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A three-part series: How to own your brand story, align your team, and multiply your impact

Part 1: Own Your Brand Story

Anyone who works in a service-related industry knows the challenges of serving people, satisfying budgets and regulations, and doing all of that with a team of humans. Our experience often lines up with the title of the great book by Charles Swindoll about personal perseverance, Three Steps Forward and Two Steps Back. Sometimes it seems that just about the time we start to see our numbers climbing, we face a set-back due to customer service, a staffing issue, or even both. When you own your brand story it can help propel you to stronger growth, better staff retention and customer service.

In 2020, we’re convinced that taking three steps forward and no steps back, revolves around learning how to own your brand story, align your team, and multiplying your effort. We’re seeing these outcomes in the clients we work with and want to share them in this three-part article that will introduce the kinds of change that will create momentum that you can sustain.

This series is for you if:

  • You have a limited marketing budget, or you want to make your marketing and sales budget work harder
  • You have team members who wear multiple hats related to winning new customers and keeping them
  • You are in a highly competitive market

Own Your Brand Story

There’s lots of competition for who is going to own your brand story. Online referral services want you to pay them to represent your brand story (sometimes huge amounts), and search engine firms and google ad buyers want to do it for you too. The local newspaper and radio have just the right spot for your ads and the local drone photographer knows that some overhead video is the best way to show off what makes you special. 

And then there are consumers. They have the power to damage or define your brand story with just the simplest of reviews. If they knock off a couple of stars, they may have impacted as much as 30% of your business advantage according to some research.

About the only place there isn’t competition for owning your brand story is within your own organization. Branding concerns are mostly carried by senior leadership or recruiters that know that the brand story attracts - or repels. That reality holds a huge opportunity for your growth (more later). 

Good news for your brand story

Here’s some good news, your brand story is not a single storyline that you have to artificially constrict for marketing purposes. Real stories are more than just a single story arc with a simplistic story to tell. We’ve all sat in painful whiteboard sessions trying to come up with just the right tagline. Real (and powerful) stories have more depth and result from the experiences of the people that you serve. When these stories are harnessed, they create a brand story masterpiece. 

Here’s why: The power of a brand story is measured by how much it connects with the audience. It is only simplistic, elementary school stories that only have a single plotline or single character. The powerful stories that we find in books and movies as adults allow us to experience the development of multiple characters and bring multiple plots together. They are immersive because they are like real life. And don’t be mistaken, humans are hard-wired to look for and consume stories. A good brand story will connect them with you in ways that neither you nor they will fully understand. 

The ingredients for a powerful brand story are already available to you.

The ingredients for a powerful brand story already exist in the experiences you are creating with your customers. But those experiences have to be translated into a form that you can put to work. Testimonials are one step in that direction but fall short of creating a useful brand story.  

Owning your brand story

The brand story of your organization is your most valuable asset. It’s a close corollary to the ancient Hebrew saying, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Sometimes our brand story is left to just a list of colors, fonts, and a logo. Or it may only be found in an original brochure that you developed for a previous campaign or it may even date back to when you launched.

An undeveloped brand story is like leaving our best player on the sidelines during the big game. 

Brand stories come from three resources that are already in your possession: the expertise and knowledge your team has about your industry; the positive experiences of the customers that you serve; and the people on your team that have interaction with your customers. When you build your brand story using these ingredients and allow the right people to join you as brand story owners, then the power of your brand story can be unleashed to multiply marketing, improve sales, and heighten the quality of service.

Who owns the story?

The simple fact that has rocked the way organizations grow is that brand stories are owned by the storytellers. That means that the real owners of your brand story are whoever is doing the telling. Social media has empowered every consumer with this ability, and they already exercise it every time they mention or review a brand. The missing ingredient is the other storytellers that you haven’t empowered - your staff.  They hold the other two ingredients of your brand story - industry experience and customer interaction. When you assemble an internal team and empower them to own your brand story, we call them your Story Team.

->Put your story team to work building a strategic marketing plan.

Aligning and empowering your staff around your brand story is the process that allows you to form the brand story effectively and then put it to work across your organization. We’ll cover that in part two of this series. 

Get Started

  1. Review your brand story. To get started, take a look at your digital and print materials and consider whether they tell an authentic and powerful story. Or, do they fall more into the category of “just like all your competitors,” or the category of “not much of a brand story at all.” Do they engage you in the same way that a great book or movie does? Do they stand out in a way that people are likely to remember?
  2. Superbowl ad test. Do you see elements in your current brand that would allow you tell a brand story as well as some of the ads in the Super Bowl, like the Martian water ad or the Little Caesars pizza ads from this year's Super Bowl. Of course, your story isn't produced at this level, but it can provide a good way to begin thinking about brand stories.
  3. Find the story seeds. Do you see any “seeds” of a brand story in your current communication, if so where?
  4. Look around at your team. Which team members are already natural storytellers, and are paying attention to customer experiences?


brand deck workshop

 

David Mills

Written by David Mills

David is one of the founders of Story Collaborative and serves as the Chief Growth Officer. He is passionate about finding the right strategy for each client and helping them move into sustainable growth. He is a veteran of organizational development and communications and has worked with thousands of businesses and nonprofits across the country.