November 23, 2009 – The term “storytelling” gets thrown around a lot in the worlds of public relations and branding, but what does it really mean? How can a brand tell a story? With the Internet so centrally focused on communication in addition to the power and extensive reach of social media, stories have taken on an invaluable importance in our perspective of the brands and companies we frequent…as well as the ones we don’t. But let me explain it another way…
Once upon a time the world was filled with companies large and small. The small companies were only known to the locals who would stop in for purchases and perhaps talk to their neighbors about the quality of the service and products they received. Large companies were known nationally and sometimes internationally, but no one really knew them. They were large and anonymous entities that people learned of mostly through advertising, and few stories were told other than a complaint here and there, a tale of a particularly nice sales associate, and so on.
Then one day the Internet appeared and suddenly consumers and their favorite companies, both large and small (and everyone in between) became closer together. When customers purchased an item, they told all of their friends about it on Facebook along with stories about their shopping experience. Suddenly everyone began talking, not just friends and relatives, but strangers who met on social networks and online forums and blog comment sections, oh my!
The smart brands got involved in the storytelling too, informing customers new and old about their value as a company and putting a personal touch on a brand that was once considered distant and mythical. Other brands ignored the stories, letting customers control their brand image online and staying as distant and anonymous as ever.
The brands who ignored their storytelling suffered greatly as they lost the value they had worked so hard to gain as well the customers who left the mythical and distant companies for brands that had lifted the veil of secrecy and started communicating directly with their customers, letting the person behind the curtain come out and say hello.
And the brands with all of their amazing stories and the customers who delighted in hearing and sharing them, well, they all lived happily ever after.
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