October 21, 2015 / by Katie Gaab

In today’s digital age, there are two key ways to find success for both brands or individuals: remember to be human and solidify your storytelling skills.

Many think that good storytelling stems from talent, but really, all it takes is time, trial and error, and basic writing know-how. Sprinkle in a dash of inspiration, and your writing will go from good to great.

Below are a few ways you can amp up your storytelling, stemming from insights, ideas and case studies explored at the 2015 xPotomac Conference.

Measure Your Niche’s Density


We all want as many social media shares as we can get, but in order for us to increase our content’s chances of going viral, we must first look at the demand side. What does your audience want to hear?

During his opening keynote, Mark Schaefer gave the example of a winemaker in Provence, France who succeeded in making it big by incorporating the story of his business into the way he marketed his wine.

By focusing on the magic of the Provencal region in France, this winemaker brought his audience into his everyday life. Over the course of a few years, he posted over 600 times to his blog and uploaded over 200 videos to his YouTube channel. By tapping emotions, exploring the ups and downs of his business and bringing his personality to light, he was able to make his content shine.

Look at how much repetitive content is already in your industry or niche. Then, think of your story in terms of a reality show — keep your audience eager to explore and own your story’s spin by tapping into their emotions.

Learn how to amp up your content marketing with influencers. Get the free “LiSTEN” e-book today!

Put a Face to Your Characters

Your characters are the driving force behind a story, but if you leave their characteristics up to your audience, chances are your story won’t follow the plot you foresee as a narrator. Similarly, to succeed in telling your brand’s side of the story amidst a crisis, you must put a name and a face to what’s happening.

If you started a story and didn’t describe what the main character looked like until chapter four, chances are your readers would already have a vision in their heads. Waiting to choose a spokesperson halfway through a crisis will cause just as much confusion for those following along.

Andy Gilman pointed this out by exploring how a handful of governors defending the production of lean beef during the pink slime crisis was too little, too late. At that point, school districts, mommy bloggers and health companies were already involved in the discussion.

A writer will lose readers quickly if their characters aren’t consistent or fully developed throughout the story. Similarly, brands will lose their followers and reputation if they aren’t prepared for crises.

Create Many Versions


While discussing how millennials are changing company cultures, Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter explored the necessity to adapt to these changes. According to them, the guiding principle to developing a culture that tells your company’s story is to be different. Your business is different, and your story should reflect that.

Stories must go through multiple edits and read-throughs before they’re published. The same goes for businesses. Find places where you can carve out some time and boundaries, experiment and then present the results to your superiors.

Jodi Gersh and Jen Nycz-Conner continued on a similar note while discussing the changing journalism world. Nowadays, journalists must not only think about how their story will get shared, but also all the different ways it can be published digitally as well.

Echoing Mark, Jodi commented that just because a story is popular doesn’t mean everyone has to write about the same topic. In this age of content overload, journalists must know their audience in order to decide what not to write. What and how many versions journalists create is entirely dependent on this following as well as by listening to what their readers want.


Images: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchivesDennis JarvisJoanna Penn (Creative Commons)

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About Katie Gaab

Katie Gaab is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Previously the senior editor for Help A Reporter Out (HARO), she enjoys connecting audiences to exciting, new content. She's a dancer, avid concert-goer, foreign language nerd and book worm. Find her on Twitter @kathryngaab.