“So what actually is brand storytelling?” This is a question that I get asked a lot. I spent a long (and by long I mean looooong) time thinking about how I wanted to describe myself when I relaunched as a business. The obvious description for what I do is “copywriter and content creator”. It’s what most people who do similar things call themselves, and I think most people know what those two things are. A copywriter creates the words for websites and other marketing materials, and a content creator, well, creates content – blog posts, newsletters, podcast scripts, social media posts etc.
Yet it didn’t feel quite right. It felt like I was only describing the end product, not the whole process. Nor did I feel like it really said anything about my specific approach, or my values and beliefs. So after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, I eventually settled on labelling myself a brand storyteller.
To me, the difference between brand storytelling and copywriting (and content creation), is the same difference as that between graphic design and branding. To put it very simply and reductively, graphic design is a pretty logo; branding is a process that ends in a pretty logo, but that logo stands for something. Good visual branding encapsulates and distills everything that you do, and everything that your business is about, into visual language. The design and visual elements say something about your business. Branding is more than design. Brand storytelling is more than words. The quantifiable end deliverables might be the same, a pretty logo or nice-sounding words, but with branding and brand storytelling they really mean something.
Brand storytelling isn’t just about selling people things through words, it’s about telling them what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and who you are as a person and business owner. And it does that by weaving a story through your copy and content.
Why do I believe in brand storytelling?
There are two things that I see and hear creative, small business owners (just like yourself) saying time and time again that they want to be able to do:
1) Stand out in what feels like a crowded, and increasingly pushy, marketplace.
2) Sell without feeling icky.
I firmly believe that brand storytelling is the answer to both of these things. Why? Because if you break it down, brand storytelling consists of two separate ideas: Branding and storytelling. And each one answers one of these problems.
The key, in my opinion, to standing out online is having a unique, well-thought-out, and substantial brand. If you think about the online creative business owners who are currently doing really well, they all have a strong brand. You don’t just know what they do, but also who they are and what they believe in. Think of Sara Tasker from Me & Orla, Jen Carrington, Sas Petherick, or Lucy Sheridan. You could describe each of these people without even mentioning the actual work that they do. Their brand is bigger, and stronger, than their work itself.
So what makes a strong brand? As I said above, I think it’s three things:
Unique: I see a lot of copycats online, people who borrow other people’s language and style because they think that if worked for that person then it will work for them. But it NEVER does. And it is, in my opinion, a fool’s errand because by not staying true to who you are, you’re really missing a trick. We are all unique. We all have different stories to tell and things to say, and if you don’t pull from this uniqueness then you won’t be creating a unique brand. And unique brands stand out.
Well-thought-out: I often think the biggest part of what I do is connecting the dots in a way that my clients can’t, mainly because they are the dots! A good brand pulls together the different strands of your business and your story into a cohesive whole. It might have different aspects to it, but they all fit neatly together.
Substantial: I’m a firm believer that brands should really stand for something, and should have a bigger mission behind them than simply making money. People don’t just want to buy stuff, they also want to buy why you make that stuff in the first place. I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk on this, Start with Why.
So how do you sell without feeling icky? This is something I’ve really struggled with myself. I hate the thought of selling to anyone, but I do also really believe that my packages can help other creative business owners build sustainable businesses. So the way around this, I’ve realised, is to simply tell stories. This blog post is a story. It’s the story of why I believe in brand storytelling. And there are lots of other stories on my website. My work with me page is the story of what it’s like to go through my process. My about page is the story of how I got here. My podcast, There Are Other Ways, is lots of other people’s stories.
Stories are how we connect to each other, as humans. We see ourselves, and identify, with certain parts of other people’s stories, and that builds a connection. And when you sell from a place of real connection, it feels good, not icky.
The process of brand storytelling.
Finally, I really like that brand storytelling describes a process that isn’t just about the writing. To me, copywriting is something that I go away and do on my own, whereas brand storytelling is much more of a co-creation process. Yes I do the writing part on my own (at my kitchen table with a large mug of coffee) but the process of working out exactly what your brand story is? That’s something that we do together. That is how, I think, you get a brand, and copy or content, that feels true to who you are and what you believe in. You can read more about this part of my process in this blog post, on why I include brand mapping in all my packages.
I’m very aware that brand storytelling is one of those phrases that is bandied around quite a bit, without anyone really knowing, or agreeing, what it actually means. But this is what I think it is, and why I believe in it so much. I just hope you can see why!