Storytelling across the
I look at storytelling as it relates to the entire visitor journey, because we are in the business of selling experiences. And if you’re only paying attention to how your story plays out in your online marketing, you’re only paying attention to half the picture. You're limiting yourself by thinking that your story is solely communicated by words.
It is communicated across every single point of interaction between you and your guests!
Your brand is constantly weaving a narrative that people choose to be a part of.
Instead of thinking of your story like a book, start thinking of it like an interactive play. A story that your visitors & guests immerse themselves in from the moment they discover your brand. Because after all, that’s what stories do. Good stories encourage the audience to immerse themselves by engaging people with…
An interesting premise & plot
A deep point-of-view
Curiosity & intrigue
All good stories engage, stir up emotion, educate & entertain. And the best stories take someone from point a (where they are currently) to point b (where they want to be). Point B can be many different things, and this is where the experience archetypes come in. But more on that later!
Not every story needs a big bad antagonist or tragedy – it’s often the case that hospitality & leisure experiences play out like a journey or quest plot line: Someone is unhappy with their current circumstances and sets out in search for something better. They meet people along the way to help them get to where they want to be and the story ends with someone who is changed, evolved, and better off.
A good story shows, rather than tells. That’s why I prefer to think of it as story-building instead of story-telling. And just like no playwright or filmmaker would ever start filming without a storyboard, you need to do the pre-work to build out the framework for your story. Taking the time to craft the story and how it plays out both on and offline.
Let's explore the visitor journey and how story-building plays out across the three stages!
Stage 1: Discovery
Someone learns about your experience, and begins to form emotions and a bond with your brand.
Communicated via: words, imagery, and aesthetic through your website & social media
Intention: To get the prospective guest to see themselves in your experience and trust that you can guide them to their desired outcome.
This requires understanding: (1) The value of your experience and (2) What drives your ideal guest - what is their desired outcome?
Because people have a tendency to put themselves into stories, your goal for your online storytelling is to paint a picture of your experience and walk them through the transformation that awaits them. To get them to see themselves in it and want to be a part of it.The story you tell here makes a promise to the prospective guest as to what they can expect if they journey with you.
The words, imagery, and aesthetic you choose to paint a sensory-engaging picture of your experience must be based off of your own brand’s identity and your understanding of your ideal guest. This means your website and social media need to tell a narrative that communicates your vision, values, personality, and how they align with the guest’s desires, self-identity, and lifestyle.
Because if a person can’t get a feel for what your brand stands for, the personality or values of your brand, what your experience promises them, or where your brand stands in relation to the competition, then the story ends here. This is all about establishing the know, like, and trust factor that forms a bond and sets the groundwork for stage 2.
Stage 2: Immersion
Someone decides to partake in your experience, and the real journey begins.
Communicated via: environment/scenery, touchpoints & sensory cues, interactions, and well-designed moments
Intention: To bring your experience’s narrative to life and co-create with your guest to bring them to their desired state of being.
This requires understanding: (1) How your narrative is expressed in the physical world and (2) How every single moment through your experience emotionally effects your guest.
Everything you promised in stage 1 takes flight here. It's actually stage 2 that drives the story you tell in stage 1. Because this is what you're painting a picture of online and in your marketing. This is where your vision, values, and personality are expressed in tangible ways alongside interactions with your team and other guests.
It's within this setting/destination that your story takes place. This is where you deliver on your promise for your guest’s desired “after” state and your experience plays out like a story to help them get there.
This is the time to get intentional about each and every moment throughout your in-person experience. Your experience takes them on an emotional ride, and if it's not designed with intention, the story will flatline.
Every detail someone engages with builds your story - the way you stimulate their senses creates a narrative in their mind just like it would if you were communicating it on paper. Everything they see, touch, taste, smell, and hear results in either positive or negative attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors.
Your job here is to design an experience that takes people on a journey from point A (where they are currently - perhaps overworked, uninspired, bored, lonely, stuck, stressed, etc.) to point B (their desired state of being). And to do it in a storied way: with an interesting plot, compelling people, sensory engaging settings, deep point-of-view, curiosity & intrigue, and emotion evoking moments.
Let's dive into point B in greater detail. Because all good stories should have a happy ending when it comes to guest experience. If you need help figuring out what your story is driving people towards, look no further than the experience archetypes. People are looking to immerse themselves in storied experiences that bring them on a journey that allows them to...
Learn & expand their world view
Love & experience beauty
Disrupt the status quo
Get back to their authentic self
Discover & feel freedom
Transform & experience magic
Express themselves creatively
Tap into true feelings of joy
Awaken their inner child
There is a process for uncovering which of these your brand is best setup to deliver on. This is a big part of uncovering your strategic framework. And when you start looking at your experience as more of a story, you create something incredibly desirable, valuable, and an experience that no other business can replicate.
Stage 3: The Return Home
This is where your guest becomes your best storyteller.
Communicated via: word of mouth & social media
The return home is where your story ends, but the ripple effects continue on. If the story that played out in stage 2 is one that people are eager to tell, your story will spread like wildfire. There is no secret to word of mouth – it is simply delivering an incredible experience to people. And the bigger the transformation someone experienced, the greater word of mouth you can expect to see.
People love talking about their travels and the unique things they get to see and do... so this is why giving them memorable moments that align with their desires (in stage 2) is so important.