There are so many ways for us to engage with our audiences these days - and for audiences to engage with brands - that it’s a wonder we don’t all have headaches. Especially when you consider many brands still treat each channel separately, having a strategy for email, a strategy for website, and a different strategy again for social media.
The thing is, the response users get when interacting with your brand must be consistent - having a different tone on social, your website, and in-store can actually be damaging to how your brand is perceived, and by extension how it grows.
One solution to maintaining that consistency is to devise a brand story that flows across all channels, and the best way to maintain consistency is to devise a narrative that can be deployed across channels in a way that best suits that channel.
Combining channels, but telling one story
Yet an integrated approach to storytelling is still not the norm. The annual CMO Survey shows little progress in integration between social media and marketing strategy, hovering mid-way between not at all and very integrated - where it’s been since 2012.
There are shining lights, though, for us to learn from. For example, AO.com’s marketing team works together with the customer service team, ensuring that they can help customers have a great delivery experience and then amplify that to attract more customers. The story here? AO.com cares and is here to help and support.
Likewise, Dutch airline KLM - long heralded as a social leader - centralized its social media hub in 2010, combining social teams from corporate communications and e-commerce to handle marketing, sales, and service inquiries in a 24/7 coverage model. This ensures the story told by KLM on social matches the story told by customer service and support, as well as PR, content marketing, campaigns, digital, and so on and so forth.
Both of these approaches work because the brand keeps the customer and the audience at the centre. They know that audience intimately, understands what is needed, and shows the brand’s human side by telling stories of success and support.
It takes some planning to get to this point - and you don’t need to combine your teams to get there. Nothing works like storytelling to instantly connect with your audience, and chances are your audience is bigger on social media than it is anywhere else. Here’s how to use traditional storytelling techniques to ensure a cohesive brand story is told across multiple platforms, including social.
Identify your protagonist and antagonist
If you haven’t done this yet, then it must be priority No 1. Who is your customer? Who are you talking to? Identify them, but also identify their pain points - those issues that might stop them from having a great experience with your brand. In traditional storytelling terms, your customer is the protagonist and those challenges are the antagonists. Remember, your customer must remain the hero of the story, not your brand.
Now you know who they are, you next need to know how to capture their attention, what they need and how it will improve their lives. Social media is a key part of this equation, but it’s not the only one. Where does that audience go for information? Yes, social channels will be a big one - but is it Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Do they, in fact, search TripAdvisor or other online forums, eschewing traditional social media altogether?
Outline and plan your story
Use notecards on the wall, or a fancy piece of software - whatever is comfortable - and pinpoint each part of that user journey, each touchpoint your customer has with your brand’s story, and identify how to keep them moving.
Story structure dictates five narrative arcs: the inciting moment, the rising action, the turning point, the falling action, and the moment or release. Putting that into content strategy terms:
- The inciting moment is awareness when the audience first identifies a need
- The rising action is qualification and evaluation, where the audience is researching and engaging with brands to see who’s best to meet their need
- The turning point is conversion, where they make their purchase decision
- The falling action is your audience becoming a customer and learning your ways
- The moment of release could be seen as advocacy, or as the bottom of the funnel where you’re retaining and cross or up-selling through your story
Each incident will likely be on a different channel, so think of the tone and manner of interaction.
Choose your own adventure
Multichannel storytelling means that the story could be different for every user; the main thing is not that every user gets the same story, but that they get the same tone of interaction and get pushed along to the next stage in their journey. Take that KLM example - the corporate communications and customer service teams are in one hub, talking to the same people, telling the same story. Yet, they’ll have different ways to tell that story on social media, to the local newspaper, to CNN, and to colleagues.
This is where your multi-channel, integrated approach to storytelling comes in. You have your overarching story to be told - your key message, your mission statement - but the way that story is told and the aspects you focus on will depend on where you’re telling it. The earlier steps, from knowing your audience to planning your story, will help you decide where to tell this specific bit of the brand’s story.
Plan your sequel
Take a step back and make sure your storytelling approach is working at each point. Track, measure, get insights to understand how your story is playing, and make any adjustments as you go along. And once you’re ready, head out for part 2, and part 3, 4, and 10. After all, the best stories are ones that evolve and grow.
Including social media in your storytelling
Marketing influencer Jay Baer reminds us that social media is not something to be used in isolation. He has a three-step social media adoption plan:
- Devise an appropriate, tactically-agnostic social media strategy
- Audit your current marketing, and add social media ingredients
- Where necessary, add new social media programs
We’d add a fourth step here:
- Have a brand story that is deployed across multiple channels, including your social media, to ensure consistency of message and consistency of experience.
Using storytelling techniques in a multi-channel strategy not only helps to keep customer experience consistent, it also helps to create a clever customer journey that is seamless and enticing. Social insights can help to track how your story is playing with your audience, and to identify gaps and improvements to be made - or to see where you’re doing so well, you should tell stories about it! Social insights are key to keeping your brand story moving; discover how Linkfluence can help.