How to Use Storytelling to Strengthen Your Brand
Everyone loves a good story. From captivating children’s books to blockbuster films to moving human interest pieces in the local news. Stories are powerful because they reach us at the deepest emotional levels. But they aren’t just for entertainment. Stories can change the way you do business, too.
In a world of information overload and targeted advertisements, brand storytelling is what you need to stand out among the crowd. Using stories effectively will help you create meaningful connections with current and future clients, build trust, and ultimately gain more business.
This article will help you understand what brand storytelling is, why you need it, and how to use it to strengthen your business.
What is Brand Storytelling?
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To understand brand storytelling, we first need to understand what a “brand” is. Plain and simple, your brand is your company’s personality and identity. To a certain extent, your brand is also the image your customers have of your business.
Brand storytelling then uses narrative strategies to engage your audience and shape your company’s identity beyond traditional marketing tactics. It gives your company (i.e. the brand) the opportunity to connect on a personal level with clients to promote who you are, what you believe, and what you do without sounding like a salesman.
As Seth Godin has written, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories, you tell.”
Think about Walt Disney Company as an example. Disney isn’t really about theme parks, resorts, rides, food, or Mickey. Not at all. Disney is about creating magical memories for you and your loved ones. That’s the Disney story.
You (probably) won’t become as big as Disney, but with a little work and practice, you can create and communicate your brand story just as effectively.
Are you ready to become a great storyteller?
What’s the Difference Between Brand Storytelling and Content Marketing?
Let’s clear something up first. Your brand story is not exactly the same as your content marketing strategy. Content marketing is the strategic creation and distribution of content (blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.) across various platforms.
This content is designed to add value to your customers, but it may not explicitly promote your brand (though it could). Its main goal is to generate interest in your company’s products or services.
Brand storytelling, on the other hand, is a broader category that refers to every message your company communicates. It focuses on the bigger picture of why your company exists. Brand Storytelling also includes your vision and core values, your logo and colors, how you treat employees, customer reviews, public perception, and more.
You share your brand story on your website, in core values, at a public speaking engagement, in every client interaction, when a client calls, and much more.
Content marketing (e.g. blogs, social media) is just one way your brand story gets told to the world.
Learn how Desygner refines our client’s internal content marketing processes
Why You Should Use Storytelling
Humans are hard-wired to love and need stories. Recent scientific studies have shown that stories actually change our brains. They make us more aware, sensitive, and empathetic to those around us. Stories fuel relational connections, foster community, and help us gather and process information.
Most importantly, stories persuade us to change our behavior. One researcher said it’s as if telling stories is like “trying to make your brain similar to mine in areas that really capture the meaning, the situation…the context of the world.”
All of this should get your attention as a marketer, right?
Stories that are honest, vulnerable, personal, and unique, cultivate trust between you and your customers. In our competitive, online-driven world where loyalty can be hard to come by, it seems too good to be true that a simple story can make all the difference.
How to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing
When you share your stories, it’s vital you know that your customer is the hero. They are the main character and, with your help as a supporting actor, they are able to solve problems to continue their mission and pursue their vision.
Every story you’ve ever heard has four main elements: setting, problem, action, and resolution. You need to include these in every story you share.
- Setting. Who is the client? What’s their situation? What details about their situation will connect with the person watching or reading?
- Problem: What’s the client’s pain point (i.e. problem)? Why did they come to you in the first place? What were they feeling when they sought you for help? What domino effect of problems happened because of the original problem?
- Action: How did you come alongside them to provide help? What collaboration happened to work through the problem? What did the client do in response to discovering your product or service?
- Resolution: What was the outcome of your collaboration and the client’s action? What emotion did they feel once their problem was resolved?
In the end, the thing you are “selling” is a feeling. To put it another way, a new state of being that didn’t exist before when there was a problem. Your product or service is simply the avenue to get your client to that new place.
Beyond these traditional elements of a story, your stories should also these key things:
- Listening. Listening really happens first. Listen to your customers’ needs, desires, and fears. This will inform what you share (which we’ll address in the next section).
- Emotion. Use words that demand an emotional investment from the audience. Are you in the online security industry? News flash: people don’t care about encryption. They care about safety for their business and loved ones. Use words and pictures that draw out the need to feel protected in a dangerous online world.
- Authenticity. The motive for brand storytelling isn’t to get people to buy stuff but to authentically connect with clients and provide them with a genuine experience. This relational connection is what fuels trust and will, in turn, lead to sales. If a connection is not your motive, it won’t take long for people to quickly sniff out inauthenticity.
