Content Marketing: How Should Your Story Begin?

If there’s one point that’s been driven home in the content marketing world lately, it’s that everything begins with your story.

This was a major theme in my recent podcast with content gurus Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi (as it is in their new book, Managing Content Marketing). But of course, knowing the story you want to tell is only the first piece of the puzzle; understanding how to execute that story is where the picture really starts to take shape.

Recently, I read an article by Thomas Clifford for the Content Marketing Institute on Hollywood’s secret storytelling sauce and how to adapt it to B2B marketing videos. In it, Clifford breaks down the concept of the “hero’s journey” and tweaks it in a way that makes sense for telling your company’s story in video and podcast content.

It’s a smart post, but the truth is that many of the early stage companies I hear from are still a ways off from scheduling a large amount of multimedia content on their editorial calendars. In fact, most still don’t even have editorial calendars. But while young companies continue to iron out their corporate blogs from a purely text-based angle, the good news is that parts of the template Clifford provides can be applied just as easily to even the simplest blogging strategies.

For example, here is a sample from Clifford’s “Hero’s Journey template for marketing videos,” as it pertains to a hospital that is announcing a new treatment center:

As you can see, each of these questions deals with the problem that the new center is solving. In other words, it’s all about the WHY. As Venture Partner Firas Raouf wrote recently, this is really the message that your customers end up buying, and it should be the focus of your content just as it is with any other marketing efforts. But while details on issues like “How most treatment centers operate today and why is this a problem?” are used as talking points in Clifford’s video template, they also form the basis for most good content initiatives.

So try applying this idea to your own company. What is the problem that your product or service solves? Why is this a problem, and who is it a problem for?  What other problems do these people have in their jobs? What are some solutions to these issues, and are some better than others? All of these questions form the basis of potential posts/articles for your site. Tackle each one at a time, and soon you’ll have a series of content that not only collectively tells your own story, but also helps and engages with your potential customers around the pain points that they care about.

Now let’s quickly get back to the “journey.” The real focus of Clifford’s article is that marketers can take Hollywood’s hero formula for storytelling (the journey, transformation, and return), and apply it to their own videos. It’s very cool the way he lays it out, and if you are creating marketing videos or podcasts, I definitely recommend testing out that formula.

But as far as pure content marketing goes, the key takeaway for me is to always try to focus on the “WHY” of your message first. It’s where every great story begins.

You can find more information on content marketing and editorial practices at the OpenView Labs website. You can also follow Brendan on Twitter @BrenCournoyer and find more from the OpenView team @OpenViewVenture.

Brendan Cournoyer
Brendan Cournoyer
Content Strategist

Brendan worked at OpenView from 2011 until 2012, where he was an editor, content manager and marketer. Currently Brendan is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Brainshark where he leads all corporate marketing initiatives related to content, creative, branding, events, press and analyst relations, and customer marketing.
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