10 Storytelling-in-Content Marketing Lessons Learned

Storytelling lifts content marketing into more powerful messaging. Today we share 10 lessons learned as a result of a content marketing series. This campaign was designed to energize volunteers and a base of followers, build a larger base of supporters and strengthen a brand with the long-term goal of monetization through product and

Storytelling lifts content marketing into more powerful messaging. Today we share 10 lessons learned as a result of a content marketing series. This campaign was designed to energize volunteers and a base of followers, build a larger base of supporters and strengthen a brand with the long-term goal of monetization through product and event sales.

During this campaign, we’ve seen, first-hand, the power of story with diverse styles of video content marketing that included interviews, behind-the-scenes stories building up to a major event, and the high viewership of the final long-form video

Regular readers of our blog may be aware that I am a member of a world-class international Barbershop Harmony Society champion chorus (we recently won our 12th Gold Medal competing among 31 groups from four countries in front of a live audience of 7,000 plus thousands tuning in via webcast). I handle the marketing for the organization (with assistance from Reinventing Direct co-author Perry Alexander). We have the latitude to explore new approaches, and we share them from time-to-time with readers like you.

Because it’s a music-based organization, and because we frequently use video as the primary messaging vehicle, we have come to realize the power of not just music, but overlaying storytelling.

Now that the six-month pre-contest campaign has concluded, we share 10 lessons we’ve learned from this campaign about storytelling and content marketing.

  1. Stimulate interest/earn trust: You audience probably isn’t interested in what you have to sell until you have stimulated their interest and earned their trust in your value to making their lives better.
  2. Give them unusual access: They want to be let in on what’s behind-the-scenes. Video can deliver this experience better than any other channel.
  3. Build tension/release with joy: Like any good story, add an element of tension, but let the audience experience joy. People will remember you for how you made them feel.
  4. Give context in your story: As an insider, it is your responsibility, as a storyteller, to set the stage. Refrain from using acronyms and jargon, so the viewer can appreciate the importance of an upcoming element of the story.
  5. Leverage the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Craft your story so it builds from one part to the next, so your audience, while fearing they’ll miss something, is looking for your message.
  6. Let characters be stars: If you have multiple people in the story, creatively develop a delivery vehicle so everyone can participate. (We had a crazy idea about how to include over 140 people, including myself, in a video. See the result here.)
  7. Put your audience inside the story. Don’t be detached. Invite them to come along with you.
  8. Encourage comments and reviews. Your audience will tell you what they think, so invite participation.
  9. The story dictates length: Many claim videos must be short. Not necessarily true. They must be tightly edited and move the story along. The final video in this series was 36 minutes long, and YouTube audience retention was higher than average, all the way to the end. Use YouTube analytics to reveal where fall-offs occur and to improve your overall storytelling.
  10. Strategically monetize: Think long-term about monetizing content marketing. In this series, coming into the all-important fourth quarter, this audience is pumped, which makes selling performance tickets, recordings and fundraising all the easier.

Beyond building the brand (and winning the contest), tangible results of this six-month campaign include combined video views of over 22,000 (still growing daily), website views spiking by four times over average, consistently strong email open and click rates, Facebook Fan page follower increase of 25 percent, and Twitter follower increase of 27 percent.

Bottom line: You must continue to offer multiple reasons using circular viralocity for people to return to your website. You do that by developing a compelling story and content.

Finally, a word about music and the brain, and why this storytelling campaign was so successful: Recent brain imaging studies are telling us more about the importance of singing or playing a musical instrument than we’ve known before. For instance, if you’re a manager or executive, chances are that as a child you sang or played a musical instrument. A recent study reveals that early musical training can be influential in determining an individual’s success.

And there’s more: Emotions encouraged by music activate similar frontal brain regions, and can have a significant impact on your marketing messaging.

Music has the power to create a pleasurable experience that can be described as “chills.” As chills increase, many changes in cerebral blood flow are seen in brain regions such as the amygdala. These same brain areas appear to be linked to reward, motivation, emotion and arousal, and are also activated in other pleasurable situations.

Storytelling works. The inclusion of relevant music in storytelling can stimulate and take people to desirable emotional places. And if you want reaction, make sure the music “chills.”

YouTube Analytics for Direct Marketers

For direct marketers, YouTube analytics is a treasure-trove of data about video marketing measurement and performance. By interpreting “Views Reports,” you can produce stronger direct response-oriented videos using demographics, playback locations, traffic sources and audience retention. Translate the description of the metrics into direct marketing language, and you’ll gain a new perspective of the power of online video marketing.

For direct marketers, YouTube analytics is a treasure-trove of data about video marketing measurement and performance. By interpreting “Views Reports,” you can produce stronger direct response-oriented videos using demographics, playback locations, traffic sources and audience retention. Translate the description of the metrics into direct marketing language, and you’ll gain a new perspective of the power of online video marketing.

For example, views can be thought of as impressions or leads. Look at views by day of the week like you might think of seasonality in direct mail terms. The demographics from YouTube reporting reveals gender and ages of your viewers—something you would want to understand before choosing a direct mail list.

Playback locations, including where a video is embedded (your own website or other locations), tells you where your direct marketing campaign could yield the best result. Knowing if mobile viewing is high or growing is vital. And knowing audience retention is akin to knowing if your outer envelope was opened, and how much of the letter, brochure, lift note and order form were read.

In this video, we take you on the tour of View Reports on YouTube analytics, and show you examples from our own videos so you can see these reports firsthand.


(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

Finally, a request: in our next series of videos we will be dissecting the “YouTube Creator Playbook” and interpreting it for direct marketers. There is a tremendous amount of information to cover. Please tell us in your comments below, or send an email to me, with your preference of video delivery. Tell us if you prefer….

1. Longer “deep dive” videos that are several minutes long and cover the material in a three-part series?

Or…

2. Shorter videos that are only a few minutes long, but cover the material in smaller parts over several weeks?

We’ve also considered producing a set of videos that would take you deeper within the “YouTube Creator Playbook” and YouTube analytics to show you how those numbers can be used by direct marketers. If you would be interested in subscribing to an educational program like this, please use the email link on this page, or comment below, to let us know your thoughts.