We love to hear good stories. You probably know “that guy” who commands the attention of everyone around him during a dinner party when he’s telling a story. He’s always with an entourage of people laughing and agreeing with just about everything he says. This might explain why when someone is telling you a good story, you may not even realize it. You are too fascinated with the actual story itself. That’s the power of a well-told story.
From a brand standpoint, storytelling allows a company to be “human” and being human is about having a real, honest connection with people, being transparent, responsive and above all accessible. We can all thank social media for that.
Your brand must empower employees to become storytellers, or rather brand journalists. Here’s why:
In 2013 Edelman conducted its 13th annual Trust Barometer and surveyed more than 31,000 consumers and informed publics in 26 markets around the world. The report measures the level of trust people have in institutions, industries, leaders and within specific verticals, and markets. When asked about trusted sources and credible spokespeople, respondents speak loud and clear about who they find credible when seeking information about a brand or company:
- 67 percent of informed publics surveyed find a technical expert in the company as credible.
- 61 percent of informed publics surveyed find “a person like yourself” as credible.
- 50 percent of informed publics surveyed find a regular employee in the company as credible.
These three groups of respondents are employees.
Additionally, 2012 research by the Society for New Communications Research titled the “Social Mind” surveyed 300 business professionals and found that by far the most frequent use of social media among business pros was interacting with their peers online – 65 percent of users participate to engage with a professional community of colleagues and peers via social media and 82 percent exchange with technical experts.
Through both of these studies, we can conclude that employees, technical experts and “people like yourself” are trusted and viewed as credible sources of information when communicating information about a company. We also know that business pros spend a lot of time in social networks interacting with others, seeking advice and looking for information. By combining these two pieces of research, it makes sense to empower your employees to engage online with customers, especially if you work in a B2B environment. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership, influence others through the buying cycle and feed the content engine with relevant and trusted information. It also provides an opportunity to have employees become brand journalists.Your brand must empower employees to become storytellers, or rather brand journalists.
Brand journalism is much more than employees tweeting or sharing company news on Facebook. It’s about finding good stories about the brand, its products or employees and using long-form content to tell a story. There is no real difference between an employee brand advocate and a brand journalist. One just has superior writing skills and can tell better stories.
One of the earliest references of brand journalism came from Larry Light, McDonald’s CMO, at the 2004 AdWatch conference where he proclaimed that mass marketing no longer worked and no single approach told the whole story:
Brand Journalism is a chronicle of the varied things that happen in our brand world, throughout our day, throughout the years. Our brand means different things to different people. It does not have one brand position. It is positioned differently in the minds of kids, teens, young adults, parents and seniors. It is positioned differently at breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, weekday, weekend, with kids or on a business trip.
Light’s speech didn’t go over well with everyone. Seth Godin, marketing genius and author of over 12 best-selling marketing books responded in a blog post just a few days later saying, “It’s not really brand journalism that’s happening, you see. It’s brand cocktail party! You get to set the table and invite the first batch of guests, but after that the conversation is going to happen with or without you.”
And Godin was absolutely right. Back in 2004, brands were still confused about how to use social media to actually have a conversation. Today, things are different. Brands are getting smarter.
The philosophy of brand journalism is simple. It’s about combining the core tenets of journalism with brand storytelling, thereby creating conversational value to all stakeholders, both customers and the media. The idea of brand journalism is easy to comprehend whether you agree with it or not. The execution isn’t. In Your Brand: The Next Media Company, I provide a detailed framework that will help you transition your brand into a media company where your employees (and customers) can help you tell the brand story.