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Telling stories is a fundamental part of being human. We are raised on stories. They are how we make sense of the world and our place in it. They gives us context and meaning. They can bring us joy. And, most pertinently of all, they have the power to influence and shape the way we think—something every content marketer dreams about.

But let’s take a step back. Whatever content you are producing, it needs to be built around a narrative that is compelling. Just telling a story is not enough, it has to leave a lasting impression on your audience. That doesn’t just mean being memorable (you can probably remember the worst movie you have ever watched just as clearly as the best), it has to resonate in a way that makes your audience feel compelled to take action. And for that you need emotion, something that grabs your audience and connects with them on a human level.

Now, you might be thinking ‘hang on—I’m just selling mortgages or banking services or legal technology or whatever, why is storytelling relevant to me?’. Well, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling—as long as you’re selling to another human being, their decision to buy your product or service will be based on an emotional response, and the best way to trigger that emotional response is by telling a story they can relate to.

Getting them hooked

In his novel East of Eden, the American author John Steinbeck wrote that if a story is not about the person hearing that story, then they won’t listen. “A great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last,” he wrote. “The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar.”

This is your first lesson in better storytelling. A common mistake companies make when producing content is that they make their brand, product or service the focus of the story. That is a gift-wrapped invitation for your audience to switch off or stop reading (and given that your competitors are also pitching for their attention, you don’t want to lose their interest that easily). So remember this: the main character in your story is not your brand or your product or service, it is your audience. And if you want your audience to care about what you’re saying, you have to view the world from their perspective. What are their problems or frustrations that your product or service can solve? By empathising with your audience’s challenges, you are more likely to keep them engaged and eager to read on.

But before we get to that next stage, just a quick note on the different ways you can make your story about your audience. You can speak directly to them, where the main character is described as ‘you’. Or you could speak to them in the third-person—say, a case study where you’re profiling an existing customer’s experience—where your audience identifies with that customer. Whatever method you choose, keep Steinbeck in mind: your audience will only listen if the story is personal and familiar.

Sealing the deal

So you’ve recognised the pain points or stresses that are frustrating your audience, now you need to step in and show them how you can help. This is the traditional structure that most good storytelling tends to follow—first there is a conflict (in this case, your audience’s problem), and then there is a resolution (how your product or service solves it for them). 

By tapping into this basic storytelling technique, you can frame your product or service in a more meaningful way. Your audience doesn’t really care if your product is innovative or if it has won numerous awards, they want to know exactly how your product can fix their problems and improve their lives. So don’t just talk about the great new product that you have introduced, show your audience what it will do for them. Will it save them time? Will it give them more control over a process? Will it save their business a ton of money? By focusing on the benefits rather than just the product or service itself, you are more likely to trigger the emotional response that will influence their decision making.

In short, compelling storytelling enables you to bring your products or services to life by encouraging your audience to view them through a human lens. You don’t necessarily need to write like Hemingway, but you do need to write clearly and concisely and in a tone of voice that will chime with your audience. Get that right, and you can start producing content that your audience will care about. And if they care, then they are more likely to do business with you.

Next steps…

Anyone can tell stories, but to tell a powerful story that resonates with your audience and compels them to action is a craft that can take years to perfect. Don’t have that much time? Then speak to Pensar Media today and find out how we can help you improve audience engagement by creating stories that have lasting impact.