The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

The power of storytelling in leadership
Brand Learning
Brand Learning

Storytelling is everywhere you look and has been for centuries. Whether it is at home with kids or sharing stories about your career designed to inspire and excite your team or stories helping communicate the core of a brand or business, storytelling helps bring reality to life in a compelling and engaging way and when used well can be so powerful.

Within a business context, Facebook has thrust storytelling centre stage. The introduction of Facebook Timelines meant that companies were forced to develop a strategy for organising and curating their histories and stories contained therein, in readiness for a very public outing.

Brands such as Burberry were among those who launched Timelines, working closely with Facebook, and have done a spectacular job of bringing their histories to life. Facebook is of course an inherently visual platform and it has been interesting to see how it has forced brands to evaluate and evolve their stories supplemented by iconic images that might have been lying dormant in their archives for decades.

If we look at storytelling in a wider business and corporate context, it’s clear that Facebook has plenty to teach us. The fundamentals of storytelling are laid down for all to see in its Timelines model. Values such as authenticity, clarity, simplicity and engagement are fundamental to great storytelling.

The business case for corporate storytelling is clear cut and marketers must play a leading role in drawing out and developing content that will inspire internal and external stakeholders.

There are two other areas where great storytelling comes into play; each and every business leader must grow their own personal story; and every great brand must weave a storyline that excites and motivates consumers to purchase. Importantly, the three story strands, corporate, brand and personal must dovetail and be in sync with each other. Innocent is a great example of this at play. From the slightly quirky personal backgrounds of the founders and how they conceived of the idea for the business, right through to the engaging personality of the brand and how it chooses to communicate itself.

While many marketing leaders spent their time and energy focusing on brand and corporate storytelling, far too few of them stop to consider and plan their personal stories. Brand Learning’s role developing the Marketing Leaders Programme with The Marketing Society teaches us time and again that the senior marketers who most inspire and educate our participants are those who have crafted an authentic personal story that truly communicates what it takes to be an outstanding marketing leader.

Here's a few of my top tips:

  • Authenticity is a given, but know your roots and acknowledge where you have come from
  • Above all, be true to yourself
  • Be clear on how to evolve your past into your present and future story
  • Know which aspects to focus on but without denying the whole of the story
  • Be positive and use language that is concrete
  • Avoid jargon and opaque vocabulary that hides the real meaning of your message
  • Cite examples from your experience and use language to create images.

I believe that everyone can learn to tell their own, company and brand story in an engaging and inspiring way. Indeed I would go as far as to say that it is the duty of every business and marketing leader to learn the art of storytelling and to perfect it over time!

This post is by Michele McGrath, Partner & Chief Operating Officer at Brand Learning.

Subjects: Marketing, Digital, Brands

24 October 2012 18:26

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