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How to Be a Great Storyteller for Your Brand: The Essential Do’s and Don’ts

These are two sayings you have surely heard of before: a) people buy from people b) and people love stories. That says a lot about how you should approach your marketing – less corporate speak and more human connection. Because consumers are hit by ads from all angles all day long, they developed an immunity to them. Businesses that strive to grow a strong brand must go beyond sales pitches and use a deeper form of communication—you guessed it, stories.

A story informs the target audience about your business without saying “we sell such and such”. It conveys the mission you pursue and what your core values are. Robert McKee, the famed storytelling expert, says that “if they [marketers] don’t get story, others will, and they will lose their place in the marketplace.”. To become a great storyteller and make sure your branding grabs and retains attention, here are 3 do’s and 3 don’ts you ought to follow.

Photograph by ra2studio via Bigstock

To Tell A Story, Think Beyond The Product

 

A brand story doesn’t display the product right away. Rather, it shows protagonist going on a journey to fulfill her goal. When narrowed down to its most basic element, a story is about a conflict. In other words, a problem. For your brand, that means depicting pain points that your audience is suffering from as well as their unfulfilled aspirations.

 

You need to inject dramatic tension coupled with emotions, and then tie the conclusion of the story to your product or service. When the audience reaches that conclusion on their own, they are more likely to persuaded by the value of your brand than if they were directly told about it.

Watch Airbnb’s Wall of Chain, a beautifully animated video, to get an example of a simple yet powerful story about family, friendship and being a global citizen. How it relates to Airbnb is not clear at the start, but everything comes together by the end and the brand message is reinforced by the slogan “Belong Anywhere”.

Do Make The Customer Part Of The Story

To make the story resonate with the audience, make it about them. The protagonist of a story should not be an executive in a suit (unless that’s who your customer is. Again, a strong brand persona will help you come up with a character that the audience can relate to. That way they feel involved in the problem/solution narrative and quickly understand how they will benefit from what you offer. The story comes off as authentic rather than pushy or condescending.

Having a well-defined brand persona is critical for crafting the story. Use pictures and footage of customers happy with their experience. Show them as the winners in your story and active players in your mission who share your vision and values.

Do Keep Your Story Simple

Ask this question: can a person tell your story to another person with ease?

You want your story to be memorable and widely shared. To achieve that, you should keep the number of characters to a minimum (one to three is great) and follow a simple structure of problem -> solution -> fulfillment. No need to come up with the plot of a TV show. Whether it’s told through a video or an “About” page, the story shouldn’t require specific knowledge.

Don’t Over-Promise And Under-Deliver

A well-crafted story creates high expectations. Now your brand makes a promise that you have to deliver. When the reality of a business is disconnected from that promise, its image takes a harsh blow. From user reviews to tweets, people won’t hesitate to call out brands on their deceptive storytelling. Remember that bad news travel fast on the internet, and a handful of unhappy customers can ruin all your marketing efforts.

Brand storytelling means nothing if the customer experience is subpar, or a product doesn’t contain the miraculous properties you boast. Before resorting to big words and pretty, make sure your business delivers great value to its customers. Stay truthful by backing up your claim with an awesome product or service, and you will win the loyalty of your customers.

Don’t Settle For Low Production Values

It comes as no surprise that aesthetics matter. Sound is the most critical aspect to pay attention to. Poor sound quality immediately stands out and is perceived as anything but professional, so you ought to invest in high-resolution audio. The same can be said about video quality: striking visuals suggest a high-quality product or service. You might want to resort to the help of a professional can help you create an audiovisual story that grabs attention and doesn’t let go.

Don’t Be Insensitive To Current Issues

In April 2017, Pepsi released an ad featuring Kendall Jenner ending a protest by handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer. The ad was met with a strong backlash and Pepsi had to remove it and apologize. Viewers considered the ad tone-deaf and offensive because it trivialized societal and political issues. Twitter users were quick to point out details in the ad video that were either hilarious, shallow or offensive like Jenner making a black woman hold her wig. How is a Pepsi supposed to bring peace? This flop caused the deepest plunge in consumer perception levels in ten years.

A company that makes that mistake is due for a quick apology and a tremendous endeavor to regain the damaged trust. So you should tread carefully if you decide to tackle a current issue.

When used effectively, storytelling becomes a key tool for earning trust and engagement. Doing that requires creativity and narrative flair as well as enough insight to avoid costly pitfalls. A compelling story shows that there is more to your brand than selling a product or a service; it encourages the audience to understand how they benefit from your brand and makes them feel they are part of a greater vision. While the Do’s and Don’ts we have discussed above are not exhaustive, they are a great place to start crafting your brand story.

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Officer

Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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