[Prefer to listen rather than read? Head here for the audio recording of this blog post!]
You’ve probably heard the stats from marketing experts- on average, consumers need to hear your message anywhere from 3-7x in order for it to sink in. A one-time dose of marketing just doesn’t get the job done anymore- consumers have more options than ever before, which means companies are getting more and more creative about the ways they get their products in front of you.
Check this: Forbes estimates that Americans are exposed to between 4-10,000 advertisements PER DAY.
This means that when the average consumer is on the hunt for a new service or product, one of the biggest differentiators is CLARITY. They need us to punch through the noise and clearly enunciate what it is that sets us apart from the creative next door; why we are the correct choice, the best brand to place their trust in.
And then in order for it to stick, we repeat that message again, and again, and again!
STORYLINES are the most organic, consistent way to achieve the messaging repetition that our audiences need to clearly understand our brand.
A storyline is simply a truism about your brand, repeated time and time again in different iterations, on different platforms, using different visuals, all with the purpose of driving home a message you want your audience to know about your brand.
This is as simple as “I’m a wedding photographer,” which leads to sharing blog posts about my past weddings, tips for newly engaged couples, and BTS glimpses into a wedding day.
Or “I’m a Francophile,” which means posting my favorite frames from my last trip to Paris on the ‘gram, sharing my upcoming travel dates, and sharing the occasional photo of me in France to really drive the message home.
One surefire marker of a strong brand is one whose customers/audience can repeat back to the company the stories the company has been telling the audience about itself. This happens when we carefully choose a handful of brand-centric messages, or storylines, and repeat, repeat, repeat, finding new ways to reiterate the same message!
Here’s how that goes:
Choose 5-10 storylines about your business and brand that speak directly to your ideal client, and tell those stories over and over again- on social media, throughout your website, in your marketing materials and pricing pages. Everywhere. And then breaking your storylines down into three different tiers makes it easy to prioritize when you’re coming up short on what to post next!
Tie 1: What are your core offerings? These compose the bulk of what you sell, and, in general, the majority of the content you’ll share with your audience. For example, my core offering storylines are: elegant, comfortable wedding photography, branding photography for driven creative small business owners, and education for entrepreneurs.
Tier 2: Do you have any major influences? Is there anything you consistently pull inspiration from, a recurring theme in your work that clients have come to associate with you? For example, while ballet & travel photography don’t really pay my bills, my #abbygraceballerinas series has become a staple of my brand, just like my love of all things French!
Tier 3: Are there any ancillary, not-exactly-business-related stories that you want to CONSISTENTLY share with your audience? Maybe a personal project with a local non-profit, your sweet kiddos, or your ongoing renovations to an 18th-century farmhouse you bought. It doesn’t need to be strictly related to your business, but I DO suggest that you carefully consider whether it’s brand-resonant- will what you’re sharing resonate with your target audience? (Like how I enjoy quilting in my spare time, but you won’t find that anywhere on my website or blog [except here now, I guess?] because it doesn’t speak to my ideal client)
These third-tier storylines help to fill in the gaps, humanize your brand, and allow followers to feel more personally connected to you as a business owner! My third-tier storylines are my family (well, mainly Felix!) and my love of Harry Potter!
By choosing a consistent series of storylines, we’re teaching our audience HOW we want them to think of us. But remember- they need to hear EACH of these messages between 3-7 times before it sinks in, and since the nature of business ownership is that we’re constantly attracting new eyes on our work, that repetition becomes an easy foundation for our marketing plans!
Since I know some of y’all will be the type who want numbers, here’s how my social content ends up breaking down:
1st-tier storylines (core offerings)- 60-70% of your content
2nd-tier storylines (main influences)- 20-30%
3rd-tier storylines (ancillary stories)- 10-20%
Earlier this year I made my way through the book Atomic Habits, and I LOVE this particular line from James Clear about habit formation- “When you’ve memorized the simple movement so well that you can perform them without thinking, you’re free to pay attention to the more advanced details.”
THIS is why I’m such an advocate for automating as many parts of our business as possible! Because when I know which stories I want to be telling, when I’ve already determined those ahead of time, it makes choosing content for social media easier, which means getting my work in front of the people who need it. That’s really what it’s about- I run a business that serves, and I want it to serve well. Getting clear on my messaging allows me to cut through the noise and get my work to the people it’s going to make the biggest difference for.
And isn’t that a goal we’re ALL working toward?