What is a brand story and why do I need one? 

As a small business owner, you’ve got two choices: be relevant or redundant. If you’re the latter, your marketing strategy is “me focused” churning out product-centric content and sales pitches. It’s steeped in a bone-dry formula of facts, features, and a siren call to “buy now.”     

Sounds like a nagging infomercial, right?  

On the other hand, a “you focused” slant is used by the top two percent of marketers worldwide. Instead of a hard-sell, they craft a deliberate narrative to boost the effectiveness of their content. Also called emotional contagion, it’s the process where our brain activity actually mirrors what a speaker is saying. 

Yet, evoking images isn’t enough. The right brand story must have a dramatic or meaningful arc, which then triggers a biological response (a.k.a. a release of human emotion). So, what type of content connects? A 2014 study conducted by Paul Zak, director of The Center for Neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, showed a 56 percent uptick in charitable donations. The reason – nonprofit campaigns, built on a character-driven narrative, moved people into action.   

I still weep whenever I hear that Sarah McLachlan song. You know the one… then I give my dog a big bear hug. The SPCA commercial leaves us shell-shocked underscoring the stark reality of animal cruelty. Tug by tug, my heartstrings go amuck.    

The same idea goes for commercial markets. 

Another study determined that folks splurged more on hotel rooms, paintings, and the like when they paired products with a story. Perhaps it plays upon our FOMO reflex – the fear of missing out on ocean views or that rare Jackson Pollack masterpiece. We’re human – deeply visual, hardwired with inquiring minds, and loaded with deep-seated compassion.    

In fact, messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts. 

The Details of Your Story

So, can a small business be both profitable and human? Yes! In the era of fake news and instant gratification, digital storytelling opens the door to real connection and even greater impact. So much so, our agency won’t begin social media management until we uncover a client’s entire backstory:

  • Audience pain points
  • The motivation for starting their business
  • The problem/solution they solve 
  • Key differentiators, separate from competitors 
  • Triumphs and weak spots
  • Audience feedback (both good and bad) 

Join the two percent club and shine a genuine light on your business or cause.

Here’s how to effectively package a brand story across social media.  

Highlight a Conflict.

Be transparent about company adversity or a resolution to a product issue. People don’t want pure perfection. They want to know that you’ll be responsive when the chips are down. Chances are, your followers associate your values with their own. Let your message communicate those commonalities.

Talk Disruption and Resolution.

When you watch a movie, the main character almost always has something to lose. There’s a problem in the way creating tension, remorse, or any number of fallouts. Their life is off track, and the stakes are high. Then a hero (in this case, you!) offers up a solution to save them from the brink. Okay, melodramatic but expressing people’s needs – and sharing a remedy – spurs a heap of trust.  

Narrow the Focus. 

If you say too much or reference too much data, you risk losing emotional attachment. Focus on one slice of a bigger problem (the one you serve) or use one person’s experience to validate your mission. For example, rather than hashing out drug therapy side effects, interview the miracle-drug patient. This person was at death’s door but fought their way through remission beating incredible odds. 

Remember, facts are 22 times less memorable than the hero’s journey. 

Go Back to Your Roots.

Everyone seems to have a neighborhood historian. If you’re the brick and mortar shop that’s been operating for decades or giving an old standby a new facelift, there’s a cast of characters for your story. Who was a regular at your restaurant? When did that celebrity chef come walking through your doors? What investor swooped in and rehabbed the block? How did your once-fledging town regain its former glory? Be honest about your struggles – everyone loves the underdog.  

Now that you’ve got the foundation built, it’s time for distribution. First, write your story in article form – from soup to nuts. Then recycle it for parts, much like a car:

  • Pull a quote and create a graphic for Facebook and Instagram
  • Take your article, use it as a script, and create a video for Instagram and YouTube
  • Pitch your story to media outlets who cover your industry
  • Ask to guest post on another blog touting your life lessons
  • Use it as a summary highlighting who you are and who you serve for the benefit of your LinkedIn profile, Facebook business page and your website ‘About’ page

Or, when the inspiration strikes, lean on the One Part Social team. We’ve written more than a dozen brand stories over the past year. And we’d love to share who you are with the world.

So, get in touch. 

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