Originally published on Forbes.com by Forbes Agency Council on August 8, 2019.

Marketers need to develop stories of all kinds to sell products and their service. Some stories are easier than others, but all are vital in this industry.

Because storytelling isn’t something only for marketers, many lessons can be learned from storytellers in other fields. We’ve asked 14 experts from Forbes Agency Council to share some of the unexpected lessons they learned in regards to storytelling in marketing and how they apply each. Read their tips below before you start your next marketing project.

Members share some unexpected storytelling tips they've learned during their careers.

Members share some unexpected storytelling tips they’ve learned during their careers.


1. Start With The Most Compelling Idea

The best storytelling advice I’ve received was from a former broadcast producer who said, “always start with your best picture,” meaning start with your most compelling idea and then back into the rest of the story. This strategy is far more effective in hooking the reader than starting with background information. I apply it to pitches, press releases, bylined articles and everything in between. – Jade Rose FaugnoIntermarket

2. Make The Message Relevant

The goal of any marketing initiative is to generate a result and to get your audience to take action and respond to your message. But, they won’t if the message is not relevant to them. In order to develop a strong relevant message, it is important that you understand what is important to them and what their pain points are, and to show how you offer support to solve their struggles. – Daniela PavanThe Ad Store New York

3. Include Something Over The Top

We all have things that we remember and things we forget. One of the most important aspects of remembering something is making sure that an event is sticky. That means that there has to be some aspect that is so over the top that there is no way it can be forgotten. I learned this when I told a personal story in a speech — this was something that the audience never forgot. – Jon JamesIgnited Results

4. Evoke Emotion

Tell your story in a way that is personal so that the reader can connect with you, but also be sure that you evoke some emotion by adding tension, suspense or joy. Emotion makes it memorable. – Korena KeysKeyMedia Solutions

5. Include An Element Of Surprise

Storytelling is highly effective in marketing in that it actually changes the brain’s chemistry. When information is wrapped in a story, the listener is 22 times more likely to remember it. To make your stories even more effective, try injecting the element of surprise. Studies by the neuroscientist Gregory Berns uncovered that the human brain enjoys surprise even more than things a person likes. – Tom ShapiroStratabeat

6. Be More Authentic

Influencers add a storytelling element to a campaign because they are authentic when they talk about a brand. Interestingly, one campaign included a woman holding the product — her nail polish was chipped and her room was not very tidy. To our surprise, this image actually performed the best out of the whole campaign because the environment and the person were natural and truly authentic. – Maria SipkaLinqia

7. Focus On The First Sentence

The first sentence is so important, and it has to be powerful enough to get people to read more. To quote marketer Joe Sugarman, “the goal of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read.” It can be surprising, provocative or intriguing. I once began a post with “what you’re about to read will probably piss you off,” and the post had more comments than most of my other posts. – JC HiteHite Digital

8. Start With The Truth

In today’s world of deep-fakes and filtered reality, the greatest stories are the ones that are true. When you’re articulating a story for a client’s brand, start with their truth — their why. Today, people have a tight filter, but deep down they’re searching for something to believe in. Brands and agencies who can give them that story, rooted in truth and purpose, win every time. – Blair BradyWITH/agency

9. Be Simple And Upfront

I wanted so badly to be clever with my writing early on and it worked, but only sometimes. It’s far more effective to be simple, rather than clever. Tell the reader what they’re signing on for from the jump. Explain it with a story that wraps them in, but don’t over-complicate the plot by obfuscating it in unnecessary excess. Be direct, have brevity, give value and make it entertaining. – Sean SmithSimpleTiger LLC

10. Identify The Tension

Storytelling can be most effective in its simplest form. Identifying tension — the gap between where something is and where it needs to be — can be the source for a great story in any number of formats: Brand positioning, an awards submission, a case study, contributed content, product sheets, pitch decks, etc. Almost every piece of content or conversation a brand has is an opportunity to tell a story. – Kathleen LucenteRed Fan Communications

11. Tell A Relatable Story

When working with a nonprofit, we were playing with messaging. Every time we swapped out a human interest story for a plea or an ask, contributions went down. Always, always lead with a relatable story — your audience loves a good story! So, we let the story shine and tell itself. – Stefan PollackThe Pollack PR Marketing Group

12. Act Like You’re Talking To A Friend

Instead of writing to the masses, think about a friend telling a friend about something exciting that they really need to know. A boss early in my career told me to imagine you’re telling the story to someone you know, with a focus on what’s most meaningful and leaving out the boring marketing-speak. I still use facts and figures, but they support the story rather than being the story. – Jodi AmendolaAmendola Communications

13. Create Good Story Arcs

I coach clients in how to develop and tell great stories. Once we have a good story arc (beginning, middle, end, moral) we focus on creating full versions of the story in different lengths: 20-plus minutes (full speech), five minutes (short meeting), one minute (passing conversation), 30 seconds (elevator pitch). A great story maintains the arc no matter how much time is available. – Randy ShattuckThe Shattuck Group

14. Lead With The Lesson Or Ending First

When telling a story, especially through digital media, start with the ending and make it an unexpected statement, such as, “Nuclear Power is Safer than Wind Energy.” That way you have the opportunity to gain attention up front, and then explain the whys and how. A similar technique is Q&A. For instance: “How Is Insurance Software Changing the Industry? By Utilizing AI to Set Rates.” – Francine CarbMarkitects, Inc.