They’ve produced all kinds of blog posts, infographics and other forms of storytelling for marketers, but now two of Contently’s senior leaders have turned to one of the most venerable mediums of all: a printed book on how to create great narratives for brands.
In The Storytelling Edge, Contently Co-founder Shane Snow and Editor-in-Chief Joe Lazauskas aim to help brands understand why creating better content matters, audience-building strategies and integrating content marketing with a more strategic use of data. The insights in the book tie in well to the services of Contently, which combines a proprietary platform for managing content marketing projects with a pool of freelance talent it matches with brands. (Disclosure: I have a Contently profile and have got some work through its platform.)
That said, The Storytelling Edge — which is subtitled ‘How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You’ — was not a corporate initiative but something the co-authors did on their own time, according to Lazauskas. The idea was to build on themes that were already resonating with the audience of its own publications, which include The Content Standard and The Freelancer.
“A lot of brands are creating content, but not a lot of that content is very good,” Lazauskas told B2B News Network. “So many people in marketing have been thrust into creating content, so we wanted to make this really accessible to anyone who is interested in storytelling, from 101 lessons to the art and science of doing it well.”
While some of the best-known examples of brand storytelling involve the likes of Red Bull and Kraft, Lazauskas suggested many of the takeaways in The Storytelling Edge would be particularly applicable to B2B brands, which tend to have an area of expertise or specialized knowledge. That means audiences are more likely to want to hear the stories they tell, he said.
“You can’t really be a thought leader in cereal,” he said. “Take an area like institutional investing — it’s one of the more boring things you can think of on the surface, but it can really be compelling when it’s done right, something where you can build really strong relationships and trust.”
Most advice about content marketing recommends stories that are more focused on a brand’s audiences than its own products and services, but Lazauskas suggested firms don’t get too hung up about disguising who they are or the over-arching intention of the content to drive business outcomes.
“There’s nothing wrong with, if you’re a B2B company, to have them click on a demo ad after they’ve been reading your newsletter and have come to really trust your brand, or having solution pages in the nav on your editorial,” he said. “We shouldn’t be afraid of those sorts of things. The point is to have everything fully integrated into a marketing program where you can be successful over time.”
The Storytelling Edge looks at many different approaches to packaging marketing content in the best possible way. Despite the hype, however, Lazauskas said he doesn’t foresee many companies leaping quickly into developing narratives that come to life through augmented reality, virtual reality and the like.
“I’d like to see marketers first really master being able to serve effectively good digital content experiences,” he said. “By that I mean web sites that don’t look like they were pulled from 1999. Sometimes it feels like you’re going from streaming Netflix to putting in a blurry VCR tape that’s going to stall half-way through.”