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How to Tell Your Brand's Story: Four Questions You Must Answer

by Beth McKenna  |  
December 18, 2012

Whatever happened to Cinderella's shoe? Who knows? It didn't go viral. Put another way: Story generation and the way we develop content has changed, and you must change with it.

Once upon a time, every brand and entrepreneur had a story to tell. The story line largely followed the same format. As in an elementary school English assignment, storytellers would introduce readers to the big five: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Every story ended the same, too: "And they all lived happily ever after as leaders in the industry."

But frequently, the heart of the story—the meat that would resonate with consumers—was lost in the telling. Awareness might have been the key goal, but relevance and engagement with the target audience were often elusive. We just didn't dive that deep. And we couldn't. We were telling the story through 30-second broadcast spots or—when PR was employed—through earned media with word count restraints and editorial gatekeepers.

Today, the art of storytelling remains critical to any brand strategy, but how you tell the story, and the tools you use, has evolved—and to our benefit. Advertising, earned media, video, e-newsletters, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, blogging—you name it, you must consider it.

However, just as a surgeon may have hundreds of tools at his disposal but may not take every one into each surgery, these channels are tools to be used strategically, depending on a company's objectives and the message it wants to communicate. A challenge? Of course. But therein also lies the fun.

We can no longer view how we deliver our stories and messages through a single lens. Stories must be translatable across multiple channels and crafted in a way that cuts through the clutter. Creativity is king, and the telling must be compelling, it must evoke feeling, and it must be emotionally satisfying. Your audience—prospects, customers, the media, investors, or others—will be part of the dialogue.

Engage them, make it memorable, and they can be your best brand advocates through every share, like, and tweet.

If you can capture the imagination of the audience, the viral potential that is central to digital channels allows the conversation to be direct—brand to consumer, consumer to brand—and ongoing. The reach can be tremendous.

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Beth McKenna is vice-president at Cookerly Public Relations. With an extensive background in marketing and particular focus on strategic analysis, planning, and issues management, Beth has experience across multiple industries, from technology and professional services to food & beverage.

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  • by Ford Kanzler Thu Dec 20, 2012 via web

    Good concepts but they would be far more easily grasped if concrete examples were used to to demonstrate them.

  • by JP Kuehlwein Thu Dec 20, 2012 via web

    Story telling is essential for most premium and prestige brands (too many we call 'luxury' today). They need to go beyond selling their utilitarian benefits to engage emotionally and price more of an after-thought. Read some case studies here:
    Look at Aesop and Cire Trudon, in particular for brands built on story-telling.

  • by Senthil Wed Jul 17, 2013 via web

    Good points but how can this story telling can be carried out in a B2C market in countries such as India where the penetration of Internet is not the highest? What mode will be effective for carrying out this?

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