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How Content Marketers Can Tell Better, More Strategic Stories

Posted on Mar 30th, 2015
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    Storytelling around a campfire

    As a marketer, are you a good storyteller? Do you have a content marketing strategy that guides your storytelling?

    Maybe you already know how to build a content marketing strategy, but you’re curious to know how to improve it.

    Jason Miller, senior manager of content marketing for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, is a natural storyteller – and he has awesome storytelling tips for marketers. (Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client)

    In his session at Social Media Marketing World 2015 in San Diego, Jason kept the audience captive, sharing what seemed like a million excellent insights on storytelling to inspire and motivate marketers.

    In addition, he gave key insights on how to better use LinkedIn (his area of expertise) for more effective content publishing and promotion.

    Tell stories in your voice.

    John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever is the best-selling album ever. At the time when disco was becoming a phenomenon, punk rock bands like the Sex Pistols and The Ramones were buried underneath disco fever. They had to drum up their own excitement. During this time Dead Kennedys’ lead singer and songwriter  Jello Biafra said, “Don’t have the media, become the media.”

    It’s the digital age, and we are the media. Content marketing allows us to tell our own branded stories in our own voices. Are you telling your brand’s story?

    Tell relevant stories.

    Your number one job is to answer the top questions your customers have. With today’s ease of content creation, we don’t need more content – we need more relevant content.

    In a survey Miller cites, 44% of respondents say they would consider ending a brand relationship because of irrelevant promotions, and an additional 22% say they would definitely defect from a brand. Why would marketers want to lose these people?

    It’s a marketer’s job to get into the head of a prospect, empathize with their pain points, and speak to them in a relevant way.

    Tell the story you own. 

    After coming to LinkedIn several years ago, Miller realized there was a big problem: people were asking “How do I market on LinkedIn?” but LinkedIn wasn’t answering. Everyone else was telling their story for them – the search results were full of answers from other publications.

    To win back the conversation, Miller’s team created The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn – “A beautiful piece of content.” It’s 65 pages giving a robust answer to the question. Now LinkedIn has taken back the conversation they know intimately.

    Tell a re-purposed story (it’s allowed!)

    Miller is a proponent of the “big rock” – a substantial ebook, video, etc. (like The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide) that will fuel your demand generation and fill your various content hubs for several months. Repurposed content isn’t cheating – it’s incredibly smart – and not only that, but it can increase the profitability of your content campaigns tremendously.

    For example, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide generated 18,000% ROI and $4.6 million in revenue in one quarter alone, largely due to all the ways they could slide and dice it – into:

    • Blogs
    • Infographics
    • Webinars
    • Videos
    • Slide presentations

    What do you have that you can republish? Marketers continually struggle to create enough content. If you don’t have a “big rock” or time to start something new, Miller advises that you look around.  Fuel your content hubs with smaller subsets of a larger piece.

    Bonus Tip: A “big rock” on LinkedIn can become organic updates for your company page, sponsored updates, content for a LinkedIn group, and a Slideshare presentation.

    Tell a continuous story using your blog. 

    Your blog is not your resource center. Your resource center is an indexed directory of content for visitors browsing for a certain topic. It’s a necessary place to store all your assets, but “the blog is so much better,” Miller says.

    The blog is the social media rug that ties the room together. It provides a running narrative of your story. It goes in one direction.

    How do you keep the variety fresh and fun on your blog? Miller recommends the blogging food groups.

    A few examples:

    • Healthy content (i.e. Raisin Bran, spinach – the stuff that’s good for you)
    • Spicy content (Kick things up a notch with some Tabasco! Get some blood boiling!)
    • Sweet content (i.e. Chocolate Cake – something fun and totally unnecessary, something that will just make your audience smile. Everyone likes to smile!)

    Tell a visual story.

    One Chinese Proverb has said that “A picture is worth ten thousand words” but a study showed that really, it’s really only worth 8.4, Miller says.

    Either way, the visual is the new headline. Compelling, provocative visuals are the way of the future.

    Bonus Tip: Slideshare is the most underutilized platform for B2B marketers, in Miller’s opinion. It’s a great place to test visual content in an easy-to-consume manner for your prospects.

    Just tell a story. 

    You may have noticed the proliferation of content on LinkedIn these days. With the expansion of LinkedIn Publishing in early 2014, anybody can write and publish long-form content – which has led to over 1 million articles as of early 2015. Miller notes that content on LinkedIn receives seven times the pageviews of profiles.

    What should you write about? Write what you’re thinking. Got a thought? Write about it. Miller calls these “punch-in-the-face-blog posts.” An example of this is Seth Godin, who writes 250 words a day with admirable discipline.

    If you’re not telling your stories, your ideas are trapped and sitting. Why not tell them?

    Bonus Tip: LinkedIn’s feed is a real-time personalized newspaper. Experiencing writer’s block? What are your peers publishing and sharing? 

    What’s your best storytelling tip? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.