Four Ways to Tell Your Brand Story Your Way

Brand Basics

Master these types of stories to promote your brand effectively.

Around the world, people are gathering in spaces ranging from tiny lounges to massive auditoriums for one reason—to hear good stories. From regional storytelling gatherings like The Moth, where audience members alternately weep and laugh, to revolutionary TED talks, where leaders share their latest breakthrough ideas and insights, audiences can’t seem to get enough of stories these days. Visual storytelling is also hot, with infographics, billboards, and other graphic formats creating appealing, easy-to-read stories through images.

This storytelling revolution is also important to your brand. Think about it: From the half-hour you spend “wow-ing” a prospect with your presentation and graphics to the 30-second “elevator speech” you give at a networking event, to the evocative interior signage that tells people all about your store, the essence, purpose, and promise of your brand are all stories, says storytelling master Karen Dietz, who works with brands like Walt Disney Imagineering, The North Face, and Chase Manhattan Bank to tell their remarkable stories. Dietz also wrote the bestselling Storytelling for Dummies.

“We’re hardwired for stories,” she says. “The way we make meaning of our world is by creating stories that we tell ourselves about an experience and what its meaning was. Storytelling is a core piece of what it means to be human, so I think business is finally realizing, ‘Oh, this is something we’re doing already, and we’re just not conscious of it.’”

1. Origin stories

This is where it all began—how you started the business, came up with the idea, or were zapped by a lightning bolt of inspiration, Dietz says. Often these are profound stories that serve to set your company apart and communicate your passion and market differentiation. People want to know about the driving force that motivated you to start your company. It’s the difference between selling barbeque sauce made with love from a generations-old recipe and being a factory brand produced by food chemists. Which one would you prefer to buy? Brand timelines and corporate histories can help tell the tale of your company’s founding and growth.

2. People and results stories

This type of story tells the tales of your customers and their successes. It also lets customers and prospects peek behind the curtain and see how your employees and vendors support your work—another important kind of story, Dietz says.

However, where many businesses misstep here is that they tell the story from their own points of view, rather than their customers’ and prospects. People don’t want to read about what you did—the customer should be the hero, or else it just sounds like boasting, she says. So, share how you worked together to help the customer find a solution or address a problem, but always frame the story in terms of how it improved their efforts and led them to greater success.

3. Future stories

These types of stories are often unrecognized—and untold—among even skilled branding experts. When you tell future stories, you’re sharing tales of how your business is evolving and contributing to the world today. How are you innovating? What difference are you making? What are you contributing to the stories we’ll be telling in a few years? These types of stories show that your business is staying on top of its game—and customer needs. Future stories can also be integrated into your signage, showing forward-thinking solutions and illustrating how customers can solve their emerging needs.

4. “Why I” stories

These stories are part motivation, part subtle call to action. “Why I” stories are rooted in your origin story, but focus on why you are motivated to deliver on your brand and its promise every day. They may be personal stories or anecdotes that have a great impact because they illustrate what matters to you, Dietz says.

“If you’re asking for money, raising funds in any sort of way, or making a sale, people want to know if they can trust you, whether you’re dependable, and that you’re going to be there for them. The ‘why I’ stories address your motivation and strengthen the relationship between you and whoever it is you’re talking with,” she says.

As you develop your communication, whether it’s a website, signage, presentation, or speech, think about these stories in the context of your brand. Defining and using them can put the power of storytelling to work for your organization.

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