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Tell Your Story, Build Your Brand

Originally published on Knoxnews.com on July 22, 2022.

What’s your story? You have one, probably several. And you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not sharing your stories to let others know who your company is and what you stand for.

Richard Branson Quote. Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.

Storytelling is an ancient form of communications, from the earliest humans telling others the best places to hunt or how to avoid danger, to today’s 4-D movies. A cousin who served as my family’s volunteer historian traced the Scarbrough family roots back to the 10th Century and a Viking leader and storyteller named Skarthi. Stories inspired and persuaded people then, and they still do.

The story of your brand — how it started, what it stands for, what you do that makes a difference — resonates.  Stories encourage people to identify with you and what your business is about, your mission and your vision.

The connection you can make through storytelling is emotional and physiological. Neuroscience expert Uri Hasson at Princeton University has studied the pattern of brain waves of someone telling a story and someone hearing that story. His work shows that during a good story, the brain responses of the listener become similar to those of the storyteller. The listener is taken out of the moment and into the experience and emotion of the storyteller. In that same way, a good story can bring your business to life so it resonates with others and captures their emotions.

What company stories do you want to tell?  Talk about your brand and the value it brings to customers. How, or why, did you start your business, or why do you work there? What positive difference does your company make? When have you been most proud of your business?

Your employees have their company stories, too. What makes them proud to work for you or your business? When have they gone “above and beyond” for customers, to help someone or to solve a problem? When have they seen the company live those high standards you talk about?

To articulate the stories that represent your business, work with employees to identify specific instances that reflect your mission, vision, purpose, or service to others. 

To tell your stories, encourage employees to join you in developing stories that are short and engaging. Tell your stories in the roller-coaster styled arc of any good novel – a brief set-up . . . characters your customers can relate to . . . and then a problem, challenge or conflict you had to overcome. A good story takes your listener to the top of the figurative roller-coaster, resolves the conflict, and delivers great customer service as you ride down to the bottom of the coaster track.

What is your story not? It is not hype or exaggeration, or a short-term sales pitch. Customers will see through those right away. And neither is it a random example. A good story is an authentic representation of who you are and the service you deliver as a company and as a team of dedicated employees.

Your stories must be authentic – true and personal, reflecting the values and character of your brand, the best of what you want your company to be. Your stories must have an element of emotion as you reveal something about yourself, who you are, what you value. Tell your stories without overselling them and keep them brief. Good performers know to leave their audiences wanting more. Practice your stories and trim away excess information so they are focused and succinct. And work with your employees to practice their stories and to share them with one another.  The first step in strengthening your brand among the public is building commitment among your employees.

Susan Scarbrough Lauver

Susan Scarbrough Lauver, APR, is a senior public relations practitioner in Knoxville and an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America.  She was honored for lifetime achievement by PRSA’s Volunteer Chapter. Her work has been recognized by the Public Relations Society of America, Nuclear Energy Institute, International Association of Business Communicators, and National Association of Government Communications. 

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