Storytelling and Content Marketing: How to Use Your Brand’s Story to Boost Your Reputation

You know exactly how your brand is different from the competition. You have heart and soul where other companies only care about the bottom line, and your offices are packed full of people who are passionate about the work you do.

But there’s a problem: You might know how your brand stands out, but your customers and other critical audiences don’t.

It’s not enough for consumers to know you exist; they need to understand the values and mission that drive your company. Many companies think the answer to brand awareness is to post about their products and services 24/7, but that’s not the best strategy. A BuzzStream survey found that 45 percent of respondents will unfollow a brand that’s too self-promotional on social media, which decreases your brand awareness and harms your reputation. Of course, not all self-promotion is bad. But it’s hard to like a brand that’s only focused on itself—and likeability is key to building your brand’s reputation.

Hootsuite recommends following the rule of thirds: one-third self-promotional content, one-third sharing ideas from relevant thought leaders, and one-third personal interactions that build your brand. The good news: this balanced combination can be the first step toward a likable brand.

That same BuzzStream survey shows that the number one reason people follow a company is that they simply like the brand. Your brand can become likable by showing consumers your company’s authentic personality and values. You need to tell your story.

The same values that drive your business mission should also shine through in your brand voice. It’s worth putting in the work to create a consistent voice that humanizes your brand and creates a trustworthy reputation.

A survey conducted by CEB and Google found that customers prefer brands that demonstrate personal values and emotional appeal, rather than a purely rational sales approach. This holds true even among B2B consumers, who are “more than twice as likely to consider a brand that shows personal value over business value,” reports Marketing Week. It may seem unnatural to incorporate personal values into your business branding, but stories are a simple way to bridge the divide between business and personal.

When it comes to branding, storytelling and content marketing go hand in hand. By making intentional storytelling part of your content strategy, you’ll be able to increase brand awareness and boost your company’s reputation all at once. Use these five ideas to get started sharing your brand’s unique story.

1. Share Your Origin Story

If you want others to see the heart of your brand, you need to start at the beginning. Sharing your origin story through social media and other content is a great way to build likability while communicating your brand values. Many brands have humble beginnings, which makes your company instantly relatable to your audience as they get to know the people behind the brand.

This is your time to let your brand’s unique voice shine while trotting out the “why” behind your company. As Kissmetrics points out, your brand shouldn’t exist solely to make money. What’s the deeper reason behind the founding of your company? Look to successful examples like Toms (changing lives one pair of shoes at a time) or Patagonia (encouraging adventure and exploration) for inspiration.

You’re asking customers to participate in your brand’s story when they engage with your company by becoming a follower or making a purchase. Make sure it’s a story with heart that people feel good about opting into!

2. Humanize Your Brand Voice

People are no longer drawn to stuffy brands that hide behind jargon, technical lingo, and vague mission statements that don’t mean anything. This “professionalism” of decades past is now just a barrier between you and your customers. Your company is made up of people, and people are the ones buying from you, so why would you want to sound like a robot?

The better tactic is to build a genuine brand voice using a tone that connects with your audience personas and represents your brand’s personality. Dozens of factors influence the tone of your brand voice, from sentence length to your use of contractions and slang. Consider accounting software Freshbooks, which uses phrases like “customer support rockstars” and “ridiculously easy to use” to connect with their target audience. Choose a handful of words that represent the tone you’re aiming for, then create guidelines to help you consistently hit the mark.

Your brand voice is front and center in all of your marketing communications. The same values that drive your business mission should also shine through in your brand voice. It’s worth putting in the work to create a consistent, recognizable voice that humanizes your brand and creates a trustworthy reputation.

3. Be Transparent

It can be scary to commit to total honesty with consumers when you’re trying to build your brand’s reputation. Every brand has a misstep once in a while, and it’s not exactly appealing to advertise your mistakes. As tempting as it is to bury mistakes or keep the curtain closed about certain aspects of your business operation, a policy of radical transparency will earn far more loyalty from your followers.

A study by Label Insight found that 94 percent of consumers will remain loyal to a brand that delivers complete transparency, and 25 percent ranked transparency as the top factor that would motivate them to be loyal to a brand. These findings are echoed by an Econsultancy report that reveals a definite link between a brand’s transparency in advertising, business operations, and customer communications and its trust factor.

For an example of this type of radical transparency, look no further than email marketing service ConvertKit. One month after announcing that their company would be rebranded as Seva, a word with significant spiritual meaning to certain groups, they reversed their decision to rename the company—and they did so publicly, complete with a letter of apology and explanation.

Bottom line: an honest brand is a trustworthy brand. Your willingness to be transparent shows that you’re committed to your brand values and that you have nothing to hide.

4. Showcase the Causes You Support

No one wants to be friends with someone who only cares about themselves, and the same goes for brands. Research from Mediacom found that 40 percent of all consumers are willing to abandon brands that don’t give back to society. Millennials, in particular, want to put their money behind sustainable companies and brands that are committed to social responsibility.

Your brand is probably already sharing its resources with those who need it. Now it’s time to showcase the causes you support so your audience can see the tangible ways you’re committed to giving back. Go beyond posting a picture of the giant check your brand sent to a charity.  The nonprofit arm of CRM software Salesforce shares their pro-volunteering work culture, their pro bono campaign to assist nonprofits free of charge, and their education initiatives throughout the community.

Committing to a cause and positively impacting real people’s lives is the right thing to do on many levels. You’ll not only boost your brand reputation, you’ll solidify your company as a business worth engaging with.

5. Go Behind the Scenes of Your Company Culture

The obvious way to share your story is using official company channels, like your blog or social media account. But your story will have even more impact when your employees are the ones spreading the word.

Customers view employees as honest sources who can provide an unfiltered window into company culture. The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that 54 percent of respondents would rate “a person like yourself” as extremely credible, while only 44 percent said the same of CEOs. Your brand’s authenticity is also a huge factor in building a solid reputation. A SlideShare survey found that 80 percent of consumers hold “authenticity of content” as the most influential factor in their decision to follow a brand.

Encouraging employee advocacy for your brand is an organic way of sharing your story and building brand awareness while simultaneously boosting your reputation. Need an example? Look no further than Olive & Company’s own Instagram account, where we regularly share candid behind-the-scenes from our workplace and repost some of our employees’ own shots for an authentic view of our brand.

Own Your Story

Does it feel a little scary to be totally transparent and open about your brand’s story? That’s because it is. Not every brand is right for every person. Humanizing your brand, sharing your mistakes, and publicly supporting causes you care about can alienate you from certain audiences. But in the end, the people who are turned off by seeing your authentic brand probably aren’t the right fit for your business. The people who are a great fit will only be drawn closer to your brand as a result of your honest storytelling.

Storytelling and content marketing are the perfect pair for spreading the word about your company and standing out as an authentic brand with a stellar reputation. Get more ideas for incorporating storytelling into your brand strategy with our post on how to humanize your branding.