Estimated read time: 5 minutes
Good corporate storytelling can be a differentiator for brands. And I’m not talking about making stuff up, but telling a company’s authentic story and sharing its thought leadership. In crowded markets especially, whoever tells the best and most relevant stories win.
This is especially true, in a world of copycats and I’m not endorsing anyone copying anyone, but it certainly does happen.
Two companies: Same product, different stories
Let me give you an example. I signed up for one software product a few years ago and have been using it ever since. On most days actually. How did I know about them? They were always in front of me and told a good story about what they do. Other times, they showed up in my feed with relevant related content.
When I was ready to buy and sign up for a subscription they were top of mind. Thanks to their ongoing and persistent, but not annoying corporate storytelling.
Now, there’s a competitor out there, who tells a very different corporate story. I don’t know who copied who here, but the product looks nearly identical. But the company’s story didn’t appeal to me. In fact, the imagery used is a bit of a turnoff – to me at least.
So, same product. Different stories. I choose and gave and still give my money to the company with the better story. What’s the better story is in the eye of the beholder, of course.
To help you do better corporate storytelling or get starting, in this article, I discuss:
- Larger and smaller companies
- Use of technology
- Leadership support
One overarching pillar when it comes to corporate storytelling really is the muscle memory of implementing the strategy. The more a company does share good stories, the more it becomes second nature and when that happens it can lead to good results.
Corporate storytelling – larger vs. smaller companies
A single person can share stories – a lot of stories. The more people are added to the mix, the amount of stories keeps growing – in theory at least. Larger organizations can share more stories because there are more people and with that there is a bigger likelihood for each person to add to the storytelling mix. But that doesn’t mean the sharing of stories should get harder or more complex.
Certainly, it can be easier for individuals and smaller organizations to get started on sharing their stories, but the ability to share authentic stories doesn’t diminish when the number of people increases.
What increases is the potential for unnecessary approval processes or mindsets not yet open to corporate storytelling across an organization. Some questions to consider to enable authentic storytelling in an organization:
- Can stories be shared quickly and efficiently?
- Is the organization/leadership open to the sharing of stories through blogs, social media, etc.?
- Can stories be thoughtful, in-depth and go beyond marketing buzzwords?
Moving forward together
Depending on an organization’s answers, storytelling becomes harder or more likely. But, yes, storytelling is scalable. Yes. It already happens outside of organizations. Think about social media: Some stories are shared in smaller circles. Others get shared and distributed by larger circles.
People already blog about topics they care about. They share their thoughts and stories. Integrate what people do already in a company’s mission.
In February 2014, The Onion joked that “Online Content Creators Outnumber Consumers 2,000 To 1“
And while that’s a joke, it is true that more and more people are sharing content. Some kind of content. Not all of it is valuable, interesting or even consumed. Where organizations – big and small – can distinguish themselves is through unique, relevant and authentic content.
Draw on your professional content creators but also other employees and even external partners to make this a success.
Corporate storytelling across an organization
Organizational storytelling happens when people associated with the organization recognize, call out, document and then share stories publicly. Stories help businesses (and communities) when they are true, meaningful and are shared in a believable way.
In this setup employees organization-wide share stories through agreed-upon channels to help the organization share stories authentically, consistently and constantly. Some people call this guardrails. The company provides guardrails on how to participate in corporate storytelling.
In a well-running corporate storytelling set up:
- Employees are empowered to share their stories.
- It’s encouraged and explicitly endorsed by leadership.
- Employees want to share their organizational stories. They feel connected and can’t wait to share their success stories.
That’s when we see people, including on the sales, customer success and marketing teams, build their own brands while advancing the corporate story.
Technology and corporate storytelling
Technology can help. The easier the technology is to use, the easier it will be for people to focus on storytelling instead of the barriers that technology is presenting.
We only have so much brain power to focus on different things, so the more we can free up to think about authentic storytelling – instead of figuring out how to actually get the story published on the website, the more likely our storytelling strategy is to succeed.
Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO, famously wore the same clothes every day so he wouldn’t have to think about what to wear and could use that brain power on other things – like inventing the iPhone, for example. This also applies to content creation. The easier we make that process, the better the stories. That includes using technology that is easy to use.
Using video and livestreaming or podcasting can certainly help as well. I’ve found live podcasts to be a fantastic way to get good content for social media, podcasts and even blogs.
How to scale corporate storytelling
As Paul Furiga said on “The Business Storytelling Show” it does start with leadership. Leaders in the organization need to agree why the company exists, what problem it’s trying to solve and then move forward tell that story in multiple ways. That certainly does include stories about the product, but also content around establishing the company as a thought leader.
Start with the agreement, get on a schedule and keep sharing and engaging on all the channels that currently matter.