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How to Start Conversations With Your Audience

What makes your brand story so powerful? 

Are you a natural “story swapper” or does storytelling feel like a language you can’t quite wrap your head around?

For some of us, storytelling comes easy.

We naturally communicate with others by swapping stories. We find kinship with people who also passionately express their thoughts while speaking.

Even when talking about ourselves, we do it with a desire to build relationships and emotionally connect with other people.

That’s just how some of our brains work.

But as someone who has had many awkward conversations with people whose brains don’t work like that, I know “thinking in story” doesn’t come easily for everyone.

It’s not that they don’t have equally engaging stories to share or that they aren’t good at communicating.

It usually just means they’re a bit more analytical and focused on getting to the root of a problem so they can solve it.

They prefer communicating with others by swapping information. They find kinship with people who enjoy getting straight to the point.

Even if they’re talking about an emotional subject, they speak about it based on facts rather than emotion.

Neither of these communication styles is right or wrong—they’re just different.

While people in the second group often get stuck on, “I need to share a story but I don’t know what to share?” those of us in the first group often get stuck on, “I can’t wait to share this story!”

We get stuck on the idea of sharing the story because we like it or learned something from it. Sometimes we focus more on the story than the lesson our audience needs to learn from us at that time.

Regardless of which group best matches your communication style, instead of focusing on sharing a story, think about how you can start a conversation between you and your audience.

Text reads: Share a story = Start a conversation

So what do you start a conversation about? Well, that depends on your brand story!

Brand storytelling is the act of using a cohesive narrative (or story) to connect people to you and your brand.

That narrative (or story) is your brand story and its purpose is to clearly define your values and mission for your audience by

  • Describing what led to the creation of your business,
  • Serving as a guide for how you run your business,
  • Helping you stand out in your target audience’s minds,
  • Invoking an emotional response in your ideal customer or client.

It’s important to remember the purpose of your brand story is not to talk about how amazing you and your business are.

Also, your brand story, even if it’s your personal story, isn’t actually about you!

It’s about your ideal customer or client and how you can get them closer to something they need, want, or desire in their life — something you can help them with.

Text reads: Your brand story is a cohesive narrative (or story) that connects people to you and your brand by clearly defining your values and mission to your target audience.

In the type of storytelling we see in books, games, movies, or TV shows, there’s always a main character who we follow along a journey. 

This person is usually the hero of the story. Everything that happens revolves around them and often the title has something to do with their journey too.

In brand storytelling, that main character is your audience. They’re the hero of your brand story.

You are the supporting character who helps them along the way.

Everyone who encounters your brand is going to ask, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this?”

Your brand story is there to answer those questions because people are more likely to remember information when it’s shared with a story. 

In the same way, a wise mentor might give the main character the information, tools, or hope they need to complete their mission, you can give your audience everything they need to understand how you can help them reach their goal too.

If your story started where your target audience is now, you have the understanding and awareness necessary to motivate them to imagine

  • what kind of future is possible for them,
  • what that future means for them,
  • what achieving it would feel like,
  • and how they’ll achieve it with your support. 

The beginning of a book, game, movie, or TV show is spent establishing the environment the main character exists within. This environment is usually a combination of the condition of a physical place and its current circumstances.

The story is heavily influenced by this environment and, in some cases, it is what motivates the main character to go on the journey that will lead them to becoming the hero of the story.

In brand storytelling, the environment represents your audience’s present situation and the part of your story that led you to create your business.

In your brand story, you can use your experiences and emotions to guide your audience through the journey you’ve already been on. Not only does it show them you get them, but it also gives you a chance to show how they can do it with fewer mistakes because they have you to support them!

That journey will look different based on your story and what you do in your business so think about what motivated you to make a change in your life and what changes they need to make too.

This might include

  • A series of events that all led to a specific moment in your life,
  • A specific event that changed your outlook or perspective,
  • A realization about what was possible for your life or your future,
  • An introduction to a person or idea that ended up being your first step.

Just remember, in the context of your story, whatever that thing is should lead to the position you’re in now—the position to help them.

No matter what your product or service is, the problem you solve is emotional! 

Your brand story should also lead your audience to a place where they believe they’ll get to feel, do, or be better than they are now.

For some reason, we tend to think of needs, wants, and desires as separate things. When we do this, we unintentionally end up believing our emotions are

somehow removed from them.

We view needs as the bare minimum we need to survive or participate in society.

We view wants as the next level up. These are things we can afford that make our lives easier or give us a higher quality of life.

And we view desires as nice-to-haves if we can’t yet afford them or things we feel we deserve if we can.

But what if I told you that at the beginning of every need, want, and desire there is an emotional need just waiting to be tapped into?

Even if we don’t like to admit it, our decisions about what we buy (or don’t buy) are guided by our emotional needs.

And those emotional needs are based on 1 of 3 internal desires…

  • The desire to feel better about ourselves (or our lives),
  • The desire to do something better (or easier),
  • The desire to (appear to) be better than someone else.

