Expert perspective: how to create the right brand perception with content marketing and storytelling?

Pro insights from Melanie Deziel: brand, content marketing and storytelling expert 

Whether we want to believe it or not, perception is reality, and brands often struggle with creating the right perception. Enter content marketing. No doubt, content is a great tool to shift perception. But there are two issues here. First: brands don’t own perception, the customer does (qualtrics). And second, there’s already so much content being created; Forbes found there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (content) created every day. 

So ask yourself, do your customers really want to read another ebook or white paper? Does your brand’s content really address what the customer wants from your brand? With this in mind, how can you create authentic content that helps create the right brand (err, customer) perception?

(Source: Neil Patel)

We met with Prox pro, Melanie Deziel, expert on all things content and storytelling. Melanie is the author of the bestselling “The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas,” an award-winning branded content creator, and a lifelong storyteller. Before founding her firm, StoryFuel, she was the first editor of branded content at The New York Times, a founding member of HuffPost’s brand storytelling team, and served as Director of Creative Strategy for Time Inc. We’re in good hands with Melanie. 

Prox: Tell us about your customer

>> Melanie Deziel: “Typically my clients are professional marketers looking to improve their content. I also help people who aren’t marketers but find themselves doing marketing work, such as entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, and other influencers who are trying to build a robust content strategy. Because of my background, I help marketers think more like journalists to develop more credible and compelling content.”

Prox: Are there any brands that you think do a good job with their content marketing? Are they creating the right perception? 

“When you look at a brand like Ben and Jerrys or Starbucks, their content is usually mission-driven. They talk about things like sustainability and social justice, which works well for their audience. It’s content their consumer cares about. They realize their customers make purchasing decisions based on those shared values. 

Lowe’s Home Improvement has created an entire library of content that’s more utility-focused: how to use xyz tools the correct way, advice on home renovations, and DIY tips, for example. Yes, their content is very product-focused, but it’s also highly valuable. They have identified what their audience wants to know and what they can teach them. 

Every marketer should ask, before creating content, ‘how can we provide value to our customer in a way that is unique?’

Anecdotally, Gen Z and Millennials tend to be very purpose-driven consumers and vote with their wallet. So you must demonstrate their values in the content that you create, authentically. At the same time, recognize that these generations communicate in different ways. You must consider the format, length, distribution channel, and make sure you connect the dots. Remember, they were raised in a way that they can have a conversation with the brand.” 

Melanie Deziel, content marketing and storytelling expert.

Prox: What are common mistakes brands make with their content? 

“When marketers embark on their content creation journey, they all tend to make the same mistakes. I often see two themes 1). They create content for content sake, and 2). They create content for their own sake. There are other problems, like:

  • Problem 1: Believing content is a measure of quantity over quality. The create content because they feel a pressure to post, even when there isn’t anything of substance to be shared.
  • Problem 2: Focusing on what you want to say versus what your customers are looking for. You see this in advertising content where most is product or brand-focused and not consumer-focused.
  • Problem 3: A hyperfocus on conversion and the funnel without building a relationship with the customer first. 

We all know that one person who loves to talk, and only talks about themselves. They hardly listen. Unfortunately a lot of content marketing is like this. If you do all the talking, your audience is going to get the same feeling that you get with that self-promoter. The customer, and Gen Z especially, wants to have a conversation with you, so ask how you can help.”

Prox: Share some practical tips for marketers looking to improve their content?

>> Melanie Deziel: “Don’t feel like you need to be everywhere. Be deliberate about your channels and prioritize channels based on your customer. 

Before you start your new YouTube series, podcast, or TikTok account, think about where you can provide quality content consistently. If you can’t do both of these things, you’re better off waiting until you can.

Think about where you can provide consistent quality content. If you can’t do both of these things, you’re better off waiting.

Melanie Deziel

Prox: Is there someone in your line of work that you admire or find personally influential?

>> Melanie Deziel: “Ann Handley. Her voice is true, no matter the platform. Whether you read one of her books, or read her newsletter, or hear her speak, the authenticity of who she is always comes through, and her voice is so consistent and distinct. I think this is something we all want as marketers.” 

Prox: Are there any practices, or things you go back to when you need an extra push?

>> Melanie Deziel: “There’s an excerpt from the poem, Desiderata by Max Ehrmann: ‘And, whether or not it’s clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’ I think, particularly in times of uncertainty or bad news, when things aren’t going the way that I want, it’s nice to remind myself that while things might not make sense to me right now, over time I can get more clarity. I might not know how things will turn out, and I can’t control everything, but it will work out in the end.”

And, whether or not it’s clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Max ehrmann

Prox: Are there any trends that you see in the market related to business or content marketing and storytelling?

“I’m looking at how the pandemic is changing social behavior and how that’s going to impact the type of content we both create and consume. For example, the pandemic has made a shift in our commute patterns; this may or may or may not impact audio content listening. 

There has been an increase in the general consumption of instructional content. Around March, Storyfuel saw a general uptick in search phrases seeking instruction: “how-to” and “DIY” for example. This indicates that while our needs are the same, our access has changed, so we need help completing some of these processes on our own now. We need to know how to cut hair since we can’t get to a salon, or we need adapted recipes because yowe can’t get all the ingredients, or we need to be walked through how to repair the dishwasher because we can’t get a repair person to come to your house. 

From a practical standpoint, brands should build a library of instructional content that helps their audience achieve things, helps them master a product in a new way, or helps them to make the most of the brand’s service. The brands that do this will be the ones that consumers trust. Helpfulness creates trust. It’s also a chance to showcase your expertise and knowledge”

Melanie Deziel, content marketing and storytelling expert.

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