Corporate Storytelling: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Gordon Meagher

Gordon Meagher Head of Organic Marketing at Tailor Brands

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

No one can resist a good story. We love the way a story moves forward, pulling us along for a wild, unexpected ride. A good story chews us up and spits us right back out again, taking us on a rollercoaster riddled with plot twists and gripping suspense.

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But a good story isn’t just about the things that happen. It’s also about the way meaning is invested into the story. It’s about the significance of the events and the characters. A good story resonates with us emotionally, making us care deeply about the central characters and root for their success.

What is corporate storytelling?

Companies draw more appeal when they’re the central character of a good story. All companies have a history—a founder with an idea, a mission or purpose; the obstacles and successes along the way. The key to building a corporate story is to present those facts in a way that reads less like a textbook and more like an engaging book or movie.

Corporate storytelling means taking the facts and figures of normal business communication and tying them together with a relatable narrative that contextualizes the events and gives meaning to the company mission.

Storytelling is a fundamental part of developing your brand identity, whether through the look and feel of your site, the way you interact with your customers, or the words and phrases you use to talk about your brand.

Taking a look at the way other companies tell their stories—the events they emphasize, the characters they focus on, and the way they make their products relatable—can be great inspiration for how you want to tell your own corporate story.

Cosmetics company Burt’s Bees presents its founder, Burt, as a character who works with his hands and lives off the land. Their website even gives users virtual access to Burt’s rural log cabin. Using this story, the brand has cultivated an image of itself as natural, eco-friendly, and community-oriented.

Tech company IBM similarly uses storytelling to its advantage. Rather than simply presenting its AI computing technologies as a matter of advancement in the tech world, IBM contextualizes AI by emphasizing the role it plays in detecting cancer.

The key building blocks of corporate storytelling

Now that you understand what corporate storytelling is, we’ll discuss the key elements that make up the backbone of corporate storytelling. Using these elements, you can turn a pile of facts about your company into a compelling narrative.

  • Authenticity - Creating a good story isn’t about changing the facts; it’s about choosing which facts to emphasize and which events to string together. A successful corporate story prioritizes the facts and events that are directly related to the story’s message.
  • Trajectory - The sequence of events should have a logical flow that is easily understood by your audience. This doesn’t mean starting from the very beginning though; often, your story is more exciting when you start in the middle!
  • Descriptive language - Facts should be presented in a way that helps the reader understand the story and the mission. A story should emphasize emotions and visuals over tables and pie charts.
  • Conflict and suspense - An effective corporate story shows your central character or your company overcoming challenges and obstacles. The obstacles can range from anything from structural challenges to the “bad guy.”
  • Strong characters and purpose - Having relatable characters and a worthy goal will lead your audience to be emotionally invested in your story. A good story makes your audience empathize with your central characters and want your mission to succeed.
  • Insights and realizations - A compelling story highlights insights, morals, and lessons learned. A good corporate story reveals the realizations along the way that helped the company find its purpose and achieve its goals.

Why your company needs storytelling

Corporate storytelling is not only a necessary strategy for marketing yourself to potential customers, but also the best way to gain the attention of investors, make partnerships, and establish yourself in the industry. On top of that, storytelling is an excellent way to onboard new employees who care deeply about your company’s products and mission.

Without a good story, a company has no context. Context is important because it lets people know why they should care about your company and your product. Your product wasn’t created for its own sake; it was created to solve a relevant problem. Now, go out there and tell the world.

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