How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

Storytelling can be a powerful way for an organization to connect with its audience and inspire action. I’ll give you some ideas on how to tell a brand story through the story about a boy we’ll call William.

How a story about a boy caused urgent audience action

Photo of a piggy bank and change lying on the floor.
A story about a boy with a heart problem inspired my 6-year-old daughter to donate her own money.

When my daughter was in first grade, she came home from school one day and shot up the stairs to her room. You could cut the intense determination in the air with a butter knife. Wadded ones, quarters and pennies spilled from her money jar onto the bedroom carpet. She stacked and lined up the coins, flattened the ones and counted out how much she could donate to the American Heart Association (AHA). It was close to $10. Then she asked me to pony up.

Picture of Shopkins toys.
For the curious, these are Shopkins. They’re a bit bigger than a quarter. My daughter – and many girls in elementary school – have hundreds.

I was proud that she wanted to give her own money to a good cause. She earned that money. She brought in groceries, cleaned bathroom vanities and did general housework. Instead of buying Shopkins, she wanted to GIVE HER MONEY AWAY.

As businesspeople, we want to capture the hearts of our audiences like this, don’t we?

So what made her rush upstairs that afternoon when she could have been on the swing in the backyard? What made a 6-year-old donate money instead of cashing it in for toys?

I was sure I knew the answer. She wanted to win one of those silly plastic duck prizes they give students for hitting fundraising benchmarks. And I said as much as I pulled some cash from my wallet.

She looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity.

“No mom. I want to help this boy.”

She held out a brochure. A little boy with big blue eyes stared back at me while my daughter’s own brown eyes gazed at me from the other side of the brochure.

“He has a heart problem,” she said. “The American Heart people can help him.”

This money wasn’t about the AHA. For my daughter, it was about the boy we’ll call William.

How companies can tell stories

Companies exist to serve a purpose; to resolve a pain point for someone else. Whether it’s an educational institution, an arts organization or a business-to-business tech company, there’s a human behind it.

If you want to tell your organization’s story, where do you even start? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to find and tell your brand story:

  1. Start with goals and people. State what you need to accomplish. Do you need to get people to download a new app? Then think about the people involved. Who came up with the idea for the app, and why? Who beta tested it? How did it help them and what did they say?
  2. Find your Williams. People connect with others like themselves. My daughter wanted to help the AHA when she heard the story of a boy she could picture swinging on the monkey bars at recess. It’s good to have multiple stories to represent one goal. Why?
    • Most media outlets want unique content, and may not agree to do a story if another station or newspaper is doing the same human interest story.
    • If you have two (or more) people representing the same story, you can take the story to more outlets.
  3. Make your brand the hero. A strong brand story should include a person with a problem, a solution (your brand/employees) and a great resolution/positive outcome.
  4. Show the story. Remember William’s blue eyes? Storytelling is as much about visuals as words. If the story will appear in written format, it needs to include eye-catching visuals like photos and infographics. Don’t wait until last minute to ask for photos or set up a photo shoot. You will reach a higher percentage of people through visuals and the key messaging you place in captions than you will through the story itself.
  5. Leverage your story. Will you pitch the story to the media? Or will you self-publish and share it through your own channels like your website/blog, social media, newsletter or annual report? Remember, multiple human interest stories for one goal help the story go further.
  6. Use high-quality storytelling techniques. Should you choose to publish the content yourself, make sure it’s strong writing or high-quality video production. A great story goes nowhere fast with bad grammar, industry jargon, bad lighting and poor sound. Work with a strong storyteller who can make use of the senses to give a sense of place, create emotional impact and knows when to keep and delete details to keep the story moving.

When you connect with your audience on an emotional level, you’ll discover one of the most powerful ways to inspire someone to act.

Every company has a William. You just have to do some work to find him. When you do, share his story in a way that truly inspires your audience.

Interested in telling your brand story? Let’s talk. 

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