An age old tale
Storytelling is a powerful tool, as well as one of the oldest forms of communication. The history of the written word dates to the Neolithic Age some 12,000 years ago as society was transitioning from hunter-gather to agricultural, and the need to record commerce transactions among farmers arose. When an organization is selling its mission, marketing it through a story, whether through a description, a picture, a graphic or a blog is crucial because storytelling is how humans connect with each other, and decide what they value.
Content marketing, or selling goods and services through storytelling, was utilized as early as the 1800s. The Furrow, a magazine founded in 1895 by John Deere for farmers was one of the first major examples of content marketing. The concept of using stories to connect with an audience is not a new one, however, technology has greatly changed the channels available to communicate with audiences. Print was the only channel to communicate until the invention of the radio, but what really changed marketing strategy was television. In the documentary The Story of Content: Rise of New Marketing, marketing experts explain the concept of brand advertising is an artifact of the 1960s, 70s and 80s when television commercials, and flashy print ads were believed to be the best way to connect with people.
Organizations trying to further its mission during this time had tough competition for advertising space in traditional journalism; especially since many organizations working on some of the worlds toughest issues don’t have the same funds to advertise as for-profit companies. Before the internet media owned most channels to reach audiences, then along came the internet and channel ownership became a thing of the past. What was a symbiotic relationship between media and advertising fell apart, which has left journalists scrambling to find new ways to stay solvent, and organizations trying to spread its mission in a noisy competitive environment.
Today marketing is turning back to storytelling through content rather than relying on advertising, which is something the founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), Joe Pulizzi, believes is a better way to communicate with a target audience. Content marketing is a strategy that sets out to solve a specific group of customers’ problems, meet their needs and build a relationship that translates into brand loyalty. People do not care about products today; so, a content marketer’s job is to understand audience values and meet them through storytelling. Through this approach organizations can gain followers, volunteers and donors to help push for social change.
Each organization has an audience for its mission, and what it is selling may not be a tangible good, but that is the point of content marketing. Companies aren’t just selling a product anymore either, the companies are selling a feeling or filling a need. Mission driven organizations can utilize these same techniques to gain support from their target audience and ultimately do more good.