Telling a good story is at the core of the PR profession. A story stimulates and activates the brain, more so than pure facts alone, invoking imagination and evoking emotions. Storytelling has the power of planting thoughts in people’s minds.
How to tell a great brand story
Set a theme
First things first: know what you want to achieve, and identify your target audience. Base the theme of your story around the messages you will deliver and the desired actions taken by your audience. Different strands of brand messaging should be linked into an overarching theme. This theme should be the first thought that enters the mind of your audience when they are exposed to your brand. To draw out the theme effectively, consider a good tagline that tell a story but also leaves space for the imagination. Two of the most effective examples of this include KFC’s “Finger Licking Good” and Nike’s “Just Do It”.
Ask your clients relevant questions such as: why did you start this business, and what are your aspirations? How did your background allow you to get to where you are now? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them? Make sure you have all the information you need to form a brand story. You will need a protagonist, a quest or mission, an obstacle, and an ending — in the case of a brand story, it has to be a satisfying one.
Know your audience
Speak your audience’s language. Identify the channel mix they are most receptive to. An example: recently, I was promoting an art exhibition and my client wanted to reach out to the wider public, rather than to the niche arts community. To pitch the story to the lifestyle rather than arts section of the media, I adapted the press materials using more general terms, focusing the pitch on why the exhibition mattered to the public, rather than on technical specifics such as artist techniques or materials.
Use multiple channels
It’s rare that people read the same item in newspapers or magazines more than once. The likelihood is that they read about your brand in a magazine, see it again on online news stories, and then encounter it for the third time in social media (though not necessarily in that order). It’s important to get your story out across the different channels, ensuring you always do so in a channel-appropriate way. Perhaps for social media, storytelling could be in video format whereas for newspaper pitches we would prepare written facts and descriptions. At Sinclair, we provide clients fully integrated services (media, marketing, social and digital), meaning that all messages are delivered consistently, with channels and approaches complementing each other.
Invite people to tell your story
Be human, not corporate: let your brand heroes or heroines tell your story, as people relate to others people more easily than they do to companies. These voices could be Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), loyal customers, employees, vendors, investors, benefactors or other stakeholders. KOLs – online influencers such as vloggers and Instagrammers with large, loyal followings – can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, as consumers find it easier to connect to ‘ordinary’ people than to the celebrities traditionally used in brand endorsement. KOLs tend to have higher engagement with their fans since they share similar interests, beliefs and values.
Activate the senses and make a visual impact
When the first ad appeared, a piece of wartime propaganda, its creators knew it was necessary to include visual information. A modern day incarnation is the infographic, which helps audiences to digest data and complicated ideas more easily. Good infographics may look as straightforward as creating graphs or icons, but designing an effective piece of data visualisation is an art form in itself.
As well as using words and images, our other senses can also be targeted. Are there jingles or songs that remind you of a brand? Do you remember the smell when you passed by stores like Lush or Mrs. Fields? Consumers are bombarded with thousands of items of information every day, but attention spans are only getting shorter. Identifying the right tools that make your brand stand out amid strong competition is therefore important.
As for what’s next, consumers are increasingly after more exciting and engaging experiences with the advancement of technology, with VR, augmented reality and 360-degree video just three immersive storytelling opportunities available to brands today.