4 Tips for Developing Creative Story Angles

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By Casady Williams

You may have heard the Native American proverb, “Those who tell stories rule the world.” But if you’re in marketing, you probably already know that those who tell the best stories rule the business world.

  • So how do we tell a better brand story? 
  • How does our brand more effectively connect with consumers? 
  • How do we personalize our message and then make sure it reaches the heart of the consumer? How do we make the hashtag, the tagline, the media campaign more creative—more compelling?

Let’s look at four ways you can broaden your marketing mind, develop more creative story angles, and reach more consumers than ever before!

#1 Research Your Competitors: 

First off, Use Online Analytical Tools.

Ahh, Google… it’s our go-to when we need to know something fast. And if you’re not using it to spy on your competitors, why not?  Google Alerts is an easy-to-use system that will allow you to keep tabs on keywords, competitors, and even your own business. 

Need something more advanced?  Advanced-link profile analysis tool such as SEMrush or Moz will allow you to do keyword research, site audits, backlink analysis, and track your ranking on the web. You can’t tell a better story until you know the plotline intimately, right?

See If Your Account Reps Will Spill the Beans on Your Competition 

Now, these may be dangerous waters, so tread (water) carefully. Only you know your industry, your rep, possible trade secrets, etc. But if you have a friendly rapport with—or better yet, are friends with—your account rep, then see what you can glean to get a better competitive edge and tell a better marketing story. 

And if you have a strictly professional relationship with them? You can still win. LISTEN carefully when they visit you for your quarterly “how-are-things-with-your-account” visit; they may not be aware of the pearls of competitive wisdom they’re dropping for you.

Spy on Social Media

It may be that you employ an outside agency to handle your social media accounts, as is the trend right now. But in this regard, you may be missing out on your ideal audience. No one knows your business like you: and even if your agency is a stellar one, they may have limited bandwidth or may not have even thought of monitoring your competition. But you should be. 

“Know your enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” 

Okay, so you don’t necessarily need to think of your competition as the enemy but following their social accounts may just tell you their next move in the battle for media domination.

Talk to Your Customers!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s astounding how many companies overlook the goldmine of their customer base. There’s no better litmus test for how your brand is doing in the grand scheme of things than how you are being perceived by your actual customers.

What do they think of your brand in general?

What do they think of your product or service?

What do they think of your competition?

How can you improve your consumer relationship?

How can you improve your product/service (or customer service)?

Don’t Forget About Conferences and Trade Shows

A familiar scenario: it’s been a long day of schmoozing, negotiating, and shoptalk. And now you’re ready to unwind at the hotel bar. Use this unguarded moment to belly up to the bar… (RIGHT. NEXT. TO. YOUR. COMPETITION.) Bars and stories, Oreos and milk, Bert and Ernie—you get the idea. Get friendly with industry leaders; learn their stories; learn their strategies; learn their humanity. You never know: you may just find your way of telling a better story.

#2 Test Newsjacking

Another creative way to capture attention is by newsjacking. Newsjacking is essentially identifying a way to make a headline relevant to your brand and thereby position your spokespeople as experts (or at the very least quirky and culturally-relevant). A few tips for your journey into newsjacking:

Don’t Hesitate!

Don’t let perfect “wordsmithing” cause you to miss out on a great opportunity. If good enough gains you a quick win, well then—you, my friend, are #winning… at least for the moment. As Confucius would say: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Hashtags Are Your Friends! 

We all know the thrill of that perfect hashtag bringing in followers by the droves. Okay, so you only watched 3 episodes of Game of Thrones: your audience doesn’t need to know that. Quickly research interesting, relevant hashtags that may just get your business seen by new eyes.

Know Your Audience (at least the majority) 

Strive to be inclusive, never offensive. Is the breaking news controversial? Then move on to a lighter source for your journalistic gem: where CNN could be losing, TMZ could be flush with newsjacking wins.

Be Creative 

Even the most controversial story can often be spun in a light way. Tap into your whimsy, your good-naturedness, you Switzerland-like neutrality, and newsjack that story in a creative way that wins over the most not-political of your audience. Remember, inclusion and humor will win the masses.

