Marketing theories applied to storytelling reinforce content, context

By Marcus Billingham-Yuen

News Corp Australia

Sydney, Australia


Complicated. Headaches. Impractical.

All of these are words I’ve heard used to describe marketing science.

The topic has earned a reputation as a complicated field, described as an applied science that creators prefer to avoid, especially in our craft with content. But, as we run about in newsrooms breaking headlines and writing impactful stories, should we not pay more attention to the behaviour and psychology behind conveying how the story will be received?

Herein lies my belief: We can leverage the decades of research, studies, and clinical theory around marketing science to make stories hit harder and drive action.

In saying so, this is not about staunchly advocating for complex concepts that appear as an unyielding and rigid applied science. This is about using the learnings we have of what works and does not work when it comes to buying and selling branded products and services commercially.

What if we apply these learnings to content?

To start, here’s a radical simplification of two marketing theories we can experiment with to get the most out of our stories. This is not an academic regurgitation of literature but a digestible way to action.

The multiplier effect

First, if we share a story across multiple channels, you will benefit from the media multiplier effect and drive more impact.

Traditionally, commercial advertising messages delivered through multiple channels significantly increase strong purchase intent. This is because your reader sees the same message in different places, often at other times, to reinforce the memory of that brand or, in our case, the story.

The value of purchase intent cannot be understated: While we inform, inspire, and advocate through content, it is ultimately marked against the outcome it produces, which has typically been sales. Commercial networks have been doing this with advertising for decades now, and most brand communications continue to follow this principle whether they know it or not.

While this leans into communications theory, what the media multiplier effect demonstrates is the real-world application of making stories and content connect with consumers across their everyday lives.

What is the lesson here?

Post your story in multiple relevant channels in the same time window to drive readership and consideration of your content. It sounds simple and almost borderline obvious, but that’s the marketing theory behind justifying the reader’s consumption behaviour.

The halo effect

Secondly, on relevant channels, being in the right place is essential for building trust and a halo of credibility around the author and subject matter.

In my first public relations job, the phrases “halo effect” and “context is king” were drilled into the pool of interns. I didn’t understand why until an account manager, thankfully, expanded on it.

The halo effect is the tendency for positive impressions of a brand or product in one area to positively influence sentiment in other regions.

In my 19-year-old brain, placing a story or content with reputable sources and in a respected journal or space was essential to make it trustworthy. This doesn’t just apply to media.

We see prestige luxury brands follow this principle almost religiously with their activations: consider Louis Vuitton fall-winter shows in the Louvre or Rolex as the official timekeeper for the Australian Tennis Open.

Let’s bring this back to content: Extending your stories into the right contextually relevant environment is a powerful way of saying the message of the content aligns with the environment, and it should be treated with the same respect as the environment.

What is the learning? Where you post your story and how it appears on that platform is just as important as the subject itself to ensure it is correctly interpreted and trusted. Intercepting the contexts your audience deems trustworthy helps apply that same level of trust to the story, and it’s how we build a deeper connection with the audience.

Grasping marketing theory requires time, and it’s not always so simple.

What cannot be denied is the power marketing science has to make our content and stories more compelling. It starts with us to embrace these concepts as part of the media organisations and networks vital to keeping citizens informed through the right stories.

About Marcus Billingham-Yuen

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