What Digital Marketers Can Learn from This Is Us About Storytelling

This Is Us is easily one of the most popular shows on television right now. Fans of the show praise its storytelling techniques and character development. Whether you watch the show as a serious fan or not, there are some great storytelling techniques that digital marketers can take away to use in their own marketing efforts.

Leave Your Audience Wanting More

Every week, fans of This Is Us eagerly await the next episode of the show. At the season’s end, fan groups on Facebook speculate about what the next season will hold, and they continue to analyze the show – long past when it’s gone off the air for its spring and summer hiatus. When creating content, write in such a way that your readers will want to keep coming back to you so that they can learn more.

Create Questions in Readers’ Minds

Even though one of the big mysteries of This Is Us has been revealed, fans of the show still have a lot of questions about this family they’ve gotten to know over the past two seasons. When telling the story of your brand and your products, create an air of intrigue about some aspects, if you can. By utilizing this storytelling technique, you’ll keep your audience on its toes – and coming back to learn more about what your company offers.

Have a Plan for What Will Be Revealed When

The creators of This Is Us have admitted that they know what will happen and that they have a big plan for the series. Dan Fogelman even revealed that when he pitched the series, he knew when the big reveal would be concerning Jack’s cause of death. Whether you’re marketing a new product or a new type of service, have a plan for how you will introduce your audience to what you’re selling. Does your hotel chain have a really cool new amenity? By doing a slow reveal about this, you can create a lot of buzz for it in advance of the launch.

Create Stories People Relate To

One of the biggest reasons people check in with the Pearson family week after week is that they can relate to the stories of the characters. When you’re creating stories for your content outlets, it’s important to be sure that your audience can relate to the stories you’re telling. Use everyday language and avoid technical jargon – even if your field is super-technical. Focus, instead on telling stories of people, just like Jane Superuser, who have had success in solving her problems through using your products or services. By meeting your audience where they are at, you can better create the kinds of content that gets shared, and that motivates people to action.

Don’t Be Afraid to Serialize a Story

Rather than give readers the entire story about a client’s win in one post, consider following the “cliffhanger” model of storytelling. It took This Is Us three episodes to tell the complete story of what happened to Jack when he died. Consider doing a three-part series to lay out a story where you were able to help a customer or client solve a problem. In the first part, introduce the client and the problem, in the second part, talk about the problem and previous attempts to solve it. In the third part, show how your brand solved the problem. When done well, this can be a very effective form of creating content that brings readers back.

Don’t Shy Away from Stories That Move People

This Is Us has developed a reputation for being the show that people watch with a box of tissues nearby. The reason for this is that writers are not afraid to take on tough and emotional topics – and cover those topics well (and the actors, well, they are very talented in taking the script and bringing it to life). Tapping into emotions is an important part of storytelling – whether you’re writing a TV show or a description of your resort’s facilities.

Good Stories Follow Freitag’s Pyramid

One of the things that makes This Is Us a great show is that it follows Freitag’s Pyramid for narrative storytelling. Every good story has five parts: an inciting incident, rising action, the climax of the story, falling action, and the resolution. Your storytelling should have a clear beginning and a clear end. There should be some tension as to whether or not the conflict will be resolved. Once the conflict comes to a head, it’s important to resolve it in order to give readers a tidy box. Even if you’re creating a serial story, each individual part should have its own structure – and – they should work together to tell the complete story.

Embrace the Story World

In Jason Zada’s Adweek article, “Why It’s Time to Kill Advertising as We Know It and Start Building ‘Storyworlds,’” he wrote “Every brand is a storyteller.” He then went on to argue that we ought to embrace the art of storytelling – whether we’re selling cars or movies. While I’m not sure we should do away with every last best practice in marketing, he does have a point.  Embracing storytelling of the caliber exhibited in This Is Us can benefit brands. Why shouldn’t marketing engage and entertain? There is no reason why it can’t do both. By employing some of the techniques used for storytelling on This Is Us, digital marketers can start to builds story worlds surrounding the brands and companies they represent, thus tapping into a new type of consumer engagement. And as we’ve seen, if something is entertaining, it’s more likely to be shared on social media channels, thus reaching new audience members that may previously have been inaccessible.

Ronda Bowen – Content Creator

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