#3 Leverage Human Interest or Customer Success Stories

Sometimes the best way to tell your brand’s story is through the experience of a customer. As someone not employed or compensated by the brand, a customer can bring social proof and authenticity to your story angles.

One of the sharpest marketing paradigm shifts in the last few years is this one: customers don’t really care about your story—they care about theirs. You are not their family, friends, or even their peers; and as such, don’t expect them to care about you like one. 

Therefore, your story (and especially your “About Us” page on your website) should exist only inasmuch as the story of how you’re helping the customers live a better life through your product or service. The story you should be telling over and over is the story of how your brand is a guide to helping the hero (your customer) overcome a struggle in order to reach their “happily ever after.” 

Four types of stories you should be constantly telling in your marketing are these: (although there’s no end to the personal angles you can find if you’re open and looking for them!)

  • Before-and-after stories—how your business brought much-needed, positive change to a customer.
  • Customer experience stories—how your business enhanced the life of a customer outside of the product/service they bought from you.
  • B2B stories—how your business saved the day for another business (use data if applicable).
  • Case studies and statistics—how you’ve saved consumers time, money, improved quality of life, or even saved lives.

It’s not about the product they buy: it’s about how they feel about the product they buy. Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff puts it best:

A brand is a company’s most important asset. A company can’t “own” its facts. If the company’s facts (speed, price, quality) are superior to the competition, any good competitor will duplicate them, or worse, improve upon them, as soon as possible. What a company can own, however, is a personality.

#4 Personalize Your Pitches

In addition to general storylines, we also recommend conducting highly-personalized media outreach on a consistent basis. For instance, if you were pitching a pet product, we’d recommend researching the reporter’s Twitter profile to find out if they are a pet owner. You can even include the name of their pet in the subject line to really grab their attention!

Here are 5 things to remember when seeking to personalize a media pitch, no matter who you’re pitching it to: 

  • Who You Are—Think of this as your brand’s voice. How do you present yourself as a company?
  • What You Do—Think of this as your brand’s language. Who is your audience?
  • Who You Do It For—Think of this as your brand’s personality in relation to the customer. How do you want to be perceived?
  • Why You Do It— Think of this as your brand’s goals/emotions/driving force. What is your ultimate goal as a brand?
  • How You Do It— Think of this as your brand’s industry viewpoint. What is your unique angle?

And while you’re deep-diving into your competitors, current events, and your media contacts… don’t forget to come up for air. Turn off your Investigative mind for a bit, and breath the “fresh” air of the consumer. Look at your content not as a business, as a competitor, or even as a marketer. Read and consider your ads, your pitches, your social media campaigns from a consumer (dare we say human) perspective.

After you’ve done the analytical work, do the “soul work:”

  • How are we being perceived by the consumer?
  • How are we connecting with the consumer?
  • How are we helping the consumer?
  • How are we being genuine, or not?
  • How are we able to do more for the consumer? 

…and in these thoughts, you may just find your perfect competitive edge!

Sources:

SEMrush. Smart Competitive Research. https://www.semrush.com/lp/competitors-research/en/

Google. Google Alerts. https://www.google.com/alerts

Moz. Moz Pro: the proven, all-in-one SEO toolset. https://moz.com

Wikiquote. Sun Tzu. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sun_Tzu

Newsjacking. What Is Newsjacking? https://www.newsjacking.com

 Forbes. Customer Experience Is the New Brand. https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2018/07/15/customer-experience-is-the-new-brand/#7a81cc367f52

Salesforce. Marc Benioff: A Brand is Not Just a Logo – It’s Your Most Important Asset. https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2013/07/marc-benioff-logo-brand-advice.html

Building a Storybrand. 5 Ways to Make Your Customer the Hero in Your Marketing Material. http://buildingastorybrand.com/customer-the-hero-in-marketing-material/

Column Five Media. 5 Brand Story Ideas to Inspire Your Next Piece of Content. https://www.columnfivemedia.com/5-brand-story-ideas