Jun 13, 2011

Storytelling for business: create a compelling call to action

These days, thanks to technology and the rise of social media, there are millions of opportunities for people to connect with the stories that matter to them. Any medium can be used to tell a story, as long as the message is carefully crafted and developed with the medium(s) in mind.

Last month I shared four steps for leveraging the power of storytelling for business. Today  let’s dive a little deeper into storytelling for change.

When entertainers tell stories, the goal is to move people to feel emotion. When organizations tell stories, the goal is to move people to take action. That desired action may be to buy a product, attend an event, or get involved with a cause. That clearly defined call to action is one defining element of effective storytelling for brands and organizations. According to a white paper from NCM Fathom Business Events:

Traditional stories include a beginning, middle and end. Compelling business stories are also constructed linearly. But, unlike purely entertaining or informative stories, these stories add one more element to the structure – a call to action. This is what is unique to storytelling in business. Business communications also follow what is called a “dramatic curve,” a four-act structure which leads to resolution and ultimately to a call to action.

Crafting your brand story begins by considering how you want it to end. What is the desired outcome? How do you want your audience to feel about you? What do you want them to do? What are the specific next steps that you want them to take (act, interact or change)? And how are you going to measure the results?

So how do you create stories that compel your audience to act? Begin with the end in mind. Decide on your desired outcome and then incorporate these four elements into your message to engage your audience and encourage them to get involved:

  1. Clarify your message. What do you want the consumer or audience to do? Are the message and the resulting action crystal clear?
  2. Let your audience know why action is important. Why does your audience need to act? What are the goals of their collective action? WIIFM factor: what’s in it for me?
  3. Deliver a clear call to action. What steps does your audience need to take to complete this action? Let your audience know how they can get involved and make it as easy as possible for them to follow through. For example, if you ask your audience to share your message via Twitter, provide a sample Tweet that includes your key point, your URL and the campaign hashtag. If you ask for blog posts or articles, provide your audience with information, pictures, videos and any other key assets and details. If you ask for event attendance, be crystal clear about the time and location.
  4. Address the WIIFM Factor. In other words, answer the question: what’s in it for me? What will be the audience’s reward for getting involved and taking action?

Crafting a message to include these fundamental elements is the key to ensuring that your audience is open to traveling down a storyline path that leads to action.

Want to learn more about how brands and organizations can leverage storytelling to create change? Read my post about storytelling for business and check out the NCM white paper Bold Brands Drive Revenue with Storytelling.

Photo by umjanedoan on Flickr

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