Effective Digital Storytelling Must Be Compelling, Persuasive, Complete



Craig Workman

Storytelling is all the rage in today’s digital marketing world as organizations seek to connect quickly and often with their target audiences in deep and meaningful ways. But attention spans are short, so marketers and communications professionals now craft shorter and shorter stories loaded with keywords intended to find their way through the clutter of busy media platforms – with just enough information to generate a click, share, open, like, response or purchase.

Whether you are selling a product or service, making a point or giving a speech, you need to reinforce what you’ve got to say with a great story.  This means making it personal, emotional, truthful, valid and relevant to the audience for which it is intended to influence.  Great storytelling should be compelling, persuasive and memorable for your target audience, which means is also must be complete. 

Great storytelling takes more time and creativity to prepare and produce than barebones messaging, but the rewards are well worth your trouble. Consider the significant benefits of “earned media coverage” to the sales and marketing communications programs for any type of organization.

Earned media is achieved by first presenting a compelling idea for a news or feature story to a targeted news editor or key influencer, and then convincing that editor that your content has great news value for readers or viewers. The story idea can be built around the key marketing messages being advocated by the communicator and then creatively linked to the interests of the publication or digital media platform being pitched. This process often involves research, writing, preparation of background information and effective interpersonal communications with the editor or influencer to present a complete story. 

News releases are often the source that leads to your earned media successes. A well-written news release should provide all the basic information needed to stand on its own as a news story in the media outlets you are targeting. This information should announce the who, what, where, when, why and how of the news being publicized and include visuals, links to related information and keyword optimization.

A well-written news release should make an editor’s or influencer’s job easy, but all too often that is not the case in this digital marketing age. One trade journal editor I know told me that he receives an increasing number of news releases that are only one or two sentences long and do not provide any context or background to make the news more interesting to his readers. While such brevity has become the norm for achieving clicks, it does very little in advancing the reputation of the organization or individual behind the announcement.

Indeed, earning great publicity in today’s “tradigital” media is still one of the most highly sought-after results in the marketing mix of most organizations. News and feature coverage conveys very high levels of importance, credibility and accuracy for your brand or organization to a large and targeted audience. And it often leads to more earned coverage for your organization in the future. Great news publicity makes for equally great social media content for marketers to further optimize.

As the use of digital marketing channels and techniques evolves, many marketers are taking another look at the importance of good storytelling and reputation management in their marketing mix. One local marketing communications trade association recently announced that the featured speaker at its upcoming chapter event is an expert in news media relations and storytelling. The association says its members can benefit from learning and adding this effective storytelling strategy to their marketing plans.

As the storytelling style of your organization or brand evolves, remember that for stories to be more compelling and persuasive, you need to tell the whole story.

Craig Workman is president of Workman Communications Group, a St. Louis-based public relations and brand management agency that has served clients in the construction industry since 1996. He can be reached at craig@workman-company.com or (314) 640-9033.

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