Storytelling – it’s the fairy dust that gets our websites and businesses noticed.
Case study challenge
Recently, I was approached by an eco-tourism business about a website needing modernisation.
A fabulous business, with excellent longevity, this country getaway attracted a lot of repeat customers. However, similar ventures were popping up nearby, loyalty wasn’t guaranteed, and the business was missing out on new trade.
The communications solution
Aside from optimising web copy for Google, I suggested a focus on storytelling.
Done well, stories build confidence and interest in our brands. More than a marketing tool, they communicate the values and the passion behind what we do.
Our best stories are heartfelt, human and relatable. Whether commercial or not-for-profit, developing trust and belief in ourselves as business-owners and in our services - is key to our success.
The neuroscience of storytelling
If you’re curious about how powerful storytelling can be, and want to know a bit more about how it influences human biology, I can recommend a TED talk by David JP Phillips. (Research organisation Global Gurus ranked Phillips’ number 8 in the world’s top communication professionals for 2020).
4 easy ways to add stories to a website
The good news is that most of us have bundles of stories to share:
1. Use testimonials and case studies
A good place to start is with the people involved – telling our own stories and those of our customers and employees.
Customer and employee testimonials are possibly the most persuasive stories a website can tell and can be presented in video format or written up as quotes.
On a “work with us" page, employee testimonials speak to brand and culture in a way that a recruiter or employer can’t. Likewise, case studies keep things real and relatable.
Just remember that videos can't be skim read like a block of text, so demand a lot from the viewer. For that reason, it’s best to keep videos short. But, they are a powerful tool and are great for website SEO.
2. Highlight the good stuff
Whether our work has sustainability goals, a purely commercial objective, or a mix of both - our achievements and projects should be visible and easy to understand.
Some organisations use a report card method, where the numbers do the talking (perfect in a business report or advocacy campaign). Or they might use a video for a short-film approach.
Written copy always works best if it’s jargon-free and concise.
One client I have put a lot of time into ensuring shipping and packaging was as sustainable as possible. Badging the website footer was a great way to tell that story simply.
All that was needed was a couple of well-chosen words and permission to use the copy and the service provider's logo on the website.
3. Write a blog
Google and other search engines favour high quality, long-form content - and blogs do that beautifully. Apart from providing readers with plenty of information, a blog can help a business tell a fuller story.
I use my blog to share my knowledge with others and to let people know what I do for a living. An association might focus on news and projects they have running. Or they might use it to spotlight member achievements.
Put a strategy behind posts, and there’s a mechanism that can speak to each of our communities one story at a time in a planned way – be they clients, investors, other businesses, or the causes we align with.
More good news - blogs are easy to share online and can be used as source material for shorter posts on social media, in emails and in other communications. So, if you're paying for a copywriter, a blog can represent excellent value.
4. Use the right visuals
Most businesses have no trouble defining a look, but in time photographs and styles can date.
To keep things looking tip top, it’s a good idea to review the company style guide every now and then.
Some sole traders arrive at getting a style guide late, but when they do, it can take their online and print communications next level - instantly.
My style guide is just a couple of pages long - it’s useful for me and anyone providing me with print or design services.
The rules it prescribes give consistency to how my brand is presented. It covers basic information like how to use my logo, what fonts I use, and the RGB and HEX codes for the primary and secondary colours associated with my brand. It also covers stylistic conventions that I use when writing copy for myself.
For bigger entities with multiple sub-brands (or operations that are scaling up), a style guide needs more detail.
Having worked with design teams for most of my career (in museums and in associations), I’ve seen the value professional designers can bring.
If I'm working on content strategy with a client, I often encourage them to consider design too.
Upgrading a website for instance, is the perfect time to rethink or refresh the look of a brand, and bringing in a graphic designer for advice can be a shortcut to success.
A good graphic designer knows how to use typography, colour and space, and can suggest when it’s good to use stock imagery, when to use custom visuals or when lo-fi content (like phone-camera pics), might have better emotional resonance.
Getting advice on visual storytelling can really pay off.
Focus on priorities and quality - not quantity
The key is to plan and to know what our key messages are. Then to decide which methods will be most cost effective and suited to purpose. In this article, I’ve mentioned testimonials, videos, blogs, design and even badging a website footer with a logo.
When I started exploring ideas for stories with my eco-tourism client, we identified priorities in refreshing their logo, attracting good staff and sharing some of the more interesting and unusual stories.
To be honest there was no shortage of tales to tell - their properties had been used as a location for a recent television production, a place for people interested in star gazing and rare bird watching and as a retreat frequented by artists and writers.
Once stories become part of the way we think about our business, the biggest challenge isn’t where to find them, it’s often choosing which ones to tell next.
Seeking further advice?
If you'd like to discuss ways to use storytelling on your website or if you need help with a communications strategy, you can book a free twenty minute discovery call below.