Plotting Your Business: How to Use Story Arcs in a Digital World

Even if you and I are cynical about the latest marketing tactics, we can’t deny that storytelling drives our lives. There’s even documented evidence supporting our primordial human instinct as storytellers, according to Scientific American.

It was compelling storytelling that brought me in front of my television week after week when 24 aired on Fox – and it’s what keeps you up-to-date on your favorite shows, books, and blogs. But what if the writers gave everything away during the exposition? There wouldn’t be much of a story left, would there?

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A well-planned story arc is what keeps the action propelling forward through the exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, and conclusion. With so many channels to monitor and integrate in digital marketing, it’s apparent that a story arc is needed to tie everything together for an effective campaign.

The traditional version of marketing communications focused on building brand awareness. In other words, brands became associated with a need, and when consumers experienced the need, they thought of the brand. Today, however, we’ve gone beyond the traditional need-association solution. Instead, organizations are focused on telling their brand’s “story,” creating an emotional connection with readers through compelling storytelling.

This is why Coca-Cola has focused so much on answering, “What is Happiness?” and why Go-Pro enthusiastically helps people share the excitement in their lives. So what story is your brand telling? When you understand how story arcs develop in a digital world, you can seamlessly integrate social and content marketing for a powerful strategy.

How Story Arcs Work: Answering What, How, and Why

When it comes to brand story telling, businesses have the same access to marketing budgets, talent, and technology to spread their message. Brands and their competitors are good at answering “what” their brand offers and “how” it does it. If you’re reading this, chances are that your business is already answering these questions – great job! The only problem is that it doesn’t differentiate you from your competitors.

Consider, for instance, if Google only marketed the “what” and “how” of its story arc. The search engine’s story would be dull and might sound something like:

We organize search results through our beautifully designed algorithm. Search results are user-friendly. Want to know something? Google away.

Boring! Instead, Google aggressively answers “why” it does what it does and the way it does it. Google actually communicates along the lines of:

In everything we do from YouTube to Google Plus, we’re passionate about challenging the status quo. Our engineers think differently. We challenge the status quo by making your world more easily accessible, convenient, and beautifully designed.

That’s the more compelling option, right? Even if Google doesn’t flat out state the “why” in its marketing campaigns, it’s evident in every update, press conference, and commercial.

Brands that know the “why” of their story and are able to articulate it to consumers are the ones that succeed. This is how brands rise above the crowd of fierce competition. Remember, people don’t really care about what you do. They buy into why you do it.

Storytelling Tips: Building and Resolving Tension

While a professional writing service will help you create compelling content with excellent storytelling, you’re ultimately responsible for the bulk of your brand’s story. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult to create a gripping story arc through a marketing campaign as it might seem. It’s actually quite simple! During the release of a new product, for instance, we see:

  • Pre-launch hype. Vague advertisements and warm-up context prepares consumers for the story’s climax, which is…
  • The launch itself. This is the main action of your campaign’s story. There’s continued excitement as customers react to the new product and word of mouth continues to spread.
  • Eventual denouement. Post-launch press, increased brand awareness, and thought-leadership are what nicely wrap-up the story arc for this campaign.

Now all your brand needs to do is rinse and repeat. To build tension within these stages of the story arc, it’s important to raise questions that address consumer needs. This tension is then released when you answer the what, how, and why of your brand like we discussed above.

Arc Ideas: Articles, Cross-Promotion, Spinoffs, and More

Creating a compelling story arc for your brand is also dependent on the mediums through which you tell your story and how you share it. While stories must ultimately transcend the medium through which they’re told, your platform is a strategic consideration.

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Aside from creating a compelling arc within the content itself, you can command attention through:

  • Cross-promotion. From press releases to social media campaigns, there are many ways to cross-promote your brand’s content. Not only does this ensure that it’s getting in front of your target audience, but it also adds to the narrative of your story. For instance, guest posts heighten awareness and encourage new readers to learn more.
  • Regular content. Creating a series of articles that you release week after week gives visitors a reason to comeback each day. Diving in-depth into a topic to explore current trends and showcase thought-leadership gives you the opportunity to create a series of articles that your audience is interested in reading.
  • Spin-offs. Do you have an article or series that’s resonating with consumers? Why not learn from that lesson and create a spinoff? Replicating success generally begets more success and allows you to write for a more diverse audience.

When you answer the what, why, and how of your brand, these are a few ideas to keep publishing compelling content instead of only creating one-shot pieces for your brand. By using story arcs in marketing conversations, you’re utilizing one of the very traits that make us human.

How is your brand incorporating story arcs into its marketing campaigns?

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Daniel

Daniel Chioco is a writer living in Nashville, TN. He earned his Commercial Music degree at Belmont University, where he also studied creative writing and wrote for the student newspaper. When he isn't creating content, Daniel works as an actor and films YouTube videos. He is also a freelance musician and is authoring his first fantasy novel.

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