The difference between your ‘brand story’ and brand storytelling

Ever wondered what your Brand Story actually is? And whether it’s the same thing as Brand Storytelling? This episode is here to clarify exactly that, along with a workflow to help you start infusing stories into your business content.

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

What’s up my friends? This episode is all about the difference between your brand story and brand storytelling because yes, there is a difference. I’m also going to go into why brand storytelling is so flippin’ powerful and tell you a little bit about the science behind it as well. Right at the end of this episode, I’m also going to share a workflow with you so that you can actually start using stories in your business, primarily in your content creation. So do make sure you listen to the end.

So to start, let’s just talk about what a brand story is, or a couple other ways that I see it defined in the online space. So typically, I see a brand story as referencing your founders story or your origin story. Essentially, it is the story of how your brand came to be. And on some level, it usually reflects the journey that you actually take your customers on as well. I typically see this as a great tool to use for PR and also for your about page on your website, that kind of thing, anywhere that you really want to introduce your brand powerfully by sharing your brand story. Now the other way that it’s dominantly defined is by the book Story Brand by Donald Miller. Now in that book, it describes your brand story as essentially your customer story or your client story, which you can then use to sell your products or services. Now both of these things like the typical brand story or origin story and the story brand. They’re both structured in such a way that they ultimately take you through some variation of the hero’s journey to ultimately describe where you started or where your customer is right now and the journey that either you or they go on to reach that point of transformation. Now, just to say both your customer story and your brand or origin story are great to have, and they can be incredibly useful tools.

In my own one to one service, we do cover both of these things. However, with both of them, there is an inherent stumbling block that I see people come up against time and time again. And that’s this. When we create these things, we essentially create some perfectly edited paragraphs or sentences. And we get really particular about the word choice, about the way that we frame the story is that it’s really tactical and applicable, and essentially refine the thing until it reaches its ultimate form. Now because of this, it typically means that they do work great for things like press articles, like I mentioned earlier, or if you’re able to reproduce the full version on your website about page or just peppered throughout a sales page. But as business owners, we generally have to create a lot more content than just a website sales page, or just a singular article in a magazine. At this point, that perfectly edited series of sentences or paragraphs can often start to feel more restrictive than they do helpful, because we’ve spent so long obsessing over the words and making sure that we include the right bits and edit down the wrong bits. It really gives the impression that you can actually get this wrong. After all, you’ve spent so long deciding which specific words to use, to change them feels counterintuitive. But you still know that story is a really powerful way to connect to your customers and your clients and your audience. So what are you meant to do? Well enter brand storytelling. Now brand storytelling is essentially the skill and practice of being able to take any story and make it relevant to your brand, which is what I want to walk you through in the rest of this episode. And it is a skill my friend, one that can be learned, practised and improved upon. So I don’t want you entertaining any of those thoughts like, “I’m not a storyteller”, or “I’m not creative enough to do that” because I’m calling BS right now. Because if you’re human, you are a storyteller. It’s how you’re naturally wired. Unfortunately, though, throughout our education, our storytelling and natural flair for creativity tends to get conditioned out of us as we learn to write essays and scientific papers. And in school, we tend to get judged by a very narrow set of criteria, which leaves little to no room for creative expression. But just because in your head you haven’t told stories in a long time, doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to do it.

As some anecdotal evidence for this, I spent this past weekend back at my Mum’s house with my family, which included my five year old nephew. Now I’ll save you the details of how we arrived at this point in the conversation as it’s not important, but sat on the sofa after our lunch, I found myself suddenly riffing back and forth with Harry, my nephew, about how he had got there to my mom’s that day, and according to him and watched it everyone else’s amusement and pleasure, he had got the number 20 bus and he’d paid the bus driver who was called Barry £20 to get here. His sister and parents, however, had walked. Now I know that doesn’t sound funny, me repeating it back now. But with each question I asked, and his random witty response, we co-created a story of everyone else around us to listen to and enjoy. He very clearly understood the game we were playing together. As each cheeky little response and smile was clearly calculated for maximum entertainment I could see his little face light up as the rest of the family laughed around us. This is storytelling, right? Yes, in this instance, we were playing make believe together. But if a five year old can do it, you can do it too.

