What we can learn from storytelling principles

Written by: Specialist, Rachel Barber, content strategist

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I’m a big believer in the art of storytelling. It might sound fluffy, but it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re a content creator, marketer or strategist - you can learn so much from how we as humans tell stories. At its very core, I think that’s what (content) marketing is: humans telling stories to other humans, for different purposes.

I do believe that if we marketers kept this front of mind, we’d do an even greater job of keeping our users, prospects and customers front of mind, too. With an extra special dose of meaningful engagement!

Here are 5 principles of storytelling that I think we can learn from.


Use empathy. Create empathy. Create with empathy.

Think about how much research authors do when creating their work. They set out to understand the context and experiences of others, so they can tell authentic stories. Stories that can truly evoke emotion and create empathy. Believable characters build trust and make compelling stories.

Non fiction writers build their careers on research, authenticity and creating stories out of not-so-compelling information.

Truly getting under the skin and understanding the emotions and human experience of who we’re marketing to is often somewhat overlooked.  

The Story Arc

Every good story has a well constructed story arc! At its most simplistic, this involves a compelling start, captivating midpoint and an ending that both delights and surprises.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What’s the hook for the audience?

What will make people engage with this content?  

How can I conclude the story in a unique way?  

Think like Netflix

We can learn more from Netflix that can be documented in a few lines, but here’s a few things to think about.

Netflix ensures that as you’re about to finish one part of the story, you’re encouraged to immediately embark on the next. How can you embed that principle into your content marketing?

Along the same lines - take a leaf out of Netflix’s book when it comes to serializing your content. Quality, not quantity. Have a lot to say? Keep each story brief and give someone a reason to come back for more.

Use Emotion

Whether you’re in B2B or B2C marketing, injecting emotion into your content is critical.

This can often be lacking in B2B, more specifically. We tend to forget that we are still trying to engage with people, not businesses. People relate to content when it stirs emotion within them.

Ask them a question. Get them to relate to someone else. The more content feels like it's created by an actual person, with an actual person in mind - the more authentic that content is perceived.

Think like a speechwriter

Speeches are mostly written to inform people, persuade people or to celebrate something or someone.

We can all take inspiration from how language is manipulated to create a compelling story, often with specific action in mind.

For example, one of the most frequently used tools in speeches is the rule of three. We have limited opportunities to engage our audience as they give us a limited attention span. Repetition is an effective way to really get a message across, as well as change up the flow of a story.

Reading speeches (and not just the usual suspects!) is a brilliant way to improve how you tell stories.