If you want to influence people, there is one thing you really need: a well-told story.
We know the elements of good storytelling work – remember Freytag's Pyramid from high school English class? Good stories create an emotional connection with the audience, impart a message and are memorable.
Strong marketing and PR strategies boil down to telling a good story over different channels to influence human thought and behavior.
Think about the buyer’s journey in terms of its place in your company’s story – it helps clarify goals for each stage of the journey, makes defining your call to action easier and ensures you cover all phases to truly move the needle on your business goals.
Exposition: Who are you? Why should we trust you?
At the start of a story, you expect to learn who the characters are and the world they inhabit to set the stage. Ultimately, the goal of the beginning is to get the audience invested in the story so they continue reading, watching or listening to that story.
In PR and marketing, we call this the awareness stage of the marketing funnel or buyer’s journey. You want to let your audience know who you are, what the state of the industry is like and start to build trust.
Rising Action: What problems exist in this world? How do the characters fit in?
Once your audience knows the character and setting, we want to introduce where tensions lie in this world or for the characters (hint: it must be relatable to the reader, viewer or listener). In a book, this is called rising action and it builds to the climax or emotional high point in the story. Communications professionals call this the interest stage of the buyer’s journey.
Once your new audience knows you (and is beginning to trust you), it is time to position yourself in the context of your industry. This builds credibility on the trust you are fostering with your audience. For example, talking about common pain points within your industry shows the audience that you understand what they are going through, versus asking them to take your word on it.
Thought leadership is one of the most effective ways to share a vision for the future of your industry or solutions to overcome common challenges. This helps to establish your point of view and position your company as a go-to expert leading the market.
Climax: A problem needs to be solved - how?
The decision phase of the buyer's journey is most like the climax of a well-told story: the hero needs to fix a problem. This is the emotional high point in a buyer’s journey, called the consideration stage, which is when they acknowledge there is an issue to solve and are ready to utilize a solution.
A strategic marketing and PR plan at this stage will help your audience become the hero and set up the solution as your product or service. Consider how your product or service fuels your audience in terms of what they gain or how it motivates them, and where there is friction like pain, fear or obstacles to success. Catering to the emotional drivers of your audience propels action.
Falling Action: Where steps are taken
When does a prospect turn into a customer or client? It’s when your desired action is taken. The action you choose can vary from campaign to campaign, but all marketing and PR goals (including desired actions in the buyer's journey) should ultimately tie back to a key business goal.
Revelation: The key takeaway you repeat to others
The moral of your story is what you want people to repeat to others – like “There’s no place like home” as an ultimate message of the Wizard of Oz. This stage of the buyer's journey is called advocacy, and it is when your audience uses their trust and credibility among their network to help add to your story. Testimonials, reviews, recommendations and referrals are all examples of important advocacy tools that help to bring in additional members of your audience.
This audience may not always be your customers or clients – employees are one of the strongest advocacy tools businesses have. A passionate employee helps not only business goals, but can support recruiting and retention efforts as well.
While any singular buyer's journey is not linear, it’s important to fully build out each phase of the journey to create an efficient marketing and PR strategy that effectively drives actual results. Putting your content in the context of a well-told story can help you determine what the call to action of any piece of communications material should be, where there are gaps in the content you have and even can help you figure out where there are weak spots or breaks in the journey where your audience is no longer following along with your story.
A good corporate story is not just a marketing and PR tactic – it’s the strategy behind every facet of your business, from sales to HR. Invest in getting your story right.
Rachael’s favorite part of her job is helping to tell stories on the best platform to reach the correct audience. As the manager of integrated PR strategy at Inkhouse, she is responsible for helping to craft and execute communications plans for a diverse range of clients, ensuring the teams are on-track to meet clients' goals. From social media content creation to media relations, her experience allows her to think strategically and creatively about storytelling across new and traditional platforms.