One in seven of the world’s population is on Instagram, with over 200 million users visiting business profiles every day – a potentially vast audience for your brand.

And with 71% of businesses now active on the platform, they’re signed up to a whole new market demographic, one that craves personalised visual content.

Some businesses are guilty of creating content for the platform that does not add value or engage the audience. What can they learn from the charitable sector?

Many charities and not-for-profit organisations have been establishing themselves on the social media site for some time – and have a lot to teach corporates in how to leverage those square tiles to deliver powerful brand messages. 

Here are five lessons:

Use people power

Research shows that images with faces in them are 38% more likely to be ‘liked’ and 32% more likely to be commented on. Instagram is a platform that rewards you for humanising your brand. Unicef, the world’s leading organisation working for children in danger, has grasped this. Take a look at some of its recent posts:





At the time of writing, these were Unicef’s most liked images from the last seven days. Unicef is using its key personnel and the children it helps, as its subjects. 

Businesses should replicate this. Use real people, strong images and human examples where you can to make your posts more relatable.



Unlock emotion

Charities know that using images and real life examples evokes emotion in the reader or audience. Follow Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders for strong examples.

B2B companies might not be telling stories that have the same emotional resonance as those from charities, but it is still possible to find stories from your organisation that build a connection. 

Consider how you can engage your own people to share their thoughts, purpose and passion on your Instagram feed.

Think of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. If you’ve got a product to sell, communicate either through evocative imagery or compelling captions why what you’re doing is important.

Captions are also a useful storytelling tool. Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters on its captions which is ample room to complement the imagery beside it. 

Well-written captions bring the story to life, and can act as the post’s main emotional pull if the supplied image lacks sentiment.

Use Stories

500 million people use Instagram Stories every day – and a third of the most viewed Stories are from brands. This is an area for marketers to exploit, especially as they are expected to outpace feeds in 2019.

Dogs Trust regularly posts Story content to its channel as a way to extend brand awareness even further. The charity also makes use of the highlights feature, allowing it to save past stories permanently to the top of its profile, instead of disappearing after 24 hours. Because of this, Dogs Trust can share powerful evergreen content to its followers, such as health tips and dog safety. 

50% of businesses are creating Stories every month, an interestingly low statistic given the obvious advantages.

Stories are an effective way of driving traffic to your website using the ‘swipe-up’ instruction. A strong call-to-action in an Instagram story can direct people to relevant pillar content hosted on your site.

Unleash the power of video

Video content receives 38% more engagement on Instagram than regular posts – and 2.1 times the amount of comments. 

Pencils Of Promise and The World Economic Forum are prime examples of not-for-profit organisations exhibiting quality video content across their Instagram channels. 

The accounts have high volumes of followers and specialise in posting informative, short-form videos commentating on world news and topics. 

Bearing in mind Instagram’s one-minute cap on video content, both organisations ensure that their message is conveyed clearly and concisely within the timeframe. 

The Forum’s content has caught the attention of influencers such as Leonardo DiCaprio, who has reshared many videos on environmental issues. 

Post often and keep it relevant

This isn’t as obvious as it sounds. If you’re posting to Instagram once a day, but the actual contents of your post doesn’t add value or spark joy in some way, then there’s no point. Focus on quality over quantity.

The most successful charitable Instagram accounts focus on ensuring that every post shows what they’re working towards; whether that’s a cure, global aid, rehoming animals or caring for people with disabilities. 

Even if it’s only twice a week but it’s relatable, captivating imagery, your followers will appreciate it far more and wait eagerly in anticipation of the next instalment.


How present should a CEO/CMO be on social media?

Lessons in content marketing: why your ‘why’ should come before your ‘what’


If you would like to know more about how Formative Content can optimise your social media strategy, please email

About the author: Seb Budd is the Content Marketing Executive for Formative Content. He is responsible for planning, executing and driving the social media and blog content for the company. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Inside a cave in southern France there is evidence that humans have told stories since the dawn of time.

