It seems every company these days is hopping on the brand storytelling bandwagon. Maybe you’ve been sitting back, watching this phenomenon, and wondering if all the hype is merited.
To be honest – it totally is.
There are plenty of reasons for the newfound popularity of story-based branding. Storytelling is not just a new marketing strategy. It’s a way for businesses to authentically communicate their values and vision in a personable and relatable way.
Stories are compelling – they grip people’s imaginations in a way that facts never can. When people hear stories, they connect with and experience them – and by connecting to a customer through brand storytelling, you actually foster a greater sense of trust and investment in your company’s mission.
But a great brand story doesn’t just help you connect with the public at large, it’s also critical for that story to make a difference within the walls of your organization. A great story can help you improve employee morale. The members of your team are an integral part of your business – they’re some of the main characters in your company’s story. Whatever form you use tell your story (e.g. video, sales), it’s imperative to make sure it’s one that your staff can get behind in order for it to be authentic, meaningful, and believable.
Here are some tips to help you define your company’s story brand – and inspire your entire team.
The Story Must Be Personal
Who are the characters in your story? Who contributed to building your company and shaping its values? Which people had the most influence on the development of your business?
Stories can’t exist without characters. And the same can be said for your company. In order for there to be action, change, and development in the story line, there must be real people who experience it.
Having relatable characters in your brand story helps people to develop confidence in your company. People trust other people. It’s harder for people to trust companies. We’re made to connect – it’s a basic human need, which is why it’s imperative to tell your story with a sense of character. Forget vague terms like “stakeholders” and “our customer base.” You have to showcase real people and put real faces to your brand story.
So, who are those characters?
- Your Customers: First and foremost, the heroes of your story are your customers. Telling great stories about how specific customer’s lives have been transformed (or at least improved) by interacting with your company is critical to great brand storytelling. Customer joy is why you do what you do, and ultimately it’s why you and your employees get up in the morning.
- Your Employees: The lifeblood of your business, your employees take your vision and make it a reality. Which means they’re pretty damn important. Sharing stories about employees – who they are, what they’re passionate about, how much they mean to your organization – is another way to keep the focus on people over profits.
- Your Leadership: If you’re the founder, this means you. How did you start the company? What obstacles did you have to overcome? Why does your vision matter? Notice that I put you last in this list of characters. You can’t make yourself the sole focus of your brand story (we call that narcissism), but your employees need to be reminded that you’re a real person with real hopes and dreams from time to time.
The Story Must Be Original And True
What’s the most interesting thing about your company? What makes you unique? Does your business have a compelling origin story?
Your brand story should be interesting and compelling. Boring stories don’t get retold. Find some unique feature of your business’s origin or day-to-day operations – something no one else can say – and build your story based around that.
But make sure that you don’t over-exaggerate, creating some fantastical tale to draw people in. Your company’s brand image can’t be based on a false narrative. Whatever story you end up telling consumers, it must be real.
Pro Tip: Enhance the appeal of your brand story by using video.
If you attempt to create a brand story that is only loosely based in reality, your reputation will suffer. Your employees aren’t naive – they can tell when they’re being manipulated.
The Story Must Explain Why Your Company Exists
What is your mission? Why are you in business? What is important to you? What is the purpose of your company?
In order to do really great brand storytelling, you must be able to clearly articulate why your company exists in an emotionally compelling way.
- Does it exist to make money? Yes, of course, but that can’t be the only reason you’re in business.
- Were you driven by some passion for the product you offer?
- Did you want to provide a valuable service to people? Aside from the profit motive, there must have been some other motive for starting this business.
That’s what your employees want to hear about. They want to know that the company they work for doesn’t just exist to make money off of them. People don’t want to be viewed only as “profit-boosters” – they want to feel valued, and know that the work they’re doing has greater significance than just the pursuit of a bottom line. Again, that’s what gets people out of bed and into the office.
If you can explain your business’s vision and values to your employees through story, it humanizes your company’s mission, foster a connection with people, and creates intense loyalty.
The Story Must Resonate with Customers and Team Members
Connecting with consumers and conveying your message through brand storytelling is essential, but you can’t afford to forget about your company’s greatest asset – its employees. Your business exists to add value to all stakeholders, and that includes the lives of your employees.
One of the biggest ways you can add value to the lives of your team members is by providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging. The people who work for you want to play a part in the story that your company is telling. They want to know that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. And really, if your employees don’t believe in your brand story, it’s not much more than a front or façade. Your brand may look good to consumers on the outside, when it reality it’s hollow on the inside.
Another way you can make sure that employees feel included in your story arc is by asking for their input when crafting your brand storytelling strategy. Ask them the same questions that have been posed in the paragraphs above. Your staff will likely have insights into your company’s story that you may never have seen on your own.
Including employees in the process and listening to their input will help build morale. By participating in the story-building process, your staff will feel like more of a cohesive unit. Team members will be more involved and proactive because they’ll know that as characters in your company’s story, they’re building the business alongside you and they’ll care more about its success.
A brand story isn’t just something to be told, to be condensed into a manifesto or promoted on social media. It’s something that has to be lived. For brand storytelling to work, it has to be embodied and practiced by your entire organization. And in order for that to happen, you have to tell a story your employees can believe in.