I’ve always said that the hallmark of any communications plan is storytelling (in fact, I will be launching a class this summer to show you how to become an effective storyteller–stay tuned!).

Soft stories during the Olympics are my jam. You know, the backstory NBC produces to show before a star athlete is about to compete: interviews with family, friends and coaches; photos and videos of the athlete practicing and competing growing up; and finally, a chat with the athlete who vividly details what an Olympic victory would mean to him or her.

The picture has been painted. The stage has been set.

I get sucked in. Every. Time.

How did I get a friend on Good Morning America? Storytelling.

Using testimonials as tactics

My most successful PR and marketing campaigns have told stories; they’ve put a face and name to a company.

How a bride-to-be got in shape through a bootcamp program. A private school alum who credited the school for his success as an entrepreneur. A top university faculty researcher promoting the use of an internal unit’s services. 

Combine these stories with compelling photos and/or videos, and you have told a story. And, most likely, at little to no production cost.

Components of effective storytelling
A word of caution when attempting to use storytelling as a tactic: be sure you know your audience and what motivates them to further (or continue to) engage with you.

Don’t just focus on selling your product or service. Give people an experience so they will want to come back for more. It’s not always about the hard sales push.

A great example of this is my church. Each week, they show short, well-produced videos about how our community has helped a local organization or individual.

They’re not selling the church, per se; on the contrary, they are engaging the audience who then looks forward to coming back for next week’s story or lesson.

The viewers can see themselves in the stories; they are connecting to the messages. And the more of a response the church gets, the more they are able to tailor future programs and services based on that feedback. 

See how the plan-execute-evaluate-tweak model of communications and marketing works?

I love the large signs up around our church. Not only do they have strong messages, they look Instragram-worthy. Every week, I see someone taking a photo in front of one…and, most likely, posting it to social media, tagging the church which = free publicity.

Storytelling analysis challenge
To begin developing your storytelling chops, you have to start with research.

So here’s a challenge for you: check out your favorite brands, stores, services or products from a storytelling standpoint. I mean REALLY analyze them, their audiences and their messages.

How and why are they pulling you in? Are they demonstrating examples of how your life will be impacted by using their services or products? What is so compelling about their service or product? Can you relate to the story they’re telling?

Now, do the same for your business. Your messages. Your engagement.

How do you rank when compared to your favorites (even if those brands are in industries different from yours)?