The 27th of January to the 3rd of February marks National Storytelling Week. Established in 2000 by The Society for Storytelling, this annual event seeks to promote the oral tradition of storytelling, celebrating this powerful way of “communicating life experiences and the creative imagination.”
We engage with stories every day. A good story grabs attention and takes the listener on a journey, engaging people on an emotional level. They help us understand our place in the world with common themes such as heartbreak, frustration, joy and humility. Communities are built as we bond over shared experiences. From the time we embarrassed ourselves in front of a crowd of people, to hard-won childhood scars – everyone has a story to tell.
Brand stories – not just a marketing gimmick
Stories have been used in marketing for many years, but recently the phrase has begun to feel like a gimmicky buzzword. Too often the term can be misinterpreted and overused. Despite this, it is a mistake to think that storytelling doesn’t apply to you and your business. Here are three ways that stories are influencing your brand, whether you like it or not.
The Stories You Tell
From discussions with a supplier to regular networking events, the stories we tell have a direct impact on our brand. It’s often in casual conversation where we reveal the most about ourselves. As a freelancer, I represent my business everywhere I go.
Give some consideration to how you come across in different circumstances. I’m not asking you to pretend to be something you’re not, just be consistent and authentic. Are you living up to the values and ethics promised in your marketing blurb? If your polished elevator pitch contradicts the stories you tell in the queue for coffee, which one do you think I’m most likely to believe?
The Stories Your Staff Tell
How you treat your staff, suppliers and sub-contractors will dictate the stories they tell both in and out of the workplace. We all have a story about the awful boss who punished us for taking time off sick or wouldn’t let us take a loo break.
You can talk about training opportunities, management programmes and great working practice until you are blue in the face – your (ex) staff will soon set the record straight if their experiences don’t match your public promises. Remember; job applicants, staff members, their family and friends are all potential customers. What story do you want them to hear?
The Customer Story
Customer experiences are the most powerful stories to be told about your brand. So often it’s not the mistake that enters into legend, but the way that mistakes are dealt with. Tales of rude, disinterested and poorly trained staff also appear to be a common theme, and social media enables a local story to spread with speed. The right approach to complaints and dissatisfaction can change the direction and mood of a customer story very quickly. How do you handle yours?
Finally – this quote from Marty Neumeier in an interview with Peachpit sums it up perfectly for me.
“I hesitate to describe myself as a brand. But I guess I do have a purpose and a reputation, so maybe. Let’s see then: “Marty Neumeier is the only business author who makes branding understandable in a two-hour read.” What do you think? As I’ve always said, a brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is. My brand is completely defined by you.”
Still not convinced by the value of storytelling? Maybe the fabulous Sir Ian McKellen can do a better job in this Vimeo for The National Trust.