How to use storytelling in your business and brand communications

by | Jan 28, 2019 | Facebook Ads: Copy & Creative, The Marketing Mix | 0 comments

This week marks National Storytelling Week, originally founded by The Society for Storytelling as a means to promote the tradition of storytelling – the very first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination.

We can all remember our favourite stories from when we were younger right? Whether it’s the ones told by our parents or grandparents, or our favourite books that took us to faraway places before we went to sleep at night. Stories are so powerful because we connect with them at an emotional level.

Now in its 18th year, a lot has changed since the first National Storytelling Week. Moving on from traditional storytelling, stories have become an essential part of how businesses build ‘know, like and trust’ among their audiences. We’ve also seen a huge shift in the tools and platforms available to us that allow us to communicate those stories.

The most successful businesses and brands today, and more importantly the ones that make the most impact, have got there by telling great stories through their PR, marketing and advertising. In the same way as we remember the stories from our youth, we remember and feel a connection to those business and brands because of their stories.

But how do you tell stories as a business or brand? Where do you start? And what if you are stuck thinking you don’t have a story to tell? In this blog post I take a look at how you can use storytelling in your business and brand communications.

“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make your stories bigger.”

Jay Baer

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.”

Seth Godin

Start with why


Too many businesses and brands share the ‘what’ and forget the ‘why’. But people don’t buy into businesses or brands – they buy into the story behind brands. Whether it’s rags to riches, overcoming adversity, rebirth, a quest, a journey, a tragedy, a comedy…you get the picture. Every brand and business has a ‘why’ story to tell.

Sharing the why will not only help you tap into your audience’s emotions, it’ll make it much easier for your audience to buy into you ‘what’.

A great example of a brand successfully sharing its ‘why’ is Scamp and Dude which produces “superpower infused clothing” for kids and grown-ups. The reason the brand is so popular isn’t because customers bought into what the brand does. They bought into why. Scamp and Dude was born after Founder Jo suffered a brain haemorrhage and she had to leave her children for a lengthy stay in hospital to undergo life-threatening brain surgery. The feeling of leaving her children alone while she was in hospital inspired her to create a brand that helps children feel more secure when apart from their loved ones. Jo’s why remains inherent in all of the brands storytelling and the reason why new customers become new customers and old customers remain loyal.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. It’s those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them.”

Simon Sinek

Be human


People don’t connect with businesses or brands. They connect with people. So, tell your personal stories, the stories of your employees and the stories of your customers/clients to generate a deeper connection with your audience.

Airbnb’s people-focussed content is a great example of this. All of the brands communications focus on the stories of the people who own the homes listed and the travellers who go there, and seamlessly links this to the company’s role in connecting the two. By telling the stories of these people, Airbnb creates a more meaningful connection with its audience than if it were to place its focus on the homes and locations alone.


Connect with your audience’s emotions


Aim not for your stories to make your audience think a certain way. Aim for your stories to make them feel a certain way. Stories that provoke an emotional response – whether its positive or negative – have a much higher chance of being remembered.

“In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reaction”.

Abraham Lincoln


Don’t create…document


If you are sat there reading this thinking that storytelling sounds like a lot of hard work, think again.

With humans born inherently curious, the ‘Big Brother’ phenomenon isn’t going anywhere fast. And, in its most basic form, storytelling is simply telling the world about what is going on in your world. Take them behind the scenes and share your journey, mission, ideas, actions, wins, losses, hopes and fears. You don’t need to create any new content, because it’s already there.

Steven Bartlett, Founder of Social Chain is one to watch for how to do this well. His schedule is like no other, yet he still produces consistent and valuable content for his audience. How? All of his content – from his vlog to his podcast to his social posts – is documentary style, focussing on his life as a CEO and lessons he learns along the way.

So, this year try creating less and let your audience into your world by documenting more.


Be authentic


This should be a given, but it’s surprising how many of us think we need to pretend to be someone, or something we are not to be successful online. The small business world is a crowded marketplace these days. For most of us, our business USP is ourselves and our unique stories. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Tell your stories – not someone else’s.

“Living and breathing an authentic story is the best way to survive in a conversation-rich world.”

Seth Godin


Show and tell


With consumer attention and the digital landscape ever evolving, we need to be creative with the way we tell our stories and evolve alongside them. No longer is telling a story good enough.

As the saying goes, “if a picture paints a thousand words a video paints a million”. As well as telling our story, we need show our audiences and immerse them in that story. 

The good news is that the tools we need are at our finger tips. It’s now easier than ever to create immersive content and bring our audiences behind the scenes. Make use of the platforms and social media tools built especially for story-telling and uniting communities around shared stories – including Instagram Stories, Live video and Facebook Groups.


Involve your audience


Make your story one-sided and you’re missing a trick. Your clients/customers are important characters in your story.

One great example of this is the #whenibecameamother campaign by gifting company Don’t Buy Her Flowers – which started life as offering bespoke gift packages specifically for new mums. Kicked off by Founder Steph Douglas, the campaign invited mothers to share the story of when they became a mother thereby enveloping the customer in the brand’s story. Not only this but it was authentic, human, relevant to the brand’s why and connected with the customers on an emotional level.


Build on your story


Last but by no means least, don’t tell your story and end it there. While traditionally “all good stories must come to an end”, in business we can bend those rules. Build on your story and take your customers and clients with you as your business grows, pivots, diversifies, faces challenges and celebrates successes.

What stories will you start to tell?

Storytelling is an integral part of how businesses and brands should be communicating with their audience on social media. If you would like to find out more about how I can support you in telling your stories through organic or paid social media, please get in touch. I’d love to hear your story!]


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