How Associations Can Become Expert Storytellers

A new whitepaper from the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association points to the importance of storytelling as a marketing tool. One marcomm expert discusses takeaways from the whitepaper and how associations can use them to improve their storytelling skills.

The Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association recently released a whitepaper called “Storytelling 2020: What You Need to Know About Storytelling in Marketing.”

According to the whitepaper, storytelling allows brands “to foster engagement in ways that inspire consumers to take action, whether it be a click, like or purchase. Even more, it creates an evolving narrative that naturally connects with consumers, adding value to—and ultimately becoming part of—their everyday lives.”

Although the Storytelling 2020 whitepaper is geared toward for-profit marketers, Associations Now spoke with Kate Sigety, senior manager of strategic messaging at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, about some of the takeaways from the whitepaper that apply to associations.

Find your authentic voice. One of the whitepaper’s key takeaways was the importance of being an authentic storyteller.  “It’s very easy to push out messaging, but to truly find your authentic voice, you have to start by listening to these audiences, whether it’s at your annual meeting or on social media or your member’s only community,” Sigety said. “Listen to your key audiences and identify their key values and challenges, and I think this will help associations to truly and effectively craft a genuine voice that will best serve their members and their needs.”

Listen to your audience. According to Sigety, the profusion of online platforms makes the job of listening to your audience a little easier. “It will help you identify what topics your audience really values, and then you can start tracking those online interactions, and it will allow you to analyze patterns and use that data to drive your storytelling,” she said. “That way, you’re not just trying different messages—you’re backed up by the data and what your members are saying.”

Build your story from your mission. Knowing your mission and vision as a brand is critical to effectively storytelling, according to the whitepaper. The same is true for associations, said Sigety. “When you’re telling your association’s story, instead of promoting just a specific product or benefit, you can use your vision or mission to help guide your messaging, and it helps you remember that stories are about people—not just your mission, so finding members who help make your association’s cause and mission come to life,” she said. “That will be the story that resonates.”

Create a journey map. The whitepaper recommends that brands create a customer journey map to have a better understanding of how customers interact with their brand. Sigety said associations can use this tactic, too. “When I think about associations, we’re not just selling a product, we’re helping members excel in their careers,” she said. “And hopefully, we want to keep our members for their lifetime, so I think another key strategy that will help associations better understand their members’ journey is creating a map that follows their career journey.”

(bmelofo/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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