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Storytelling – it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach

As Yuval Noah Harari wrote in his critically acclaimed book,


, humanity’s ability to create new realities and tell stories is what sets us apart from other species – it’s part of the reason we’ve developed as we have done. And while this theory is based on prehistoric evolution, storytelling is a hugely important part of what we – as marketing and communications professionals – still do today.

However, not everyone wants to hear the same story, and not everyone responds to them in the same way. As a result, tailoring stories to different audiences is equally important as being able to tell them at all. While this is a challenge, and something we need to constantly revisit, there are various considerations we can apply in 2020 to ensure we’re influencing the right people in the right way.

Identify your fundamentals – and bring them to life

We want our stories to appeal to everyone we’re trying to reach, and we want the same message to land – all our audiences should all take away the same view, action or consideration, regardless of how we’ve tailored our story for them. Identifying key messages is the first step of any marketing strategy, and these messages should feed through everything we distribute to any audience.

Know your audience

You’ve heard it time and again; it’s the first rule of marketing and communications. But to truly tailor stories and reach the various touch points of audiences’ lives, we need to go up a level and segment them into smaller groups based on what they want, what they need and how they feel. This means we’re dealing with smaller groups of people and can be more impactful, taking our stories through the full length of the marketing funnel down from consideration to advocacy.

Use real people

The rise of social influencer marketing highlights a shift in how we are consuming information – Gen Z and millennials particularly want to hear from their peers rather than businesses or voices of authority. In our world of B2B marketing,


aren’t necessarily an obvious and easy fit but we can use this trend to inform our strategies and learn from the best practice happening in other sectors. We trust our peers and respect their views and opinions, and often the ‘influencers’ are in our extended networks, so use case studies, utilise external expertise, build ambassador groups and bring to life the real people who can influence your different audience groups.

Be nimble – and adapt to change

As Warren Buffet said, “in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks”. Behaviours change everyday, and our

communication strategies

need to reflect these shifts; what appeals to someone today, may not in the future.

By adopting a forward-looking view through the lense of your audiences, you will be better placed to anticipate how their views, thoughts and feelings may evolve over time – and therefore how you can reach them now and in the future. For example, if we look back over the last 10 years, who would have thought our national news agenda would have spent three years dominated by Brexit negotiations, we’d be obsessed with Uber, and no one would carry cash around anymore.

It’s not just about the content

Of course, it’s important to nail the content and ensure the words and images on the screen – or page – that make up your story resonate with your audiences, but distribution strategy is just as important. If we look at traditional communications, some people like to read a newspaper on their morning commute, others prefer to hear from brands during commercial breaks on TV, while some are more likely to connect with an organisation if they receive a beautiful mailer through the post. But as the global tech economy has evolved, the different ways we can distribute content has grown, and there are now thousands of ways to reach different audiences across their various platforms.

This diversification

spreads audiences more thinly and dilutes their attention, meaning that its only the strongest stories that get through.

Marketers have come a long way in terms of understanding audiences and creating compelling content that truly resonates with them. But there’s more we can do to deliver greater impact, influence behaviours and prompt action, and the nature of our profession means that this will never be ‘done’. People change, societies change and industries change – the fun part is trying to keep up so we can tailor our stories effectively and generate a reaction and action from our audiences.

Ignite USA 2020

​In 2020, the biggest B2B event of its kind in the world is coming to the USA. Since 2016, B2B Marketing Ignite has been firing up more than 1000 B2B marketers every summer in London. Next year we’re bringing the entire show to Chicago for two energy-charged days of inspiration, marketing innovation and networking. 

Register your interest for Ignite USA 2020

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