Storytelling 101: How to Create Website Content that Resonates With Your Audience
Authored by: Matt Pettifer & Bjorn Thomson.
Everyone loves a good story. After all, we’re practically hardwired from birth to use stories to interpret and make sense of the world around us. Strong narratives have the power to evoke emotion, create empathy, illuminate someone else’s point of view, and even change minds.
But can storytelling actually help you reach your business objectives, too?
Without a doubt, yes. Your organization's unique narrative can draw your audience in and inspire them to take the actions you want them to take. But the only way to achieve the impact you desire is to craft your stories with your audience at the center. Because here’s the truth of the matter: your business story isn’t really about you. It’s about how you can serve your audience and meet their needs.
Here’s how to get to the heart of your organizational story so your website can reach your audience more effectively.
Ask 3 Questions to Find Your Organizational Story
Storytelling comes naturally in so many areas of life. But tapping into its potential on a professional level can be challenging. So if you’re struggling to create your organization’s narrative, take a step back and think through what you’re trying to say and who you’re trying to reach.
You should relay your story in the traditional three-act format: set up, conflict, and resolution. And to be most effective, each part or phase of the tale you tell should be squarely focused on your audience.
Ask 3 foundational questions to help you get started.
1. Who is Your Audience?
Marketers talk about reaching their audience all the time. But it’s surprising how often “audience” becomes a synonym for “everyone.” If you want your website to communicate stories that resonate, you have to know exactly who you’re talking to. And even more importantly, you have to understand what makes them tick.
If you haven’t explored the various traits that make up your audience recently, now’s the time. Sometimes it’s helpful to engage an outside consultant who can help you dig into your market segments and create insightful user personas. They can also help you re-evaluate stories that might be missing the mark as currently constructed.
For example, one of our clients asked us to conduct user research to learn how their content was landing with their target audience. Along the way, we made a surprising discovery. Quite a few respondents stated that they could tell at first glance that the website was not for them. All the stories and images were geared toward families. None of the narratives were geared toward the respondents, who happened to be college students. This organization offered a number of services to support college students, but the message simply wasn’t getting through.
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to inadvertently share stories that miss the mark and alienate the people you’re trying to attract. Developing a deeper understanding of each subset of your audience will help you get a handle on their specific behaviours, desires, needs, goals, and motivations. And that’s the key to creating a successful, highly personalized user experience.
2. What Does Your Audience Need from You?
Many organizations spend a lot of time thinking about their own business needs. And that makes sense. It’s crucial to understand your organizational goals and objectives to chart out a course for where your organization is headed.
However, your website doesn’t exist to communicate your needs. Its purpose is to help you meet your audience’s needs. As such, your stories should convey empathy for your personas’ various pain points and demonstrate insight that helps them solve their problems.
Furthermore, since your audience’s needs are always changing, you should plan to tell different stories to different parts of your audience at different times. You can’t set it and forget it. You must constantly be uncovering new stories in order to keep your content fresh and engaging.
3. How Does Your Organization Uniquely Meet Your Audience’s Needs?
What do you offer your audience that no one else does? Storytelling can help you differentiate yourself from your competition and highlight the unique characteristics you possess. However, uncovering your distinctive value proposition can be the hardest part of the process. You might think your brand story is boring or that it’s just like everyone else’s. But every organization has something that makes it special.
Here’s an example to illustrate this point. ImageX designs and develops websites — that’s our core service offering. Many other agencies offer similar services. But where we stand out is our commitment to uncovering our clients’ stated and unstated needs and building the right solution to meet those needs. We care about getting it right, and we value people over profit. That’s why the stories we tell on our website and in personal conversations with clients are friendly, and relationship focused.
You have a story to tell, too. If you can’t quite put your finger on it, try requesting feedback from someone with an outside perspective. Perhaps survey customers or users and have them describe how you’ve served them. Ask them to share what characteristics distinguish you from other organizations they’ve worked with. If that’s not possible, an agency partner can help you hone in on and sharpen your narrative.
Look for Ways to Make Your Audience the Hero of the Story
Often, your organization is the hero of the story. Your audience has a problem; you’ve got the solution. So you lay out the challenge, describe the conflict involved, and position yourself as the answer your audience is looking for. Follow that up with a well-placed call to action, and voila. Your story inspires your prospect to turn the page and discover what’s next.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach to storytelling. However, the central character in this traditional construct is still you, the organization. Imagine how powerful it could be to make your prospect the hero of the story instead.
What might this look like? It involves flipping the narrative on its head.
For example, imagine you’re a nonprofit organization that champions literacy programs in underserved communities. What if the recipient of those services became more than a beneficiary? How could you tell the story to position that recipient as the hero?
Or say you’re a business launching a new product. Is there a way to show your audience using that product in an empowering way — perhaps in service to others?
Any time you can make your audience the central character of the story, you are more likely to draw them in and keep them coming back for more.
Infuse Your Website With the Power of Storytelling
Research shows that if we’re taught something through a narrative, we’re more likely to relate to the message, absorb it further, and remain engaged from start to finish. Furthermore, telling a story has the power to evoke the types of emotions that lead people to make decisions. So if you want to reach your audience more effectively, it’s clear that infusing your website with the power of storytelling is a good place to start.
Your organization’s story is waiting to be told. To find it:
- Take time to identify who your audience is.
- Do the research to understand their needs, goals, and motivations.
- Get creative.
- Tell stories that solve your prospects’ problems while championing them as the hero whenever possible.
Need help bringing your content strategy to life? Just reach out. We’d love to help you find your story’s happily ever after.