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Is storytelling the heart of marketing?

Trends often arrive and depart so quickly in the digital arena, that you can blink and miss them and often be left wondering whether they can possibly make an impact on how marketing campaigns are run, or social media tools are used.

With this in mind I want to take what one of our Digital Exeter speakers, Claire Bryden from the National Trust, shared with us and expand on it further. This is one of those ‘trends’ that shouldn’t be considered as such, as it’s been a tool in passing information on since the dawn of communication. If you’re marketing any kind of business or product, you should be utilising the art of storytelling.

According to Wikipedia, content marketing is ‘any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.’ The phrase ‘content marketing’ has been bandied around since the mid 1990’s and it’s no surprise that this date coincides with the launch of web browsers.

The problem with content marketing for those working in digital is information overload. Consumers have become discerning, and with the advent of social media they can afford to be choosy about the brands they like and the adverts they see. With this change it has become nigh on impossible to stand out from the crowd. How can you make people see your brand, when there are ten other brands selling the same thing, probably with a larger budget?

You do what the human species has been doing since the beginning of time with their drawings of cavemen on walls. You tell a story, your story. All future content stems from this story, and your stories become your brand… or your brand becomes your story. It’s intrinsically linked.

The consumer is becoming savvy, and more importantly, selective in what they want to read about, hear about and share with others. They want compelling and engaging stories that don’t sell the product. Content has become a tool for building stronger relationships with customers, and this is why it works so well with social media. The consumers are able to become part of the story, and feel a real sense of connection with the brand.

content marketing and information overload

Consumers are now experiencing information overload in the digital medium, and are becoming choosy about what they read and share.

Since the heady days of manipulating SEO with keywords, search engines like Google have started to hone their algorithms and quality of content is now measurable. This means more work for those creating the content because quality not quantity is what will get your brand seen.

It also means more work for the brands themselves. They have to think carefully about whom they are, where they have come from and where they want to go. They have to realise they are playing the long game, and they need to know what their identity is from the start. There’s no more winging it, and for marketers this is great. Content plans can be created years in advance with the knowledge that there is one message.

This is what works for the National Trust. Their singular aim is to ‘grow the nation’s love of special places,’ and since being founded in 1895 they have worked hard to ‘preserve and protect historic places and spaces – for ever, for everyone.’ For over 120 years the National Trust has been telling their story and by connecting with audiences both meaningfully and emotionally they are able to build membership numbers and fundraise to help cover mounting costs.

Claire, who spoke at our event, is the Digital and Social Media Consultant for the South West within the National Trust, and it’s a sign that despite the perception that the Trust is often ‘old fashioned’ it is in fact quite the opposite, and they are able to engage different audiences by sharing their story on their multiple digital channels.

So perhaps take a moment; work out what you want your story to be and how you want to tell it. When you get it right, your products will sell themselves.

To learn more about the latest digital trends you can attend the bi-monthly Digital Exeter meet up. To find out more or to speak at one of our events, visit www.digitalexeter.uk or find us on twitter @digitalexeter.

This article was written for Exeter Life magazine, November issue.