Storytelling has grown to become a buzzword within marketing, despite the fact that a pairing of the two would previously be considered somewhat of an unholy matrimony; gone are the days where you could simply slap up a banner ad and call it day. The effectiveness of telling stories has now been established to the point that it could hardly be called a fad – however, as with all marketing methods, care must be taken to not overdo it.
Storytelling is simply the use of narrative elements along with facts to help communicate a message to your audience. It’s not just marketers driving this trend, either, with 92% of consumers preferring brands deliver ads that feel like a story. It’s an effective strategy because stories allow us to engage with our audience on an emotional level, creating a stronger consumer relationship.
Stories are an effective way to pack complex ideas into an easily digestible medium, whether that information is instructive (how to use a certain product) or philosophical (why we should use it). It also makes content more exciting to read and can work to reinforce an overarching brand identity. These factors make it easier for consumers to resonate with and rally around a particular piece of marketing, leading to better motivation for action.
Requirements and pitfalls
Despite the exciting potential of storytelling, it would be unwise to simply default to this strategy at every opportunity without carefully considering some of the key elements and how they’ll work with your brand.
The most important requirement is that your story be relevant to the people that engage with it. To ensure this you need to really know your audience – who would respond best to your story? What are their needs? What are they looking for?
From there, you need to identify the purpose of your story and the core message you want to convey. Are you trying to encourage young people to take on a trade? Or convince them to go on your gap year program? One common pitfall that creators experience is that they let the storytelling aspect of an article outweigh its usefulness, creating a story that seems to exist for its own pleasure rather than driving your marketing needs.
Another essential component to good storytelling is a clearly defined and consistent content strategy that reinforces your brand values. Indeed, Gen Z are more likely to be interested in your product or service if your company stands for something they to believe in. To maximise your potential, your content should be pieces of a puzzle that make up your overall brand identity. This involves establishing your tone and persona early and making it recognisable across all channels in order to foster authenticity. Younger generations are already trending towards a distrust of corporations and can sniff out inauthenticity quickly, so it’s important to create stories that won’t be lambasted by the public.
Our approach at Year13
When I began writing for Year13 it was easy to discern when storytelling would be effective for the content I was writing – and to actually write it. We have an established content guide that outlines our tone and audience clearly, and a briefing process that defines whether a piece is intended to resonate with our readers. One of the only difficulties I experienced was learning to write with restraint – to make sure I was writing for the audience and not for myself.
Based on our engagement we have learned that youth connect better with stories about people just like them rather than celebrities. One of our more successful articles, I Flunked My Year 12 Exams And I’m Absolutely Fine, is a firsthand account that conveys one of our key values exceptionally well – that exam results won’t define who you are. Instead of simply stating this, we take you on a journey that sees a relatable character overcome a universal problem.
Other times we combine storytelling with more factual writing. Recently we published Why We Really Need To Stop The Hate On Tradies. Here, we use narrative elements to hook the reader in the introduction, then proceed to state the point of the article through reporting and statistics. Ultimately, the issue is crystallised through further storytelling as we describe the journey of a struggling student.
Through our Instagram, we continue to engage our audience by telling their stories in a visual medium through our anonymous confession series. By sharing user submissions on the trials and tribulations of teenage life, we allow for a sense of community and connection between our audience that’s undoubtedly authentic – it comes straight from them, after all.
These forms of storytelling are how we build our brand persona and create a connection with our users. Every piece fits in with the overall picture as we endeavour to tell the story that Year13 has come to be known for – the story of young people figuring out how to navigate the end of high school and beyond.