Brand storytelling. Just another buzzword or a proven marketing practice? Some would argue both ways. I am in the camp that believe brands need to tell stories in a way that delivers relevance and nurtures emotional or rational equity.
We all love to hear good stories. It’s a fundamental part of our DNA. It’s what connects us to our humanity. It links us to our past, helps us relate to others in the present and provides a glimpse into our future. Native Americans used storytelling to pass down traditions from generation to generation and remained as a primary form of wisdom transfer even after the written word had spread across other parts of the world.
Storytellers learned early on that people like to hear stories with a beginning, middle and end. We gravitate towards stories that have characters that look like us, act like us or have similar characteristics that we can relate to.
You probably know “that guy” who commands the attention of everyone during a dinner party when he’s telling a story. He’s usually with an entourage of people laughing at just about everything he/she says. This might explain why when someone is telling you a good story, you may not even realize it. You are too fascinated with the actual story itself, perhaps envisioning yourself as the lead character. That’s the power of a well-told story.
Brand storytelling is more than just a shiny Facebook campaign, video or Super Bowl ad. These are still critical success factors in reaching people. But it should also involve mobilizing employees to feed your brand’s content engine. And it’s not just employees tweeting or sharing company news within their social channels. It’s about surfacing the amazing stories about your brand, its products/services, culture and workforce; and then using employees as media to tell the rest of the world about it.
Many refer to this as employee advocacy. I call it participation marketing and the reason is fairly simple. Employees tell better stories than you do.
This approach allows for a brand to be “human” and being human is about having a real, honest connection with people, being transparent, responsive and above all accessible.
Data from the Boston Consulting Group tell us that that when it comes to trust and credibility, “people they know”, “consumer opinions online” and “colleagues and friends” rank the highest when people are seeking information about a company and its products. Every year, the Edelman Trust Barometer has similar findings, also stating that “employees of a company” and “technical experts” are highly trusted.
Additional research by the Society for New Communications Research from a few years ago found that the most frequent use of social media among business professionals was interacting with their peers online – 65 percent of users participate to engage with a professional community of colleagues and peers via social media and 82 percent exchange information with technical experts.
This is even more true today.
The last insight is from Altimeter’s 2015 State of Social Business Report. Their research revealed that developing employee advocacy programs has grown as a top external objective by social strategists since 2013 by 191%, jumping from 13% to 45%.
Consider this research — either individually or collectively – and the only smart conclusion is that developing an employee program should be a top priority for your business in 2016.Developing an #EmployeeAdvocacy program should be a top priority for your business in 2016. via @britopian Click To Tweet
The philosophy of participation marketing is simple. It’s about combining the core tenets of journalism and then mobilizing employees to “participate” and tell the brand story through their own lens; thereby creating conversational value to all stakeholders, both customers and the media.
The idea of participation marketing should be fairly easy to comprehend whether you agree with it or not. The execution isn’t.
The good news is that we have created a resource that will help you strategically plan an employee program called Employee Brand Storytelling. It’s filled with insights from seven brand marketers from Autodesk, Pitney Bowes, BMC Software, Adobe, Kaiser Permanente, Salesforce and Fed Ex as well as a strategic approach to get started.