Engaging Rural America Through Story
OUTdrive Episode 37 with Dana Kelchner
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Dana Kelchner, Account Supervisor at Callis. Dana plays a leading role in strategy, creative and content development at the agency and oversees services and projects to ensure the effective communication of brand stories for clients. They share their thoughts on effective storytelling frameworks, storytelling across a variety of platforms, how well-crafted stories tie into the customer journey and appeal to human nature and the importance of remaining curious in marketing.
Storytelling is an effective strategy to reach and connect with audiences regardless of the industry. In fact, messages delivered as stories have been reported to be 22 times more memorable than just facts.1 As humans, we naturally respond to stories. It’s how we learn, inform and entertain. Stories engage audiences through powerful emotions that keep readers and listeners coming back for more. We retain knowledge and teach others new skills through stories in our personal lives, and the customer experience is no exception. Strategically incorporating storytelling into your content development program can help your brand more effectively reach your audience.
Effective and engaging stories are strategic and creative from the very beginning. They are created with the customer, not the brand, in mind. This idea has been at the forefront of a storytelling course Dana and Callis Creative Director Tim Noland have been participating in.
“Storytelling isn’t about your goals, your brand, your company or your product,” says Dana. “It’s not a sales pitch. It’s about your customer and their experience. It has emotion, it’s engaging and it has tension. So it’s about twisting it or turning it a little bit to your customer’s experience because that’s what they care about. They care about what they’re interested in, not what the company or the product is doing, but how the company or product can help them.”
Great storytelling makes the customer the hero, not the brand’s product or service. It’s natural to want to tell a story of a product or service’s features and benefits. However, effective storytelling show’s how a customer can save the day or solve a problem or challenge with that product or service, rather than remaining focused on those features and benefits. It’s all about the customer.
Effective storytelling frameworks include the hero’s journey, the Pixar formula and the buyer’s journey, among others. While this is not an exhaustive list of techniques, they are a strong foundation for brands looking to be more intentional with storytelling in their communications.
- Hero’s Journey
The hero’s journey is a tried and true storytelling framework that has been the foundation for movies and books for decades in addition to being incorporated into brands’ storytelling efforts.
“The hero goes on an adventure, he is victorious over a threat, and then he comes back changed,” Dana says about the framework. The concept is simple, yet it is incredibly effective in captivating and engaging audiences. Although it’s popular in movies and books, brands have the same opportunity to make their customers the hero of their own story, and strategically use cinematic elements like drama, tension and suspense.
- Pixar Formula
The Pixar formula is another effective storytelling framework. Just as it sounds, the Pixar formula is the basis for nearly all fairy tale-type stories, specifically Pixar movies. Effective and captivating, the formula has been adopted by others and is a strategy to consider when developing content for your brand. The Pixar formula framework includes:
- Once upon a time there was ____.
- Every day ____.
- One day ____.
- And because of that ____.
- Finally ____.
The Pixar formula can be a unique way to connect with and engage your audience, whether it is through a short video spot that appeals to the customer’s emotion, or a written article that tells your brand’s story. When working on your brand’s content strategy, remember that even though you may not be Pixar, you can engage your audience in a similar way with effective storytelling.
Although not a traditional storytelling framework, the buyer’s journey is a process that should be considered when planning and developing content. It is unique because it focuses on the process a customer goes through when considering a product or service and takes into account the different phases that occur before a decision is made.
“The buyer needs to get to know the product, which is the awareness level,” says Dana. “Then they need to get to like it, which is the engagement level. And then there’s trust and then there’s loyalty.”
The customer’s journey is unique to each individual, but the overarching stages occur for most customers, similar to a common sales funnel. With this in mind, you are able to ask questions to better understand your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Where are they in their journey? How can you most effectively communicate with them at their current level? Once they make a decision, how can you establish trust and loyalty with them?
Dana adds to the importance of the buyer’s journey and the role it plays in storytelling to connect with audiences. “I think storytelling is about layering the hero’s journey or the Pixar formula framework on top of the buyer’s experience,” she says. “It’s looking at where your audiences are in that buyer’s journey and telling the right story. If they’re at the awareness level, tell a story that’s going to help make them aware of you and your product and service. If they already know and like you, engage them and get them on board.”
Storytelling Across a Variety of Platforms
Audiences today utilize a variety of platforms to consume content and gain information. For marketers, this means that stories can, and should, be told across multiple platforms. However, it should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, stories must be developed and adapted to fit the platform on which they are being shared. Dana gives insights into how storytelling can be used across platforms to drive action in marketing.
“Storytelling can be used effectively in video testimonials and in communicating factual marketing data,” she says. “There’s a lot of data in marketing, so how can you turn that into a story that has interest? In our storytelling courses, Tim and I learned some new ideas on how to tell stories on social media, what mistakes to avoid and other tips about the marketing aspect of storytelling.”
As you plan your content strategy for the coming months, consider a focus on storytelling in social media, blogs and news articles, captivating video and other areas of content marketing that you’re utilizing to reach your audience. While the specific framework you follow may vary, the effectiveness of storytelling in communications remains consistent.
The Importance of Curiosity in Marketing
Regardless of the platform, a good story captivates audiences because of the emotion and connection that they feel. Oftentimes, the pieces of the story that provide this emotion and connection are the hardest to get, but the most impactful.
“Never be too busy or afraid to ask the next question, or to ask why, or say tell me more,” Dana says. “I think it’s a guarantee that that’s going to generate a spark and bring light to something that you didn’t know before. That’s really where all good stories come from… continuing to ask questions. Just be curious and be a listener. I think that’s how stories get found.”
Cliff drives home the value of being curious in marketing by saying, “Curiosity is so important to marketing in general, to be able to ask the questions that help you understand the audience, the market, the media, the need and the opportunities.”
Get additional insight from Dana and Cliff in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!