Brand Story: Uniting Employees with a Narrative
Everyone loves a good brand story. Here, we've got some tips to help you create one that will captivate employees and job seekers alike.
Stories are powerful. They generate interest. They stir up emotions. And sometimes they spark action. But stories aren’t just meant to be read in books, watched on the silver screen, shared around a campfire, or one-upped by friends at a party. They can also be an impactful tool for our employer brands. That is, if you know how to tell them.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step process to crafting an irresistible brand story and show you a few real-life examples to give you some inspiration.
But before we dive in, let’s break down the basics of brand stories.
What Exactly is a Brand Story?
Whereas most stories focus on a specific event or experience, your brand story encompasses the entirety of your brand. It explains who you are as a company, what you do for your audience, and why you do it. It takes all the important pieces of your brand – like your values, culture and way of working – and weaves them into a succinct, compelling narrative for your audience. Done well, your brand story has the power to evoke strong, positive emotions from anyone who comes into contact with it, including your leads, customers, partners, and job applicants.
But your brand story isn’t just a marketing tool that can help you reach external parties – like customers and job seekers. It also has the power to unite and connect your employees, by giving them a common narrative to believe in, uphold, share, and speak to.
3 Powerful Brand Stories in Action
The truth is, every brand tells their story a little differently. Some choose to share it in their About page copy. Others prefer to tell it through videos that they post on their website, their social media channels and in streaming service ads. Some even decide to share their story in creative and trendy ways. Regardless, in each case, the storytelling methods and mediums are designed to match the company’s branding and speak to their audience’s preferences.
Quick sidenote: Check out our podcast episode on storytelling, pretty sure you'd like it.
To give you an idea of what this might look like, here are three real-world examples of great brand stories.
Built on the premise of empowering women in developing countries to better their lives and escape generational poverty, Yellow Leaf takes a unique approach to their story. Instead of only talking about their founders, the history of their company, and their mission on their About page, Yellow Leaf chooses to highlight the women who design and weave all of their hammocks.
They show them working on colorful hammocks and interacting with their children in a well-made video. They share their individual names, expertise, and stories in web copy – the way employees are traditionally highlighted. And many of the brand photos on their site incorporate them in some capacity.
This storytelling method doesn’t just enable Yellow Leaf to share the depth of their story, either. It also provides a level of authenticity to their message, by showing both their customers and the women who make their products that they’re committed to their mission.
Beyond being a popular platform for ecommerce businesses to create and host their stores, Big Cartel is known for its commitment to creatives. In fact, it’s such a major part of who they are, that “commitment to creative entrepreneurs” is actually at the center of their brand narrative.
It’s most easily seen on their About page, where it’s showcased in the unique backgrounds behind each of Big Cartel’s employee photos, in the short blurbs of text Big Cartel uses to break down its mission, and in the voiceover and visuals in the brand video that’s featured prominently on their site.
Big Cartel’s brand narrative isn’t just bound to a set of content blocks or looped endlessly on their website, though. It also extends into their employees’ side projects, their charitable work in support of creative endeavors, and their social media marketing efforts – where they highlight various creatives that are doing impressive work.
As the most popular visual search platform on earth, Pinterest is the go-to solution for do-it-yourself (DIY) craftsmen, avid gardeners, professional artists, foodies, travelers, solopreneurs, designers, and parents to find ideas and inspiration.
“Inspiration” and “creativity” aren’t just words used to describe the platform, though. They’re also infused into Pinterest’s brand story. They’re highlighted by employees in a video on their Careers page, and they’re discussed in Pinterest’s website copy.
But the really neat thing about Pinterest’s story is the fact that it’s deeply connected to its employees’ and users’ stories. As a result, whether Pinterest is talking about their origins; sharing details about the work-life balance of employees; or shining a spotlight on Pinterest creators, business owners, influencers, or “pinners,” the story remains the same.
How to Craft Your Brand Story?
1. Define Your Core Messaging
First and foremost, you have to have a firm grasp of your messaging. You need to know what your mission is, what your values are, and what your UVP is. The reason being, this messaging is at the foundation of your business. It defines your purpose as a company, guides your decisions, and drives your activities (or at least, it should).
As a result, if you want your brand story to match your branding and be aligned with the work you do on a daily basis, you need to anchor it to your messaging. You need to use your mission, values, and positioning statement to influence everything from your word choice and your tone to your style.
Beyond that, you should also have a clear understanding of your company – past, present and future – as that will determine the narrative you tell. Here are just a few questions you should be able answer:
- What has your journey been like? Have you pivoted along the way to embrace your values more closely to respond to your customers’ needs?
- What is your company about now? Are you proud of your current trajectory?
