’s Live Q&A: Surviving your first year as an entrepreneur, which gave us exposure amongst a broader set of VCs and startup entrepreneurs. It was a great yield to a thoughtful packaging of some data around job growth (science) combined with a relevant, meaningful story about the Midlands (art). That’s the winning combination.
So now it’s your turn, blend a little art with science go tell some good stories!