The Importance Of Storytelling
In the 29th session of Survive and Revive, Richard invited professional storyteller and content wrangler Ben Alcock of Resource Hub to discuss the importance of storytelling in our marketing. If you’re itching to travel again, just imagine how your clients feel! What stories are you telling them to keep them connected to you and dreaming about travel? Ben also explains how best to ensure this content reaches your audience by understanding how to think like a publisher.
Ben currently works as a freelance content consultant primarily through Resource Hub, and offers assistance for companies and individuals wishing to create engaging content that does more than simply sell a product. Ben’s focus is primarily on storytelling, grounded in the firm belief that clients need to be willing to buy into you as an individual or brand before they become willing to purchase from you. Ben also runs writing courses and short sessions to help aspiring content creators hone their craft.
The Importance Of Storytelling
In the travel industry specifically, there are very few companies that actually produce a tangible product. As a result, much of the industry is inherently based around telling compelling stories, whether they be stories about the destination, an airline, a hotel, or a tour operator. Humans by nature are also storytelling and travelling creatures. We all love talking, hearing and dreaming about travel, whether they be true stories or fiction. However, through Ben’s career as a content consultant specialising in the travel industry, he has come to realise that there are many agents and other industry members who all too often fail to identify the stories they find themselves involved in.
The Dinner Party Example
Using the hypothetical setting of a dinner party, Ben implores any members of the travel industry to picture themselves in this situation. In this industry, there’s no excuse for not being the most interesting person at the table. A common interaction at such an event may be another guest expressing their interest in what they imagine to be your exciting career. If they ask what you love about your job, it’s your duty to offer up a compelling and authentic story. The key here is to be honest and truly express your passion. Responding with prices and package deals simply won’t cut it. Using this example is a very effective way to measure the competency of your marketing activities. If a client comes to you to discuss their wild dreams of travelling, and all you can offer them is a price and a list, they’re not likely to feel any sort of connection to you or your brand.
Travel Is All About Stories
A common theme that the most successful brands all have is what they call “the defining moment”. This refers to the most important aspect of their product that sets them apart from their competitors in such a way that the customer indefinitely hooked. Another way to look at this idea is the concept of surprising and delighting your customers in unexpected ways. Ben offers the simple yet ingenious example of a Beverly Hills hotel that found a way to compete with its high-end luxury competitors through a novel idea. That idea was the implementation of a popsicle hotline – a phone line at the pool that when used would allow you to order a popsicle and have it delivered to you by a waiter. It’s a very simple concept that is distinctly unique to this hotel, and one that can be spun into a great story as it creates a sense of pure wonder and joy. It’s a very memorable example, and that’s exactly why it works. The travel industry is filled with many suppliers with all sorts of interesting and unique features that make them just as perfect to form the basis of your storytelling content.
How Does This Translate To The Real World?
While examples like the popsicle hotline make for perfect standalone content pieces, less unique subjects may work better as “listicles”. These are, as the name suggests, articles that are based around ordered lists of multiple examples. For example the top 10 hotels in a certain region, or the top 5 unique things to do at a certain destination. These are one of the easiest ways to begin writing content, and are also one of the best consumed by modern audiences.
Another important factor to consider is becoming aware of the stories you and your brand are involved with. Almost any interaction with your suppliers has the potential to become content. Whether you’re simply inspecting an aircraft, going on a short haul flight, or in talks with another brand, these topics all have the potential to become stories. For travel agents in particular, clients have an inherent desire to see that you are connected within the industry to demonstrate the breadth of your expertise, and stories like these form the perfect way to express that.
Additionally, content from third party media libraries and press releases can often be repurposed into your own content.
Act Like A Publisher
With modern toolboxes consisting of social media platforms and websites, every individual and brand has the necessary tools to behave as publishers. We all need to think like storytellers to produce content, and act like publishers to get these stories to our audience. Ben recommends that all content be hosted externally on your personal website, rather than posted directly to social media. The algorithms of social media platforms will often allow your hard work to slip under the radar. Whereas if you host content on your website it will be more enduring. You can then use social media to promote this content and drive traffic to your website at the same time.
1. Be Yourself – the most compelling content is that which is personal and authentic
2. Understand Your Audience – Know what they want, and create content that is relevant for them.
3. Don’t Be Boring – Keep things exciting and don’t waffle on.
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Ben Alcock: firstname.lastname@example.org