A How-to Guide for Building Community with Brand Storytelling

Storytelling. It’s so woven into the fibers of our humanity that the practice traces to our species even before we were farming. In fact, storytelling is so innate that you likely spend 30% of your day daydreaming. And statistically, a mind watching Netflix hardly daydreams—the screen does it for you!

If we’re so hard-wired for a good tale, it’s only natural we build our communities around shared stories. The patterns are easy to spot in culture and religion, but take a peek at more modern times. You can spot our inclination towards tribe-gathering around good brand stories as they’re marketed to us. Apple, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and sports teams are case studies in brand storytelling done well. An effectively communicated brand tells your company’s story well so you can spread your message to your community.

Intuit co-founder Scott Cook’s quote from a few years back only resonates more today: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it’s what consumers tell each other it is.” Brand storytelling is marketing that lives, moves, breathes, communicates, and perhaps most importantly, connects a community.

It’s as if our brain realizes your story aligns with my worldview, and now we have something to discuss. But how can you write and market to build your community around your brand’s story?

Here are three gut-check writing tips. After producing big pieces of content—email marketing, website copy, sales copy, internal communications, etc.—ask yourself if your words pass this test.

Write authentically.

Before the influx of masterful digital media strategies, marketing depended on unique value. Who was doing that fantastic thing no one knew about? But now, hello Google: we can find a round-up of similar minded brands. Now, trust is the new currency. Audiences have multiple options in the marketplace for nearly everything, and can access them all with a simple click. Why are you different? Write true to your voice and style. Write true to your core values. Yes, writing authentically means being opinionated at times, and you’ll do so with grace—but remember that today’s marketing savvy crowd is ad-averse and can spot a cheesy sales pitch from a mile away. Write remembering you’re a human, writing to a human—not to a screen.

Write for one person, not the masses.

On that note, drafting brand storytelling to appeal to everyone is a sure-fire way to talk to no one person in particular. At the end of the day, your brand storytelling is to communicate three things: (1) what/why you offer what you do, (2) how it will help and (3) how to buy. Looking back at our examples, recall Apple. Apple shoots for the people-person loving life and looking for a way to experience it with greater ease and simplicity. All of Apple.com communicates this, and that’s the very brand story you feel when walking into an Apple store.

For tactical examples, you can even remind yourself of two ways before writing. First, I draft my email marketing copy starting “Hey, Elisabeth”—I backspace later, of course, but this trick reminds me to write to the woman that’s an ideal target for me. Secondly, I also keep a sticky note with 10 names on it stuck near my screen—those are the 10 targets that I want to reach. I trust there are more profiles just like them out there looking for my offerings, and guess what, there are.

Write with clarity.

Finally, remember that clarity attracts and confusion doesn’t. One of my favorite facts Don Miller cites is that physiologically, the brain’s wired for two tasks: trying to survive and counting calories. For example, this is why your brain doesn’t count chairs when you walk in a room, but stores where the entrances and exits are. When you write, remember that brains will be working to quickly digest what you’re offering. Can someone click on your website and describe what you do and sell within 5 seconds? In an oversaturated market, we’re hard-wired to form a community around and purchase what we understand the fastest.

Work these tips into your editing process so that a community of brand champions is united around your messaging.