- Where is your company headed? More importantly, why should anyone care?
2. Know Your Audience
When you tell a story, you have to consider your audience. Specifically, you should know who they are and what their interests and values are. Otherwise, when you tell your story, you can end up sharing a narrative that’s either irrelevant or boring for them.
At the same time, you need to know the types of content they like to consume. Do they prefer formal and professional content? Or are they drawn to a more relaxed and conversational style? Understanding this can help you make several major decisions in the storytelling process, which we’ll get to in just a minute.
3. Figure Out What Your Goals Are
The last thing you need to do before you start writing the narrative and storyboarding the content is determine what you want to accomplish with your brand story.
Are you trying to connect your brand with a specific emotion like comfort, joy, or wanderlust? Do you want to highlight certain company values or attributes? Or are you more interested in showing job seekers how your company came to be and the journey you’ve been on to get where you are?
Making this decision early on will not only streamline the creation process, but it will give you more direction along the way.
4. Choose a Medium
Once you reach this point, you should spend some time thinking about the mediums you'd like to use to share your story. For some, this might simply be a page on their website. For others, it may be a series of social media posts or a professionally-produced video. In any case, this decision is one of the most important in the creation process – as it not only impacts who will see your story, but also whether they’ll be interested enough to stick around and hear it.
You also need to be careful with your selection, because stories can lose their power and efficacy if they don’t mesh well with the personality, style, or voice of your brand. For example, it would be strange to see a relaxed, fun, “Gen Z” brand share their story via a whitepaper. And you might get a kick out of watching a formal, highly technical brand make a TikTok video, but it probably wouldn’t be the best way for them to evoke the right emotions in their audience.
The point is, you should make sure the medium you use to share your story matches your branding and has the ability to tell it in the most powerful way possible.
5. Brainstorm & Iterate
With all of the core elements in place, you can start to build out your story. The easiest way to do this is by thinking through questions like:
- What do you want the big takeaway of your brand story to be?
- How do you want to tell your story – via a 3rd person narrative or a 1st person speaker?
- What values or core messaging can you plug in and rely on to keep the narrative connected to your branding?
- What role does your audience play in the story?
You should also return to the messaging you created earlier on, and think through the best ways to showcase it. For instance, you could spend some time mulling over your purpose and your mission – and come up with ways to highlight it in your story. You could also think about the “whys” and “hows” behind the work you do.
The point is to focus on the core elements that make your brand unique and turn them into solid ideas for a narrative that you can share over and over again.
Now that you have all the details squared away, it’s time to put the story together in your chosen medium. Here, you can start creating visuals and crafting an “official” version of your narrative. Generally speaking, the story writing should happen first, as the visuals are designed to enhance and expand upon the messages shared in the story, not the other way around.
It’s also important to remember that while creating the story can be exciting and fun, it’s easy to get carried away. But you don’t want to have too many messages sneak into your copy or have an overwhelming amount of visuals and sounds make it into a final cut. The point is to make your story as clear and simple as possible, so your message isn’t lost. So have fun – just be strategic about it!
7. Test Drive Your Story
Before you wrap up the project and post your story for the whole world to see, it’s important to get some feedback. Not only does it get you thinking critically about your ideas, but it helps you get familiar with outside perspectives.
You may realize that the linguistic choices you made are confusing for your audience. Or you may find out that the end result is boring or offensive for your viewers. Whatever the case, it’s important to know whether your audience is likely to give your brand story a thumbs up before you launch it. Doing so increases the chance that your brand perception remains positive.
In some cases, the feedback will be positive, eliminating the need for any major edits. But often, it will open the door to constructive criticism that can help you polish up the story a little more. Embrace the criticism and listen to the feedback – it can make a huge difference in the long run.
8. Launch & Share
With everything greenlighted, you can start posting your brand story and sharing it across the internet. It’s important to rely on your marketing strategy for this one, as it will help you pick the right channels.
Don’t just focus on getting your story in front of your job seekers, though. You need to be intentional about sharing it with your employees too. The reason being: it will help them understand your brand, feel connected to your purpose, and share your story accurately with all those they come into contact with.
9. Keep Telling It
Your story doesn’t start and finish in one video or on one landing page. It extends as far and wide as your reach does. That means, you should actively look for ways to continue sharing your story with your audience.
Don’t just rehash the exact same information verbatim, though. Instead, actively and intentionally continue the conversation, by highlighting segments of your story in different digital spaces, frequently. Post portions on social media, discuss it in your blog posts, showcase it in your videos, and highlight it in your ads.
Each of your employees comes with their own story and experience. By uniting them behind a common brand story and making them key players in it, you can create a powerful network of voices speaking on behalf of your company to both your customers and job seekers.