Storytelling 101: What Content Marketers Can Learn From Novelists


Content is king. 

What is your brand’s story?

How do you connect with your fans in a meaningful way?

If you are a marketer, you have probably heard, or even said these phrases countless times over the course of your career. The industry has come to the general conclusion that as modern marketers, we are in the business of publishing meaningful stories that connect with the people who love our products. Marketing is storytelling.

One question we don’t ask ourselves enough as marketers is: How do you tell a really great story?

If marketing is a storytelling medium, it is important to look to other storytelling mediums for both the inspiration, and the nuts and bolts of how we can tell great stories for our brands. Written books are one of the oldest storytelling mediums and great authors can provide us with very helpful lessons.

Kill your darlings.
-Allen Ginsberg

What Ginsberg meant when he said “kill your darlings” is that, as a writer, it’s sometimes necessary to kill your favorite thing that you wrote because it doesn’t really help your characters develop or your story move along. The same is true in marketing. You may have written some beautiful, moving copy, but if it doesn’t do the job of telling the story that you want to tell, then you need to kill it, move on, and write something else.

Perfectionism is voice of the oppressor.
-Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott has an excellent book on writing called “Bird by Bird,” and if you fancy yourself a writer, whether you’re writing short stories or copy for Fortune 500 companies, I recommend you pick it up. In her book, she talks about how obsessing over getting your words just right prevents you from ever finishing your story. At some point in the writing process, you need to put your pen down, send your work into the world, and move on, even if it doesn’t feel just right.

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
-Toni Morrison

When it comes to writing for marketing, you see the same stories told again, and again, and again. Trucks are manly and powerful. Eating a bowl of that new health cereal will give you the energy to take on the day. The same stories are repeated over and over again. Don’t be afraid to tell the story that no one else has told. If your brand has a story isn’t out in the world, you have a responsibility to tell it. People in business would say “What is your unique value proposition?” but a writer would say “What is your unique story?”

Need some more content marketing guidance? Be sure to refer to our content marketing articles for detailed how-tos and interviews with thought leaders.