It’s no secret that event planning is a growing industry. But luckily, it’s also one of the most creative, which means there are plenty of ways to make your event stand out. An emerging trend in experiential marketing, storytelling is one of the best ways to put a unique stamp on your event planning business. Storytelling can be applied to a variety of your marketing strategies. Many event planners are bringing their brand to life by livestreaming events, posting videography of past events, and blogging.
Let’s take a closer look at storytelling and how you can use it to build lasting relationships with attendees.
Define Your Message and Weave it into Your Marketing Strategy Over Time
Not unlike crafting a powerful mission statement, the first step to storytelling involves defining your message and marketing strategies. You know what your brand is all about, so once you’ve captured the essence of it in a message, you can begin telling it in a story that unfolds over time. How can you create a compelling narrative? Well, you can start by looking at your values and how they were formed. For example, people tend to resonate with an underdog, so if you started from the bottom and made your way up, don’t be afraid to share that story in a heartfelt way. That’s just one example, though. All of our stories are meaningful and unique- you just need to tell it from the heart. If you’re genuine, people will feel that, and make a connection with you.
One of your main objectives should be making sure that your narrative reflects the personal narratives of individual customers. As you might imagine, that can be tricky. How can your story relate to so many different people, including the niche audiences you are targeting over time? We’ve got a few basic guidelines that can help steer your narrative in the right direction.
Relate Your Story to a Real-Life Scenario or Common Occurrence
In order to make your story relatable to a wide audience, you’ve got to identify commonalities between you. One thing we all have in common is struggle. Although our problems may be different, the struggle of encountering and overcoming obstacles to achieve goals is shared by all. You can make your narrative universal by sharing the problems you overcame to make your dream a reality.
Be sure to briefly describe what inspired you along the way. Did you decide to start your event planning business because of an event that inspired you in childhood? What aspects of event planning are most inspiring to you? If you love bringing ideas to life by creating experiences, share that passion with your audience. The key is to provide inspiration that your audience can apply to their own lives.
For example, a viewer might not be able to relate to the desire to start an event planning business. But maybe he or she can relate to the struggles and triumphs of self-made journey to success. Maybe he/she lacks the confidence to “fake it until they make it”, but your story shows that people are inspired to take chances on young entrepreneurs who show innovation and dedication. Some people have a tendency to procrastinate; perhaps you started out with no formal training and took some particularly bold actions and chances to get your business started, such as asking for sponsorship from a well-known influencer without having experience yourself.
Engage Your Audience Emotionally
The bottom line is this: People want to be emotionally engaged with and inspired by the brands they love. They want to be made to feel something powerful; they want to be called to act. That’s why it’s important for your story to relate values to life experience. What life experiences led to the development of your values system?
All it takes is a cursory glance at social media to know that authenticity and emotional transparency are popular values among millennials. More and more, social media influencers and even celebrities are celebrating individuality and encouraging people to be themselves. Emergent marketing trends are emphasizing the importance of dissolving images of “perfection” in the media. Influencers with massive social media followings are breaking down harmful stereotypes that cause everyday people to compare themselves to public figures. Many of them are doing this by posting “real”, unairbrushed photos of themselves; they’re sharing their hardships and vulnerabilities rather than curated images of “perfection”.
Visual storytelling is among the primary ways that brands and influencers are making themselves relatable to their customer and fan bases. Instagram is an especially visual platform where pictures help illustrate powerful messages. Be sure to utilize it when telling your own story over time. Keep people engaged in your creative process as they get to know who you are and what your brand stands for. Relate your personal development to your professional progress.
Showcase the Value of Your Brand
The next principle of good storytelling is to showcase the value of your brand to customers. If your audience has a problem, present your brand as the solution. For example, inclusive clothing brands recognize that fashion has historically idealized certain body types while marginalizing others. These brands recognize that women and men of all body sizes and shapes want to wear fashionable clothes- and feel good about how they look in them. Their marketing strategies focus on celebrating all body types and encouraging self-love and self-expression.
When you tell it sincerely, your story represents authenticity in its own unique way. For example, did you have to break any mental or professional boundaries to get where you are today? Everyone has certain self-limiting beliefs or attitudes which they must overcome to grow personally and professionally. If you are able to authentically share something personal about yourself, such as the fears or vulnerabilities you struggle with as you continue to grow, people will relate to you. They will feel a real connection and associate your products or services with shared values. Even if your obstacles are very different from theirs, your audience will be inspired to take chances despite their own.
There is a marked difference between lecturing and demonstrating- and you want to do the second. When your story is real and genuine, it tells itself in a sense. Your story should contain a valuable lesson that your audience can apply to their own lives.
