1. Remember, you are not the protagonist. Your customer is.
This is especially hard in certain industries, such as consumer technology, where features and functionality drive differentiation and are obsessed over by companies and media alike. But there are real narrative limitations in that type of messaging, which often forestall the catharsis found in promoting how your products can aid human potential, a more enduring reframing of the product story that makes your customer the hero.

2. Understand the effects of turning points.
Some of the best brand storytelling – Chipotle, Always – leverage a societal tension, and unveil the positivity that can be gained through insight and a shift in direction (one, not coincidentally, the brand supports). It’s a well-documented truth that to get people to see from your perspective, you first have to see it from theirs. That is how empathy is delivered, and it’s the most potent ingredient in powerful storytelling.

3. Appeal to the “emoter” and “rationalizer,” in the correct sequence and on the right platform.
According to a study by Blue Nile Research, it’s not enough to inhabit a channel – be it social, search, online or otherwise. You must also understand your audience’s state of mind within that channel, and then sequence your messaging appropriately. For instance, their studyindicates emotion compels buyers to act, and this emotional connection typically occurs in discovery platforms and channels (mobile and social, specifically). Understanding this reality can properly inform your narrative choices – how and when you appeal to emotion vs. reason, and in what context – to convert interest into action.

4. Leadership stories require a comfort level in failings.
While outward storytelling should focus on your customer as the protagonist, inward storytelling allows businesses to show where they’ve been and where they’re going. Targeting employees, storytelling of this nature can capture a culture and breed advocacy and ambassadorship. Similarly, a narrative that observes and appreciates relatable events, and the good and bad a company and its leadership have endured, can humanize a brand. As McKee has said, rhetoric whose only purpose is to impress can be a business story black hole.

5. To trigger the optimal outcome, you have to build a persuasive call to action.
The purpose of content marketing is the same as traditional marketing: encourage action that drives business interests. While storytelling requires developing a core character, defining their obstacles and path to satisfaction, you can’t forget to include a call to action that carries an audience’s emotional investment into actionable behavior change.

By Kevin Nabipour, SVP Content Strategies, Allison+Partners