Chapter 3: Stories to Inspire

It's National Storytelling Week, to celebrate we're waxing lyrical about the way excellent, creative and thoughtful storytelling can take your marketing from an 8 to a 10. In Chapter 3, we look in more detail at stories to Inspire. Catch up on stories to Entertain here

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” A quote from, arguably, one of the greatest storytellers of modern day: J.K. Rowling. In the case of The Harry Potter series, readers are transported to a wizarding world. In the case of a brand story, this might be somewhere a little more abstract. In both instances, however, is the power of transporting the mind to a more positive state of being. To us, that’s pretty on par with feeling inspired.

There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.
— J.K. Rowling

‘Inspire’ content comes in many shapes and forms. The key is to, for lack of a better word, inspire positivity; creativity; empowerment. One of the most inspiring marketing campaigns in recent times is Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, which sought to offer a solution to a worrying statistic: namely that 1.75 million fewer women than men were exercising regularly in 2014. By really digging deep, and getting to know their audience (women aged 14 – 40), Sport England were able to identify a ‘unifying barrier’ to getting involved in sport: fear. And then? They hit the ground running.

“The campaign name itself armed women with positivity and empowerment,” writes Claire Vanner for Digital Radish. The first phase involved a ‘soft launch’ – working with select media titles to create a succession of articles, all discussing the fear of judgment felt by so many women up and down the country.

Secondly, using the This Girl Can namesake, Sport England worked hard to engage those women who needed the campaign most. By striking up proactive conversations on social media, This Girl Can were able to create a two-way narrative with their target audience: engaging them on an emotional level; providing support and encouragement and, ultimately, inspiring positive change.

Finally, once the story was already being recognised and shared amongst the very audience they set out to engage, This Girl Can made its televised debut: 30, 60 and 90-second adverts, aimed at inspiring women on a mass level. Add a 90-second cinema as, YouTube takeover, digital and social ads and a national poster campaign, and boom! An inspiration explosion!

Of course, Sport England had a pretty hefty budget to work with. Now, if you’re anything like many of our clients (charities, arts organisation, emerging artists or start-ups), you might not have the biggest budget. So, how can we apply a multi-million-pound campaign to our own marketing stories?

According to AJ Agrawal, a serial entrepreneur, marketer and advisor to Fortune 500 brands, inspiring consumers is all about getting them to do something they already want to do – even if they don’t know it yet. In an article for Forbes, Agrawal writes: “You should have a good idea of what your target audience wants, who they are, and what they are likely to react to.” By tying in your product or service to the (often emotional) wants and needs of your audience, you will be well on the way to encouraging them to act. “Inspiring a customer to act is your main priority in life,” writes Agrawal. Blunt? Perhaps. True? Most definitely.

Inspiring a customer to act is your main priority in life.
— AJ Agrawal

"Stories to Inspire can often work parallel to stories that Educate," explains Laura Rothwell, Founder of Crystlsd, "there are very few arts, culture or charitable organisations that don't have a compelling and hugely inspiring story at their core. What's important for us, is to tease that out and then tell it to your target audience." And there must be a 'target' audience, wanting to reach 'everyone', is beyond only the grandest of marketing budgets! 

"We manage the anti-sexual harassment campaign, Shout Up!," continues Laura, "this campaign is about making spaces (such as bars, pubs and clubs) safer for women by taking a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment. The success of this campaign hinges on empowering women to be able to say 'no' and educating patrons and bar staff on how damaging such behaviours are on the lives of their customers and on the reputation of their venue."

The best way to find out what inspires your audience? Ask them. "Questionnaires or focus groups are a great way to get inside the mind of your target audience," Laura advises. "It needn't be expensive, SurveyMonkey offers free access for questionnaires that are less than ten questions, focus groups (at first) can be held informally at your venue, simply by inviting a cross section of your database, it won't be a robust survey, but it will start to give you an idea of what matters to your audience, and that, after all, is the Holy Grail."