Today’s marketer knows to “lead with story.” But how can they make sure the intended takeaways from these stories shine through and are truly heard? I will share the importance of putting the audience at the forefront in planning how to make the message more digestible.
Renowned writer Anne Lamott’s popular book on “Writing and Life” is titled “Bird by Bird.” The title is drawn from an anecdote about the author’s brother being totally overwhelmed by a report on birds while facing a stack of unopened books on various birds. His father suggested “just take it bird by bird.” Aside: I just finished Freeway Rick Ross’ autobiography and it’s tough to keep my bird references in check.
Lamott applies this advice to break big projects into small pieces to the writing process. Yet marketers could also relate this thinking to their storytelling too. If the story is long, unwieldy, or unfocused, the audience will be overwhelmed and unable to discern the main value proposition or respond to the call-to-action.
The best storytelling, whether it is found in a Lamott novel or an industry trends white paper, is in tune with its audience. In the marketing context, this can mean telling a story in several different ways for the various target audiences. I just had a conversation with a friend today about different ways to share his podcast because some people want to listed in their car and others want to watch via IG video.
Making Insights Bite-Sized
Consider the results of a qualitative research report you’ve commissioned. While the full insights, developed in-depth, can be useful for internal audiences, offering easily digestible insights can help the story to be disseminated quickly throughout the organization. These “snackable insights” are more likely to become ingrained in the organization too.
When taking those qualitative research results and sharing them with an external audience, give some thought first to the target audience and your objectives of sharing that particular story.
Approaches to telling the story could include:
- Evidence-based white paper to boost your brand’s thought leadership credibility.
- Gated content infographic summarizing findings to drive website traffic.
- Social media campaigns leveraging quotes, metrics, and data insights to expand reach.
- Short video focusing on research highlights in a visually appealing way to reach new audiences.
By creatively breaking the story into bite-sized insights, you can keep the audience coming back for more. Today we read a story by Charles Dickens in one classic book, but originally his novels were published on a serialized basis. With Americans consuming an estimated 100,000 digital words each day, better stand out by being selective about what insights you contribute to the daily digital clutter.
At the same time your approach and what you highlight can vary depending on audience. Consider the storytelling efforts of a team marketing an Internet of Things (IoT)-enabling solution. Those who are only just becoming aware of the need to get connected may need you to demystify the insights. However, you could take a more technical approach presumably, for the CIO who already recognizes how her business will benefit from the IoT and is only considering which vendor to partner with.
Another consideration in making your story accessible? The power of visuals. Creating a chart, graph, image or other visualization that speaks volumes to answer a question or address a challenge takes time. Still, by doing the work upfront you avoid your audience quickly deciding it will take too much effort to glean the essential story you’re trying to communicate.
Finally, in taking the “bird by bird” approach to snack-sizing data insights, embrace mobility. Your audience wants to get answers efficiently and glean highlights easily — on whatever device they may be using. Trying to tell your story in one, single tome of text (downloadable ebook maybe?) doesn’t always speak to audiences. Knowing people want to engage with insights they can share on social, pop into PowerPoint, cite in emails, or present to their own team, marketers need to proactively plan how they can tell their stories clearly, concisely, and in accessible, tasty morsels as insight.