Company Storytelling as the backbone of Experience
Whether a branding attribute or a communication tool, storytelling embodies the commitment to the purpose.
Many people and many companies don't take storytelling that seriously. They assume it is too much of a sophisticated term, and if they know about it, they assume the don't need to explore it. Just to make it clear, storytelling is not the art of telling a good story in lunch break. It is not what's written in a company's About Us landing page. It isn't the company's timeline laid out in the onboarding PDF for newcomers.
Storytelling is the gateway to everything you need to know (about a company or project) to commit. Michael Mortiz (Partner, Sequoia Capital) has said “If people can’t tell stories, I don’t think they succeed as leaders”. True. And, how about "if companies can't tell stories, they don't succeed at leading"? I pose the question and deem it to be just as true. Depending on a company's maturity or journey, storytelling can become stronger. The longer you go and the more you can dissect it, the better.
So there are two parts to this: In order to know your STORY:
1. We want to know what is it that inspired you to start doing something. We want to know the context. Were you already passionate about it? Did you grow up facing related challenges? How did you become interested in this thing you are doing? What creative edge did you believe you could bring to the table? Why did you think they were good at coming up with a plan?
2. We want to know about the problems you found in the beginning of your journey. Was it hard to gain trust from others? Was the market receptive? Was technology your ally or your foe? Did a generational shift make things easier? What was their early investment pitch like? How did you temp investors and customers in the early days?
3. We want to know how they overcame the barriers. What saved the day? Who became the first ambassadors? What values were defined for the long run? What sacrifices did you have to make to accomplish the first milestones? Which were the lessons you learned early on, that would set the resilience spirit for the future?
4. We want to know why you have succeeded. What continues to be the creative vision for the future? What customer centric focus have you attained throughout time? What cultural aspects you have embraced to remain valid and fresh? How have you reinvented the industry and how are you still solving a problem?
5. What are you doing next, as we turn the page?
And executing the TELLING:
1. First and foremost, make your team a part of the journey by sharing with them all the points mentioned above, from day one. Every good and solid communication to the outside starts at the heart of everything: the team making stuff possible. Get the onboarding right! A team that understands where you come from, knows the direction you're going to. This creates empathy and your crusade can resonate with theirs. Enjoy their commitment to your mission.
2. Set a tone and voice for your communication. This might be related to style, but the sooner you hit the right chords, the sooner people will notice what you have to say. Determine or at least try to define your brand's personality and begin communicating accordingly. If times are changing, then study and connect with the future audience you want to speak to. Know where they're coming from and engage in the best possible way.
3. Make coherent decisions. You know your story and have shared it, so the team is onboard. Your personality is defined and your tone and voice are spot on. Now try to align to it the best you can in as many channels as you have. Tell your story not only through branding aspects, like your visual identity or your UX writing. I'm talking about really making coherent decisions: how are your allies selected? Are they empathic towards your values and purpose? What communication are you deploying in Social Media, Corporate websites or PR press briefings? Is it aligned to your intention? Will your new hires become your brand ambassadors or is the recruitment lacking focus? Be honest with who you are and what you want.
Show, don't tell
4. Continue to know who you are. Pivoting is always a good thing, as long as it's done timely and for the right reasons. Changing direction is also part of your story: evolve. But, if you're just trying to save your business by shifting your efforts and changing priorities without a deeper thinking, it's a slippery slope you and your team will face. Successful businesses attract and retain customers because they trust the story and are affiliated to the story behind your company. Customers will also know when a fake story is presented. A great example: greenwashing. It might take them a minute, but people will see through the words and right into your actions. You might end up being the villain, when you were so keen on being a hero. So, know who you are and lead.
Now that I told you about those parts separately, I will push them together:
STORYTELLING: The art of communicating a purpose fundamented on a company's story, and making it evident in their decision making.
If you know your story but don't tell it, you're missing out on its treasure. If you're telling a story that's not sincere, your success won't hold water. As simple and as complex as that. The intersection between storytelling and experience is also quite clear. Experience is the compilation of emotions, thoughts and perceptions that a certain situation, person or object puts you through.
Whether someone just had contact with a Customer Support agent, or they fully explored a company's website, storytelling can be present in every sort of connection. The way you are approached, how they ease you into a process, how promptly a solution is presented. Everything involves an onboarding, a communication, a textual or visual embrace. If people hear that you've just made allies with the local heroes or the charity organizations. That adds to your story, and that adds to their interest.
Know this: A branding manager or a marketing wizard won't solve your storytelling needs. It's not up to them. It's up to you, founder, entrepreneur or CEO. Your team are the best warriors you have to push your story forward. But you have to be smart and responsible about what you want to share with the world. Your success depends on it.
Share or dicsuss. I'm here to help. :)