‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’
When Joan Didion wrote these words in her perspicacious observations of the late 1960s, The White Album, she was addressing one of most prolific art forms that would shape the modern world—storytelling.
Today, more than ever, in an era where the rapid rate of communication has become so accelerated through social media, digital publishing and mobile communication technologies—storytelling has become a quintessential voice for every creative, business or professional.
I consider myself a brand storyteller. I tell the stories of products and services, causes and people. Through my training as a writer, a cultural observer and a communication strategist, I have learned to capture the essence of a brand in narrative form.
The truth is, today brands must tell their stories today in order to live.
Here’s why you should tell yours.
Very few things are consistent across cultures, but storytelling is. It’s how we pass on our history, shape the modern consciousness, or argue for change. In common creative forms, we see stories told as novels, as films, in graphic design, as songs or in pieces of art. Each of these captures the emotional core of what it is to be human, and adds the artist’s or auteur’s own perspective.
But, people and businesses tell stories, too. Through their LinkedIn profile, or their company website, their choice of logo, photography or style of social media, a story is being told about who you are and what you stand for, many times over. Do you know what story you’re telling?
When you tell a story, you are giving your audience entertainment or enlightenment, insight or just a depth of understanding about your worldview. It’s emotive, it’s compelling, and it’s why businesses or professionals who know their story and how to tell it are able to deeply engage their audience.
What is your story?
Since we were very young, we’ve each used stories to understand the world. To learn from the tales of others, to see different aspects to a character, to feel belonging or form our own identity.
Women often struggle with self-promotion—with telling their story to others. We ask ourselves: ‘What makes my story worth hearing?’ As you delve into your creativity and get to know what your passions are, you will better get to know yourself and the chapters in your story. Enjoy the process, and find your voice.
Your story has a narrative—your beginning, middle and end. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as a starting point:
- Why did you begin?
- What inspires you, or influences your creative expression?
- What do you want to achieve, or what would bring you happiness?
These are the main acts of your current story. You don’t have to tell yours through words. It may be through images on Instagram, sketching, fabrics or fashion. There are so many ways a story can be told. The most important thing is to tell it clearly and consistently—and to make sure it’s yours.
What your business can learn from storytelling.
Brand storytelling is a powerful tool. Every brand that’s ever succeeded has a clear story. Nike tells us to ‘just do it’—take on life, be active, don’t make excuses. Apple wants us to ‘think different’—evolve how you use technology, change how you live. Kit-Kat wants you to take a break, and enjoy a simple little treat, no fuss. There are many more, but the real question is: what is your brand’s story?
What is your business asking its customers to do? How does your story guide them and inspire them? How are your values communicated through your story? What does it say about you?
If you’ve never thought much about storytelling, or simply thought of it as a tool just for writers, I hope this article might inspire a different view. Look around, and you’ll start to see stories everywhere. As you move through your own creative journey, be aware of your story, and start to tell it. When you do, it will change how you connect with people, and how they perceive both you and your business.
Keeva heads up Quip Brands, an agency of brand storytellers and strategists. They work with a range of different businesses to help them tell their stories through their brand, or for various creative executions. Quip Brands also help businesses develop a clear and coherent brand strategy, so they are best able to connect and engage with their audience.