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Be the brand story people want to read about

10th February 2021

Picture the scene. You’re a passionate tech entrepreneur. You kick off an investor meeting by highlighting your recent campaign from The Times. If you’re in The Times, you’re doing something that a hugely influential newspaper considers important. You’re doing something right. You’re already halfway closer to securing the backing you need.

Words are powerful, even more so when written by reputable journalists for news outlets at the forefront of the industry everyday. Such journalists filter through the noise to find truly interesting tech businesses and tell their stories. 

The true power of storytelling is seen across many big industry titans, famously including the likes of Apple. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple from his stint at Pixar, he transformed the business with a focus on storytelling because he knew that creating an engaging narrative would connect with customers.

New technology often has the potential to create true movements that help tell unique stories to the media. But only those who spend the time defining their story and messaging will gain the traction that they need to create a rallying campaign which gains widespread momentum.

Every person, whether industry peers, your dream customer or your future hires, wants to be excited and inspired by stories. Telling your story is critical to your brand.

So think about what your ‘reason for being’ is, your purpose in the world. Even if your product or idea isn’t a first, the story you can tell around it is one of your most powerful differentiators – this helps define the movement that you are trying to create.

Creating an engaging story doesn’t have to cost the earth but can take time to master. It requires a mix of emotional and cultural insight and an understanding of the craft of storytelling.

Based on our experience, here are some key things to consider when thinking about your brand story.

Be authentic and consistent

No matter what, your story has to be based in reality and you need to be committed to it. As a startup it can be tempting to take every opportunity to showcase yourself in places that are really far removed from what you stand for, but brands who stay committed to their story and vision will be the brands that stick around long past their competitors.

Headspace, the meditation app, is one to watch for authenticity. During the COVID outbreak, it created a website of resources to help people with anxiety. They even offered free access to frontline workers. This is actually something very simple, but you can see a clear link between the brand and why it is consistent with its story and mission.

Clarity is key

The technology industry, or any industry for that matter, is rife with jargon. It’s important to keep clarity front of mind. There is a phrase in PR, that if you can’t explain it to a six year old, you’re not explaining it well enough. We think this applies for brand storytelling too, do not make it complicated, as you risk patronising your audience. You should never make people feel like they’re not smart enough for your products.

OLIO is an app for food-sharing, which has a mission to help reduce food waste. OLIO’s no nonsense messaging helps tell its story in a refreshingly clear way – “On OLIO, you’ll find millions of people giving away food & other household items to their neighbours, all for free. Fight waste. Help your neighbours. Save our planet. Feel amazing!” Clear as day.

Be the problem solver

People will often buy brand stories that are tailored towards helping solve their problems, so you need to show your customers why they need your product or service in their lives. We recommend taking the time to work out what your customers’ problems might be, and how you think you solve them – it helps tell your story in a much more engaging way. 

While Uber has seen its controversies, it disrupted an entire sector in need of a shake up. People often felt that taxis were too expensive, not to mention difficult to flag down at times. Uber created a clear solution to these problems that quickly found root. As a result the business grew at an incredible speed.

Let the customers do the talking

Your customers can help drive your business and using their story can create powerful messages. Start a conversation with them, show them that they are important to you and ask them whether they want to be part of the story. The media also love customer focused stories, or case studies, and they can be a powerful driver for coverage.

Last year, with a Halloween unlike one we had ever experienced, Twitter teamed up with a social agency to highlight its users’ amusing and relatable Tweets around London, which it featured on billboards. The campaign epitomised everything fun and unique about Twitter by leveraging the voice of its users.

Make sure you give back

While we wouldn’t expect all businesses to start giving away 20% of their revenue, giving back and aligning yourself with important causes that you stand for and being engaged in good ethical practice will let customers and the community see you in a positive light. It’s more important now, than ever.

Let’s look at Joe Wicks, who built his now behemoth brand through social media. He used an opportune moment to unite people with something he and his brand passionately stand for, staying fit and healthy, by creating simple daily exercise routines to engage communities, which turned him into a national hero.

James Wright is an Account Director at Alfred London