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Best Practice: Building Your Brand through Storytelling
Friday, August 15, 2014 7:00 AM

Story telling isn’t just for teachers in a kindergarten classroom. Businesses use storytelling to build their brand. Storytelling gives consumers a way to connect with your business – one person to another. It helps consumers see your organization as one that offers real value.

In the following Q&A, Lorraine Howard, vice president of marketing for Diamond Lakes FCU in Hot Springs, Ark. shares her thoughts with Leaguer readers on story telling.

Question: How do you think authentic storytelling builds a brand? 

Howard: Stories help credit unions build a consistent and meaningful brand message that’s unique and relevant. People are already sharing or blogging about topics that they care about. So the question is, “How do credit unions integrate storytelling into their communications without coming off as forced or contrived?” It’s all about being genuine. 

Question: What are some examples of an authentic storytelling?

Howard: Social media is a great channel for authentic storytelling. Personally, I enjoy reading advertisements that feature testimonials from real people who have used and found value in products and services. Their stories inspire and build strong brand recognition.  

Question: How does your credit union use storytelling to build the brand?

Howard: We encourage our employees to use personal anecdotes as they talk to members about our products and services. We just recently turned on cross sell screens, and the thought of selling can be daunting to the frontline employee. But they can share their stories on how using our debit card has saved them money or how financing a car through the credit union was convenient. We’ve also used member testimonials in our advertising. 

Question: What are some mistakes that credit unions need to avoid if they are using the storytelling tactic? 

Howard: The biggest mistake would be failing to build brand value. Stories use both facts and emotion to create value. Authentic storytelling is all about creating “buzz” about your brand. If the buzz is not deep and meaningful, it will not be repeated and will not cause people to act. Storytelling content is like any other content. If it’s not interesting or even worth reading, it’s not going to do anything for brand value. 

Question: When is it appropriate to use storytelling and when should it be avoided? 

Howard: A communication channel that allows for some control is always appropriate for storytelling. You want your story to be repeated with its original clarity. That’s why using technology, like social media and blogs, is so attractive for storytelling. When storytelling makes the leap from written word to spoken, always be aware that the telling must be genuine and not be a performance. 

Question: Are there any guidelines to storytelling that you would recommend?

Howard: People are, by nature, skeptical. So whether the authentic storytelling is written or spoken, keep it conversational. You want people to feel like they are hearing an informal story over lunch. That’s when they will really identify with the message. In short, it will have value – brand value.