There is plenty of talk about brand storytelling around the business world today and companies are implementing this approach with various degrees of success and failure.
Like any emerging business trend, there are common mistakes being made. Before we look at these typical roadblocks that companies are facing, it’s worth defining both brand and brand storytelling.
Difference between brand and brand storytelling
My favourite definition of brand comes from Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, who is widely quoted as saying, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” My variation of that is “Your brand is the stories people share about you when you are not in the room”.
Using stories to communicate your brand is often referred to as brand storytelling. It is a deliberate and sustainable approach to authentically communicate your brand, both internally and externally. Basically, brand storytelling consists of the stories you share, as well as the stories people share about you that are based on your actions and behaviours.
So what are the biggest brand storytelling mistakes companies make when it comes to implementing brand storytelling?
Not understanding what it is
Brand storytelling is not just a logo or a tagline, or a timeline of your company (and calling it ‘Our story’ doesn’t make it a story). It’s not just a slick corporate video or a TV commercial. It’s not a brochure or your purpose, vision and values stated on a page. And it is definitely not just one story; it’s a combination of lots of stories.
Not defining your brand
Companies need to be clear on their brand. That is, how they want to be described by employees and customers alike. If an organisation does not have a clearly defined brand detailing such things as mission, vision, purpose and values, then implementing brand storytelling will be a misguided and potentially expensive investment.
Not educating your people
It’s critical to educate employees about the power of stories. This means teaching employees how to find stories and share them in a concise yet engaging way. This step is often deemed unnecessary, but it is essential because it’s about experiencing firsthand the magnetic power of stories. Without educating employees on brand storytelling, companies are setting them up for failure instead of success.
Not collecting milestone stories
Another common mistake is not implementing a process to find and collect stories. It could be something that happened years ago or something that occurred yesterday. It could be stories from head office or back office. It’s all about collating the stories that respect the past, acknowledge the present and inspire the future. What’s more, educating employees kickstarts this process and better enables employees to spot these stories.
Not communicating stories creatively
Another mistake, or perhaps a missed opportunity, is not sharing stories across multiple platforms. Stories should be communicated internally and externally; in written and oral formats; on traditional media and social media; using formal channels and informal channels and everything in between. Again, the education process is essential to ensure employees are set up for success to do this well.
Brand storytelling is not an easy process nor is it quick to implement. However, if it is done right and authentically, it will help companies connect and engage with more customers and employees than ever.
Gabrielle Dolan is a global expert on business storytelling and real communication. She is also the author of Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling.