Storytelling is something that’s been with us since the very first humans gathered around a fire and shared the day’s adventures. Families share stories about the history of their ancestors, and friends get together and share stories of better times. People are drawn to a good story, and integrating stories into your overall marketing campaign helps engage your target audience and make your brand more relatable.

If you are just coming up with a story to try to sell something rather than for the joy of sharing the personal side of your business, consumers will see right through that. Instead, make the goal to tell a story that reflects what you stand for and most believe in, and the consumer will be much more likely to embrace your outreach efforts. Here are six ways to become more of a storyteller and less of a marketer:

1. Combine Facts With Story

Researchers found that when you combine a story with a statistic, 65-70 percent of people retained the story. It’s tempting when looking at branding to just throw out statistics and facts, but if you can weave those into an overall storyline, then you’ll have much more success with the public. You can share a well-known fact or an actual statistic to add power to your overall story and lend a sense of credibility to what you’re saying.

Allstate has done an excellent job of combining statistics and story through their Mayhem commercials. An actor takes the word “mayhem” and turns it into a personification by playing the role of various catastrophes that the typical insured consumer might run into. Statistics and facts are woven throughout the storyline. Many of the scenarios shown are common occurrences or things people know could happen.

2. Hook the Reader/Viewer

You have just a few seconds to grab the attention of someone and get them involved in your story. This is called the “hook,” and it needs to be compelling in order to distract the person from a hundred other things competing for his/her time.

Think about the best movies you’ve seen and most interesting books you’ve read. More than likely, they started in the middle of the action, throwing you immediately into an interesting situation. How can you start your brand story in the middle of the action? What will grab the consumer? Coming up with the hook is often the hardest part of telling the story, but it is worth the time investment to find one that works.

3. Emotional Level

Your story needs to reach your target audience on an emotional level. It’s vital that marketers understand the emotional link with shoppers rather than simply focusing on their product’s features. Connecting on an emotional level starts by understanding what situations your typical customer might encounter. Next, what are the concerns that person might have? Once you understand those basic tenets, you can depict their concern and offer a heartwarming solution.Consider Subaru and their commercials for their vehicles, which touch on various life situations. In the commercial for the Subaru Crosstrek, they tell the story of a dating couple. The woman is ready to introduce her boyfriend to her dog Butch, but Butch isn’t so sure about someone new in their lives. It speaks to many storytelling levels, but it touches on the emotions of trying to win over someone new and finally finding that friendship you’re after — even if the friendship is with a canine.

4. Lose the Ulterior Motive

Do you have an ulterior motive when you create your social media campaign? While every business wants to increase their revenue, if you focus more on that instead of the story itself, your storytelling is going to fall flat. Sometimes, it really is just about telling an amazing story that will entertain your audience. If adding a fact about your product will take away from the story, then leave it out.

5. Add Images

Even if your story is in the form of written content, take the time to add relevant images. An image is processed at lightning speed. Even a user who is simply skimming through your content or a social media feed will be more highly impacted by content that features images. However, the images you use have to be relevant to the story you’re telling.

Magnolia Market uses Instagram to tell a story about their brand through the use of beautiful images. This is the business of Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” If you’ve watched the show, you know she is famous for creating country chic, homey décor. Her brand reflects that same feel online. The images are so vivid that you can almost picture someone walking into a room decorated this way.

6. Be Real

Above all else, be real with your target audience. If you aren’t authentic, then they aren’t going to trust you. Would you want to buy something from a brand you saw as untrustworthy? As you start your storytelling journey, draw inspiration from television shows that do it well, like the popular “This Is Us.” This show is raw and real, delving into issues such as marital strife, addiction, grief, the difficulties of raising multiple babies and even race issues. Allow your audience to live vicariously through your stories because they are so transparent and genuine.

Becoming a Storyteller

Becoming a storyteller requires very intentionally focusing on story above all else. Your stories should have a beginning, middle and end, but they also need many other elements to be successful. No matter how advanced our technology becomes, there is a part of humankind that craves the connection of story. From the parent reading a child a story at bedtime to gathering around the fire pit for some laughter and entertainment, stories have always been with us and continue to play an important role in our lives and businesses.