The Power Of Storytelling In Association Marketing And Communications


In the digital era, capturing the public’s attention and strengthening member engagement requires a high-impact communication strategy. While different factors contribute to an association’s messaging and communications’ impact, storytelling deserves an in-depth exploration due to its ability to create a solid connection with existing and potential members.

In this article, we examine how storytelling can be incorporated into association marketing and offer practical advice on crafting a persuasive content narrative that serves the association’s goals.

Why Storytelling Works

In industry settings, storytelling (also known as narrative marketing) is a tool that can significantly influence customer behaviour. Nowadays, consumers are bombarded with more information than they can process, so marketers need more time to make an impact. Information alone usually only does so if it is presented in a way that strikes a meaningful chord. This is precisely what storytelling does. Sustained by the principles of emotional branding, this strategy offers enormous value to organisations, contributing to higher conversion and retention rates, among other benefits.
Storytelling is effective because it goes beyond the business-to-consumer interaction, establishing a human-to-human connection instead. Stories are believed to be remembered 22 times more than facts, and emotional copy performs twice as well as purely rational content. In another survey, nearly 70% of interviewees said that stories weighed on their purchasing decisions as they increase the perceived value of a product or service.
People’s affinity for stories is universal, so it also applies to associations and their members, becoming a tool to communicate, engage, and nurture.

Elements of Storytelling in Association Marketing

The basic elements of storytelling include:

  • People: Story-driven content is about people; products and services are woven into the narrative as secondary elements. This is what distinguishes storytelling from other forms of marketing. Note that although associations are entities, they are made up of people, so they can and should be presented as a person to humanise them.
  • Data: Effective storytelling appeals to the target audience’s rational and emotional sides, hence its ability to drive a specific outcome. Including relevant data in a story can help put the issue into perspective and provide a concise and unequivocal way of stating the scope and importance of the problem that concerns members.
  • Goals: Ultimately, brand storytelling moves the audience to action. In this process, having a relatable, specific, and measurable goal is essential since goals exemplify members’ desires or needs, which have an enormous pull in driving behaviour.
  • Multimedia narrative: A compelling narrative features a variety of storytelling mediums beyond text, including video, images, audio, graphics, etc. This creates an immersive context that is easy to identify – the story becomes the members’ story, and it becomes real.

Structure and Principles of Storytelling

The basic structure of effective storytelling in association marketing can be summarised as:

Protagonist > Problem > Journey > Solution

The protagonist is the member persona, described in as much detail as possible, including likes and dislikes, what motivates them, how they learn, how they make decisions, etc. You can find some examples of member personas here. Problem refers to the protagonist’s professional challenges related to the association’s offering. For example, an entry-level professional could benefit from structured guidance to advance. Still, they might need more time for formal training, which could become a concern. The journey describes where the protagonist starts, what they have tried to solve the problem, the obstacles faced, and what they aspire to (the end of the journey or ultimate goal). Solution refers to how the association fits. The solution should demonstrate an alignment in values and a sense of “going there together”. In the example above, an association’s mentoring scheme or a series of conferences and events could address the need for structured professional guidance without the time commitment of formal training.

RELATED: How To Use Storytelling When Marketing Your Conference

With the above structure in mind, stories can be crafted, ensuring they follow the principles of storytelling:

Personalisation: To create an emotional connection, stories must reflect member experiences so they resonate at a personal level, hence the importance of accurate member personas.
Authenticity is fundamental to establishing trust and making members receptive to the message. From the tone of voice to the focus on values or the inclusion of testimonials, authenticity builds credibility. It infuses the story with a human touch that cold marketing communications must improve.
Belonging: Stories should convey that members are not alone and that their challenges and concerns are understood. This fosters a sense of mutual loyalty, as the association is committed to members’ growth, and members become true supporters of the organisation.

Storytelling Techniques for Member Engagement

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Next, we look at three ways to create a compelling narrative that resonates with members.

Attention Interest Desire Action (AIDA)

  • Attention: Start with a hook, which can be an image, a factual statement, a high-impact question, or an original email subject line.
  • Interest: Keep members interested in the story with relevant content and an appealing presentation. Formulate the problem or pain point and describe how the association can help.
  • Desire: At this point, members should be convinced of the offer’s value and ready to accept it, and they should see their desire reflected in the copy.
  • Action: Conclude by guiding members on the specific action they must take to fulfil their desires.

4 Ps of storytelling

  • Picture: Use descriptive and engaging words to outline the context, character (member persona) and story plot. Ensure you describe the actual cost of leaving the problem unsolved.
  • Promise: Make a promise that reflects the members’ desires and goals, highlighting the value of the association’s offering (i.e. how their life will be improved after taking up the offer).
  • Proof: Use quantitative and qualitative data, from stats and infographics to testimonials, to establish the story’s authenticity and trustworthiness.
  • Push: Provide a clear CTA (Call to action).

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Story Focus

When using storytelling in association marketing, you can shift the focus to different elements:

  • Transformation: Here, the focus is on the “before” and “after”, highlighting how the association’s offer will ultimately lead to a positive and transformative outcome.
  • Community: Here, the focus is on the shared values, concerns, and interests that members share with the association.
  • Social Impact: The story highlights the association’s commitment to making a positive contribution and invites members to participate.

Measuring the Impact of Association Storytelling

Lastly, ensure you monitor the impact of storytelling by selecting relevant metrics aligned with your objectives. Some useful metrics include:

  • Member metrics: Retention rates, new lead generation, event registration, programme sign-up, etc.
  • Engagement: Blog comments, email replies, likes, shares, DMs, average time spent on a page, scroll depth, bounce rate, etc.
  • Brand metrics: Impressions, social media mentions, web traffic increase, search volume, backlink profile, press coverage, etc.
  • ROI: Determine how the above metrics translate into financial indicators.


Through storytelling, associations establish a lasting connection with members and become a trusted voice in their professional community. The impact of story-driven content goes beyond traditional content messaging by creating an empathic human-to-human connection that underpins the association’s offering. To learn more about incorporating storytelling in association marketing, contact the Congrex team.

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