The Chauvet cave paintings of bears, horses, bison, owls and rhinos are estimated to have been etched on the cave walls between 32,000 and 36,000 years ago, during the Ice Age.

Nobody knows what stories might have been told with these pictures. In fact, you have to fast forward to just 4,000 years ago for the world’s oldest known story, The Epic of Gilgamesh from the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq.

But what these and countless other cave paintings and fragments of ancient text show us is how deeply storytelling is embedded in our humanity.

Survive and thrive

In his book On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, University of Auckland professor Brian Boyd argues that storytelling is a human evolutionary adaptation that offers “tangible benefits” for survival.

Just what these benefits might be was recently explored by a team of researchers from University College London.

The researchers studied hunter-gatherer communities in Asia to examine the role that storytelling played in their societies.

In these communities, unexposed to modern-day moralising influences like organised religion, stories are essential for promoting co-operative and egalitarian values.

In a series of experiments, they offered members of the communities an allocation of rice to either keep for themselves or share with others. The more skilled storytellers that there were in the community, the more people were likely to share what they had with others.

Not only do stories help hunter-gatherer communities survive and thrive; the study by the UCL researchers also suggests there are evolutionary benefits to being a skilled storyteller.

When members of the Agta hunter-gather community in the Philippines were asked who they would most like to live with, skilled storytellers were twice more likely to be named than less skilled individuals.

Storytellers were more popular even than the best foragers. They also had greater reproductive success, and were more likely to gain the cooperation of other members of the community.

Corporate storytellers

If storytelling can be linked to basic human needs and desires, then businesses can use stories to better connect with their customers.

Apple is rated among the best in the world at doing this. The technology company recently topped a poll of the UK’s best storytelling brands for a fifth straight year, beating Help for Heroes, a charity for wounded veterans, into second place.

How does a company selling phones and computers make more of a connection with people than a charity telling tales of fallen warriors?

By consistently connecting with its customers at an emotional level.

Storytelling at its best engages hearts and minds. Apple succeeds at doing this by communicating itself as a brand with vision, a brand with purpose.

Apple invites its customers to be part of something bigger than themselves.

That something bigger isn’t just a story: it’s a narrative.

Winning narratives

Apple’s narrative is condensed into the slogan “think different”.

John Hagel, founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge in Silicon Valley, says that Apple’s narrative is so powerful because it invites the customer to be part of the story.

It invites the customer to think about the world and technology in a different way.

Hagel defines the difference between a story and a narrative as follows: firstly, stories are self-contained, with a beginning, middle and end, while narratives are open-ended. Secondly, stories are about the storyteller and characters in the story, while narratives can invite you to become part of the story.

As well as highlighting Apple’s success, Hagel also points to Nike as a good example of a brand using a narrative to its advantage.

Like Apple, Nike’s narrative is condensed into a simple slogan: “Just do it”. Hagel says it encapsulates the start of a journey, “the quest to become your personal best”.

Unsurprisingly, strong narratives and strong brands tend to go together. After Apple and Help for Heroes, the other companies ranked among the UK’s top 10 storytelling brands were all household names with strong identities, ranging from the BBC and the National Trust, to Facebook, Google and Dyson.

Empower your brand

With household names and global brands successfully harnessing storytelling and wider narratives to connect with customers, you could be forgiven for thinking that corporate storytelling is a consumer market phenomenon.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Business-to-business companies need to connect with their customers just as much as consumer firms.

And whether you are global sportswear brand or an IT services provider, you are still, at the end of the day, dealing with humans. Humans who, as the research shows, love stories.

One great example of a B2B company not only telling great stories, but placing them in the context of a wider narrative, is Tata Consultancy Services’ #digitalempowers website.

From smartphone apps helping African fishermen stay safe, to drones helping fight deforestation and save rhinos, #digitalempowers tells stories that together form a narrative showing how digital technology is a force for good in the world.

