StorybookAs you may have gathered, we’re big advocates of storytelling in content marketing here at M2 Bespoke. It’s fair to say though that we’re not alone in that respect, but interpretation of what it is to be a storyteller varies from business to business.

As I detailed last month, we think it involves removing your marketer hat to replace it with one that reads ‘Storyteller’. What I mean is that content marketing teams should go as far as to drop the selling tactics for the duration of the campaign.

If you keep inserting your products or services into every piece of content, how do you expect the reader to stay immersed in the narrative you’re trying to tell?

Now, we’re not saying that you should keep your brand name away from the story completely, just to make mention of it as and when it adds value to what you are trying to say.

If only all brands adopted this way of thinking, we as consumers wouldn’t be fooled into thinking we’re reading something worth our time when, in fact, it has no take-away value at all.

Being over salesy is just one mistake brands are sometimes guilty of when it comes to storytelling. Here are five others, as identified by Practical Ecommerce:

Skewing the truth

In our experience, there aren’t many brands that are prepared to lie in order to convince a customer onto its product pages, but there are plenty who are dabbling in a bit of window dressing. However, even just conveniently omitting certain important details can be enough to erode your customers’ trust in your brand.

If it’s a long-term relationship you’re trying to build with your customers (which is it, of course), then be frank with them. They’ll appreciate your honesty and while they might not go on to make an immediate purchase, they also won’t be turned off from ever coming back to your site.

Telling irrelevant business stories

Now, I know I said to not go and make your content too product-centric, but your storytelling should at least have some relevance to your firm.

Take an insurance firm, for example: they should be writing personal stories about the industry – some case studies, perhaps – but don’t navigate too far from the nucleus of your business.

Any tenuous links about a celebrity who has suffered as a result of having no insurance, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily make a good story as they are hardly going to be easy to relate and sympathise with.

Telling a story that has already been told

The film industry is terrible for churning out stories that we’ve seen time and time again – that doesn’t mean you have licence to do the same.

With the amount of content that is written today, it can be difficult to find a genuinely new and interesting story idea, but it’s not impossible. Don’t just rely on one poor writer to come up with the ideas; bring all your creatives types together for the purpose of coming up with a storyline.

Don’t ignore what you have already at your disposal: what real-life stories has your business got to tell?

Wasting a good idea

Coming up with ideas is the easy bit – bringing them to life is where things get tricky. If you don’t have a team of writers who are capable of injecting their stories with some colour and personality, you can see a great idea go to waste.

It’s not just a case of getting words down on page – not if you want to see engagement anyway. There is a craft to storytelling, which might mean you have to do a few dummy runs to ensure your writers are employing the right amount of style.

It may also mean that you have to become ruthless when it comes to green lighting the content. The last thing you want is an ineffectual piece of writing to hit your website, as it could drag down the entire campaign.

Alienating half of your audience

We all have our political agendas, but you simply can’t allow them to filter into your content campaign. If you do and your readers pick up on it, you could run the risk of upsetting much of your audience.

Perhaps it’s best to stay away from the political sphere altogether, along with other controversial or divisive topics. We’re all for taking a chance, but it’s about taking the right sort of risks.

What other mistakes have you seen brands make with their storytelling efforts?

Ben Hollom

August 11, 2015