Over this past year, I’ve been asked to meet with companies that are ready to make some changes in the way their firms are represented. As opportunities continue to grow with our hyper-connected audiences, companies need to move away from thinking about purely branded content and embrace true storytelling.
Going back a few years, the style was to broadcast your message in a way that exalted your service and told your audience why they needed to “get it quick.” Today, that messaging falls flat. When the first point of contact most often is your website or social media, tell your potential customer what you’re all about. Tell them a story.
Embrace True Storytelling
Brands are shifting from broadcast messaging, “this is how great we are and this is what we do” to creating a story that can happen in the mind of the audience. Companies such as Apple, Southwest Airlines, Volkswagen and Nationwide are terrific at storytelling. “Nike creates community around their stories and around its powerful theme of promoting ATTITUDE,” notes Shawn Hessinger in Small Business Trends.
In working with clients, the transformation begins by realizing that your brand is an ongoing story. “When information is communicated in story form, we seem to remember it better and are affected by it more deeply,” writes Kathy Oneto in Fast Company. For example, if your company offers the best deal, why is that? If you’re an architect, talk about your love of math and constructing out-of-this world buildings. If your company was started by a great-grand relative, bring to life the growth and trials generations overcame to exist today.
A Brand Profile is the First Chapter
Developing a Brand Profile nails down your mission, values and company attributes and begins the storytelling process. It helps you hone-in on how you got to where you are and where the story continues.
Your firm’s story is the launch-pad for the writing and design we do. “Brand artifacts (marketing material), if they reflect the firm with integrity and authenticity, can also be a galvanizing force. They create meaningful symbols that make the brand feel real and concrete, and they can serve as a source of pride for staff members as well as a reminder of the value and service the firm provides,” says Bob Fisher in Design Intelligence.
The Six Steps of Storytelling
Audiences not only connect with companies that tell a compelling story, but they remember that company because they resonate emotionally with the company. To help your brand become effective at storytelling, I’ve put together six simple steps to get you started:
- First, identify an important truth that matters to your audiences. Align members of your company to the truth.
- Don’t talk about how great you are, talk about how great your audience or customer could be as a result of choosing you.
- Evoke power in your story by relaying your brand’s authenticity. This includes standing for larger truths, empowering audiences, employee appreciation, participation in community and trade associations.
- Carefully craft your story by practicing it with a diverse group of people to make sure it is understood correctly.
- Forge your story across your marketing material including your website, news/blog, RFPs, ads and email marketing.
- Keep your story alive by keeping it updated, relevant and engaging.
In the digital world of always being “on” and relevant, connect with your audience with an honest narrative you believe. It will leave a lasting impression. Storytelling does just that—it gives your audiences the reason to connect and relate to your brand.