12 storytelling tips
NB: It's not always best
The notion of brand story-telling was invented for a good reason. It looks to fiction-writing techniques to create a narrative round a brand. That’s all fine and dandy if such a story exists, but if not, it’s a pointless exercise – rather like those invented farm names you see on packs of meat and vegetables in supermarkets. Here’s how to avoid being the Tumbledown Farm Sausages of your sector.
Don’t think of your brand as a person or a character. It isn’t a naïve child or a sporting warrior, as one strategist puts it. It’s a brand, a product, a service.
Do think of your consumer and potential consumer, and devise material which is of interest to them – or which they need. Do explain what you actually do. So many home pages don’t or express it in meaningless jargon. “A dynamic and sector-relevant solutions provider in the specialist chemical industry” might mean something to you but it doesn’t to the rest of us.
Don’t carry your MD’s posts about running in the marathon. Nobody cares even if he is doing it for the best of reasons.
Do say something relevant to your audience.
Don’t make claims about your amazing customer service if the reality is very different.
Do spend money on getting customer service people motivated, which could actually include content for your call centre teams. Some of the best customer-facing campaigns, such Direct Line’s Fixer, have powerful internal comms messages, too.
Don’t think that brand story telling is going to apply some stardust and magic to a company. It isn’t. There’s no such thing as magic; it’s all sleight of hand.
Do think about what you stand for and where you’re going. Do act as a forum for debate in your sector. Do carry opinion pieces from your people – but only if they actually have an opinion.
Don’t think that a film about your team awayday is going to sell anything. It won’t.
Do use your video budget to provide something useful for your customers and potential customers.
Don’t bang on about brand story-telling at the expense of your wider needs. For some companies, there’s probably no such thing as a brand story. Much of the time, brand storytelling is just copywriting and brochure writing that costs more money.
Do think about what your customers and potential customers want to know and where they find it.
Don’t try to make up a brand story when there isn’t one. Some companies are lucky enough to have a true product advantage or to have come about through something genuinely fascinating. Most don’t: they are just useful to their customers. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Do provide content that solves problems for your customers, just as you solve their problems with your product.
A clear expression of what your company does – what its purpose and values are – is essential. It’s the starting point for all content. But devoting countless meetings and money to developing a brand narrative where one doesn’t exist is pointless. Far better to identify what your audience is interested in and help them.