5 Ways to Amplify Your Community’s Brand Story
Engage and inspire your audiences with these proven storytelling tools
How many ways can you tell your community’s brand story? The answer is simple: a lot. Instead of secluding your story to the “About” page of your website, you need to create stories that convey the hallmarks of your place (i.e. your purpose, values, history, personnel and current initiatives). Just as your community grows and evolves over time, so should your stories. With that being said, great stories fall flat all of the time because no one is seeing or listening to them. The lesson: Your means of distribution are just as important as your message. There are probably hundreds of remarkable things happening in communities around the world at this very moment. Sadly, we’ll never know about them because they don’t have a platform to distribute their message.
Think like a bestseller
Once upon a time, a long time ago, small groups of people used to share stories around the fire. Today, millions of people are streaming them across their smartphones. Digital technology has shifted the way people consume information and media. They won’t find your stories unless you bring them to the right places.
A smart way to think about your story distribution is to imagine you’re a publisher who is trying to turn a story into a bestseller. Of course, you don’t need to reach millions and millions of people, but you do have to consider important questions like:
- Audience: Who are my stories for?
- Interests: What do they care about?
- Hook: What will compel them to listen?
- Channels: Where can I find them?
While your distribution channels are often an afterthought, they are no less important than the other elements of your story. We recommend focusing your efforts on a couple of channels and tools that not only deliver a captivated audience, but compel them to become part of your brand experience.
1. Owned media
First and foremost, you need to create your own distribution channels, ones that you can manage and control. This includes an effective website, e-newsletter(s), blogs, digital or print magazines, etc. While paid and earned media are extremely effective for gaining exposure, they empower outsiders to call the shots and manipulate your message. Owned content puts you in the driver’s seat of your brand story. A creative narrative mixed with a compelling call-to-action allows you to strategically direct your audience through your story and toward an end-goal.
Your website is, by far, your most powerful story hub. It’s the welcome mat to your organization. But you need to drive people to it through e-newsletters or social media channels, which help you cultivate an engaged audience. Other tools like videos or blogs help you engage people once they arrive (more on that to come).
2. Social media
While you can pull people toward you through owned channels, your story also has to go where your people go. And, often, that’s social media.
Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram open up a direct dialogue with your constituents, allowing you to share important messages, ask questions through audience polls or respond to questions, concerns and reviews. Furthermore, it allows your followers to be brand champions, share or comment on your posts for others in their network to see.
Beyond sharing updates via your own channels, you should listen to the pulse of your community. You can do this by following other community-aligned pages like the schools, your chamber of commerce, neighborhood groups and businesses. You’ll be surprised at how much market intelligence you gain through simple observation. Sometimes, listening is just as important as talking.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to have a strong presence on every single channel. By focusing your efforts on two, maybe three, channels, you’re not stretching yourself too thin and are able to put more time into meaningful story content. It’s typically better to manage one channel really well, than to manage multiple channels poorly.
3. Video and photography
Given the predominance of social media channels and their shift toward visual content, it might be time to invest some effort in your visual content, including infographics, photography and video. In recent years, video has surpassed blogging as the predominant marketing tool. And, information paired with a visual, whether a video or photo, resonates more effectively than people hearing or reading information by itself.
Your production value doesn’t have to be Oscar-worthy, either. Some of the best photos and videos come straight from a smartphone.
When overdone, they can be more of a distraction than a service to your content. But #hashtags fill the important role of helping you activate, crowdsource and unite your story and audience.
We love how Cleveland has leveraged its hashtag #ThisIsCle to spark pride within and outside of the city. Not only is the hashtag used across social media, but it’s been incorporated into signage, clothing, photography and more, further expanding the reach and impact of the story we rolls up into the city’s brand.
5. Influencer channels
Influencer marketing is all the rage right now – and it makes sense. Working with influencers (any person or group who shares your target audience like fellow community organizations, business leaders or visitors) gives you the opportunity to extend your story’s exposure. Not only that, but people trust the recommendations and advice of those they follow and respect, more so than those who are simply pushing their own agendas.
If you can develop a mutually-beneficial relationship with a few influential partners, you’re likely to see an immediate impact. Here are some quick tips for finding and engaging the right people in your story:
- Do your research: Identify their audience demographics and interests, how active they are on their website and social media, and if they produce content that’s aligned with your brand style. You don’t want to align your brand message with anyone who could misconstrue and misrepresent.
- Follow them: Get your brand on their radar by following their channels, subscribing to their newsletters and paying attention to their content. After a little while, reach out to them to connect over coffee to consider how you can help each other.
- Determine mutual benefits: They key to any influencer relationship is scratching each other’s backs. If they share information about one of your events or a video you recently produced, you should offer to do the same for them in return.
Your story matters
Keep in mind that your constituents already care about your message. There are few things that people take more pride in than their hometowns. They’re passionate about their neighborhoods, schools, favorite restaurants and parks. Storytelling lets them walk down memory lane and amplifies their excitement.
Once your stories are in a good place, you need to figure out the best ways to get them seen, heard and shared. We hope these channel-specific tips and tools gave you some ideas to get started. If you’d like to talk to our team about creating or distributing your brand story, contact us today.