Share Your Brand’s Story to Connect with Stakeholders and Win Hearts
While the specifics of how you craft your company story will vary there are several fundamental elements of purposeful communication that cross all channels and media. Begin by getting your arms around your authentic story, matching your narrative with your image, and then following through with flawless execution.
These elements collectively impact the quality and effectiveness of all your communications, moving people along the path from awareness to advocacy.
Each of your stakeholder audiences (internal and external) has his or her own needs. Before you begin outlining your story, consider how your Purpose and mission connect with these needs. Remember, when defining your mission in FOCUS, you were describing those things that help to differentiate your company. Reference these when developing your story by connecting what you stand for with what the world desires.
Start this process by asking such questions as:
- Given our Purpose, what are the most important things we need to communicate about our company?
- What do our audiences care most about?
- How does our Purpose affect each stakeholder group?
- How do the solutions we offer benefit others?
Research by Harvard professors and developmental psychologists Robert Kegan and Howard Gradner shows that people are able to effect real change only when their emotions are engaged. And stories are the most powerful way of engaging people at an emotional level. Stories cause people to think, feel, and behave differently. People remember and repeat stories.
Think of all the folklore that exists around the most powerful brands. Everyone has a story about Southwest Airlines, The Container Store, or Apple. Those stories help to perpetuate and reinforce these brands in the marketplace. These brands have reached the point where others tell their stories for them—sharing their experiences with the world.
Now take a look at your own company and ask: who are the people telling your stories and what are they saying about you? Stories support a complex concept—such as a corporate Purpose and all the values and behaviors that go with it—through narrative that makes these ideas more understandable and real. Embed Purpose into your culture by helping employees understand your why through stories that engage and empower them. Then you can begin to expand your stories to include stakeholders outside the company.
Painting a picture through story connects your message at a deep, emotional level. You get to bypass stubborn logic by drawing people in. Belief—not statistics—moves you through the sequence to advocacy and achieving your desired outcomes. But don’t be concerned that your stories need to be long narratives or “once upon a time” tales.
A great story can be as short as a few sentences.
Stories help us remember the most important moments in our lives and allow us to share what we believe in and connect with. When your employees, clients, and partners inevitably talk about your company, you can help shape what they say by arming them with memorable brand stories.
And lest you think that stories are all light and fluffy, good stories can also add monetary value to your brand. For example, look at the experiment New York Times magazine columnist Rob Walker conducted. Walker wrote stories to accompany random thrift store items posted for sale on eBay—and he saw something amazing happen. The value of those virtually worthless items rose 2,700 percent over the purchase price. A cracked ceramic horse, for instance, purchased for $1.29, sold for $46. Nothing about the objects changed other than that they came with a story. The stories were not even real—they were fabricated for the experiment.
If a random, simple story has the power to change even a worthless item into something coveted, imagine the impact purposeful stories can have on your brand. Stories have almost mythical properties—they are memorable, they promote understanding, they are repeatable, and they ultimately inspire action.
Share your stories at every opportunity. Tell prospective employees about the ways your team acts in alignment with your Purpose. Brag on those who are getting it right. Make stories part of your folklore, inextricably tied to your brand. This is one of the best ways to help people come to know, believe in, and connect with your business.
With a passion for helping others discover “why” and “what for,” Jackie Dryden leads companies to uncover and align with their purpose. But don’t be fooled. Her purpose development strategy packs a punch and will shake the core of your foundation. Serving as the Chief Purpose Architect at Savage, Jackie thrives on creating design and communications strategy to support corporate purpose. She is co-author of "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose" available at http://savagethinking.com.