PR Storytelling: How to Develop Your Brand's Story

By Brian Bennett, President, STIR Advertising & Integrated Messaging

Brands on the surface can seem one-dimensional.A logo on a package.The product it represents.A webpage. Some ads. Whilethis would qualify as a brand by definition — often times it is one with little meaning, little equity, and little potential.A shallow veneer over a sales pitch. They haven’t taken the time to craft a compelling brand story. They haven’t created real value in their brand.

To create value a brand must be endowed with meaning. It is the meaning — the story — that determines how that brand is perceived and the degree to which it is preferred over alternatives. Some brands have stories that have evolved over the years and are continually refined. Other brands are new or reinvented and the story needs to be retold or developed from whole cloth.

A CMO is always faced with the tasks of increasing sales, increasing profit, increasing awareness and preference. Many strategies can be employed to move in this direction, but without properly telling the brand story, success will be limited.

Defining Your Brand Story

Envision your brand as a person — a persona — with a personality. The more interesting, genuine, and compelling it is, the more trust it will garner. Consumers make snap decisions about the brand based on what they see.

Here are some of the underlying elements that drive consumer decisions about your brand:

  • Why the brand exists
  • How the brand evolved
  • What the brand "believes in"
  • Brand style cues
  • Brand ethics – how it behaves
  • Brand associations – where is it seen, who are its friends
  • Brand credibility – what are its credentials

Telling Your Brand Story

You have to tell your brand story everywhere, and in every way. Make it as interesting as possible. As the CMO, you set the tone for the company; give higher-ups and rank and file their cues. The true test of success is whether it resonates with staff. Is it a point of pride? Can your staff effectively tell the brand story with credibility and enthusiasm?

To develop your brand story, devote a sizable chunk of time to consider the following:

  • Make a list of your brand’s positive attributes. Don’t just include product attributes; outline the values and persona you want your brand to be known for.
  • Define the saleable/winning positioning within the category.
  • Connect attributes and story elements to marketing strategies.
  • Generate a key word strategy – sound bites that are consistently reinforced across every messaging platform.

Activating the Brand Story

You must employ an integrated marketing strategy to successfully activate your brand story. This plays out in traditional media, digital media and all relative brand touch points. You need gifted partners — a creative ad agency with integrated messaging capabilities to weave together the elements in a smart and seamless way. You also need a digital marketing agency that can build out the elements you need to carry the message.

Or, if you are shrewd, you can save a great deal of money by finding one integrated ad agency that provides:

  • A comprehensive messaging platform, from point of sale to personal interactions, over the counter and by phone
  • A thorough review and rewrite of all of your existing communications assets
  • All design elements from industrial design to packaging
  • Web sites, apps and digital properties
  • Advertising creative
  • Public relations
  • Social media marketing
  • Promotions

Giving Your Brand Story Longevity

You can, and should, build a strong, meaningful, integrated brand story that will positively affect sales, profit, ROI, perceptions, and preferences; but you can’t do it alone. You need to involve other people as well as an agency that gets it.If that’s not the case, the first task in the process is to go shopping for those that do.

The brand story is embellished, burnished and rewritten every day, but the most important chapter in the story is the one you are writing today.

STIR Advertising and Integrated Messaging in Milwaukee, Wisconsin blends the disciplines of a creative advertising agency with a fully functional digital marketing agency. Find out more about STIR at www.stirstuff.com.

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