Mindful of the buzz surrounding the concept of story, I wrote a blog post recently for ECHO Storytelling Agency that took a look at the seemingly endless number of agencies these days devoted to helping sales-minded brands tell their stories, ultimately producing a kind of glossary of terms to help people tell them apart.
I realized two things in researching the post. One: even for someone like me working in story-driven content marketing, it’s bloody confusing to sort out exactly what service you need and who provides it. Two: it may not matter, as long as you understand what you want to accomplish.
Content marketing is, by definition, all about driving profitable customer action.
We do it through creating and distributing great content that connects with very specific audiences.
And the root of that kind of great content is story that aligns with the brand’s values and business purpose.
I personally love the way content marketing specialist Robert Rose broke it down at a CMI Masterclass that I attended. He elaborates on the approach in the 2017 Content Marketing Framework from the Content Marketing Institute here.
Rose said that in order to even begin to create a content strategy, you must, as a brand or organization, first thoroughly understand the purpose of your content. It must, in other words, directly serve your business purpose and goals. You must clarify your content mission. You must know your target audience. And you must begin to imagine how you’re going to differentiate your content from those in your industry.
Consider next, Rose says, what story you will tell. And don’t mistake the story with the plot. A plot, he clarifies, is what happened. A story is why it happened.
And the right story aligns with that purpose, and the goals, we defined earlier. Story is the crux of what you want to say. As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi says, story is not “what you sell,” but rather “what you stand for.”
Only when you know this, Rose says, should you begin to outline the details of your content strategy.
It’s knowing your purpose and goals and thoroughly understanding your audience that will clarify the right story or stories to tell. Your content marketing strategy stems from there.