How to Integrate Storytelling into your Marketing

How to Integrate Storytelling into your Marketing

In the last newsletter, we talked about how to use storytelling in your event email marketing.

Definitely do that. But don’t stop there.

If you haven’t caught the first two newsletters in this three-part series on using storytelling in your event marketing, you can find the first one here and the second one here.

THE MAIN IDEAS WE WANT YOU TO TAKE INTO THIS NEXT DISCUSSION ARE:

  • Traditional messaging around NEC (networking, education, and certification) has grown stale, and to capture people’s attention these days, associations need messaging that shows these things, rather than simply tells about them.
  • Marketing an event is about connecting the unconnected. It’s about pulling people in. It’s about creating a horizontal movement of people talking to people.
  • Storytelling is a perfect vehicle to do this, because stories from real people are what create that movement-and ultimately, what make those connections.
  • Stories hit people in the emotional center of their brain, where decision-making is strongest. Good stories cultivate three essential things research has told us are central for converting people from onlookers to registrants: passion, connection, and affection.
We’re going to look at six different areas where you can use storytelling:
  1. email
  2. direct mail
  3. web site
  4. video
  5. association magazine
  6. social media

Email

We already covered email in detail in the last newsletter, when we talked about finding and mining the stories, interviewing people, using your brand archetype to create the voice of the story, and how to write and design these story-based emails. Because it’s so important to most associations’ events, there are just a few things we want to reiterate about how to use storytelling in your email campaign.

  • Make sure to use a well-designed, fully-branded HTML-based template. Even the best story can fall flat if it’s simply pasted into a text email and mass-emailed out.
  • Whether you choose to lay out the entire story in the body of the template or use a teaser paragraph in the template that links through to the entire story on a landing page on your website, your email template needs to be responsive and adaptive for mobile phones.
  • Take the time to create compelling emails and get it right, because this can be a great jumping off point for other mediums.

Direct mail

If email content is king, direct mail is first in line to inherit the throne. Direct mail has a tangible quality to it-and if you do it correctly, it can have a huge impact on your event registration numbers. Stories are the fodder for your direct mail-and if you’re doing justice to your email campaign, you’ve already got a great start.

  • Hit people with story-based direct mail in the early stage of the buying cycle. Build the passion for the event, piece by piece. This means that you’ve got to have your stories ready to go, so that you can spin them into direct mail. As with email, you want the stories to jump off the page, with captivating photography and bold graphics and callouts.
  • Bring storytelling into your postcards and teaser mailings. Do a series of postcards, each featuring a different story, or a mailing that wraps a few of them together.
  • Populate your most important piece of direct mail-your registration brochure-with stories, rather than just facts about speakers and sessions. Keep the “schedule at a glance,” but rethink how you present the highlights.
  • Remember, “affection” is one of the key feelings brands need to channel. In those most crucial print pieces, make sure to have current attendees tell other potential attendees about their affection for the event, and why they love it.

Web site

Storytelling has a much wider use than your event marketing campaign: you can bring it into multiple areas of your web site, from blog posts to testimonials. There are a few things we definitely recommend for your site.

  • Lay out your email stories into a well-designed PDF, put it on your site, and direct people to download and share. PDFs are less tangible than direct mail, but they still create nice stand-alone pieces.
  • Use storytelling at point-of-registration. Plenty of associations sprinkle testimonials throughout the event pages of their site. But as we said in the last newsletter, one-sentence testimonials aren’t very compelling. Repurpose quotes and pieces of stories to use as testimonials on your site. You can also repurpose them into blog posts.

Video

You can go huge with storytelling for video (a video crew, lighting, locations!) or do something simple, like motion graphics, whiteboard animation, sketch videos, or video testimonials.

  • If you choose a more graphic treatment of video, you still need to pull out the story. Moving words and pictures around, while nice to look at, isn’t necessarily telling a story. You can keep the treatment simple: still or motion images with quotes, mixed with dynamic B-roll images and voice over and/or music.
  • The best stories are character-driven, and that’s true for video as well. Whether it means pulling together video testimonials from attendees, or telling a story through the eyes of a specific person, let the people in your videos be the star: that’s what your audience will connect with.
  • Use video to try something new and fun. Think your organization is too set in its ways? Take a look at what GE is doing with its “Datalandia” video campaign. Who would expect that from GE? Take a lesson and surprise people. Shake it up a bit. Just keep it story-focused.

Social media

Storytelling for social media is a visual game. This is where you really need to employ photography, especially for the more visual platforms, like Facebook and Instagram.

  • Social media platforms are perfect for storytelling-just don’t try to create a one-size-fits-all post (what works well on Instagram isn’t what works well on Twitter). We’ve written in depth about the different platforms and how to tailor your content for each in this newsletter [link to social media newsletter].
  • Social media is a chance to show a little more of your association’s personality and tell your own stories through slice-of-life images and clever captions. Create a balance of event stories and association stories.
  • Let those personal connections really shine through in your social media content. People look to social media to connect with other people. Most of your posts aren’t asking people to buy: they are forging connection through stories of people.

Magazine

Your association magazine is tailor-made for storytelling. Association members routinely cite the association magazine as one of the benefits of membership. They are primed to read stories on the pages of your magazine.

  • At a minimum, create a spread for each story (maybe even a double-spread, depending on how in-depth the story is). As with your direct mail pieces, create strong headings and bold graphics to keep readers interested.
  • You can run and repurpose stories all year long-not just during the registration push. (Remember, you’re teasing passion.) Create a regular column in each issue that features an attendee story-framed around what “objections” that story helps to overcome, or what elements of the event the story highlights. Not every story has a “register now” call to action.

So, how do you use storytelling to market your event? Find the stories that hinge on passion, connection, and affection. Shape the stories. And finally, integrate the stories into every single piece of content your members, constituents, and potential attendees interact with.

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