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Storytelling Sells. Except When It Doesn’t. Here’s Why, When, and How to Add Narrative To Your Content Writing

Content marketers push storytelling. It’s every book boasting content writing tips and Rightly so. It draws you in, hooks your attention, and forges those all-important emotional connections between brand and customer that result in prolific clicks on a buy now button. 

And, in a world where AI bots can churn out product descriptions and blog articles faster than you can say ‘copywriting’, storytelling and emotion are where a human content writer will make their final stand. 

But just as the tone of your writing will change from brand to brand, whether you incorporate a compelling narrative into your content writing depends on what you are writing. Storytelling sells, but as with most things in life, it is not a catch-all, wonder approach. So, when do we need to dial down the storytelling? And when does it work wonders in your brand marketing?

Storytelling sells. Except when it doesn’t.

Sometimes, your writing will need to be a bit more prosaic, but how do you know when to bring out the storytelling big guns and when to stick to the cold hard facts? 

We’ve all read them. Recipe pages that force you to read through fifteen paragraphs of waffle when all you want to know is how to cook your miso tofu wrap with seared winter greens. Undoubtedly the story is emotive and meaningful, but it isn’t needed. 

Do you need storytelling in your content writing? Well, does your audience need convincing to cook the recipe? Or do they just want the recipe?

If Your Readers are Already Experts In Need of Advice or Instruction.

They don’t need persuading or convincing, they need the information right there on the plate. Online gaming developers don’t need convincing that the Metaverse is the new future of the web, but they will want to know how to integrate your products into their systems. Experienced marketers already know the value of content for SEO, but they might need some tips on optimizing their content. Waste their time with a story, and run the risk of losing their trust and business. Recipe content could include:

  • Listicles for experts. Five ways to write calls-to-action that convert.
  • How-to guides: An step-by-step explanation of how to integrate your new product into existing company software.
  • Any other content where your readers are already industry experts or familiar with the concepts you are writing about. 

Storytelling in Content Marketing: When You Need to Educate, Persuade, or Earn a Client’s Trust. 

When the recipe alone isn’t enough you need a story. Think of any book you have read or a movie you have seen recently. The narrative will follow a linear path. There’s usually a central character, some kind of problem or peril preventing them from moving forward, and a solution that helps them overcome it. 

Taking your customers on a narrative journey is a powerful way to persuade, educate, and even change their minds about your brand.

Why?

Because we read narrative language differently. 

Our brains respond in a different way to narrative language than they do to facts and figures. A crazy story, but true. Spanish researchers have found that we don’t only make sense of stories with our language processing parts of our brain (like we do for, say, statistics and facts) but with other areas too. Stories are hardwired to engage our olfactory, motor, visual, sensory, and auditory cortexes. Simply, we can see, hear, and feel stories when we read them. 

Perhaps you’re trying to convince a new customer to trust you enough to click that ‘buy now’ button. Or you want investors to take the leap to back your startup. Maybe you’re providing information to businesses new to content marketing and you need to help them understand how it can drive higher ROI than traditional marketing strategies. 

You need to make those emotional connections. You need stories.

Brand Storytelling

Product use cases or client case studies lend themselves well to narrative copy. They are, by definition, stories about someone who has used your product or service and how it has worked for them. The copy lends itself to emotive persuasive language, interviews with real people, and compelling examples of how your product or service has solved problems.

Incorporating storytelling into content like product descriptions is more nuanced but follows the same narrative pattern. “We got fed up with cold hands on our weekend hikes, so we’ve designed the new Superwarm Gloves to include our patent double insulation. It means you never have to hike with frozen fingers again.”

It could also read. “The new Superwarm Gloves have double-thickness insulation”. But that wouldn’t tell you that the people behind the brand understand your cold hand problems, that they love hiking too, and that, just maybe, they know exactly what would make gloves perfect for your outdoor pursuits. 

How Do You Add Storytelling Into Your Content?

Weaving a story into a blog article about the benefits of content marketing over traditional advertising isn’t easy. It takes more creativity, thought, an understanding of your audience, and perhaps even an interview with a client or an expert before you can put pen to paper. Storytelling is a more complicated business than simply writing out descriptions or facts. Here’s how to write content for a website that incorporates storytelling:

  • Know your audience. So you can work out whether you need expert-led recipe-style content or an emotive story-driven narrative. 
  • What are your audience’s pain points? Once you’re heading down the storytelling road, you need to weave your narrative. What is the hurdle your main character – the customer – needs to overcome? And how does your product or service solve those problems?
  • Google it. Is your story worth telling? Analyze what the Google SERPs throw up to determine whether there is space for your story. Are all similar search results targeted to the already-expert audience? If so, it might mean that they’re the only ones doing the searching and a story isn’t needed this time.

Incorporating storytelling into your content writing is a powerful way to convince customers to trust your brand or engage with a new concept. It’s likely to become a core part of your brand marketing strategy and tops lists of content marketing tips. But, storytelling is not always the right path. Before you start writing, ask yourself whether your audience just need the recipe or, whether you need to convince them that they want to start cooking in the first place.

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