Four Secrets to Brilliant Storytelling

3 min read

I’ve read a lot of stories over the years, both good and bad. I was a creative writing major in college, which by default meant I spent many hours critiquing my classmates’ work, some of which was promising, but most of which was unpolished or underdeveloped. After graduating, I worked at a traditional advertising agency and learned to tell stories through all forms of communication from pictures to thirty seconds of recorded voice to 140 characters.

Along the way, I did pick up a few secrets I keep in mind while writing for a client or building my own personal brand. Here goes.

Know your brand.

First and foremost, you must know your brand in order to tell your organization’s story. Understand your organization’s mission and how it applies to communications to your stakeholders and across different media. If you are a young organization, it may take awhile to fully develop and communicate your mission, but that’s ok. Strategy workshops and group brainstorms, conversations with stakeholders, and trial and testing will help you get to the place where you intimately know your brand. And that’s when the storytelling becomes easy! Think about your own personal story: as you get older and gain more confidence in who you are, you’re more likely to voice an opinion or speak your mind. The same is true for writing your brand’s story.

Know your audience.

Every time you write a piece, you should remind yourself who your audience is. Don’t hang up the phone with your best friend and start writing something for your organization. If you do, you may run the risk of writing like you’re casually chatting over coffee, when you should adopt a more serious tone. When you sit down to write, think about who you are speaking to and begin outlining your story with them in mind. Everything from specific word use to the length of your story will change depending on your audience. If you are still figuring out who your audience may be, creating buyer personas is the place to start. They are essential for any organization that wants to keep its writing (or marketing) resonant, relevant and on target. If you need some help, download our workbook on how to create buyer personas.

Have a distinguished voice.

To become distinguished, you must understand your brand voice and your audience. Aimee Bender, a novelist and fiction writer does this particularly well. She has an extremely unique voice, and one that is consistent and strong. Her writing unabashedly portrays a world upside down, with surreal plot lines and crazy characters, but she never strays from her voice. She’s not writing in silly, goofy prose one chapter and then changing her tone to a factual one the next. Find your voice and stick with it. Everything from tweets to website copy to blog posts should exude your organization’s voice.

Remember: We are humans.

If you aren’t speaking to humans in your writing, you are doomed. Your story is going to fall flat. While writing anything surrounding your organization remember you are speaking to other humans! Stuffy, boring language is not going to gain any support, but writing in a personalized way will. One example to look at for some inspiration: McDonald’s. They are adapting their voice with the times and writing a story to speak to their audience. Their jingle and tagline, “I’m lovin’ it,” is still around, yet their approach has changed. They are appealing to humans with a campaign asking arch enemies to share their chicken fingers and milkshakes with one another. In a time when the world seems a bit dark and full of hate, they are bringing out the love. McDonald’s is speaking to humans, rather than pushing milkshakes and french fries.

Keep these few things in mind and your organization’s story will begin to weave itself through every piece of content you create. Lastly, remember to enjoy the process. It can be a challenge, but getting through it is half the fun.