How storytelling can strengthen your brand, and how the digital world provides the perfect platform. Stories are now everybody's business.
Once upon a time...
Since the beginnings of history, human beings have made sense of their lives through the medium of storytelling. From the moment we learn to speak, and to understand the meanings of words, we communicate through stories. From fairy tales, cave paintings, comic strips and ‘what I did on my holidays’ essays, to family trees, CVs, medical records and social media profiles… right down to eulogies and the inscriptions on our headstones, we make use of narrative to order and comprehend our world.
As a species, we’re forever recounting our own experiences, or relating those of others. Think of the times each day you use phrases such as ‘when I was young we...’ or ‘at work today...’ or ‘so and so told me that...’ We are always finding new ways to impart a coherent, logical progression of events through time in a way that conveys an understanding of an individual, or group of individuals. Stories speak directly to something elemental in us, and are a vital part of what it means to be human.
Good stories generate loyalty, if not downright zealousness. Just ask JK Rowling or George Lucas. The world of advertising has long understood this. You only have to watch any episode of Mad Men where Don Draper et al are trying to come up with a concept for a new client to understand the importance of creating a compelling narrative in the world of marketing. Think of the battle of the Christmas adverts last year or the Gold Blend couple (those of you old enough to remember them) and how they captured the public’s, not to mention news media’s attention for years on end.
Nowadays though, storytelling in business is not just the province of advertisers and PR people. Through the democratizing medium of the Internet, every company, even those without a vast marketing budget, has the ability to create a compelling brand narrative. Just as no two human lives are the same, despite the fact that they are all a series of similar experiences (growth, joy, heartbreak, learning, traveling, coming together, growing apart, and so on), no two companies will share the same narrative. Your story as a business is about what makes you unique.
If this is a concept you haven’t yet considered, you might want to begin by asking some questions about your own brand. Where did your initial inspiration come from, and what gave you the courage to pursue it? What are your end goals? Are you a small firm, with a few long-serving loyal staff? Or a team of 200+ with an aggressive business attitude? What makes you different? Are you personality or product driven? What keeps your customers coming back, and what might drive them away?
Once you’ve started thinking along these lines, you will quickly begin to see a shape emerge - a narrative arc, if you like. Your next task will be communicating your particular story to your clients, and potential clients. Once again, the Internet is the ideal mechanism for this. The tools at your disposal include: your website, email marketing, your app and all the various forms of social media.
There are also some wonderful, specifically story-oriented platforms out there, such as Storify, which is a social media aggregation tool, that allows you to build a narrative through ordering various other forms of social media - tweets, Facebook posts, images on Instagram, videos on YouTube, etc. Social media expert Jennifer D Begg, used it to great (and hilarious) effect to tell the story of how O2 turned a disastrous customer service fail into an ultimate PR victory. A story well worth telling in as many ways possible from O2’s perspective, as it followed their journey from luckless loser to epic hero.
Stories influence and stories inspire. Which will entice more holidaymakers, a nice photo of some Swiss mountains with a few dry facts about climate and facilities, or this?* Your story is your secret weapon. It is well worth the investment of time and thought to figure out your own, and to then be as prolific and creative as you can be with all the digital media at your disposal.
Go on, tell us a story.
*Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Gordon for this example
Does your business have a story to tell? Get in touch and we’d be happy to listen. We might even have a few ideas to help make it a real page turner. Contact us.