Believe me, I know: it’s a challenge to continually come up with story ideas and content designed to reach and engage audiences—especially when your brand story is a little fuzzy. In the past, ECHO has tried to help by sharing some of the storytelling tools and resources we use to create stories and content. This time around, I’ll zero in on a few of the go-to storytelling resources that the ECHO team has tried and tested for clarifying and strengthening your brand story and messaging. I hope you find them helpful.
To Audit the Story You’re Telling on Social Media: A Template
If your marketing isn’t getting the results you’re looking for, take some time—with the right people—to understand the stories that you as a brand are telling, and that your customers are telling about you. You might start with a simple social media audit. Our Vancouver friends, Hootsuite, offer a great Social Media Audit Template here; we’d simply suggest adding a ‘Brand Story We’re Telling’ column, to make note of the kind of overall story and messaging you’re sharing on each channel.
To Clarify the Story You Want to Tell: BrandSort Cards
Now think about what stories you really want to be telling, and what you want your customers or audiences to understand and say about you. Unsure where to start? An excellent tool for getting to the heart of this can be found in Margot Bloomstein’s BrandSort card deck, from Appropriate, Inc. In a recent Confab workshop I took with Margot on developing a message architecture for brand storytelling, the fabulous Margot walked her students through the process of separating the ‘what is’ of brand story from the ‘what we want it to be’—all by using the cards to spark discussion and debate. We’ve since used it internally at ECHO Storytelling to develop our own messaging architecture, as well as to help several content marketing clients clarify their brand story and targeted content marketing messaging. Especially good for separating the brand’s present (and possibly fuzzy) story from an aspirational story that everyone in the room can get behind. Highly recommended.
To Get Clear on Tone and Design: Design Cards
Partially inspired by Bloomstein’s BrandSort cards (but mostly by her own genius), ECHO Storytelling’s Art Director Cathy Smith developed her own set of Design Cards™ this year to help clarify the tone of the story and the look and feel of clients’ book projects. The gist: a group of stakeholders gets their hands dirty, selecting and rejecting cards in a variety of categories, until they discover that they’ve clarified their book design—and have worked together to do so. Developing yet another deck for marketing campaigns and website design? It’s in the cards.
Storytelling Resources To Zero in on Your Audience: Persona Templates
Anyone here at ECHO Storytelling will confirm that I’m a bit of a persona fanatic (in the best possible sense). I adore crafting user personas that either are based on real people or that feel like real people to the teams trying to reach not only specific target audiences, but real people within those demographic/psychographic categories. Any writer worth her salt will tell you this matters enormously: when you know a person, you can empathize with them—which means that you can connect with them genuinely, whether through story, copy, design or user experience. One great tool I love to use as a starting point is Userforge, a free tool that generates persona templates. And if you’re just getting started on user personas, read this excellent piece on personas from the true masters of persona development: UX designers.
To Improve Your Storytelling: Take a (Great) Course
Want a solid introduction to storytelling? Shane Snow of Contently gives a great course on the fabulous lynda.com. Or hey! Sign up for ECHO’s free storytelling course (and our newsletter, too!). We also specialize in custom storytelling training for business clients.
To Focus on the Task at Hand: Self-Control
There are plenty of tools to help you avoid the lure of the interwebs and other distractions. If you’re the problem (and you’re a Mac user), you may want to try Self-Control, an app that—once you set it up to run for a period of time—commands your browser to act as if it’s offline, until your focus period is over.
To Craft Targeted Stories for Blogs and Social Media: Better Questions
We’re long-time devotees of Pocket and Feed.ly for collecting great articles and links to inspire further ideas for content. We often, then, refine those ideas in Trello: we’ve set up boards like ‘Raw Ideas,’ ‘In Progress,’ ‘Go-Ahead Content’ and so on, which we review at content planning meetings. But we’ve also recently discovered Answer the Public as a great new idea generator. This brilliant online app lets you type in some of the keywords you know work for your business (see the “employee engagement” example pictured here), to generate actual user queries based on those keywords. The app then creates a rather beautiful visual of the questions that people are asking in order to help you decide exactly which questions you can best answer with your content.
Got other great storytelling resources you’d like to share? Let us know on Twitter. Good luck, and happy storytelling!