A powerful brand story, when executed well—builds trust, connection, and loyalty with your audience.
In Part A of this post, we talked about authentic brands and how they live and breathe their story and how it’s reflected in their core essence—what they stand for and how they show up. You trust their story because you experience it through the living of their values and consistency in the promises they make and keep to their employees and customers.
So we posed some questions. How do you compose a compelling story that you can live up to? How do you know if your brand’s story is believable to your employees? How do you know if it resonates with your customers?
- You’ll know it when it engages them and consistently guides their behaviors and actions in ways that make them continue to want to be a part of and insist on your brand.
And how do you guide their behaviors? Your brand must deliver to your employees and customers an experience that builds trust in what you stand for and creates an emotional bond that is continually reinforced.
- Your brand’s story and how you live it must affect the way they feel, the way they think, and the way they act…consistently!
Here are a few ideas to kick-start your organization in living and breathing your brand’s story:
Define Your Story (What Does Your Brand Stand For?)
At the heart of your brand’s story is a special message that comes from the core of what your business was founded on and what you aspire to be. Ask the following questions:
- What does your brand believe in?
- What core values guide your behaviors?
- What standards of performance do you adhere to?
- What sets you apart from your competitors?
- What’s your personality as a brand?
- Does your brand have a strong point of view? If so, what is it?
- What makes your brand different or special?
- What emotions do you want your brand to evoke in others?
- What’s the overall ‘lingering feeling’ for those who experience your brand?
Craft and Communicate Your Special Story
Distill the elements of what your brand stands for into a unique value proposition by weaving the answers to the above questions into a powerful story.
- Keep the story as simple as possible, yet compelling for your employees and customers to be intrigued and want to be a part of what you stand for.
- Make sure it is authentic to your brand.
How you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.
- Think about how to convey your story and the vocabulary and tone (congruent with your brand’s personality) used to express what you say you are.
- Develop a list of words that represent your brand and incorporate those terms in all of your communications.
One story model to consider is to build a storyline around a typical customer (e.g., ‘Jane’) experiencing your brand through a guided visualization. Be sure to include multi-sensory descriptions that compel and engage the customer throughout the brand experience. This type of story-writing model is a great exercise for not only the leadership, but for the employees to attempt. This will provide you with a great sense of what your employees think about how they live your story and may be an interesting exercise to use in conveying the message.
Make sure your story is communicated clearly and directly. Get creative in how the message is expressed in all your print and online communications, and your daily written and oral interactions with your employees and customers. Consistently spread the word about your story so it reinforces your brand’s value proposition.
Live Your Story through Every Facet of Your Business—the Power is in the Execution
Make sure you hire people who can relate and share the principles behind your brand’s story. Ingrain it in the minds of your employees so everyone believes it and lives it.
- Integrate the essence of your story into your employee on-boarding processes, training and development programs and how you reward and recognize your employees.
- It’s your employees that make the story come alive so make sure they understand their role in playing out your story.
- Observe your employees in action. Observe how your customers respond.
MAKE IT REAL. Infuse the essence of your story through all aspects of the customer experience from initial contact to sales or service transaction, support and follow-up.
- Establish policies, systems and processes that support what you stand for, and reinforce the story at every touch point.
- Continually assess and evaluate to ensure you are living your story to the fullest. Continue to ask your customers and employees for feedback. Make adjustments to ensure you live up to your story.
- Ensure a sense of urgency to correct immediately when you ‘slip up’. This will only foster goodwill among your employees and customers in how you strive to live your story.
If clearly articulated and lived consistently, the story behind your brand can be truly inspiring—propelling the success of your business. It can unite your organization behind a common purpose—your special story, engaging your employees to live and breathe it, while captivating your customers so they keep coming back to experience it.
By Carol Chapman, Former Co-founder, The Brand Ascension Group