Are you a storyteller?

At a recent client brainstorming meeting about brand journalism and how we could better tell the story of the organization, there was a senior staff member that was clearly not engaged in the process. For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll call her VP Skeptical. She sat back with her arms folded, checked her BlackBerry every minute or so, and in pure Survivor Tribal Council fashion – rolled her eyes when someone else said something that she didn’t agree with. Yet VP Skeptical didn’t speak up. So I asked her what she felt was the best story they could tell. Her response was interesting. She said (with a little bit of sarcasm in her voice): “I just don’t see the value in any of this. Why can’t we just buy an ad?”

That was an interesting comment and one I felt we had to address. As communicators, we often see the value and rationale for telling an organization’s story through a range of approaches such as media relations, videos, articles, etc. Not everyone’s brain works that way and it’s important to engage in discussion around this.

The goal with brand journalism is to authentically tell a story with the objective of informing and engaging the organization’s stakeholder group and transitioning them from awareness to trial to advocacy. You want to move a stakeholder’s perception of your organization to a spot when they talk about your brand positively and within the context of it being a valuable part of their life. Once the stakeholder takes your product, service or brand into their own story – exposure and reputation increase greatly.

The online world and social media have given everyone – organizations, stakeholders and consumers – the opportunity to tell a brands’ story (good and bad) through a range of tools (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, online communities, and more). This makes it more important for an organization to be telling their own story, making sure the information out there is accurate, credible and reflects the brand positioning in the right way. And to get great stories, it becomes important to gather them from a range of sources because a) the communications team can’t be everywhere at once and b) different people within your organization will bring a range of stories.

In this discussion, it was clearly acknowledged that advertising is an important component of the marketing mix for this organization. It was also put forward that public relations and brand journalism are also important – yet different – parts of the marketing mix and provide opportunities for conversations with stakeholders to share human interest stories and to create an emotional connection between stakeholders and the organization.

One of the action items that came out of this meeting was that the organization is going to undertake a marketing communications audit. VP Skeptical wants to know what others in the organization think about how they currently tell their story. She wants the audit to address specific questions about advertising, communications such as PR, what is seen in the media, how their social media outreach is perceived, etc.

Once again, I saw that skepticism can be a good thing. It pushes all of us to ask the question: What is the value in this? It is always important to showcase the value, and showcasing it to skeptics makes it an interesting process that also allows us to learn.

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