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“Are you a good storyteller?”
I and other attendees of the recent 2016 Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit in McLean, Va., discovered why this is such an important question. It underscored a key theme of an address given by David Beebe, Vice President of Global Creative and Content Marketing at Marriott International: Effective marketers are good storytellers first and foremost. To connect with audiences, they lead with a compelling narrative, as opposed to the promotion of their brand’s features or benefits.
So how do you do this? By adopting these three key takeaways, as presented by Beebe:
Come up with a great plot – then “cast” your brand in it. Any good story starts with an intriguing plot, which should stand independent of whatever product or services you’re promoting. Then, figure out what role your brand plays in this narrative. As an example, Beebe showed a commercial for the telecommunications company MTS, which depicted a newborn baby using a smartphone and tablet. Throughout the ad, this newborn ran around, using various apps. The spot saved the company’s logo for the very last shot — up until that point, it was entirely product-agnostic, but humorous and memorable. When it aired, Beebe said, it went viral, demonstrating the power of content focused more on story than product.
Adapt to the audience. Millennials control exactly when, where and how they interact with brands. The vast majority skip television ads, presumably due to DVR and online streaming options. This behavior has contributed significantly to the rise of content marketing. To reach target audiences, marketers must adapt to shifting preferences – and one common way to do so is by publishing original content to use as a platform for storytelling. Then, leverage existing channels that your intended audience flocks to – like Snapchat and Instagram – to connect.
Amplify existing stories for authenticity. When building a story, Beebe said, you should engage in trending cultural conversations to reach audiences. Keeping your finger on the pulse of top stories and pop culture developments allows you to constantly seek different ways to join the conversation, amplifying existing stories that your audience is interested in by chiming in and taking advantage of this organic PR.
Beebe even used a mishap involving his company to illustrate his point: During a Marriott hotel opening celebration, custom-made commemorative glasses went missing. Yet, instead of lamenting that the story now focused on stolen glassware rather than the hotel opening, Marriott responded on Twitter with a short, humorous statement: “This is why we can’t have nice things.” By being genuinely self-deprecating and relatable, Beebe earned plenty of positive attention on social media, striking a cultural bond.
The upshot: When focusing strictly on brand features and benefits, marketers run the risk of having audiences “tune them out.” But when they strive to tell a great story first, they better engage with potential customers and partners. At our high-tech PR agency, we’re constantly developing content that helps our clients do this. If this is something you’d like to know more about, then please contact us.
Carly Buchanan is a Senior Account Coordinator at W2 Communications.