Your Reputation Builds Your Brand

August 10, 2019
Leon Downie
Creative Director

Reputation has power. It has the power to save your company in hard times..

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My new book Creating Signature Stores emerged because of an idea spawned by three powerful forces:

  • The critical need to communicate strategic messages
  • The growing difficulty of doing so
  • The new realization that stories are powerful communicators

The Idea: Applying the Power of Storytelling to Strategic Messaging

Strategic messaging has never been more important, both internally and externally. Internally, employees are searching for and often insisting on meaning in their professional lives. (The why? question.) Providing an answer involves communicating the values, culture, customer value proposition and strategy of the firm. Externally, there is a growing segment of customers that are willing and sometimes eager to have a relationship with brands that they admire and share their values. Strategic messaging can create or support such relationships.

Why Is Communicating Strategic Messages So Hard?

It is largely because customers and employees are often not that interested in your message so they tune it out. Even when the message gets processed, it is often viewed as lacking authenticity and credibility. In addition, there is the challenge of media clutter and the realities of the social world with an empowered audience. As a result, it is hard to breakthrough.

Why Stories Are More Impactful Than Facts

In the context of this challenging communication task, the knowledge that stories are amazingly more impactful than facts becomes very relevant. Hundreds if not thousands of studies have confirmed that assertion. Stories provide a way to break through all the distractions, disinterest and content overload and make an audience take notice, stay engaged, change perceptions, be inspired, and remember. People perk up when they hear someone say, “Let me tell you a story.” If you have facts to communicate, your best strategy is telling it via a story that allows the ultimate message to emerge.

Example: Nordstrom’s Authenticity

Consider the classic Nordstrom story, which brings to life the firm’s policy of employee empowerment and prioritizing customers. A customer in the mid-1970s walked into it Fairbanks, Alaska clothing store and asked to “return” two worn snow tires.

An awkward moment! Nordstrom, of course, did not sell tires (although the store site was once a tire store). But, the salesperson that had only been on the job for a few weeks had no doubt about what to do. He promptly took back the tires and refunded what the customer said he had paid. This story is told to this day because it is simply so intriguing and authentic.

How to Create Intriguing, Authentic & Strategic Messages

The idea is to apply the power of stories to strategic messaging through “signature stories.” Create intriguing, authentic and involving narratives that include a strategic message. A signature story is not simply a set of facts, but can motivate facts that support the message. It differs from tactical messaging in that it involves communicating the brand vision, organizational values and culture, a business strategy, or a value proposition with a long-term perspective.

Final Thoughts

The challenge is to identify or create signature stories, plan how to use them internally or externally, present them in an effective and appropriate way, and find ways to keep them fresh and alive. This is not easy. In part, it requires an organization with story-savvy people, culture, and processes.