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Storytelling: How to Tell Interesting Stories

[ BLOG ]

Table of contents of the article

Marketing has always been about the ability to tell stories. However, opinions differ regarding the understanding, ways, and forms of implementation. At Havas Creative US, they believe that storytelling is the ability to create really cool content, in the broadest sense. Microsoft takes a more serious approach – they are convinced that authenticity, real stories from real people, is important. HubSpot thinks that storytelling is not just one of the techniques for creating content; the brand itself is a certain story. And at Ogilvy One, they immediately reveal the secret of a successful story: 'It is timely, relevant, useful, and entertaining emotional content.' Whatever the case, the ability to tell stories is very important for business and is used in one way or another.

Storytelling: The Beginning

In the marketer's lexicon, the very term 'storytelling' appeared not so long ago. LinkedIn has an excellent analytical report on this topic. In the early summer of 2011, the number of professionals with storytelling listed as a skill in their profiles was minimal. At that time, it simply wasn't thought of as a separate discipline.

However, this doesn't mean that no one was telling stories. Promotion, one of the pillars of the marketing mix, is about establishing a connection with the market, communicating with consumers. It's about the desire to talk about oneself, one's product, to reach out to the customer. Therefore, even the most tasteless advertisement, where a product flickers on screen for 10 seconds and a narrator's voice repeats a set of industry clichés, is also a story. It may be poorly told and uninteresting, but it's a story nonetheless.

There's also the other side of the coin. Stories are told not only by businesses but also by consumers themselves, all of us. And often these stories are not only positive. In the pre-internet era, if we bought a bad product at the market, we would talk about it with neighbors, acquaintances, friends - this is how word-of-mouth works. So, one can generalize and make a simple conclusion - stories about products, brands, people exist and work, even if they are not consciously recognized."

It might seem obvious, but when Coca-Cola decided to make storytelling the basis of its marketing strategy in August 2011, it sparked lively interest in the professional community. According to a LinkedIn report, this decision was considered one of the starting points for the 'rise' of storytelling as a marketing discipline. By mid-2013, the number of people for whom storytelling ability was a key skill in their profile had risen to 250,000, which is 7% of marketers worldwide.

Here are some important takeaways from the video:
At all stages of customer interaction, an emotional story should be told. It is important not only to tell stories yourself but also to encourage customers to create them and then listen - 365 days a year.
example of a facebook text

How to Learn to Write Stories?

One can theorize about storytelling for a long time. But let's leave that for textbooks and focus on some general rules and techniques that can be used to create your own stories.

Storytelling as a Business Tool
  • Learn to create stories to solve business problems
  • Find out what visual storytelling is, and how to work with static and dynamic visualization
  • Practice creating video stories


You cannot become an excellent storyteller and writer in a day, a month, a year, and sometimes even in a lifetime. It's all about practice, the ability to work with feedback, but most importantly - understanding the product, the audience, and human nature globally. Without this, stories will sound false. Nevertheless, what's written further is just a fraction of technical knowledge.

So, the foundation of any story:
  • Hero. The main character. It could be you, your friend, mom, client, business, a mythical character - anyone.
  • Place and Context. The environment where the events unfold.
  • Goal. Some message, moral. The reason why you started the story.
  • Plot. What unites the previous points. A structure that ensures the interaction of the story's elements.
Now in more detail. With the hero, it's more or less obvious - this is a mandatory attribute in both literary and commercial text-stories. It's good if the reader, viewer, or listener can associate themselves with this character, empathize with his fate. Obviously, authenticity and reality are important for this.

If you lack understanding - go to the fields and observe. Not the mythical target audience of middle managers aged 25−30 years, but real people.

Novice authors often underestimate the importance of the second point - the setting. Essentially, this is the environment in which we find the hero of the story, its context. Poor development often leads to dullness and distrust. It's like in a detective story - can you trust someone who gets confused in their testimony and misses important details?

The next point is the goal. And this is by no means advertising. Think about why you tell your friends about your impressions of a new movie. It's unlikely to get them to go to a specific cinema. For the most part, you don't care, even if they watch a pirated version. You just need to share your emotions, express your opinion, show your stance. Modern content consumers can sense bias from a mile away, so trying to hand them the same TV or print advertising under the guise of a story is hardly a good idea.

And finally, with a focus on the pursued goal, the plot is what happens to the hero in the described conditions. There are many requirements for what makes a good plot, and this is even taught at universities. But to get a basic understanding, there's a quicker way - read, for example, Jürgen Wolff or Annette Simmons.

Everything else - lexical and compositional techniques, style, means of artistic expressiveness, and much more - helps the skeleton of the story to gain muscles and skin. But, like with body structure, it's complicated. And it takes time, so we'll only say a bit more about emotionality and manipulations.
Emotionality can be considered an integral component of storytelling. A good story should evoke emotions; emotions often form the basis of stories. Emotional content gets more response - this is an axiom. Look at which materials often go viral, and how many 'Likes' and shares on social networks posts about homeless animals gather.

How to make your stories emotional? There are special lexical, syntactic, morphological, and intonational techniques for this. And a dozen others. But the most important thing is simply not to exclude feelings and impressions in the pursuit of clarity and argumentativeness of the text."
Choose situations familiar to people, create characters that are 'one of their own'. Consciously make stories 'experiential'.

Based on this, manipulations also work in marketing stories. Where emotions reign, facts and rationality do not always become the basis for decision-making.

There are also many methods of manipulation: from euphemism, where the main idea is paraphrased or hidden, to more complex techniques like the Milton model. These are used by politicians, media, and individual authors. And all of us in life, often unconsciously.

And in conclusion. Storytelling doesn't necessarily mean a story in the direct literary sense. It can be anything - infographics, video, meme.. And a boring encyclopedic article can always be presented in the form of an infographic.
example of a facebook text

Additional Recommendations

Create a knowledge base. A simple Excel spreadsheet on your desktop or in the cloud. Write down all the cool stories you come across. Evaluate them not just by 'liked or disliked,' but also in terms of 'output': likes, reposts, 'trails' of publications in the media, etc. Quantitative indicators are important!

Keep up with trends.
Remember the timeliness and relevance. Developing the previous point: use news hooks skillfully. Use others' stories to create your own. Let's be honest - not everyone can be original today. There is nothing wrong with taking an already existing idea. Of course, this isn't about thoughtless plagiarism. Add something of your own, play with the news hook, look at someone else's story from an unexpected angle, use it as a starting point for your own ('It reminded me of…'). But remember about relevance.

Tell the stories of your customers. This has long been used by sports brands that attract not only stars to participate in their advertising but also ordinary people. And many other companies do this too, here's an example.

It seems simple. No aggressive direct advertising; a short clip showing the impressions of people who test your product. But this is also the case when the product itself is the story. In the Netherlands, many are into DJing, so such an 'invention' was a hit. The video was viewed over 200,000 times, which is a lot for the local McDonald’s branch, as they usually get significantly fewer views on their channel. And the 'mats' themselves remain in demand even now - they are sold on eBay, and tracks created with their help are played on radio stations. Probably, the company itself did not expect such an effect, as instead of a one-day promo, they got a virus that went around the world and gathered publications in leading outlets like the BBC.

Pay attention to presentation. Storytelling is not just the story itself, but also the ability to tell it. You probably already know about text walls. If a story is uncomfortable to read, watch, listen to - it's doomed. So remember about convenience and make interaction with content simple (share buttons, tweet, etc.).

Don't overdo it. Storytelling is not a magic pill. Don't try to turn all the content on the site into stories, everything should be in moderation.


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