Our live Zoom Dives bring creative business experts together in conversation with our founder, Carolyn Dailey, to tackle some of the most urgent topics currently affecting entrepreneurs and freelancers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

For this edition, we were joined by journalist & expert content creator, Kim Willis, a storytelling mastermind with twenty years experience. Kim walked us through the key components of writing a powerful story, the best stories for entrepreneurs to tell, and how to devise an effective content strategy.

Read on to discover the key takeaways, or you can listen to the discussion in full here.

Why is storytelling so important?

  • It has the potential to grow your audience and build customer loyalty more than any other communication tool
  • Information is 22 times more memorable when you convey it through a story than a statistic or hard fact
  • The purpose of stories is to make emotional connections. Memories are neurologically attached to emotion, so if you can stir emotions in someone, they are more likely to remember what you've told them.
  • Storytelling is hard-wired into us as human beings. The ability to share stories and emotionally engage sets us apart from less advanced species.
  • Storytelling releases Oxytocin, also known as the 'love hormone' - definitely something you want to be associated with your brand or product!

How should you structure your story?

  • Almost every story has the same structure:
    • Act 1: Meet your hero - introduce yourself, establish a sense of rapport with your target audience
    • Act 2: What problem were you struggling with? What opportunity did you see that you could take advantage of?
    • The Moment everything changes - a call to adventure, the moment you found the product that could solve your problem
    • Act 3: Action, drama – experiencing that product, how it works, how it improves  your situation - and that of your target audience
    • Act 4: Resolution – the problem is resolved
    • Act 5: The New Bliss – happily ever after – demonstrate that you're happier because of your product
  • Often people get stuck with their storytelling when they haven’t sufficiently covered all of the Acts. Brands often jump straight into Action, but without the background information, customers will find it harder to engage with you.
  • All five Acts don’t have to appear all at once. Break them down, but make sure they are all covered on your platforms.
  • Consider which elements your content has been heavily focused on, and where you need to fill in the gaps, eg: if you've produced a lot of content based on Action and Resolution, go back and flesh out Meeting Your Hero, the Problem and the Moment of Change
    • Remember those who are new to your brand - don’t forget to take them back to the beginning and tell them the whole story

What stories should entrepreneurs be telling?

  • There are two core stories that are key for entrepreneurs:
    • Origin story: what is your story? Why is it important? Why does it matter to you? Today's consumers expect to hear about you, so share a bit about yourself to convey how your brand or product came to be.
      • We buy into people more than we buy into products
    • Mission story: what’s the problem in the world that your business is trying to solve? This story doesn’t have to be personal, but it should still be an emotive one that people can connect with.
      • Young people want to buy from brands that align with their beliefs
  • Other kinds of stories:
    • Making Of story: the journey taken to get your final product. This demonstrates the thought and effort that goes into producing your product.
    • User story: how do your customers experience the product/service? How does it benefit them?

How to devise an effective content strategy and choose the right types of content

  • The difference between storytelling and content: content is everything to do with your brand communications – all assets, marketing materials, copy, images etc. Not all of that will be a story. A story tells you something about the product/brand/service and its origins.
  • Devising a content strategy:
    • There are 3 core elements, and your content will fall into one of these three:
      • Brand - what is your brand?
      • Passion - what topics are you and your audience passionate about?
      • Product - what is your product, and what are you saying about it?
    • Try and marry the passion point with one of the other two elements
    • Consider where you are with your business, and ask yourself:
      • What are your objectives right now? Do you want to increase your audience size? Sell more event tickets? Sell more products? Who will help you achieve that goal?
      • Who are you trying to target?
      • What is your brand's purpose?
    • Establish 4 or 5 pillars – these are types of content that you might share that respond to the above questions.
    • When planning your content calendar, mix it up - spread the pillars across your platforms in a way that upholds your overarching brand message.
    • Look at your core competitors and see if you can identify the pillars that they’re trying to hit. Do you want to compete with theirs, or focus on the ones they have missed?

What mistakes do entrepreneurs make when planning their content?

  • Producing too much content. You don’t need to cover every channel right away, just because your competitors are, and then lose site of your business.
    • Hone in on one or two channels when you start out. Find out where your audience is spending time, and where they'll be receptive to your message, and focus your attention there.
  • Focusing on the product rather than the mission story, or vice versa. Keep it balanced. Marry authentic storytelling with your founding story that gives the product its value.
  • Making the founder the hero of the story, rather than the customer. This limits your growth potential as it makes you reliant on people only wanting to work with the founder. Your content needs to develop to convey that it’s a brand for a community, for a society.
  • Don't discount email marketing in this social media-heavy society. Newsletters are powerful because you own the channel more than you do on social. You own the mailing list, so you can grow it, segment it, and target your communications and your stories accordingly.
    • The click-to-sale rate is significantly higher with emails than social – few people will click off Instagram to see a product.