Elaine Armbruster

Elaine Armbruster

Director of Email Marketing & Marketing Automation

Bri Loesch

Email Marketing Manager

Storytelling in Email

Elaine Armbruster
Bri Loesch

Oct 12, 2017

What does storytelling look like when it comes to email marketing?

Sometimes as email marketers, we want to tell the whole story in email, but many times, we want to tease the story in order to get people to click through. At Ohio State, we’re doing a little bit of both and that's great — it all depends on what your main key performance indicator (KPI) is for the campaign. Do you want people to spend time in the email (longer read time; tell the whole story) or do you want them to get to your website to read the story (click to open rate; tease the story)? Either way, remember that people don’t tend to happen across your stories by accident and that email is a great way to get your stories seen.

Why tell stories through email?

Not only is email a top driver of traffic, but storytelling in email helps increase:

  • Short-term (read this story) and long-term (brand awareness/perception) engagement
  • Brand perception and trust with audience
  • Perception that content is authentic and relevant, setting the tone for future engagement opportunities (membership, giving, event registration, etc.)

How do I tell stories through email?

Telling stories in email should be done pointedly and with purpose. Ways to do this include:

  • Always having a clear call to action (CTA) that takes clickers to a strategic location
  • Adding visuals to help tell a story quickly as openers scan your email
  • Consider user-generated content and let your biggest ambassadors tell stories on your behalf
  • Telling the right stories to the right people at the right time, which can be achieved through segmentation, personalization and marketing automation

We love these examples from charity: water and Airbnb.

A charity: water Giving Tuesday email with a CTA to give is much more powerful if the recipient has been seeing emails such as this one with inspiring stories of kids raising money for the cause.

Charity Water Email

Storytelling email charity water

Airbnb could have just said “come to Sonoma,” but instead, they are storytelling in the form of a timeline. The mix of text, photos and illustrations in a zigzag format brings your eye down the page to the CTA.


Getting smart about storytelling in email

Finally, we talk through a few tips to most effectively tell your stories via email:

  1. Track the stories/content in your emails and review the analytics for trends
  2. Use segmentation to target different audiences with stories that appeal to them or to speak to audiences about the same story in different ways
  3. Test your storytelling methods in email to optimize your efforts for your audience

How are you telling your great Ohio State stories via email? We'd love to see your approach: emailmarketing@osu.edu

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