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7 Tips for Storytelling Success in Marketing

7 tips to Successful Storytelling

A story, told well, is potent. But what’s the secret sauce to “told well from a marketing perspective?” Does it grab and hold onto the reader/viewer/listener?

J.D. Schramm founded the Mastery in Communication Initiative at Stanford University, and has proffered these seven key elements that go into a story told well. I’ve summarized them, here, through the lens of creating a marketing message.

  1. Dispense with the preliminaries. Get to the meat of the matter meat right away. Once you’ve captured the reader/viewer/listerner’s attention, then fill in with context, insights, morals.

  2. First words and last words are critical. Your headline (and lede) must be provocative and challenging. And, get right into the first sentence and paragraph. Otherwise, your email will not be opened, your video will be abandoned, or your envelope will not be opened. Last words reinforce and drive the point home, buttoning up your message.

  3. Be mindful of the level of detail you include. To much, and it becomes boring or tedious. Too little, and the reader/viewer doesn’t have enough context to “get inside” your story. To gauge what to include, know the experience or knowledge level of your intended audience.

  4. Focus your thoughts sequentially. Don’t mix or blend benefits together into one sentence or section. Isolate with subheads or graphics.

  5. Less is more. It’s harder to write fewer words that work hard than it is to go on and on. And, it'll be more effective.

  6. Silence is golden. Easily achieved in video. Not so much in writing. But, you can break up your written message with useful graphics—but please, not another meaningless stock image.

  7. Audience, Intent, Message. Know them. Capture them. Motivate them.

A powerful story, well told, can be short, concise, and compelling. Schramm cites an under-four-minute TED talk from Mark Bezos, titled “A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Firefighter.

Even the transcript draws you in, and doesn’t let go, starting with, “Back in New York, I am the head of development for a non-profit called Robin Hood. When I'm not fighting poverty, I'm fighting fires as the assistant captain of a volunteer fire company."

It wraps up: “Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody's life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one. So get in the game. Save the shoes.”

This summary was inspired by Schramm’s Harvard Business Review guest blog post, “A Refresher on Storytelling 101.”