Let's face it. When a salesman armed with a clipboard starts heading in our direction, we usually cross the street. In the world of digital marketing, it's even easier for our audience to avoid us; they can ignore our emails or ignore our content without even making an excuse.

So, the pressure is on. We need to utilize a strategy that reaches our target audience and offers them some real value. That's where storytelling comes in. People not only relate to stories, they also relate to the storyteller, which means it's essential that the storyteller is your brand.

Here are four steps to creating content that engages your audience, offers them value and stands the test of time:

1. Know your audience

Your target audience should always be the priority. To really understand your audience, you need to walk in their shoes. That's where persona mapping comes in handy. It's the stepping stone to humanizing your organization.

Separating content to resonate with each segment of a wider audience is crucial. As an example, Social Media Examiner's Michael Stelzner's found that authentic, honest storytelling is most effective for his podcasts. He knows that his listeners like to tune in at the gym...but he hasn't stopped there. He also knows that those listeners are looking for a balance of light entertainment, inspiration and informative education.

Alternatively, when it comes to blogs, Stelzner discovered that readers prefer more factual, concise content. Readers enjoy blogs that take them through a technical process and leave them with more knowledge to enhance a particular skill.

Knowing exactly what your personas are looking for helps the rest of the strategy fall into place.

2. Remember quality over quantity

When it comes to quality versus quantity, content marketing can only work in the long-term with high-quality, relevant content. In the digital world we live in, people are exposed to blog after blog, video after video and advert after advert every single day. Understandably, it can all get a bit annoying. If you're producing content that doesn't offer them anything new or truly beneficial, it's inevitable that it will become lost in all the noise.

So, makes sure that each type of content you posts offers your target audience something valuable. Focus on quality.

3. Tell stories worth sharing

For some of us, storytelling comes naturally. We have no problem baring our souls and telling people about the experiences we've gone through, including all the ups, downs and in between.  Effective brand stories could be based solely on our own experiences, or simply inspired by the stories of everyday people. Either way, weaving a relatable story around your brand can change the way your audience perceives your brand image entirely.

For traditional storytelling, authors create characters who wear a mask to conceal their flaws. Just like humans in everyday life, they possess a "shadow self," but are always attempting to hide their downfalls in public. However, as we've probably all experienced, the mask can slip. We all have moments where we lose our temper, get knocked down, or simply just mess up. That's where great storytelling arises. People connect with the imperfections of everyday life, including the moments we don't want people to see.

Transparency works. When you approach your audience with authenticity and transparency, you'll notice a positive change in their response. By talking about your experiences, you become someone your audience can trust in and admire. In my opinion, that's a reaction worth taking some risks for.

4. Embrace your failures

With storytelling in mind, embracing every professional failure along the way can help us to tell the best stories for a brand. Relatable stories about our careers can help you out while trying to humanize your brand in the long term, and establish a message with substance.

If people relate to what you're saying, they're more likely to trust that what you're selling to them offers them real value. That means they will also be more likely to become a long-term customer, because they associate your brand with overcoming challenges to achieve goals.

So learn to let go. Taking failure on the chin will help you to move forward and focus on the projects that work.