There is a series of principles that a marketer should never overlook when crafting the storytelling strategy for a destination:

Know your audience. You need to know the kind of characters they admire and why they like them, what are their aspirations, their values, their beliefs, their fears, and what they cherish. When you manage to understand what moves your audience you are setting the stage to become a thought leader for them, and sound understanding of the target audience is the basis for a successful marketing plan and adequately framing the story for them. Do not intend to be liked by the whole audience, but just by a large segment of people who ultimately expand the buzz to reach the mainstream, the turning point of success.

Know how to reach your audience. Beyond their needs and motivations in order to tailor the story for them, it is crucial to know their content consuming habits in order to know through what kinds of means and when it is best to deliver the stories to get their full attention. This entails knowing their social habits like the locations where they spend their free time, their purchasing habits, the kinds of media they engage with as well as the device they use to connect with them, their trusted sources of information, etc.

Craft an effective call to action. At the end of the story, the call to action has to be explicit enough to let the audience know what to do next, once they are emotionally engaged. The best way to do so is by making the main character become the messenger of this call to action, more directly or indirectly, without spoiling the spirit of the story. The call to action has to explain the expected outcomes from the action they are about to take, so to support the emotional conviction with some rational facts and drive them to take the next step without further hesitation.

Surround the story with brand experiences. Even if the story is the conveyor of the message, the audience is willing to establish a relationship with the brand through various experiences so they can choose how they interact with the brand and enjoy the story through many senses. This may be done through multiple means like providing branded items that they are likely to use in their daily lives or through multimedia devices. Providing the audience with various brand experiences builds a priceless opportunity to strengthen the emotional links with the brand and that pays off at least with increased recommendation and loyalty.

Use engaging images and headlines. Nowadays consumers are usually overwhelmed by the amounts of information they receive through multiple channels in such a way that is sometimes difficult for them to decide to which content they should pay their utmost attention. Like in most industries, in the tourism industry most consumer decisions are driven by emotions rather than logic, and therefore are usually taken based on first impressions that convey visual and emotional appeal. Images and headlines are the key elements to stand out among the content crowd.

Create admirable but realistic characters. The characters are the key elements that create the emotional connection with the audience. Characters should embed the destination 3.0 values of cooperation, solidarity, good leadership, effort, innovative mindset, fairness, honesty, etc. Storytellers reveal the integrity of the characters by showing them in conflicts, because the heart of humans is revealed in the choices they make under pressure; and when the character takes admirable decisions he becomes admired. Moreover, characters have to be realistic by showing their vulnerability, as this is also a powerful empathy generator.

Convey energy and passion. When telling a story, emotions are transferred not only through the character’s personality but also through the enthusiasm and contagious passion that the storyteller uses to tell the story. To do so, the teller has to put himself in the character’s shoes, as this is the way to transmit authenticity and provide a sense of integrity to the story. Authenticity and passion are key drivers of successful storytelling.

Listen to your audience. Beyond the initial research to craft the adequate story and plan its delivery, marketers need to know what the audience thinks about the story, the way it is delivered and the related brand experiences. Not even the best marketers do it perfectly at the first attempt, so there is always a need to monitor the reactions and behaviors of the target audience in relation to all the marketing messages and activities, to reorient the strategy and the tactics whenever necessary. Further, the audience may change their mind in some aspects that affect the marketing strategy in some way; therefore it is necessary to detect trends at the earliest.

Would you consider adding any other key principles?

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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