A Story Strategy is something we get asked to do, a lot! But what can you expect from a strategy workshop, who should be involved, how long will it take, and what will you get out of the process? Here’s our guide for marketers and business owners.
Why do you need a Story Strategy?
Essentially, you need a Story Strategy as a foundation for your communications efforts. Something everyone can get behind. This strategy then defines your communications campaigns, marketing efforts and sales process.
The basic aim of our StoryMap™ strategy workshop is to establish who you are, what you do, who you do it for, why you do it, and how you do it, before creating a set of concise key messages. All captured in a document that’s easy to share with everyone and anyone who’ll be writing, speaking or acting on behalf of your brand.
Who should be involved in the workshop?
Micro-businesses aside, it’s likely you’ll have a number of stakeholders with an opinion on how you should be communicating to the market. That’s why a workshop works so well. It’s a chance to bring these people together, to share their views and reach a consensus.
Consider inviting participants from product development, sales, customer service, as well as business management. They’ll each bring a different, and valid, perspective on how to differentiate the brand from competitors, as well as a take on existing story strengths and weaknesses.
You could run this workshop internally, but in our experience what you really need is an external facilitator who can:
- Drive the workshop, teasing out information and asking tough questions
- Challenge self serving messages. Ensure the focus stays on the customer
- Balance perspective
- Mediate differing viewpoints
When we run an Attract & Engage StoryMap™ Strategy Workshop we take on these roles: facilitator, constructive critic and mediator.
How does a StoryMap™ Strategy Workshop work?
Consultants and PR agencies run messaging workshops in many ways; here’s a rough guide to how we do it at Attract & Engage.
Before the workshop
We’ll arrange an initial meeting or call with you to understand what you want to achieve from the workshop. We’ll also take time to discuss how you intend to use the messaging that results. (A workshop designed to create a story strategy for a specific new product launch may have a very different goal from brand re positioning, for example).
It’s at this stage that you’ll decide who to invite to the session, and what roles those people play. You’ll brief us on your main competitors, provide case studies (if you have them) or provide details of customers we can interview. This helps us to get an insight into your brand, or the products and services you provide, as well as a take on current market perception.
We’ll also talk about basic logistical considerations, such as:
- How much time do you have? (our regular workshop session is three hours, but we can make it longer or shorter)
- What sort of room will be available? (we find a boardroom set up, around a table, with a big whiteboard or flip chart works best)
- If everyone will be in the room? (workshops can work well with videoconferencing participants)
That gives us enough detail to create a workshop agenda, and to begin our research, which usually includes:
- Competitor research. Analysis of competitor websites. This will help us to determine your points of difference during the workshop.
- Customer research. We’ll ask you to share contact details of three or four current customers. We’ll then conduct 15-minute interviews, focusing on the reason they chose your brand, their experience of your brand product or service, and what they think are your strengths and weaknesses (in isolation this is an incredibly valuable exercise for your business).
The findings of this research will be presented back to you at the workshop.
When it comes to the StoryMap™ workshop top of the agenda will be target audience, because you’re not creating a story strategy in a vacuum.
We’ll address specific personas, what challenges they’re trying to overcome, what help they need, and how you could help make their life better.
From this exercise we’ll uncover the different messaging approaches you may need to take to respond to different audience personas. We’ll come back around to competitors, and look at the options your target audience has to consider – and pin point what they need to believe about you if they’re to choose your product or service.
Once we understand more about who you’re selling to, and the problems they face, we can then concentrate on the products and services your selling. What exactly is it, what does it do that’s so great, and how is it better than the other options on the table? What are the proof points to back this up?
Throughout the process we’ll be busy capturing everyone’s thoughts. Documenting the discussions on a whiteboard or flipchart, so that we can turn it into the first draft of your StoryMap™. Bringing us neatly onto…
The StoryMap™ Framework
This is the output of the workshop: a concise document that sets out the reason you exist, your target personas, key messages and proof points for your brand as a whole, or for a particular product or service.
The format of the document will vary a little depending on the scope of the project, but typically it might include:
- An introduction: What the document is for, how it can be used, and by whom
- A description of your target persona(s): Who you’re selling to, what challenge they face, their responsibilities, motivations, and what they want from a solution or provider
- Your story strategy statement: A succinct summing-up of the reason you exist. The value your brand, product or service offers to its main audience
- Key messages: The main things you would like the audience to know (or feel) about your brand, product or service. (These can be re-purposed as content for marketing literature, websites, social media etc.)
- Proof points: Evidence that demonstrates what you’re saying is true. Proof points can include customer names and testimonials, analyst quotes, certifications, etc.
- Explainer: A super hardworking piece of copywriting that can be used everywhere (slide decks, sales emails, web pages, press release boilerplates, social media profiles etc.) Your explainer tells the reader what your brand, product or service is all about. We’ll provide 3 versions. 25-word, 50-word and 100-word options so you can use in different contexts
Approving your StoryMap™
We’d expect the first draft to be 85% of the way there. You and your stakeholders now need to read it thoroughly – revisiting, considering and discussing over the course of a few days. We’ll then schedule a meeting or call to chat through your feedback, you might choose to include all of your stakeholders in the feedback round, or collate it.
We’ll take everything on board, and then produce a second draft.
We find this next version is usually the final (and if it’s not quite there, we’ll do another round of edits).
The finalised StoryMap™ document will then be sent to you as a Word doc, PDF or PowerPoint – whichever works best.
StoryMap™ sounds great – but how much will it cost?
Story strategy workshops can differ quite drastically depending on the scope and desired outcome. But if you get in touch, we can give you an idea of the approximate investment level you’d be looking at.
As always feel free to give us a call on 07855 409970.
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