So pep talk over, let’s get into it. Now the reason I’m a massive advocate for brand storytelling and for telling stories in business is for a few reasons. Firstly, there’s an incredible TED Talk by David Phillips, who goes into this and it’s called the magical science of storytelling. I do highly recommend you watch it, but in short he describes how storytelling has scientifically been shown to elevate the production of three key hormones in your body, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which in turn, creates a unique bond between the storyteller and the audience. Dopamine significantly impacts our focus, motivation, memory and reward response behaviour. What this means is that when you’re telling a story, your audience will be significantly more engaged than if you were just delivering facts that didn’t elevate the dopamine response. Because of this, they’re much more likely to actually remember you and what you’re talking about, and also be primed to take action from that. Oxytocin, which is also known as the love hormone, has been shown to impact bonding behaviour and create empathy and trust between the storyteller and the listener. Again, this is key to building a solid relationship between you and your audience. And finally, endorphins or endolphins, as me and my husband like to call them for no real reason. When endorphins (or endolphins) reach our limbic system, we experience pleasure and satisfaction. And the limbic system is also the oldest part of our brain, and it’s responsible for emotion and is also where we make our decisions. Knowing this, we can use stories to elevate endorphin levels. And really, this is critical in helping our audience make decisions about whether to take action with us.

Now I get that that was all very sciency. But I have no doubt that you’ll have experienced this feeling yourself, hearing someone tell a story about themselves or something they’ve experienced makes you feel more connected to them. It’s pleasurable to immerse yourself in a story, even if it’s a sad one. And even if you don’t remember the details, you will remember the gist of what happened and how it made you feel. This is why the entertainment industry is thriving more than ever, because we love listening to stories. But even more powerful than this, I’m convinced there’s going to have been a time in your life when hearing a story has changed your behaviour. Even if you’re not conscious of it, like hearing a story about a girl who maybe got her drink spiked in a bar and what happened to her, that might make you start covering the top of your glass more religiously. And in a business context. There are actually whole businesses that are built around a story. And they use that to motivate behaviour change, just like the 5am Club. I believe it’s Robin Sharma? He proposes that getting up at 5am every morning will make you a more successful person with plenty anecdotal evidence, why? And it’s not hearing facts about this that drive that decision to change and to start getting up at 5am. It’s going to be hearing the story of someone like us who started getting up at 5am and then seeing how their life changed as a result of it.

And to be honest, we can even do a little experiment right now. So can you remember the specific effects of each of the storytelling hormones that I mentioned? And what each one of them is responsible for off the top of your head? No? Well, can you remember this story I told you about my nephew earlier in this podcast episode? I guess would be Yeah. Bringing it back to business again, and content creation, the role of our content is ultimately to facilitate the building relationship between ourselves and our audience. And to also make us memorable, so that if our audience ever do think about the problem they’re experiencing, we are the ones that come to mind as someone able to help, okay. And the second reason that I advocate for storytelling in business is that quite honestly, it’s just good fun. It makes creating content fun, because we get to flex our creative muscles. And when content creation feels fun, then it’s much much easier to stay consistent with it, because we want to do it. And it also actually makes us un-copy-able. Because even though people might try, it’s really hard to copy someone’s personal stories with heavy conviction or impact. Should a competitor listen to this podcast episode, for example, they would be able to take the basic facts which I shared about storytelling and the effects of it on the brain, which can all be found on Google anyway. But they would have to come up with their own examples and a way of talking about it to illustrate the point, which honestly is good for me as it protects my work. But it’s also good for them too, as it will make them a better business owner and storyteller.

