Brand stories are everywhere - from the label on your smoothie bottle to the big-budget TV ads on your TV. But there’s a huge opportunity to tell stories behind the scenes in your business, as well.
1. In your recruitment process
Finding and keeping the right people is one of the biggest challenges in business - so make sure you’re telling potential recruits the right story. "Lots of millennials look at the culture of a company over its pay packet," points out playwright and creative consultant Paul Hewitt, who consults on creativity and marketing strategy at agency Bear Thinking. "In one agency where I worked, we needed to attract more developer talent. So we started a blog on very specific, complicated technical stuff, just to tell the story that we have that talent in-house and that junior developers can learn from them. The blog attracted lots of people to the company, as they saw we were pushing out technically-minded content."
2. By the watercooler
Stories can help us communicate on many different levels, from pitches to chatting in the office. "We worked with a fast-growing European tech consultancy," remembers Al Hussein, senior consultant at Verbal Identity, a brand strategy agency which specialises in the power of language. "They were growing so fast that in any meeting, half the team wouldn’t have met the other half. We asked people in the room to introduce themselves by their name and job title. Then, we asked them to introduce themselves again, this time with a short story about what their typical day involved. Crucially, when we then asked everyone to write down what they could remember about what other people had said, hardly anyone could remember their job titles - but almost everyone could remember the stories about what they did each day. Now, everyone knows who they can speak to in the company if they need particular help or advice on something."
3. In your office 'shop window'
Think your office doesn’t have a shop window? Think again: the majority of workspaces have somewhere where clients, visitors, or the public can see in. At brand agency isobel, they create 'windowplays' in their office window space. "Our various windowplays have included a free-coffee shop, a sandy beach and even a Cluedo murder scene," says marketing director Christi Tronetti. "With windowplay, we practice what we preach to our clients every day: the importance of engaging your audience and constantly thinking of new innovative ways to communicate. It helps us to find new ways to tell our story and gives passers-by a chance to engage and experience the type of supercharging we inject in our clients’ brands."
4. In your internal communications
Everything you write or say is part of your brand’s narrative - even an internal presentation, says Al Hussein. "We held a half-day workshop for one of our clients - a large, British car company - as part of their brand voice implementation program. At the end of it, the head of marketing came up to us and told us how excited they were to change the title of their next internal presentation from 'The marketing planning and operations schedule for Q1 and Q2 2017' to 'Here’s how we’ll get our brand to our audience this year'. Which presentation would you rather hear? And what does each title tell you about the company?"
5. When you’re pitching
"When I say storytelling, I mean crafting your pitch like a story," says Ben Little, founder of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank. "Every pitch is its own story. You build up what the world looks like and what the opportunity is. You introduce your audience to characters and people and the idea - which may be the hero. And then you take them on a journey into what the future may look like, with this concept at the heart of your business. And like a storyteller, you have to spend a lot of time and consideration on the language you use, what we say and how you say it."
6. In your brand values
Your values aren’t just something to fill up the About Us section of your website. They should underpin everything you do, and they too should tell a story about the kind of business you want to be. "Your whole brand should have a story woven through it," says Paul Hewitt. "It starts with your company purpose and values, which all your employees get on board with. In turn, those values should turn into real life working experiences, which turn into stories that attract talent to your business and also new customers. Think about your purpose in one statement - what does it mean and, importantly, what doesn't it mean? Do the same with your company behaviours and values: what do you do and what don't you do?"