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Corporate Storytelling: What it is and Why it’s Important

Content Marketing
Content Marketing

Business storytelling or corporate storytelling as most people refer to this concept, is one of the most important things in today’s content marketing.

It’s what clients and fans expect from us marketers, and at the same time it’s all about communicating the right message at the right time.

Let’s face it: stories sell.

People like to watch, read, see and hear stories.

They can easily connect with them and understand them at the same time. What about big companies? Can you include storytelling in your marketing strategy? Is corporate storytelling really a thing? What’s it all about and how can you incorporate this concept in your own strategy?

Well, let’s try and answer these questions one by one.

Corporate storytelling. The concept

Before digging into the topic, I guess it is important to define our main terms of this article and understand their meaning. Therefore, let’s start by asking and answering the most important question that arises at this point:

What is corporate storytelling?

I don’t think there was a time in human history when people did not like to tell, share and hear stories.

Stories are a huge part of our lives and lately, they have become really important in marketing as well. A business, be it small or corporate, is no longer just a business. In order to catch the attention of the customer, it needs to tell its own story and it needs to do it as good as possible.

As a consequence, corporate storytelling is about telling/presenting your brand to the public in a story-like narrative by using narrative techniques.

It is actually a communication strategy that hopefully lures the readers to the brand by presenting its values in an imaginative and informative way.

In conclusion, business storytelling and corporate storytelling allow you to communicate in an easy and attractive way, through stories. It is the native way in which people communicate and this makes it effective for marketing related communication as well.

How does corporate storytelling work?

What is so special about this communication strategy and how does it work? Well, I will try to answer these questions the best I can în the following couple of paragraphs.

As I have already said in the previous paragraph, storytelling is the natural way of communication for our species. Stories ease our communication, the way we understand each other and help us connect easier and more directly.

As a brand, you want people to connect with you both, emotionally and commercially. And, stories trigger emotions almost instantly. They give meaning to our existence and help us convey messages, pass on knowledge and understand our past, present and future.

This is how storytelling works and this is how corporate storytelling works as well. The concept is the same, only the means to an end differ from telling about a brand versus telling a story about your last trip to Paris.

The better you tell it, the easier is for you to connect with the audience and earn their ears and minds, convincing them to pay attention to what you have to say.

The added value of a corporate storytelling communication strategy

Corporate storytelling ads something really valuable to the way the audience makes the first contact with your brand and later, their every first new contact with each of your products, services and campaigns.

Every brand or business has a story.

They all start with an idea and afterwards, the struggle that transforms it from dream or concept to reality. The core, the essence of your brand or product is recorded inside that story which can be brought to life via storytelling. This strategy transcends the traditional approach and help you communicate the information in a way that is easier to understand and related to by the audience.

Unlike other types of marketing and advertising strategies, storytelling eliminates the traditional call to action. Some of these strategies contain such CTAs but most of the times, they are subliminal, dressed up in another type of format which is more natural and consequently, closer the the way people naturally speak and tell their stories.

The call to action, however, is the story itself and it may come with better and more reliable effects than traditional strategies.

Why use storytelling for marketing?

Well, I guess I have already answered this question but I still feel the need to underline the essentials. Let’s make a short and comprehensive list of all the benefits we’ve talked about so far, in details:

  1. Corporate storytelling allows you to convey a marketing related message in a fresh and intimate way the audience can understand and relate to.
  2. Corporate storytelling sells the brand in a more natural way by communicating without the rigidity of the traditional marketing and more like how people communicate with each other.
  3. Being a natural form of communication, corporate storytelling can trigger trust and more engagement from the audience, as well as an enhanced brand perception across media channels.
  4. As long as the story is good and it can impact the audience, storytelling is also capable to foster customer loyalty.
  5. Corporate storytelling is all about connecting people with the brand, a product or a campaign.

Is there a formula for a great corporate storytelling strategy?

Of course, each story can be told in a different way depending on who tells it and who the storyteller addresses and with what expectations.

I cannot teach you how to write a good narrative but nevertheless, I can pinpoint some of the best strategies and options you need to take into account in order to make the best out of your corporate storytelling strategies.

I can also show you some really good business storytelling examples that can shed some light into what this type of content is and why it impacts the audience more than other types.

A. The tone of voice

This part is very important because when you tell the brand’s story, you need to adapt the approach to a narrative based on the audience and the brand’s tone of voice. And, when I say audience, I am referring to the market you are addressing. Who are they? How old are they? In which social category they can integrate best?

It’s important to answer these questions first because obviously, the tone of voice differs when you address teenagers, IT professionals, senior citizens and so on. In the end, you need to find the perfect formula for your brand, a formula that will never change even though the message will change based on the current campaign.

The type of the story and the features that make it effective

If for a few seconds you stop thinking about your campaign and the audience, these are the most important traits of a good brand storytelling strategy:

  • A good story is simple. It is easy to understand, easy to read, easy to relate to and able to convey the message in a simple form without complicating things. You need a key message to be conveyed and nothing more.
  • A good story is complete. Just think about Facebook or Instagram stories. You see them slide by slide but in the end, you expect a closure. You expect an end to it. Would you come back and watch more stories from someone who does not offer a closure? I doubt it. Every narrative needs a logical structure, whether it is a visual narrative or a long-form written content. This logical structure implies a beginning, a middle and an end.

There are some great corporate storytelling examples I can choose from in this case, both simple and complete. I will use as a reference, however, only one, the case of Hinge, a dating app that was launched a few years ago as a competitor for Tinder.

Their campaign used a lot of consumer data and real contextual stories to underline the benefits of switching to their services as well as the problems people deal with when searching for a partner.

corporate storytelling example

  • A good story is moving. Yeah, you need to really get to the audience, trigger some emotions, make them feel something in order to deliver an effective message. A good storyteller knows how to tell a story in such a manner that is able to capture the audience and stun them. Pay attention however to what kind of emotions you want to trigger because the effectiveness of your story depends on them. Will it be joy? Sadness? Melancholy? How do you want them to feel afterwards?

And yes, you can find a lot of corporate storytelling example for this as well. Here’s one of my favorites, a great example of a moving story created and shared by Google as a digital video ad.

It tells the story of an old man from India who reconnects with a childhood friend his granddaughter manage to track down via Google Search.

  • A good story is genuine and true. We’re talking about marketing here so, truth is always essential. Your story should be genuine and reflect the true story of your brand, product or service as well as tell the audience what added value they will get from it. Also, keep in mind that everything you say can be interpreted as a promise and you will have to keep that promise in order to validate your words or messages.
  • A good story is relevant. As I have previously said, in order to make your efforts effective you need to add value to the audience and not just tell an empty story. Relevancy is one of the most important aspects that add to this value. It means that you need to share a story that is adapted to the audience as well and not only the brand you are marketing with that story. In conclusion, make sure the narrative resonates with the audience. Otherwise, it will have little to no effect.

Marketers always struggle to make their content relevant for the audience they target and this is why you will find a lot of business storytelling examples and corporate storytelling examples to qualify for this concept.

Here’s one from Zillow that will make visual storytelling easy to understand:

zillow corporate storytelling example

What they did is a simple infographic based on actual data that was relevant to the audience. It tells the audience which are the best cities for trick or treating based on family values, crime rates and the share of children under 10 years of age.

It’s a good example of simple storytelling content based on facts.

  • A good story needs context, characters and action. These are the same requirements any other type of story needs, not only a marketing related one. A context refers to a specific time, place or situation, sometimes all these three variables combined. The characters are essential to the action while the action adds the salt and pepper, the interesting part of every story. If nothing happens, there is no story, anyway.
  • The hero of the story. As you may already know from books, movies and other such sources of information, every story focuses around a central figure, the hero of the narrative. The quintessential character is the one that portrays the positive traits that trigger the positive emotions in the audience and in this case, that character should be the brand or the product you market.

In the traditional stories, the hero is usually the character people empathize with.

The hero brings the story to life and makes the audience want to be a part of the story.

Therefore, it is important to create this type of character and construct everything around them.

 

Conclusion

Business storytelling or corporate storytelling as most of us refer to the concept, is a powerful tool if you use it wisely. The narrative is a great approach to marketing and many companies and agencies already tried and succeeded with this strategy.

Therefore, you may not be a pioneer in this field but at the same time, you can learn a lot from their successes and know right from the start that the method works.

Are you already using storytelling as a strategy and if yes, what are your results?

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Robert Katai

Content Marketing Strategist

"Content isn’t king. Usefulness is. Robert does this in the online marketing and social media space with ease."

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