What is Narrative Content Writing?
Before I delve into techniques for writing a storyline into every piece of content you possibly can, let's take a more 'macro' glance at the general progression of narrative storytelling as an art and some important figures in its history.
You may have heard of Joseph Campbell, and if you haven't, you've certainly heard of the artists and visions he has inspired; George Lucas and 'Star Wars' being perhaps the single most iconic example.
'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' and 'Myth and Meaning' are two of his works, and each describes the power of mythical storytelling to shape our world, our lives, and, even the way in which we make our purchaseslmost all of us relate ourselves to conceptions and stories about our very existence, and the way we tell these narratives extends its influence into many of the goods we purchase.
3 Examples of Great Narrative Content Campaigns
As a preeminent brand embodying the outdoors and rugged adventure, Jeep has mastered telling the sort of stories its target audience can relate to. Notice the use of the plural as well; not only does the venerable vehicle manufacturer sell the lifestyle of beach and ocean well, it also has storylines that appeal to off road and outdoors enthusiasts. Each of its lines, from the Commander to the Cherokee, has its own well developed mythos and attitude.
Another great example are the Allstate Insurance ads with Dean Winters starring as 'Mayhem.' While less strictly a narrative content campaign than an ongoing exercise in role play and deadpan humor, the series of ads nonetheless does an excellent job of bringing their intended audience into the stories centered around moments where insurance is needed.
Possibly the paragon of brand storytelling, and one so well-respected its tactics have been adopted by nearly every competitor, is the narrative spun by Tiffany Jewelry. In their case, the traditional jewelry powerhouse has turned the attention given to its 5th Avenue NYC flagship in Audrey Hepburn's classic 1961, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' into a compelling case study of how powerfully audiences can relate their own lives to branding storylines.
Telling the Right Branding Story for Your Audience
Begin my imagining the dramatic moments where your brand or business takes center stage. Is there a time when your service really is the counterpoint of your target audience and their lives?
It doesn't need to be inherently dramatic, that's where your storytelling comes into play! Let's take the example of a plumbing service, since its one I can share from my own life. Aside from pipes breaking and the more catastrophic moments when plumbers shine, even the everyday work their industry does can be cast in a heroic light that resonates with viewers in a way that makes the remember a specific business or brand.
In the case of our own toilet, a whole narrative piece, along with video, could easily be done for the storyline when a toy emerged from our downstairs 'potty.' Starting with a close-up of our son playing with his trains on the rim of the toilet seat, the plot thickens when it tumbles in and he walks away to find a different, less gross toy. After a montage of days when we use the toilet and have to plunge it repeatedly, our story comes to a crisis point when huge clouds of toilet paper will no longer allow themselves to be flush and a noxious soup is created with each bathroom use. Who can unearth the secret blockage and emerge a hero?
Making the Conclusion a Conversion
After a quick trip to the sink nearby, in the eyes of our family (not to mention many others that would encompass most plumbing companies' target audience) our plumber emerges as a clear and compelling brand icon, with a suitable moment that will encourage viewers to remember in their own time of need.
Notice the reference to viewers made here, because although blog readers do consider your text, the accompanying images, and videos when possible, make the story that much more vivid and memorable. The goal is to provide a moment that your audience has seared in their minds, a moment when your brand resolves their exact 'pain point.'
If the storytelling sequence lends itself to a resolution with just that moment, it can certainly form the ending your article, blog post, or even ad campaign. But I would look for a possible way to tie things together that might help it resonate even further if the opportunity presents itself. Relating back to our plumbing narrative, it could be a closing scene of our son, once again circling trains around the toilet, with his Mom calling and once just starting to fall as the viewers leave with an impression of the plumbers logo and contact information.
Using a Story Arc for Organic Search Success
Though this may seem assumed in the rest of my support for a narrative approach to content writing, I'd like to get a more granular in our look at what exact components should be part of your brand's story. To distill the essence of what's needed, at least in the eyes of Google search and modern search engines: the right keywords.
For a brief survey of keywords, keyword research, and how to weave the right blend of topics that give your writing the best chance of being 'served up on Google, check out the great all-in-one resources site that is Ahrefs. At least as of the time of my writing, they're still running a free account option that can help monitor a single website, along with give you access to keyword research that professional digital marketers use.
So, though I certainly love the framework that using a narrative approach can give most types of marketing campaigns and digital content, it doesn't directly apply to all areas of your online presence. For instance, reputation management and responding to reviews, positive and especially negative, doesn't usually call for a reference to your brand's narrative. Tact and succinct, topical responses in this regard are usually the wise choice.
Not Everything Calls for Narrative Content Writing
So, though I certainly love the framework that using a narrative approach can give most types of marketing campaigns and digital content, it doesn't directly apply to all areas of your online presence. For instance, reputation management and responding to reviews, positive and especially negative, doesn't usually call for a reference to your brand's narrative. Tact and succinct, topical response in this regard are usually the wise choice.
Other scenarios where it might be better to employ a different type of writing include Google Ads and other very limited character spaces. While you might use your vision of the overarching themes of your business to influence the words used, these tend to be much more focused and less able to take advantage of storytelling, with its need for development of an arc that resolves a conflict, along with at least some sort of plot lines.
Using Compelling Narrative for Video Creation
Over the next set of articles written for this site, I'll look at the writing of dialogue, plot, and even storyboard creation for YouTube, Google My Business, and more.
With an eye towards defining your brand and business through effective narrative content, we'll review the marketing methods that work best for video, and how to best engage with your audience.