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Note: this is part 4 of a 4 part series on brand storytelling.
Once you’ve managed to figure out your company’s brand values, it’s time to incorporate them into your brand’s story. When you think about how to communicate your brand story to the world, your first stop is probably your website’s About Page, but you can’t finish there.
What you say about your company plays an important role in how people see you, but what you do rounds out the picture. If the two don’t match, it won’t matter how good your marketing messaging is. Remember: everything your business does becomes a part of your brand story.
Living Your Values
Your values aren’t just the words you speak. Every action you take should be a public fulfillment of your proclaimed values. Maybe that sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be hard. If your business is behaving in a way that contradicts your brand values, then customer perception isn’t your only problem. You either chose the wrong values to emphasize or need to re-consider the way your company does business.
Consider your newfound values an opportunity. If everyone in your company were to start making decisions only after considering what your customers would think of them, would you behave differently? If you can recognize business decisions and practices that don’t match the values you’ve chosen, then you’re one step closer to making the necessary changes to start living your values.
Brand storytelling starts with words, but extends to every possible interaction or piece of information your customers will associate with your business. You want to give them something to talk about — but not just anything. You want to give them a story that matches how you most want to be seen.
Beyond the About Page: Where to Tell Your Story
Think of everywhere online that your business has a presence. If you don’t already have a strategy to develop and maintain a presence on multiple media channels, this is a good time to start. Transmedia storytelling is an extremely useful tactic in connecting with your audience.
The Hunger Games Case Study from Ignition on Vimeo.
The opportunity to think about your story in a variety of formats might just serve to inspire some impressive creativity in your team. In all the media channels you choose to pursue, just make sure you’re telling a consistent brand story throughout.
Now, take it a step further. Think of all the opportunities offline that you can work to implement the story. In addition to applying your brand values to your internal policies and decision-making, consider how best to bring them into all levels of customer interaction, internal interactions, and all the methods you use to advertise.
If your CEO speaks at a conference, will his or her speech incorporate your chosen brand values and story? If you take out an ad in the Sunday paper, how can you make sure it conforms to the brand story you want to tell? When a customer calls with a problem, how can you train your staff to ensure their response reinforces the story you want people to associate with your company?
The form the story takes and the particulars of the story itself can and should change, but the same values and message should be behind it all. By building your story through multiple channels, you both increase the number of associations people make between your brand and the story you’ve chosen, and give them more opportunities to engage with it.
Control Your Story
No business can keep total control over its own story, but there’s plenty you can do to help control the direction the narratives surrounding your brand take. Providing your own narrative to begin with is an important start.
If you don’t give people a story to work with, you may find yourself stuck being associated with someone else’s less flattering story about your brand. We’ve already established people will understand your brand through storytelling. What stories do you think will come to define you if they’re not the ones you provide?
Doing everything we’ve described above in this post will play a big role in ensuring you don’t get caught behaving in a way that contradicts the story you tell. If the story and values you communicate aren’t genuine, your dishonesty can quickly become the new story people jump on to define your brand.
In spite of the video’s success (or more likely, because of it), Chipotle’s scarecrow ad inspired some skepticism. While Chipotle succeeded in telling an effective story, critics found a creative way to pick the video apart and criticize the parts of a larger story that Chipotle wasn’t telling through the ad.
That just goes to show, you can do everything right and still have your story co-opted. Do what you can to control your story, but remember that a lack of absolute control doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
The more your audience interacts with your story and endeavors to make it their own, the more connected and loyal they’re likely to be to your company. Sometimes you see a Funny or Die Chipotle parody, but sometimes a happy customer’s story will be what spreads if you endeavor to always give them something good to talk about. So take a moment to think about it: where are you telling your story? Are you in control of it? Is it the story you want to tell?
This concludes our 4 part series on brand storytelling. As always, feel free to leave us a comment on Facebook or tweet at us.