Storytelling isn’t new. But as social media and content marketing platforms continue to grow (in number and value), there’s never been more opportunity – or priority – for making storytelling a key part of strategic marketing initiatives. After all, our job as communicators is to sell  ideas, knowledge and reputation. Stories help you move beyond the mindset and mechanics of simply selling a product or service. And when the audience connects with your marketing stories, it leads to buy-in – figuratively (brand trust) and literally (product sales).

Here are three imperatives for impactful brand storytelling.

Hook your audience early.

Start your story with a hook – a question or problem that needs resolution.

The best stories relate to your audience’s challenges, piquing their curiosity and keeping them interested enough to want to read more. Just like a fairy tale, a captivating brand story includes three acts that set up the situation, chronicle the conflict and offer a solution.

The best stories relate to your audience challenges, piquing their curiosity and keeping them wanting more. Click To Tweet

Ask yourself: What business need does our product or service fulfill?

Make your customer the protagonist, not your product.

Your customer is your story’s main character; your company is the supporting cast. Personal relevance separates a mediocre storyteller from a good one. Give audiences a role in your brand’s story and they’ll see themselves as an extension of it.

While your story isn’t centered on your products or services, they can be part of it. Think about the narratives of big brands like Target or IKEA, which understand people on a tight budget still want stylish items for their homes.

Ask yourself: Are our customers at the center of our brand narrative?

Connect with emotional impact.

Your customers are people – and people, by nature, are not rational beings. We will often make decisions and then construct rational arguments to fit. In other words, we make choices based on feelings. There is a psychology to brand storytelling and emotion is an essential element of it. Without an emotional connection, it’s hard to make anyone care.

Do you remember the “This is your brain on drugs” public service campaign? It’s now being revived for a new generation, but it’s hard to forget the simple yet poignant (and alarming) message of the original. A dramatic example to illustrate the fact that our brains implicitly understand story structure; it fills in the blanks for what isn’t said. Our emotional brains are extremely perceptive, unlike our thinking processes, which can be slow to get the point.

Ask yourself: What emotion is our audience feeling before or after they encounter our product or service?

There is an art to content creation.

Technology has allowed us to better understand our customers, their patterns and even the human emotions that trigger the need to buy. But at the end of the day, business is personal; we buy from brands we like and trust. Storytelling continues to prove its power in helping companies and their communicators establish and nurture those customer connections – growing our business relationships and reputation.

For more than 15 years, Jen Zottola has helped bring clients’ stories to life – through media opportunities, digital and marketing content, executive presentations, employee communications and more. Fusing creativity with strategy, she crafts compelling, award-winning copy proven to reach and resonate with the right audiences in the most impactful ways. As editorial director, Jen collaborates with clients and account teams to provide counsel on messaging and voice, as well as writing and editing support. Her creativity isn’t reserved only for writing; Jen also gets a kick out of party- and event planning.