Stories always travel well

Today’s communication travels with the right messages at the right time on the right platform.
By Iva Grigorova

When you travel, you explore and you learn new things about other cultures, people or about yourself. Voyage is a state that enables feelings to flourish, skills to develop and knowledge to grow. When travelling, you are able to clear your mind and be ready to take a decision you are looking for or to find a solution to a problem. It has happened to many of you, I believe. When you go to a new place for a vacation or a business trip, you meet new people and new cultures. All of this gives you something extra to any aspect of your life.

In business, it is pretty much the same. Over time, because of industrial progress, innovations of products and services, technology and the Internet, many businesses have developed, grown and flourished. Why not change the way we communicate and interact with each other or with brands?

The communications industry has changed drastically, especially after the Internet boom. The Internet opened a lot of doors and opportunities for online products and businesses to become a valuable part of people’s lives. Naturally, the way people communicate with each other has changed. From mobile phones and emails through a variety of mobile gadgets, social media platforms and apps, human-to-human communication has experienced an evolutionary process. So, I can say communications have travelled through change.

Now, we witness how millennial and gen-z generations communicate primarily with emojis, gifs and stickers through different social media channels like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and twitter. There, they follow trends or set the trends that influence their peers. They look for movements to be part of, to contribute and to become valuable people to society. That’s why their life and work values have changed the way businesses operate in order to stay relevant and be successful.

Now people’s needs are different, compared to what people’s needs were 30 years ago. And businesses had to adapt. Not only that, but because of technological development, businesses had to adapt even faster. In order for any business (company, product or a service) to stay relevant, it has to reach this young generation (new consumer force) with the right messages via the right channel at the right time. Today, this is the way communication travels – the right messages at the right time in the right platform.

People don’t want to be spammed anymore with brand messages that are irrelevant. They don’t want pure advertising messages that “say” only sales. People want value. They want to learn more what the brand is saying to them, how they can improve their life with the brand’s product and service. They are willing to use the brand, share opinions about it and become advocates, if they feel they are in the centre of the brand’s communication. Today’s consumers like to travel with their brands.

This is how Communications has been travelling through change for the past few years. Yes, technology has helped communication professionals to develop and adapt to using new channels, to develop the way they build their communication strategies and tactics. What brands are saying and how they are talking to their publics is key. Otherwise, brands won’t have a voice among people, won’t have awareness, will lack shared messages and will not find brand advocates. So they won’t generate sales.

It is important to travel with the way people’s needs are changing over time. It is vital to be able to have insights into what the right people for your brand want, why they want it and when they want it. Good research and analysis of the situation will give you good insights. You will know what it is there for the end consumer, so your brand can give it to them in a timely manner.

With this big base of knowledge, communicators are able to create brands’ stories in interesting ways that will not only grab people’s attention, but also will hold it. When people are interested in one brand and what this brand is saying to them, they are interested in what this brand is giving to them. Then, consumers help the brand to have a bigger awareness and to have a better image on the market – to become a preferred brand. Isn’t this something that all brands desire the most when compared to their competitors?
This is how story creation and the whole process of storytelling becomes a big part of the daily life of a communicator. Stories help people travel to another world. Stories help people dream and plan things or even make improvements to their life. Stories, in general, inspire a new idea, a change, a trip. Have you noticed that people who travel a lot have many different stories? It’s amazing, isn’t it? They have so much knowledge and experience and are willing to share it with others. What they have seen, experienced, the people they have met, what food they have tried and the culture they have learnt about, make them full of knowledge. When they share this knowledge and experience, they tell the most beautiful stories. Stories of adventure, joy, amusement, fear, loss, or anything, because stories make the mind travel to a new world. Stories are free to travel. People retelling stories of a friend of a friend, help the journey of stories become even more interesting, inspiring, and even mysterious.

With technology influencing the communication industry and all social channels like blogs, web sites and apps, stories travel in the digital world and we have so called digital storytelling. It happens in real time. Brands can connect instantly with their consumers and provide better customer service.
In his blog Neil Patel, co-founder of Neil Patel Digital, entrepreneur and bestselling author, writes that the good story connects directly with the human experience and “has the power to move people and motivate action”. The good story is the one that touches humans emotionally and make people feel the brand, experience the brand in their own way.

When a brand is telling a human story, it gives people an authentic content. The authentic content is valuable to consumers, because they relate to something in it – a feeling, an experience, a shared moment with a loved one, a solved problem, etc. The more authentic content a brand gives, the better the brand will connect to its target audience. When this audience feels appreciated and understood, they are willing to purchase a brand’s product or service.
If you look deeper into building a brand’s principles and values and how one brand creates its story, Starbuck story is very interesting to look at. Howard Behar, a former president of Starbucks Coffee Company International, is the son of Bulgarian emigrant to the USA from 1911. Howard learnt from his father, who had a deli store, that everything in business is about human relations. This was a key learning that later Howard Behar used when he was building Starbucks’ main principles and values. These values and the business principles of the company he describes in his book It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons from Putting People First From a Life at Starbucks. “We’re not in the coffee business, serving people. We’re in the people business, serving coffee.”

Iliayna Stareva, Global Partner Program Manager at HubSpot and author of the book Inbound PR: The Agency Manual for Transforming Your Business With Inbound, writes a lot in her blog about content creation and how it reaches consumers. It’s all about getting people’s attention, because there is so much noise in all social media platforms. When people are connected almost 24/7, it is hard to grab and hold their attention. As time is our most important asset, “we are experiencing a culture shift in digital storytelling called ‘breaking news storytelling’ – to get people’s ears and eyes where you want them to be you need to act quickly basing the content on people’s actions, behavior and interests.”

Customer experience (CX) is leading in today’s communication and marketing campaigns. This is what customer have, feel and share, according to Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, an award-winning author, and world renowned keynote speaker. He says that today is about brand experience (BX), because it’s about purpose, vision and meaningful engagement, not about corporate missions, vision statements, taglines and creative campaigns.

Brand’s job is to know the customer before they design the content. They have to know what people do and why they do it. That’s why experts like Solis who look deeper into customer experience advise that brands have to rethink the customer journey and all the touchpoints in one marketing campaign, because they define the customer experience.

In order to understand the customer better, you have to be present at every stage of their buyer’s process. To build a trustworthy relationship and to make the customer believe in your brand product or service, you have to connect and provide helpful information and resources. Then the customer starts believing in your brand and sees solutions in your product or service. A trusted relationship is built. Eventually, they may become the brand’s advocate and recommend it to friends and family. What better word-of-mouth than a recommended product or service from a person who you trust?

This is how the stories in communications has made the journey from “push communications” – the pure advertising messages and tactics, to “pull communications” – the helpful and valuable pool of information that helps you learn, grow, solve problems and satisfy needs every day.

Today, the PR industry has started to change and is looking more at pull communication, meaning attracting PR stakeholders to the brand’s content that is the most relevant to them. A change that will allow brands’ stories to travel on the right journey.
The idea of pull communications lies at the heart of the concept of Inbound PR – a concept developed and introduced by Iliyana Stareva. You can read more about Inbound PR in the interview with Iliyana.

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