Now in this last bit of the episode, I just want to share my workflow with you for creating content that is infused with storytelling. And this can happen one of two ways. Now the first way is to start with a point that you want to make and that you think will be useful and helpful for your audience to understand and remember. This podcast episode is a prime example. One of the points I made is that storytelling is inherently natural for us to do and that we are all natural born storytellers. So to illustrate this, I just quite simply thought about what stories do I have in my life to demonstrate this, which is why I told you about my nephew, Harry. But let’s say you’re a personal trainer, and you want to make a point about why exercise is good for mental health. Simply think of a story about when this has been true for you. And it doesn’t have to be some grand example by the way, it might literally be about the day you’re having right now, how you woke up and couldn’t be bothered and felt really, really low and just didn’t want to show up or make content. So you got your ass to the gym, did a workout and now you’ve written six posts in the last hour, because you’re so pumped. If you’re a maker, and you sell products, and you want to make a point about how your product benefits someone’s life. Literally just think of a time when this was true. Let’s say you sell reusable nappies. And while yes, it is a bit more of a faff than using disposable nappies, when you were able to book a weekend away with the family from the money you saved. You’d say that extra bit of faff was defo worth it, it’s really that simple. You just have to figure out the point you’re trying to make and then think of a time when this point was evident in your life or the life of your customers or clients.

Now the other way to really easily infuse storytelling into your content creation, is to really just notice the world around you. Take note of the stories that are happening to you as they occur and then consider how this can be linked back to your business message. And this is the method I use for every single email I write by the way. So for example, this week, I had to fill out some paperwork so that my husband and I could renew our mortgage on a flat, that we part own in London and can’t sell because of the cladding debacle. Now, I’m not going to go into that, but as part of this mortgage meeting, I had to calculate the total turnover I’ve made in my business these last three years. And quite honestly, the number astounded me. Yes, because on one hand, it was higher than I expected. But also because recently with it being slow during summer, which again, I also did know that would happen and I’ve talked about that in a previous episode. But I’ve been starting to buy into this internal story that ‘I didn’t know how to make money’ and that ‘no one wanted to buy my stuff’. Now I knew this wasn’t a true story. But still, my brain likes to wind me up sometimes. But, by gathering this data for the mortgage, it turns out that I have over £150,000 worth of evidence that says otherwise. Because that’s how much money I’ve made since I’ve started business. This for me was a perfect example of the power of storytelling. Yes, it was in context of the stories that we tell ourselves, but still it was on message for me that meant it was a perfect thing for me to write about in my email.

Another example I’ll give here is actually one that came from one of my recent in person workshops that I ran, and it’s about a lady who’s a coach. We were talking about this exact point of using storytelling in business and I asked her about what some of the key messages that she wanted to share were and she mentioned about the importance of resilience and management of emotions. I then invited her to keep an eye out for any stories that might demonstrate this point. Now after the workshop, I actually bumped into her outside where she told me she’d got a parking ticket. And that this was the perfect example that she could use for managing emotions. That is just a story that was perfect for her. Now, the key to making this easy for yourself is by being extremely clear on the message that you’re trying to share with your audience. So that you can essentially programme your brain to be on alert for any possible story moments. And I promise you that once you start thinking like this, you’ll see story moments everywhere.

Now, that’s where I’m going to leave it for today. But I just wanted to mention that if you do need help with any of this, then one of my 90 minute brand message intensive sessions will be perfect to help you get started. We’ll create enough clarity around your key message. And then really figure out how you can start to communicate this through storytelling. We’ll identify three to five key points that you want to start making to your audience on a regular basis. And then I’ll ask you all the right questions to dive into possible story moments from your life already that you can share to really demonstrate this in action. And also, we’ll talk about other potential ways that you can keep an eye out for this in your everyday life so that you can make content creation easy. You can book in one of these sessions via this link.

The key takeaway for you from this episode really is that storytelling in business isn’t just about coming up with some perfectly edited set of sentences or paragraphs that you can only use once. It’s about infusing the magical power of storytelling into everything that you put out there so that your marketing efforts are not only more impactful, but also so that it’s more enjoyable for both your audience and for you to. Now go get creative, take messy action, and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun with it.