Illustrate How Your Brand Fills a Common Need or Desire
Your story should also showcase the ways in which your brand or product fulfills a common need. For example, let’s say a young entrepreneur grew up loving beauty products and worshipping cosmetics brands like MAC makeup and Sephora. However, as she grew older, her values system developed, and she disliked the fact that large corporations make products with harmful chemicals. Let’s suppose that sustainability and caring for the environment became important to this entrepreneur as well. She began to shop locally for other things, but couldn’t find a makeup brand that offered as much variety- and made as many bold fashion statements- as her favorite brands. Therefore, a mission was born: to create a sustainable brand that uses natural, plant-based products to create a diverse variety of makeup and beauty products.
Now ask yourself a question: Which of this entrepreneur’s needs was relatable to a wide-range audience? The answer is that she wanted to be able to indulge in a variety of current beauty trends while supporting small businesses and sustainability. That need is relatable to many people, and it’s the moral of her success story. Make sure your story illustrates that your product fills a common need. What is the value of your product or service to your audience? What needs does it meet, and how does it help your audience overcome problems they face in daily life? How did it help you meet similar needs and overcome similar problems?
Your story should contain at least one real life scenario that shows how your product meets a need or fulfills a desire. Your message should be applicable to people’s everyday lives, so base your story on a real-life event or common occurrence.
Tell an Audio-Visual Story
It’s a known fact: People are more likely to believe something when they see it. That’s why it’s important to bring your story to life with audio visual aids. If your story relates to a real-life situation that you experienced, is there real life footage of it? For example, if you’re an event planner whose story was inspired by a live event you hosted, create a slideshow of the event. Include personal testimonies if you have them.
If you host or co-host a regular Podcast, post snippets onto your website and social media pages or include them in your videography. The use of audio-visual aids helps make the story more vivid and real for viewers. Remember, most people want to feel belonging to something outside themselves. It’s been reported time and again that self-expression is one of the main motivations for millennials to attend events. They want to interact with brands that represent who they are in some fundamental way. Storytelling with visual and audio aids helps make them feel like part of the experience, not outsiders.
If yours is a corporate event or workshop, tell your story in a way that immerses your attendees in it. In other words, you want them to live your story, not merely hear it. Effective speakers and presenters know how to tell their story and integrate interactive activities that illustrate its key points. For example, if your event is a workshop meant to teach leadership skills in your industry, implement some role playing. Use common roles found in the workplace so that the training feels relevant to everyday life. (If your topic is problem solving principles, cast attendees to demonstrate aggression, avoidance, compromise, and collaboration).
You can also give your attendees a scenario based on a real-life problem, and then ask them to break off into teams and solve that problem. It can be a communication problem, a technical issue, an issue commonly faced in the workplace on a daily basis- anything, really, as long as it’s applicable to the content you’re offering at your event. This kind of simulation of real-life events makes your story automatically relatable.
Give Your Story a Happy Ending
To really drive home the moral of your story, include personal testimonies. There are many ways to solicit personal testimonies and include them in your story. You may include personal testimonies in your videography or share it on your social media pages. If you can connect with an influencer who has a moderate to large following, offer that person a free product, service, or a ticket to an event in exchange for willingness to share their experience.
The main idea is this: If they love it, they’ll post a photo or video about it, tag you in it, and include hashtags associated with your brand. A single post by a popular influencer could exponentially increase your exposure- and your own social media following. If you’re looking to target a new niche audience, try reaching out to an influencer whose following includes members of that audience. Don’t worry if you’re just starting out and can’t seem to grab the attention of the most popular influencers. Relatively speaking, influencers with “moderate” followings still have large numbers of followers. The biggest influencers are often so inundated with requests for sponsorship that they might not even get to yours. Moderate influencers are much more likely to have the time your proposal or message deserves.
People like happy endings, especially in regard to the brands they use in everyday life. So give your audience a memorable one, and you’ll go out with a bang. Whether your story unfolds in the form of an event, video, or advertisement, your conclusion should be empowering to your audience.
If your story is told over time through interactive content on social media, your happy ending should be emphasized in each post. In this context, don’t think of storytelling as linear; think of each blog or Instagram post as an expansion of the working premise of your story. In other words, tell the whole story with the first post, and continually expand on it over time. You might tell it in a variety of different ways: You can use real life examples, real life comparisons, an everyday scenario, or testimonials. Either way, the moral and conclusion of the story doesn’t change- it’s simply expressed in various ways to keep your audience engaged as time passes.
The main objective of storytelling is ultimately to weave it into your marketing strategy over time. Not only does it facilitate long-term relationships and customer loyalty, but it keeps you interested and engaged. After you’ve been branding yourself for some time, it’s easy to lose momentum or run into creative blocks. It’s normal- it happens to everyone. But when it does, you can rely on storytelling to renew interest and add new dimensions to your brand.