This narrative tells Tata Consultancy Services’ customers that it is a company committed to growing and improving the ways digital technologies can be used within organisations.

It is just one example of the corporate storytelling that Formative Content delivers for its clients to help them take control of their narrative and better connect with their customers.

Are you in control of your business narrative?

If you’d like us to help you create high-quality content that sets you apart from the competition, get in touch. 

Email: or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Enjoyed this post? Read How to turn interviews into engaging articles.


John McKenna is a Senior Writer at Formative Content and an award-winning business journalist with deep specialist knowledge of energy, infrastructure and project finance.


Whether you’re telling stories about your people, services or products; or you’re providing coverage of an event or conference, there’s a strong possibility that you will be using video in your B2B marketing plans in 2018.

The increased use of video means that more marketing teams are now looking to produce videos in-house. But getting the slick and professional finish can be tricky.

We have a number of former broadcast journalists in our team, so we know a thing or two about producing video under a variety of different and challenging conditions.

Plan, plan, plan.

A successful video shoot takes a lot of detailed planning.

Even a short and simple social video shot on an iPhone can involve a complex production process. There can be a lot of people and kit involved to get the high-quality finish needed.

There’s a lot to think about. Do you have the right equipment to gather quality footage? What will the edit entail and how will you record high-quality audio? It’s easy to get it wrong if you’re not aware of the pitfalls, so here are our tips to help you make your video production a success.

  1. Set your aims and objectives

Before you even think about picking up a camera be clear about what you want to achieve. Think about how your video will be used. This will have a big influence on how you shoot and edit the video.

Do you need to leave space in the shot to add text for a social video? If you’re planning to screen your video at an event, how big will the screen be? If it’s huge then your smartphone camera may not be up to the job.

What are the key messages that you need to get across? This will inform the questions you ask in interviews and the additional shots you need to film to visualise your story.

How long will the video be? You’ll want to make sure you shoot enough footage, but not so much that you have to spend days editing it.

  1. Define your story

In the best videos the pictures do most of the heavy lifting in terms of telling the story – and if you don’t know the story you won’t know what to shoot.

Write a rough script in advance – but be prepared to revise it as the story can change during the video shoot.

Create a shot list or a storyboard by working through the video in your head. What are the key images you need for your video?

  1. Do a recce

If you’re filming at a specific location, make sure you check it out before the shoot. Producers call this a recce. It’s not always possible – but if you can – you should. The location can make or break your shoot.

Things to look out for:

  1. Make a kit list

There can be a lot of kit involved in a video production, and if you forget something it will compromise your shoot. Memory cards are small and easily overlooked, a lens cleaning kit has saved the day so many times for me.

Make up a detailed list and tick off every item as you pack it. Make sure each item is in a ready-to-use state. Are your batteries charged, are your memory cards empty and correctly formatted for the camera you are using?  

It’s often worth having a small supply of makeup – a basic powder for all skin tones to help dab away the shine from nervous people in the interview chair.

  1. Prepare a detailed call sheet

A call sheet is vital to a successful video production. It tells everybody involved where they have to be and when. Make sure you include contact details for everybody involved and contact details for the production office.

A call sheet lays out everybody’s roles and responsibilities. Include a list of who is bringing what kit, what is to be filmed and at which location, with dates and times. You should include details of local public transport links and car parks.

It is important to include details of local emergency services and hospital accident and emergency departments. The production insurance policy should be attached to the call sheet. Hopefully you won’t need these, but you’d rather be prepared for it if you do.

On the day of the video shoot

The day that all your planning (hopefully) pays off.

Arrive earlier than you think you should to set things up for the day. Know how long it takes to set up kit – that might mean having a practice set up in advance. Anticipate any problems you might encounter and allow time to fix them.

Complete safety checks – make sure cables are tidy/taped down. Are lighting stands secure?

Check the sound quality and then check it again. Poor audio can prove impossible to fix in post-production.

