What would Aristotle do if he was your brand’s content marketing strategist?

Henrique Dias - June 11, 2020 A story needs three things: a value, emotion and logic - or as Aristotle puts it, ethos, pathos and logos. Draft Inc.'s Henrique Dias talks Aristotle in content marketing and brand journalism.
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Stories have been used for millennia to help humans connect with one another. The more someone knows about your story, the more someone knows who you are and what they can expect from you.

When someone is in a formal dress, they might intimidate us. But once they dress with authenticity, we start relating. It’s the same with organizations and brands. Transparent stories work because they show us what lies beneath someone’s armour, not the armour itself.

Great storytelling builds trust. Sharing true stories makes us believe in what an organization says – in its ability to understand our pains and to deliver on its promises. 

Here’s the problem: every brand has good stories… but most don’t know how to find them. Neither do they know how to tell them in a way that holds attention. Most brands are used to donning formalwear designed to impress – big numbers, large charity donations, years in business, you name it – but not so used to casual, authentic clothes designed to truly express who they are. 

How about hiring Aristotle for a moment as your content marketing strategist?

Aristotle worked with three founding concepts: ethos, pathos and logos. And he would probably develop a great work proposal based on these axioms.

Ethos

The distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature or guiding beliefs of a person, group or institution.

Displaying your character is the first step toward getting anyone’s trust. 

Without knowing who you are, people will still talk to you – but they won’t trust you. And without trust they won’t buy what you’re selling. For that, they will need to measure your actions against your words. 

Our biology hasn’t changed much in the last millennia (at least, not since Socrates), and neither have our psychological traits. Today, despite how much we have evolved as a society, we still fear doing business with someone we can’t trust. And that’s for the same old reason rooted in our brains: if we make the wrong choice, they can stab us in the back.

We’re all pre-programmed to be skeptical. To only share as much as they share. To not trust until we can trust.

READ: Who can you trust with your company’s data? The one you don’t need to trust.

As a brand, you must show who you really are.

Telling your stories in a journalistic way shows your audience the physical actions you have taken. A promotional sales pitch sells future promises – buy this, then get that; a journalistic story reveals the present or the past – we did this, we achieved this, we have already won… and so can you.

So, as a brand, start sharing:

  • Your success stories, including transparent case studies (note: if your case studies sound too good to be true, you’ll break your trust before someone even knows you)
  • Stories that show the values your organization abides by
  • Stories about the core members of the organization and their own Ethos

Stories are great because they tell facts, not promises. They are there to convert the interest and the soul, not the pocket. 

Transparent, true and well-told stories make history, and history cannot be changed – only reinterpreted. Which is why history is so much more powerful than vision. A company with great vision but no history of success is a risky investment. But once people can trust your ability to succeed, they rely on you and let you do the driving. 

READ: How has COVID-19 changed the world of marketing? Henrique Dias asked the experts.

Pathos

An element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion.

When we share a strength, we compete. When we share a vulnerability, we attract interest and collaboration.

My weakness is actually writing. This, right here, is not a masterpiece. It’s simply practice. Given this article’s title, I assume you face similar challenges in your storytelling, too. Maybe it’s some sort of writer’s block, or you’re just getting started, or you missed the mark and you are looking for better ways to build your narrative. Whatever it is, I feel for you. 

Sharing a vulnerability makes us more human and accessible.

People relate to us more easily. They warm up to us faster. Of course, it doesn’t mean declaring inaptitude. It means telling the truth. People appreciate honesty. The same goes for brands. I don’t know much about writing, but if you’re still reading despite my lack of authorial accomplishments, maybe my words are actually working (so far).

As a business, people want to know why you started in the first place. Whether you empathize with them or not. Whether you share the same values, principles and beliefs. Your market is screaming, “Can you hear me? Can you feel my pain?” and they’re desperate to hear your answer.

READ: “Sales” isn’t a dirty word. Kevin Hood is on a mission to show you why.

Logos

The principle of reason and judgment.

Your story should not only convince your audience, but also help the right decision makers rationalize their emotions toward you.

Emotions mean nothing when they stand apart from reason. We always look for answers that explain why we feel the way we feel.

But people see through “too good to be true” very easily. So your job is to convince people that the emotions you create through your ethos and your pathos have a reason to be there. 

They’re not buying from you because you are faster, cheaper or better, but primarily because they like you – the emotion that enticed them to buy in the first place.

Efficiency, price and speed are just the logical arguments they need to convince themselves that the love they developed for your brand has a reason to be there.

Logic grounds emotion, not the other way around. Once you have shown people that 1. they can trust you and 2. you have empathy for them, you need to ground all of these emotions with the logical side of what you do. Companies already excel in this part – there’s no lack of spec sheets in the market. So make sure that, when you communicate what you do, it’s plain, simple and directly related to your Ethos and your Pathos. 

OK, Aristotle, agreed. Now what should I do?

Organizations, regardless of shape and size, will always have great stories to tell

Good stories fill an emotional void and share a purpose. And connecting to people’s purposes sparks people’s action. 

You might want to tell better stories to recruit better talent. Or to attract better leads. Or to retain current customers. Or to change the opinion of an entire population. 

Whatever your goals are, there’s a very magical connection between the words someone hears and the actions they take as a consequence. Words lead to thoughts, thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions lead to engagement. 

A well-told story emotes. It pushes buttons. As a consequence, it generates action. 

Put this aristotelic structure to work, and it becomes much easier to convert mere facts into thrilling narratives. 

  • Ethos: show your audience who you are and why they can trust you
  • Pathos: share an emotional connection with them
  • Logos: explain the logic behind your magic.

Henrique Dias, Draft Inc.’s CMO and VP of Client Success, looks forward to having an aristotelic coffee with you. Contact him now.

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