Narrative perspective is the lens through which readers experience a story, and choosing the right one can be a powerful tool in both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) communications. Each version of the story uses a different narrative perspective to evoke distinct emotions and levels of engagement from the reader, demonstrating the power of perspective in storytelling.
First-person narratives offer a unique advantage in their intimacy, allowing a character’s voice to resonate directly with the audience. For instance, a memoir of a company founder can utilize this perspective to forge a personal connection with readers, whether they are potential partners or customers. However, this perspective comes with the caveat of being limited to the character’s knowledge, which can hinder the breadth of information conveyed.
I never thought a walk in the park would take me on an adventure until I found a lost dog. He looked at me with hopeful eyes, and I knew I couldn’t leave him alone. So, I took him by the collar and we set off to find his home together.
First-Person Mediums & Channels
The choice of narrative perspective in company communications can be influenced by the medium or channel through which the message is delivered. Here’s how different perspectives align with various channels:
- Social Media & Blogs: Ideal for personal storytelling and brand humanization, the first-person perspective works well in blogs, personal accounts on social media, and influencer marketing.
- Video Testimonials & Case Studies: Videos that feature personal narratives or customer testimonials often use the first-person voice to share authentic experiences and build credibility.
Though less conventional, the second-person perspective invites the reader to step into the story, effectively becoming a part of the narrative. This direct address can engage readers in a B2C context, particularly in interactive marketing campaigns or user-focused content, creating a sense of immediacy and involvement. Yet, it poses risks of disengagement if the personal approach feels too presumptive or invasive. Example:
You’re walking through the park when you spot a lost dog. His eyes meet yours, a silent plea for help. Taking the initiative, you decide to lead him back to his home, feeling the weight of responsibility on your shoulders.
Second-Person Mediums & Channels
- Email Campaigns & Interactive Content: Addressing the reader as you can be powerful in email marketing, making the content feel like a personal conversation.
- Advertising & Web Copy: The direct address can create a compelling call to action, encouraging readers to picture themselves using a product or service.
Third-person storytelling is a versatile and widely used perspective in B2B and B2C contexts. It ranges from a limited view, offering deep dives into individual character experiences—useful for case studies or customer success stories—to an omniscient viewpoint that can weave intricate narratives across multiple departments or consumer profiles. The third-person objective stance suits informational content where emotional detachment and impartiality are desired. However, its broad scope can sometimes sacrifice the depth of personal connection in first-person narratives.
John found a lost dog in the park. The dog’s eyes were full of hope as John examined the tag on his collar. Knowing what he had to do, John led the dog through the streets, determined to reunite him with his family.
Or an omniscient viewpoint:
John, a kind-hearted man, was walking in the park when he came across a lost dog. The dog, a small beagle, had escaped from his yard, his family searching frantically for him. John, sensing the dog’s fear and the family’s desperation, became the unexpected hero of the day, guiding the dog back to his home where a joyful reunion awaited.
Third-Person Mediums & Channels
- Whitepapers & Official Reports: A third-person format is often preferred for its professional tone and ability to convey information authoritatively and objectively.
- Press Releases & News Articles: The objective nature of third-person suits the formal and informational style of press communications.
Third-Person Omniscient Mediums & Channels
- Storytelling in Marketing: When a company has a story that involves multiple stakeholders or complex products, an omniscient view allows for a more comprehensive narrative. In contrast, a limited view is better for focusing on a single product or service experience.
The fourth-person perspective is a more abstract and collective approach often used to present broader cultural or community-oriented narratives. While less traditional in Western storytelling, it presents opportunities for discussing shared experiences, which can be particularly relevant for community-focused B2B interactions or B2C strategies aimed at creating a sense of belonging. Example:
One finds themselves in a park where a lost dog has been found. The dog, with eyes that spoke of many walks and joyful days, now reflected only the wish to return to those times. And so, one takes up the task, a silent pact of trust between species, to bring the dog back to where it belongs, to a family missing one of its own.
Fourth-Person Mediums & Channels
- Community-Focused Content: Used rarely, the fourth-person perspective might appear in content designed to promote community initiatives or cultural inclusion, often in mediums where collective experiences are emphasized.
In crafting narratives for marketing and sales, the choice of perspective is strategic. It shapes how information is presented and the depth of the audience’s emotional journey. A well-chosen perspective can enhance the storytelling experience, whether the aim is to build trust with business partners or to create a compelling brand story for consumers. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each viewpoint, marketers and writers can effectively choose the right narrative angle to align with their strategic objectives and resonate with their intended audience.
The selection of a narrative perspective is strategic, aligning with the message’s intent and the chosen communication channel’s strengths. For instance, first-person might not suit formal grant proposals but is excellent for engaging blog posts. Similarly, the second-person might be too direct for technical manuals but is perfect for call-to-action web content. Third-person provides a balanced approach suitable for a wide range of corporate communications. The fourth person, being more abstract, may be selected for unique contexts where a sense of collective experience or action is to be conveyed, which might not be as widely used but can be effective for specific campaigns targeting community engagement.
A company should always consider the audience’s expectations for a given medium and choose the narrative perspective that best suits the context and goals of its communication strategy. Whether communicating with business clients or end consumers, the narrative perspective chosen is not just a stylistic preference but a deliberate marketing decision. It influences how the audience processes a story and their subsequent relationship with the brand or company narrative.