31st July 2020

4 ways to evaluate & accelerate your digital storytelling during a crisis

Kelly Court
Managing Director, US & JAPAC

When a crisis like COVID-19 hits, businesses tend to go one of two ways; in a panic they halt their communications outreach with their audiences to instead focus on internally coping, or, they throw everything at their storytelling and marketing, with the aim to keep the wheel turning and hit the year’s objectives.

But as my colleague Sam Woodman explained in her blog “The Importance of Continuing to Market,” whether your brand has seen a halt in production, decline in sales, or the business is lucky enough to be doing well, there are many ways you can, and should, be communicating with your audiences.

It’s crucial that you are in tune with the climate. There’s nothing worse than a company carrying on tone-deaf marketing activities, with little to no regard for the impact a crisis is having on its audiences.

But with that comes a word of caution: it’s crucial that you are in tune with the climate. There’s nothing worse than a company carrying on tone-deaf marketing activities, with little to no regard for the impact a crisis is having on its audiences.

That’s why we believe now is an ideal time to first evaluate, then accelerate, your digital storytelling. In very challenging times, this may seem a bit scary, but it doesn’t need to be. Here’s four tips to get you started.

1. Understand your audience

Good digital storytelling is like a virtual shop window into your brand. Using engaging digital content, it gives your audiences a reason to notice you, care about who you are, what you’re saying and eventually, what you’re selling. But to do this well, you first need to truly understand who you are talking to.

Begin by finding out who your target audiences truly are (the person behind the job title), where they consume their content, what they want to hear from you and what they care about.

You might think you already know your audiences, but during a crisis, people’s habits, priorities and focuses shift. Without up to date, current information, you will likely rely on a ‘finger in the air’ approach, which will not work.

If you’re looking to take your brand international, digital storytelling is the way to go. But remember, not all regions digest content the same; there are cultural considerations needed as well as a good understanding of where your audience resides.

2. Assess and refine your narrative

Next, you need to refine or pivot your storytelling for these “new” audiences. That means you need to be able to tell your story with impact, in different ways, at different stages down the marketing funnel.

Each element needs to feed into your ‘made-for-crisis’ overarching narrative, without compromising on the brand messages you want to land with your audiences.

So to begin, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you actually have a strong narrative written down?
  • Is your messaging just about selling stuff?
  • Are you interested, as a human, about the stories you’re telling? Would you actually care?

If you answer no, yes, no, then you need to step back, think about your audience and refine your messaging. Remember, you have only seven seconds to make a first impression as a brand. Every moment counts.

Consider what makes your brand meaningful and why others should care. Create a strong narrative framework & messaging house which all marketing activities feed into.

This ensures a clear, consistent and controlled narrative and that everyone involved is on the same page.

In today’s climate remember you may need to adjust your story to resonate with your audience’s future challenges and pain points.

3. Make it personal

82% of consumers feel more positive about a business after reading well-customised content, and 61% of people are more likely to buy from companies that deliver unique content.

This means basing your entire storytelling strategy around your brand being the solution to your audiences challenges.

In most cases, you may have more than one persona you’re trying to reach: maybe you need to engage the IT leaders, and possibly the marketers and HR Directors?

A good narrative adapts and translates into specific messages for specific audiences without diluting the spirit of its meaning.

Remember, your storytelling needs to focus on the positive benefits and solutions your business delivers; it’s not about corporate pillars that no-one cares about.

Make sure what you’re talking about is human-centric.

4. Define your digital storytelling strategy

With restrictions resulting from the pandemic, a challenge for businesses right now is figuring out how to tell their stories from the confines of their home. How can brands engage with audiences using digital marketing content?

At this stage, you know your audiences, you understand their pain points and how you solve their challenges. You’ve also refined your narrative, so you know your story. Now is time to plan how you’re going to reach them and with what.

Begin with your customers. Customer advocacy has been shown to increase marketing effectiveness by as much as 54%. So build a pipeline of happy customers and create their stories to engage prospects.

Then map out the assets. At Branch Road, our mantra is getting as much bang for your buck out of one story. By integrating your different channels, you can re-purpose, reformat and slice and dice a single story to feed sales team, marketers, social feeds, PR comms, lead generation and more.

Need help to develop your unique brand narrative? We can help! Join us for a narrative session where we dive deep into your brand objectives, identify with your purpose and construct a compelling narrative to build an emotional connection with your audiences.

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