Why Storytelling is Your Most Critical Skillset in a Virtual World
November 11, 2021
Sandra Griffin

Why Storytelling is Your Most Critical Skillset in a Virtual World

In less than two years, the world has fundamentally changed. We have moved from a world where personal contact was the norm, to a world where most people now connect and engage online.  The virtual world became our shared world—the “new normal.”   The C-Suite used to de-prioritize the role of Chief Marketing Officer among the C-Suite, behind Ops, Technology, and Strategy.  Once Covid hit, and every business essentially became a Direct to Consumer brand, the importance of marketing and compelling storytelling has never been more important.  Businesses used to reach their customers through onsite tradeshows, conferences, office visits, and hard copy advertisements.  Now?   It’s all online—and brands have roughly 12 seconds to capture a prospect’s attention and quickly pull them in to learn more, or the prospect is on to the next site, tweet, or text.  We are all now forced to become exceptional storytellers.

We are in a period of rapid change, full of opportunity—with COURAGE.   When we speak of courage now, we are often speaking of overcoming fear, of being heroic in challenging situations.  BUT—the original definition of courage, Latin,  was very different.  It meant to engage people with your story—it meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart,”   And in today’s “new normal”, when people cannot personally connect at so many levels, there is a growing desire to connect to these stories—if told in a way that reconnects them to the personal.  Celinne De Costa, a former contributor to Forbeswomen in fact suggests that humanity is becoming the new premium.  In an article in 2019, she noted: “When creating your marketing strategy, don’t forget the bigger story: what makes you human?” 

How? Through good old-fashioned story-telling. Story-telling is essentially using a narrative to communicate a message—ideally a message that resonates or touches the right audience at the right time.  And when people are touched by a story, they follow it. They feel connected to the storyline.  And a story well told will have prospective consumers buying into the brand—the heart of the story—not just a particular product.  This is why storytelling really is your most critical skill set in today’s virtual world.  Indeed, research has shown that a good 92% of consumers want advertising in some kind of story form (www.chiefmarketer.com).

It is a noisy, always bustling market place in the virtual world.  Horns honking, hawkers everywhere selling every ware imaginable.  Brand positioning, video, short-form content, webinars, social media…businesses need to look for compelling ways to break through the clutter and capture their target’s attention—someone’s heart in just a handful of seconds. 

Some compelling tips on how to be better storytellers:

1. “Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken”— Oscar Wilde. 

To begin, establish a differentiated, relevant, and most importantly authentic voice for your brand.  Your brand needs to stand out, needs to be unforgettable in crowded marketplaces. And remember, no other brand can tell your brand’s unique life story. Make it an interesting life story, the kind of story one always wants to go on to the next page because it is riveting – what happened and what happens next? The kind of story where the prequel astounds and the next sequel is always highly anticipated because the whole story is just so darned interesting!

Importantly, your story provides the North Star for your marketing strategy because it authentically IS your North Star.  

2. Be concise—Attention spans are growing shorter by the day. Tell your story in short and powerful headlines. Tell longer-form stories in video. If the content bores you, your audience will also be bored.

Consider this: The average human attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s.  A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today.  Goldfish have a nine-second attention span (Jill Eastein, Insidesoures.com.  July 6, 2021, citing a Microsoft study).

The ability to multitask on our devices simultaneously has created what has been called the “Impulse Generation.”  Age is not a principal factor.  This is behavior that is growing across generations (The Shrinking Attention Span and What It Means For Marketers.  Chuck Murphy. BostonDigital.  Aug 27, 2019).

The Google marketing team uses the concept of “micro-moments” to describe that brief moment, that blink of an eye, that click of a keyboard when a consumer wants to learn or do something right now.  Target content to create micro-moments in your story.

3. Be empathetic—Stop talking about how great your product or service is and start talking about how you make the lives of your target audience better. Speak in their language for greater impact.  We all know, because we have all experienced it—people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel (Maya Angelo, 2014).

De Costa (2019) noted that the top ten most empathetic companies in the Global Empathy Index are amongst the most profitable and fastest-growing in the world!  

4. Don’t be afraid to break into new channels—One size does not fit all, so why focus on single-channel vehicles to broadcast your story. Re-examine your social strategy—break into new channels previously unexplored. Host blogs, podcasts, vlogs…your audience spends all day at their computer. Find creative ways to break through the noise. 

Diversify platforms. While Google and Facebook continue to dominate the field (Google provides high return rate ad spends with approximately 44% of marketers.  PPC Trends & Best Practices. Laura Reyes.  Sept 29, 2021), there is a major current trend moving closer to optimization on mobile devices.  Reyes notes that in 2020, 82% of smartphone users were actively searching for businesses near them on their phones. It is predicted that at least 50% of consumers will be using “voice shopping” by 2022.    And multiple new platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and Snapchat are growing exponentially.  Pull data through analytics automation channels—these funnels provide instant feedback so you can continue to adjust your messaging in real-time—making sure it is hitting all the high notes, telling people a story they can hear and feel.

5. Use COURAGE in both senses of the word to put your brand out there—to stand out in a crowd with stories about your brand that captures the “cour”, the heart of the right people at the right time.  Be the first one in front of prospects and catch their interest in less than 8 seconds—touch their hearts.  And have the courage to lead the way in innovation and change in your marketing practices—having C-Suite prioritize telling your brand’s powerful story straight from the heart.

“In a crowded marketplace where everyone is focused on doing things faster, more efficiently, and automated, be the brand who dares to be human” (Decosta, 2019).

Be that brand Who Dares.  Create a compelling narrative that is like the book you couldn’t put down, the series where you were practically holding your breath for the next installment, the movie you wanted to see over and over, the story you couldn’t get enough of because it spoke to your heart.  BE that Storyteller.  Make your brand an experience that people won’t forget.