Can emotional narratives work for you?

Emotional narratives are powerful things, but are they right for your business?

Here, we’ll take a look at what makes an emotional narrative and whether it could be an effective tool for your business.

An effective narrative can make a good piece of content great!

Storytelling is big news in copywriting at the moment. Pretty much everyone agrees that every piece of content should have a beginning, middle and an end; a proper arc that takes the reader on a journey.

Stories are a great way to connect with your audience because they’re the main way we communicate on a day-to-day basis.

  • That anecdote about being late to work because of a donkey in the road? Story.
  • When you talk about something from your childhood? Story.
  • Describing your trip to the cinema and the film you saw? Story.

Telling stories is a great way to explain things in a way people understand. It allows your users to visualise what’s going on, resonates with them and can nudge them into the next stage of the sales funnel.

However, a good story has to include certain elements. It should be:

  • Topical – A good way to grab attention and demonstrate expertise
  • Relevant – Speaks to specific needs and hook readers in
  • Unusual – A new angle makes things interesting and helps the piece stand out from the crowd
  • Problem-solving – There must be a conflict to work off and resolve
  • Human – Easy to relate to, in a voice the user understands

But are emotional narratives a good idea for business?

At this stage, we should point out that ‘emotional’ doesn’t mean sad or wobbly. It means you experience a specific emotion (happy, sad, angry, proud, confused) as a result of the narrative… In saying that, ‘confused’ might not be very useful!

We believe that a narrative has to evoke emotions in order to be successful. Otherwise there’s nothing for the audience to empathise with or connect to.

A story without emotion is dry and not particularly inspiring. It will probably disengage the audience, and your users will look elsewhere for information.

Great emotional narratives make us care and caring makes us act. So, theoretically, using emotional narratives can make your audience care so much that it buys your products. Yes, there are a few more layers to it than that, but you get the drift.

Remember an emotional narrative must be combined with an authentic brand voice. Otherwise people won’t trust you, won’t invest in the story and they won’t stay loyal to your brand.

How to include an emotional narrative in your content

The clever people at Contently have recently written a blog on this subject entitled ‘How to make an emotional narrative for your brand’.

Look at how the writer responded to an ad by HP (spoiler alert: he got a bit teary). From there, he identified the three core things that you need to create an emotional narrative. We’ve found that they’re very similar to the core tenants of content marketing.

You need:

1) Characters with emotions the audience can relate to

Relatable characters are a must for businesses seeking to use emotional narratives. Try using audience personas to pick out key character traits to use throughout your story.

If your users cannot relate to your protagonist, they will not connect with the story. Write with these personas in mind at all times and you’ll have a Pulitzer Prize-worthy story on your hands (with a bit of luck).

2) Identifiable gap between what characters want and what they have

By coming to your site, your audience has a goal that it wants to achieve and is looking for a solution to help.

Your emotional narrative should reflect this, and the common pain-points on this journey, so your readers can visualise themselves as the protagonist.

3) Novelty and surprise along the way

Bottom line: your audience doesn’t want to be bored, so you must keep your users interested.

Whether that’s with a quick joke or pun, some onscreen misdirection or something else entirely, it can make a huge difference to your audience’s mindset. Balance it just right, and you might persuade users to convert.

Which types of content can use emotional narratives

Written content

Stories have been written down for centuries, however, it’s best if you don’t start your business content with ‘once upon a time’.

Instead, try using engaging phrases such as “imagine you …”. This will hook the audience, place your users in the middle of the story and get their imagination flowing.

Then you can take your audience on a journey of discovery through your written content. Use emotional phrases, imagery and hooks to make it more interesting and evocative.

Videos

Videos are where emotional narratives come into their own.

This is a good thing, as more and more marketers are starting to use video as a core part of their strategy.

In fact, consumers are now beginning to expect content to be in video format, with many losing interest if you don’t have a video explaining your product or service.

The videos that go viral, and are most powerful, are the ones that use emotional narratives.

For example, Pandora’s Mother’s Day video got us all a bit teary and wanting to find a present for mum! It’s racked up over 30 million YouTube and Facebook views since it went live.

The video celebrated the mother/child bond by blindfolding some children and asking them to pick out their mum from a line-up. (It’s much nicer than it sounds, we promise – check it out!)

The children feel their faces, hair and (expertly-placed) unique Pandora jewellery to identify them. This was a subtle way of promoting Pandora’s products while tugging on the audience’s heart strings.

What could be a better starting point than the dilemma of wondering if the children will find their mothers? Add to that little stumbling feet, smiling children and mothers wiping away tears of joy and you have a truly powerful and emotive narrative.

The bottom line

Using emotional narratives in your content will help your business prosper.

However, it’s most effective in video because it’s easy to visualise and consume. It’s worth investing in as it’s very likely to have a high share rate and increase your brand’s reach.

Emotional narratives create a strong connection between the brand and the audience which, with bit of luck and marketing know-how, will lead to a purchase later. Try it out today!

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