How to Use Stories to Build Your Brand

Every brand has a story. It’s the reason you exist. It’s what you do. It’s the problem you help your customers solve and the aspirations you empower them to fulfill. Maybe you inspire people to have a positive impact on their community. Or you equip pastors to lead their congregations. Or you encourage people to be better parents.

Whatever your organization does, and whatever your story is, it’s not enough to simply tell people, “This is what we’re about.” You need to show them. And that’s what makes stories so powerful.

Stories pull real examples of people who have interacted with your brand and transform their experience into testimonies, case studies, and anecdotes that support your organization’s identity. And that’s where the magic happens. It gives other members of your audience the opportunity to picture themselves in the story. They connect what you do to what they want to do.

You can’t manufacture these stories. It has to happen organically. But if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll see that there are constantly opportunities to tell stories that reinforce your brand in natural ways.

Define your brand’s story

Whether you’ve defined it or not, your brand does have a story. With every ad, tweet, video, email, blog post, and landing page you create, you are communicating your brand to your audience. Defining your story is about bringing all of those disconnected messages under one umbrella. And until you define your story, you won’t know what stories you’re looking for.

So what is your story? It’s the meta-narrative that encompasses everything you do. It’s how you respond when someone asks, “What do you do?”

Your mission statement might already have a lot of overlap with your story. But mission statements are often aspirational, and they look ahead. Your story is the explanation for why your organization exists.

Once you know how to tell that story, you’ll know what kinds of stories you need to listen for.

Pay attention to your audience

You can find stories everywhere you interact with your audience. Sales and customer service calls. Social media. Blog comments. Email. Reviews. In some of these places, people are actively looking for opportunities to share about their experience with you. In others, your content may naturally draw it out of them.

When you tell your audience about the difference your product or service makes in their lives or their community, it may remind them of something else that had a similar impact. You can also solicit these stories directly, perhaps in a P.S. at the end of your email, a secondary call to action, or a dedicated post on social media.

Be on the lookout for customers and audience members who may have a greater story to tell. Ask follow-up questions and look for parallels to your brand’s story.

You aren’t just looking for customer success stories here, either. This is content marketing, not a sales pitch. If your story is about empowering people to be better parents, seek out uplifting stories about good parents who persevered through hard circumstances—whether they’re your customers or not!

Find the right way to amplify their stories

Once you’ve found a story that connects to your brand’s story, you need to find the right format to share it. What’s the right format? It depends on how much you have to work with, and how closely it ties into your organization.

If there’s a lot of backstory and it takes a lot of build up to make the story meaningful, then it’s probably worth a blog post, but it could also be worth experimenting with a long email or social post. Anything longer than 500 words or so should probably be a blog post.

For shorter stories (say 200 words or less), you’ll probably want to turn it into an email or social media post.

Anything that sounds like an ad for your product or service should probably be reserved for your testimonial page. You can still share these on social, but just be sure that you balance them with content people will find interesting without feeling like they’re reading an ad.

The key to crafting engaging stories your audience will love is to make it about the person in the story, not about you. Your audience will naturally associate the story with you, because you’re the one who told them about it, and it should clearly parallel your brand’s story.

What are the stories you should be telling?

Your audience wants to hear about people like them. They want to see people like them solving the problems they have and living the life they want. If you listen well and look for opportunities to seek out these stories, you’ll become the kind of brand your audience turns to for insight and inspiration, and you’ll build a reputation that keeps your brand’s story top-of-mind.