Content Marketing 101: Engage Your Audience With Great Storytelling

Think about the last time you went to a social event where you engaged with people you didn’t know. Were there any guests you found to be particularly memorable?

If so, I’d venture to guess that you remember these people for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. They were great storytellers.
  2. They made the conversation about you.
  3. They left you craving more.

Now think about your content marketing strategy. To engage with your audience, it really is as simple as making your content fall within the framework above.

Where brands tend to lose followers is the point when the conversations start to feel boring, stale, sales-focused and “me”-centric … exactly the type of person you would avoid at a cocktail party.

So today, we’ll look at some ways to incorporate great storytelling into your strategy in a way that leaves readers feeling like they’ve connected with you. They’ll walk away with a positive impression of your brand and will come back again and again.

Why Storytelling?

Great stories accomplish two main goals: intriguing readers and connecting emotionally with them. When content lacks intrigue and fails to spark an emotion, it becomes lifeless, dull and easily forgotten.

A great example is the fictional “Mayhem” character from Allstate Insurance commercials. Mayhem is the antithesis of good driving, wreaking havoc on the roads wherever he goes. Consider this @Mayhem Twitter post where he advocates for reading emails instead of watching the roads:

The tongue-in-cheek, ironic approach makes Mayhem — and, by default, Allstate Insurance — memorable. So even if you didn’t major in fiction writing, it’s important to hone your storytelling skills in order to connect with your audience and compel them to take action.

Create a Conflict … and a Resolution

The beauty of the Mayhem character is that his very existence reminds the audience why insurance matters.

As we watch Mayhem cause one accident after another, we’re reminded of the importance not only of good driving, but also good insurance to pick up the pieces should “Mayhem” cross our paths. Enter Allstate Insurance, whose slogan and logo remind you, “You’re in good hands.”

There you have it: a conflict and a resolution created by the brand. It’s your classic “Solve a problem” advice you’ve probably heard over and over again in business, only now you’re putting it into the context of a story with characters, plot lines, settings, and a beginning, middle and end. Go back to your middle school English textbook and dig up a few more literary devices, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a compelling brand story.

Great stories accomplish two main goals: intriguing readers and connecting emotionally with them. Click To Tweet

It’s About Getting a Personality

I don’t mean you personally getting a personality, because presumably you already have one, but rather, your brand. If your brand lacks that personality, it’s easily forgotten. Infuse your stories with personality, however, and readers will remember you and come back for more.

You don’t have to create a character like Mayhem to have a brand personality. You can tell stories from employees or customers’ points of view, for example, and create that emotional connection between your stories’ “characters” and your audience.

Try this exercise to start creating that personality that you can use in your storytelling.

  1. Write down the main problem that your product or service solves.
  2. Identify two or three possible scenarios in which your product or service “saves the day” and resolves a problem. (This is where you’re making the story about the customer and not yourself.)
  3. Imagine a few different characters (i.e., customers) who would benefit from your product or service.
  4. Imagine a completely opposite type of character who can present the problem as a conflict.

Now you’ve got the makings of a story. Outline your beginning, middle and end, using one or a variety of characters along the way.

Before you know it, you’ll have several different plot lines to explore in your content. Each piece can feed off the previous one to keep readers engaged and returning to “turn the next page” in your story. You can then release different pieces of content on various social media platforms, on your website and in customer emails.


Do you have a great brand story you’re telling? Tell us what works well for you in the comments below.