With the right kind of planning, even the most complex video production can be made easier and more enjoyable. So now you’re all set to plan out your next quality video.


Enjoyed this post? Try our 5 video tips that will transform your event coverage.


If you’d like our journalists to help you improve the quality of your video coverage, get in touch. Email: or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.


Simon Torkington, is an Executive Producer at Formative Content. He produces and oversees video content production for some of our biggest clients.

Most writers know the feeling. You sit down to start your article and five minutes later you’re still staring at a blank page. Don’t panic.

In fact, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve got the first step to writing a successful article just right. You’re thinking about what you want to say. The alternative is to pour a disjointed stream of consciousness onto the page.

It’s nearly 25 years since my tutors at journalism school knocked my writing into shape. Since then the technology used to create and publish content has been through one revolution after another. But those core reporting skills haven’t changed much. Below are seven reporter skills that you can use to create content your readers will find easy to read – and share.

Have an angle

A story without an angle won’t be much of a read. Consider these two headlines.

Artificial Intelligence Will Change the World

Your Next Holiday Flight Could be Piloted by a Robot

The first has no angle and very little appeal to potential readers. The second is a compelling story with a really strong angle on the broad subject area of artificial intelligence. So, focus hard on your angle to give yourself a chance of hooking your audience.

Don’t bury the lead

Begin your story with the newest information written in a sharp, accessible style. Look to answer the basic questions; who, what, why, where and when in the opening two paragraphs of your article. Context and supporting background material can be included later.

Keep it short

The best reporters write short sentences. They also use simple everyday language. They typically  attempt to convey only one idea per sentence.

Your aim is to get the story across in a way that is easy for readers to understand. So, avoid putting obstacles in the way. Keep adjectives to a minimum, avoid flowery prose and lose the Latin phrases. If you are writing corporate content it can be tempting to reach for the thesaurus and include lots of big words to impress your colleagues. It’s likely to achieve the opposite and it will certainly alienate your readers.

Use active sentences

Many people struggle with the concept of the active and passive voice, so forgive me for taking you back to kindergarten for this one.

The first phrase many of us ever learned was “the cat sat on the mat.” It’s language in its simplest form and small children can easily understand it.

Now imagine telling a toddler that “the mat was sat upon by the cat.” It’s a much more difficult concept to grasp. That’s because it’s written using the passive voice.

Active sentences tell us who did what. Grammar buffs will recognise the subject-verb-object construction. The important point is that keeping your copy active makes it much more engaging. It gives clarity to your story and it normally takes fewer words to say the same thing.

Spelling and grammar

A writer’s reputation is grounded in good spelling and grammar. If you struggle with these there are online tools to help you. All computers have a simple spell checker. There are also more advanced online tools like grammarly that check not only spelling but also grammar, readability and other writing errors.

Attribution and accuracy

Unless you are writing a first person piece, there is no room for your own opinion in your copy. The source of facts, figures and quotes should be clear to readers. Make sure the sources you quote are credible. Do not use Wikipedia as a single source. Anybody can edit entries in Wikipedia so the data may not be reliable.

Check that everything in your piece is accurate. Your credibility as a writer depends on getting the facts right. Your company’s reputation may also depend on you getting your facts right. That means your job may depend on you getting the facts right. Check and once you’re happy, check it all again.

Polish your copy

Once you have written and checked your article it’s a good idea to go back and rewrite it. Your first attempt will never reflect you at your most brilliant.

For example, this article has 710 words up to this point. Is that too many?

The great American writer Mark Twain has the answer to that. Back in 1880 he said pretty much all of what I have said above. He used 106 words. I’ll leave you with those.

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

Letter to D. W. Bowser, 20 March 1880

If you’d like to hear how we can help your business produce journalistic content, get in touch today.
Email: or call our team on 01494 672 122

Simon Torkington is Executive Producer at Formative Content and produces and oversees content production for some of our biggest clients.

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.