- Drive to Action. In Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” the listener is motivated to plan for the future–even though that was never explicitly taught. Craft stories that inspire people to do something about what they read or heard.
Identifying Stories to Tell
The stories you share must “humanize” your brand–make it personal, in other words. Share how your brand was born, the struggles you overcame to get to this point, and how what you are doing is making your corner of the world a better place. As you think through these ideas, ask yourself, “What did my audience need during these critical moments?” This puts your client, not you, at the center of the story.
Not sure where to start? Share the unfiltered story of how your company got started and the early obstacles you had to overcome. Ask a client to share their positive experience with you in a video post. Introduce your team. Take things to the next level and ask your followers what they care about, what content excites them, or what they’d like to see from your company next.
For example, if you’re a law firm you can share about a lawsuit you filed and how the case turned out. In a blog post, Attorney Brian White and Associates does exactly that. In fact, the headline (pictured below) sounds like a story you’d see on the evening news!
They aren’t “selling” their services in the traditional way. Instead, they’re showing, not telling, you what they can do.
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4 Places to Share Your Story
Finally, where do you share your story? Obviously, everywhere! But let’s get specific. Here are four simple things you’re probably already doing where you can communicate your brand story.
1. Social Media
Your social media platforms are one of the primary places you’ll share stories to cultivate a sense of community. Social media is particularly helpful in sharing visual storytelling, which is one of the quickest ways to stimulate an emotional response in your audience. Create awesome social media designs at Desygner to create that visual story.
In your social posts, consider profiling clients who have benefited from working with you. Testimonials on a website are nice, but they’re often a forgettable blurb. But a 3-minute video of a client’s story will go further to strengthen your brand.
This will help your followers connect on a personal level and will lead to more comments and sharing, which will lead to more followers, and, you guessed it, more business.
2. Email Newsletter
There may be a time to send a newsletter listing your latest product or service. But every month? Don’t be that company! Deliver the content via email that adds value to the reader. From the subject line to the main headline, develop stories that captivate the reader’s emotional attention. Additionally, ensure these essential components are properly made for your email so you can avoid being sent to the email spam folder.
You can still use an email template as the basic outline of your email but make sure you put effort into every newsletter you send out so that each email adds value to your subscribers in some way or another.
This kind of newsletter will put you more than one step ahead of the competition. Thought the email was dead and didn’t bother starting a newsletter? Think again.
Blog writing isn’t a convenient add-on for your business. It’s essential to grow your business because it will be the one place you can develop long-form story content. A blog is a great place to feature stories of clients, your staff team, or key turning points in your company’s history.
If you don’t already have a website, starting one is pretty simple and straightforward. Once you have a good theme and managed WordPress hosting for your website URL, you can start publishing posts within the week. You can also go for the best drupal hosting that always results in reducing the developer’s server management hurdles.
Don’t forget that your blog is also part of a larger effective SEO strategy. You probably won’t be found online without one. A content-rich, story-driven blog helps clients discover you and what you’re all about.
For example, LawRank includes client stories as ‘case studies’ on its website.
4. Meeting with Clients
It’s tempting to go into sales mode and focus on what you’re selling rather than why you’re selling when you meet with a client. Remember, however, that you merely aren’t pitching a product. You’re solving a problem.
Your job is to unfold the drama of how your company can help them resolve the tension they’re experiencing to bring a happy ending.
This is where the hard work comes in. Your story is expansive enough that different aspects of your story will appeal to certain audiences more than others. As you prepare to meet with a client, learn about their problem, what’s worked for them in the past, and what is or isn’t working. Know their pain point better than they do. Cut out the jargon. Use the story language we recommended above. Now you’re ready to customize your company’s story to fit their needs.
Wrapping It All Up
Brand storytelling is a big-picture strategy that uses a narrative to enhance the way people view your company. It’s everything you do and says that communicates who you are. Sharing your brand story shows how you uniquely help your client solve their problem.
Telling stories is not just a cute marketing technique. It’s built into the very fabric of how humans communicate and process information. When used authentically, thoughtfully, and regularly, storytelling will help you build deep connections with clients and help strengthen and grow your business in ways you never thought possible.
Author: Freya Laskowski
Social Media: Twitter
Freya is a personal finance expert and founder of the CollectingCents website that teaches readers how to grow their passive income, save money, improve their credit score, and manage debt. She has been featured in publications like Business Insider, Fox Business, the Huffington Post, and GoBankingRates.