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How to Use Storytelling to Build Brand Awareness

How to Use Storytelling to Build Brand Awareness

By Tannette Johnson-Elie

Everybody has a story to tell and no two narratives are the same. For the small business entrepreneur trying to get noticed in an ever-evolving marketplace of ideas, good storytelling is critical to success.

A good story is one that compels buyers to take action by appealing to them based on their needs, while demonstrating how your company can solve their problems.

There’s a new breed of company that’s using storytelling in a powerful way to create brand awareness and boost their bottom-line as a result. Great examples are Red Bull, Starbucks and Zappos Shoes. These companies use compelling narratives to create brand loyalty and evangelism among their customers who, in turn, spread their stories primarily through word- of-mouth and social media.

We journalists know first-hand the power of storytelling in building one’s brand. For a decade, I penned a business column for a major daily newspaper in the Midwest that became one of the most-read articles on the paper’s interactive site. When I left the paper in 2009, my audience remained intact and still follows my writing today.

“Storytelling is a great way to connect your brand with your customers, both current and potential,” says Rieva Lesonsky, president of Growbiz Media, based in California. “It’s no longer about the big nameless corporation; people want to feel connected to a real company, run by real people.”

Lesonsky, a nationally known expert on entrepreneurship who can regularly be seen on MSNBC’s Your Business adds, “It’s a more authentic way to talk to people, rather than a slick ad. Storytelling also enables you to tell the story of your business—to show how it was started and that it is run by people just like your customers.”

Brian Moran, president of New York-based Moran & Associates, likes to use anecdotes that provide real-life personal examples that help him build an emotional connection to potential clients.

“I love to tell stories. I think anecdotes provide the best connections… to the people reading my posts,” said Moran who helps entrepreneurs manage and grow their businesses. “I empathize with what they might be going through or feeling at the time they are reading my story. Readers may memorize rules, but they remember stories.”

If your company is smaller but has a compelling story to tell, here are some tips to help you tell your story with flair:

Don’t ignore your inner voice

There’s a lot of noise out there in the online marketplace. If you’re going to get noticed, you have to set yourself apart. The key is to have something to say, and then find a unique way to say it.

“It requires creativity and imagination to tell elaborate stories that capture people’s attention,” Moran said. “Don’t ignore your inner voice. You will only wind up telling bad stories—and that will hurt your brand.”

Be real

Many entrepreneurs are afraid to be authentic out of fear they won’t look professional. Experts like Lesonsky advise entrepreneurs to be who they are. Don’t shy away from humor or personal experiences to gain people’s interest. But there’s a limit: Never discuss politics or religion and never insult or attack the opinions of others.

Use pictures to help tell your story

People relate to pictures. More than words, pictures are now are the center of most of our online interaction as we share and comment on the images posted by relatives, friends and colleagues.

Here’s proof: On Facebook, 250 million pictures are uploaded daily and a post that includes an album or picture receives 120-180% more engagement from fans than a text-based post, according to Social Media Examiner, an online social media magazine.

Talk about your failures

Instead of only painting a pie-in-the sky scenario, spice up your narrative by addressing your weaknesses and how you resolved them. People learn more from your mistakes than your successes. You’re more likely to win more customers if you reveal how your company fell on hard times and persevered, than if you paint too rosy of a picture.

Lesonsky of GrowBiz Media says, “Stories can be both educational and inspirational. They enable you to talk “one-on-one” to millions of people at the same time.”

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