5 Step Storytelling: Telling the Story of Your Brand

Brand identity and management is all about storytelling. Don’t believe it? How about this: do you want to get a thirty minute lecture about the history of a massive fast food conglomerate, or do you want to hear the story of how two innovative brothers opened up a little fast food diner in San Bernardino, CA and revolutionized the restaurant industry?

Storytelling is about connecting and engaging with your audience on a very human level. For big brands, this personal connection via storytelling is absolutely vital in the age of transparent social media. But how do you tell an engaging story about a brand?

1) Be human. Humans are social creatures. We’re interested in what other people are doing and saying and buying. We want to be popular and loved and maybe even envied a little. When it comes to big business, big government, big industry, we completely disengage – unless you show us why we should care. Put a human face on your business – not just your CEO. Highlight your best workers. Share engaging testimonials. Engage with customers on social media sites – blogs, vlogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube… these are all great places to show your human side.

2) Be genuine. Too many people (and brands!) today are still trying to be something they’re not. That doesn’t mean you should stop striving for who you want to be, but it does mean being genuine in your interaction with the public. Don’t tell us your CEO was a poor corn farmer in Iowa if she was an investment banker’s daughter who spent her childhood on a yacht. That can be a great story, too, if you know how to tell it! Again, if you’re having trouble finding an engaging story angle for members of your leadership team, look across teams and listen to stories from your customers. These are great places to find engaging content.

3) Be specific. In storytelling, it’s all about the details. Just like the example we started with – the big food conglomerate lecture vs. the story of two innovative brothers in San Bernardino – specific details can help your audience connect with your story. They also make it much more likely that an audience will stick around to hear your story in the first place.

4) Be engaging. It’s no use having a great story if you don’t know how to tell it. Find the human angle in your story: why does this story matter to people? What part of them does it speak to? Was your company founded by a tough entrepreneur who had trouble getting funding? We love to root for the underdog. Did your service or product change someone’s life? Engaging testimonials continue to be popular, for good reason! We all want to change our lives for the better.

5) Be social. Traditional media like print and radio are still great places to tell stories, but they lack the interactivity of newer, more accessible media like vlogs, blogs, and even podcasts. New media allows you to tell your story in new ways – and get instant feedback about what works for your audience… and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid of interacting with your audience. Social spaces are just that – social. Just be ready to get honest feedback. If your story doesn’t engage right from the start, they’ll let you know… And you should thank them for it!

Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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