I love the excerpted video (below) of Kevin Spacey’s keynote at the 2013 Edinburgh International Television Festival. In it, he discusses the House of Cards genesis as well as how powerful content is.
There are some important takeaways. First, Spacey notes that “the audience wants the control” to view the content they want when they want it. He then says that the audience wants stories. He goes on by saying “they are rooting for us to give them the right thing” and it is our job to “give it to them”.
Storytelling is a very powerful thing.
We are seeing more brand storytelling these days because brands want to communicate their story in a meaningful way so that their audience gets what they are about, remembers them, and advocates them.
You should be doing that sort of communication with every piece of content—telling your story in a personal, authentic way that engages your reader to take action. You connect with your audience through your brand – you tell them who you are, what you do, why they should care and trust you, and why you can help them.
And to do that, you must reach and speak to each person on an individual and personal level.
I call that “Argo-izing” your content.
By now, I am sure you saw the film, Argo. There is no doubt why the film won the Best Picture Oscar last year. The filmmakers followed what I now call the Argo rule: Lure them in, keep them engaged end-to-end, and ensure they talk about you long after it’s over.
So how do you go about Argo-izing your content?
Four Rules to Argo-ize Your Content
1. Plan each piece of your content
What is your objective? Who do you want to reach? What story do you want to tell? How do you tie your brand story into this piece of content?
Take a page out of Hollywood’s playbook and storyboard your content. If you watched Argo, storyboards came in handy for the crew. Outline each idea. What is the objective? What is the journey you want the reader to take with your content? What response do you want the audience to have?
Connect these ideas.
I am sure you know that your content has to have a beginning, middle, and end. Do you also have to have a “character” in each piece of content? Not necessarily, but it can help. Perhaps one of the personas you have researched can be your lead character. Emotion drives response, so your audience should be emotionally connected somehow to your content or the characters you use in your content.
Being authentic and genuine will give your content what it needs to connect with your audience on an emotional and personal level.
2. Ensure your brand story is consistent across all communication channels and with other pieces of content
Speaking Farsi helped the Argo crew communicate and be believable. Speak your reader’s language and communicate a consistent message through your content on your website, posts on social channels, posts and comments you make on online communities and elsewhere, etc. because you never know who is reading at any given moment.
Remember, it takes 6-12 touchpoints for someone to trust what you say and take action to contact you.
3. Ensure you are reaching and engaging your audience
The Argo crew members had to venture out into, and engage with, the outside world to move their plan forward. How are you engaging your audience through your content? What reaction do you want them to make? Are you emotionally connecting with your audience? Is the connection authentic?
Be authentic and personal. When you create your content, create it as if for one person and have a conversation with that person. When you do, your message will resonate with your reader and they will engage.
4. Keep your readers on the edge of their seats wanting more
Were you cheering for the Argo crew to board the plane and get out of Iran? When your audience is emotionally engaged, they will cheer for you and want more from you. Lead your reader to take action. Give them a taste but don’t give up the store. After reading your content, they should be emotionally invested and ready to act.
What response do you want them to make? Do you want them to share the content? Do you want them to comment? Do you want them to take the next step? And, if so, have you defined what that next step looks like? Whether it is to view the next piece of content, download a whitepaper, attend a webinar, etc., the next step should be logical, so nurture them along a path that makes sense.
A few years back, I read Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, which was originally tweeted by Emma Coats, a former Pixar storyboard artist. Several, if not all, of these rules should be applied when telling your brand story. It serves as a pretty good checklist.
By the way, you can see Kevin Spacey next month as he is the closing keynote speaker at Content Marketing World 2014. If you attend, be sure to ask him to do his impersonations which are quite good (yes, that’s right, he started out doing stand up!).
What storytelling attributes are important in your content marketing? Let us know in the comments section.
A version of this article originally appeared in MarketingProfs.