The five steps to implementing brand storytelling
Brand storytelling is an opportunity to share values and authentically connect brands with consumers. Gabrielle Dolan outlines her top five steps for telling brand stories well.
Brand storytelling is increasingly being adopted by companies to help them more effectively connect and engage with customers and employees. Like any new strategy, companies are implementing this approach with various degrees of success.
I see many companies getting it wrong and others that should be implementing brand storytelling but are not. This is such a missed opportunity because they have great stories to share but either don’t understand the power of these stories or don’t know how or what stories to share.
What is brand storytelling?
Sometimes it’s helpful when defining what something is, to first define what it is not. Brand storytelling is not about a logo or a tagline and it’s not a timeline of your company. It’s not a slick corporate video or a TV commercial. It’s not a brochure or your purpose, vision and values stated on a page. And it is definitely not just one story.
Brand storytelling is a deliberate and sustainable approach to authentically communicate your brand, internally and externally. This is achieved through the stories you share and the stories people share about you based on your actions and behaviours. It’s about being very clear on what your brand is and using stories to reinforce, communicate and amplify your brand. It’s about the stories you proactively find and share as well as the things you do that generate stories.
Brand storytelling can be implemented on an individual level, at a team level or across the entire organisation. This is regardless of the size of the company and can be from start-ups to large multinationals to everything in between.
The five-step approach to implement brand storytelling
Over the last 15 years I have worked with companies to help them implement storytelling as a better way to connect and engage with their employees and customers. Over this time, I have developed a five-step approach to doing this effectively.
1. The first step is to define what you want your brand to be. Once again, I reiterate that it’s not about a logo or tagline. I’m talking about your purpose and values and what you want to be known for. Many companies perform this step but fail to truly embed their values because they do not use stories to communicate them. When this happens, unfortunately, the purpose and values often remain words on a wall or a page.
2. The second step is to teach all employees about brand storytelling. This includes the importance of stories, how to find them and most importantly how to share them. Employees will need different levels of education, but they should all receive some form of training. This education stage leads into the next three cyclical steps of collect, communicate and create.
3. The ‘collect’ stage is all about finding those stories. They could come from years ago or from yesterday and the education stage starts this process.
4.The ‘communicate’ step focuses on where to share these stories. Then, share them across a variety of channels both internally and externally. Some examples could be your website, newsletters, induction programs and social media channels.
5. Finally, the ‘create’ step is all about how you can generate stories by living your brand. This is where all employees can become involved in brand storytelling, as they have the opportunity to do something for your customers, potentially on a daily basis, that generates stories. The education step is critical for employees to fully understand the power of brand storytelling and how their actions contribute.
For example, going beyond what is expected to deliver great customer service. The customer then shares that story far and wide. Perhaps it can then be a story shared internally to reinforce to other employees the desired behaviour. This creates the circular and ongoing process of brand storytelling; to create, collect and communicate.
The Benefits of Brand Storytelling
Brand storytelling is not a one-off exercise and it’s not just the responsibility of the marketing or communications team. Every employee needs to be involved in brand storytelling and it needs to be an ongoing process. Done right and implemented authentically, it has the power to more deeply connect and engage both customers and employees, as well as potential customer and employees.
Gabrielle Dolan is an author and global expert on business storytelling and real communication.