Jolina Pettice

Learn How to Compel Your Audience to Act with These 3 Storytelling Tips


When you hear the phrase “once upon a time…” your mind likely flashes to some of your favorite childhood stories. But what exactly is it that you remember about these stories, is it:

  • The conflict between Cinderella and her stepmother, that didn’t stop her from finding a happy ending?
  • The irony that Jack won a ticket on the Titanic at the last possible moment, only to slip away into the icy waters of the Atlantic?
  • The various social norms that were crossed, broken or all but forgotten in Alice in Wonderland?

As marketers we crave the opportunity to have top-of-mind awareness with prospects and customers when they hear certain phrases or are thinking about ideas that compel them to take action. Building that awareness doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and the right injection of storytelling into your digital marketing strategy.

Yesterday at Social Media Marketing World, I was able to gain insight into just how brands can do this from a panel of expert storytellers in a session moderated by Park Howell  that included Tim Washer, Kathy Klotz-Guest and Ron Ploof.

Below we’ll explore three ways and three exercises to help brands tell better, more impactful stories to create a lasting connection with their audience and compel them to take action.

#1 – Create Irony

Irony can be an incredibly effective tool in your storytelling arsenal as it forces the reader to analyze the situation in more detail.  As a brand, getting the audience to think through your message, to spend more time with it – is a good thing.

To start adding more irony to your content strategy, try the following exercise:

  1. Take some time each day to look at images
  2. Write down what you think is happening in the image
  3. Then, write down the opposite.

Then take both of those scenarios to the extreme. Wire your mind to be absurd. If you can do this, you can find stories that connect with the audience on a deeper level, compelling them to act.

#2 – Find the Conflict

Human brains are wired to seek out the conflict and take joy in the resolution.

To create a more compelling story, start with documenting the problem your brand solves and everything that can happen before you enter the picture. This is the conflict and will become the cornerstone of your story.

After you have the story written, then edit with the Rule of Replacement by:

  1. Counting the instances of  ‘and’ within the copy
    • Do the ‘and’s outnumber ‘but’ and ‘therefore’?
  2. If so, replace ‘and’ with ‘but’ and ‘therefore’ to create more conflict

#3 Learn to Heighten the Story
Now that you have a story to work with, it’s time to push narrative further.  

Here’s an exercise to get you started:

  1. Pretend for a minute that the problem your company solves goes unchecked.
  2. What would happen? Document everything you can think of, no matter how crazy.
  3. Now, document how the outcome would have been different had your product or service entered the story earlier.

Mayhem from Allstate is one of the best examples of a brand heightening the story. The story they tell is everyone’s worst nightmare and in painting such a vivid picture, they are able to connect with the audience. On the flip side, had they started with the product they would be telling a very similar story as the competition.

Are You Leveraging Your Story to the Fullest?

Knowing where to begin incorporating storytelling into your content marketing strategy can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, with the help of today’s speakers, you can turn it into a more manageable opportunity.

Remember that you may only be able to tackle one story at a time, and you won’t want to lose all the great ideas you or your team developed. One way to avoid that is to create a story bank that you can pull from constantly.

What are the brands that you think create and tell amazing stories?

Another way to tell great brand stories is by incorporating influencers. If you’re at Social Media Marketing World and are looking for a great session to attend, I encourage you to stop by room 28ABCD at 1:30pm to see TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden discuss Influencer Marketing Playbook: How to Identify, Qualify and Recruit Effective Influencers

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