I share this because storytelling isn’t reserved for people with dramatic, life-changing stories or brands. It’s for everybody—and every entrepreneur.

That emotional need can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be based on your products or services.

For example, e.l.f., Paramount +, Etsy, and Google Pixel aired ads during Super Bowl 58. All 4 brands sell vastly different products at different price ranges. All their ads elicit a different emotional response. 

e.l.f. helps people feel better about their beauty spending thanks to their affordable, cruelty-free beauty products.

Paramount + helps people feel better about choosing their streaming platform because of the wide range of entertainment available.

Etsy helps people be better gift-givers with access to a wide range of small businesses and their new “gift mode” feature.

Google Pixel helps people have better (and easier) experiences with their smartphones with AI-assisted accessibility features.

While tapping into your audience’s emotional needs is a key part of connecting with them, it’s also a big part of what helps you stand out in their minds.

If your brand story is the same as every other entrepreneur who does what you do, you’re doing your audience and yourself a disservice.

You’re not giving them the real person behind the brand. You’re not helping yourself stand out in your niche. And you’re not bringing anything different to your industry.

Or maybe you are bringing something different to your industry but your audience has no way of knowing that because you don’t tell them!

Now that you know what makes a brand story, let’s talk about 5 pieces every good brand story needs to be powerful and effective.

Who You Are

(You & Your Brand)

Share how your experiences influence how you move through the world and your industry. Allow people to discover they have anything in common with you, can relate to you, or feel connected to you in some way. 

Help them decide if they want to learn more about you and what you do.

Consider

  • What experiences led you to create your business? 
  • What parts of your identity led to the creation of your business? 
  • How might they overlap with your audience’s experiences?

Who You Serve

(Your Target Audience)

Share why your audience is your primary focus and how you support them. Allow people to decide if they believe you understand their unique needs. 

Help them decide if they want to learn more about you and from you.

Consider

  • What experiences led you to choose to work with this target audience? 
  • What parts of your own identity match theirs? 
  • How did you feel and how does your audience feel now?

What You Believe In

(Your Values)

Share how your experiences influence your ethics, views, and mindset. Allow people to decide if your values align with theirs and how your unique perspective may benefit them. 

Help them understand how you carry yourself in business and life by sharing your current (and past) views or mindset.

Consider

  • What experiences led you to view the world or your work the way you do now? 
  • What parts inform how you treat your customers or clients? 
  • How did these experiences shape how you run your business?

Why You Do What You Do

(Your Mission)

Share how your experiences led you to see the importance of solving a problem for this specific audience. Allow people to decide if your passion feels genuine to them.

Help them envision how you and your mission fit into their lives and how it might get them closer to their goal.

Consider

  • What experiences led you to the solution you provide? 
  • What parts helped you realize other people could benefit from your methods? 
  • How does your passion or process overlap with your values or beliefs?

How You Do It Differently

(Your Niche)

Share how your experiences help you fill a gap that’s been missed or ignored by others in your industry. Allow people to decide if your processes fit their lifestyle.

Help them see that there’s another way forward by sharing how you found a new way to look at an old or often ignored problem.

Consider

  • What experiences led you to your industry? 
  • What helped you see a problem from a different angle? 
  • How do you approach the problem or your audience differently?

4 dark green circles of varying opacities overlapping each other in the middle of the image. Text in the center reads: Brand Story. Text in top circle reads: Who you are and Who you serve. Text in the right circle reads: What you believe in. Text in the bottom circle reads: How you do it differently. Text in the left circle reads: Why you do what you do.

Without these 5 pieces, your brand story is just a story. With them, your brand story is the first step to building a relationship with each member of your target audience.

Once you define your brand story, you can share it anywhere you have the opportunity to reach your audience.

This is important because while most people think brand storytelling looks like this…

A large dark green circle is surrounded by eight smaller circles. Arrows are pointing from the large circle to each of the smaller circles. Text in the large circle reads: Brand Story. Text in the smaller circles reads: Website/Blog, Social Media, YouTube, Email, Community, Speaking/Events, Workshops/Classes, Interviews.

It actually looks more like this…

A large dark green circle is surrounded by four smaller circles. The smaller circles are each surrounded by seven tiny circles. Arrows are pointing to and from the large circle to the smaller circles. Text in the large circle reads: Brand Story. Text in the smaller circles reads: Who you are/who you serve, What you believe in, Why you do what you do, How you do it differently. Text inside the tiny circles reads: story.

What makes brand storytelling so powerful is that by taking your brand story and finding every single opportunity you can to share “ super short stories” that back it up, you have an authentic way to build trust with your audience.

Those super short stories are your content and the conversations you have an opportunity to engage in with your audience.

Now let’s take another look at those images.

A side-by-side comparison of the two previous images. Your brand story is at the center of both but there are some important differences.

On the left, your brand story is surrounded by all the places you may find an opportunity to share your story. Each arrow flows away from your brand story to a platform you might use to get your message in front of your audience.

(You can learn more about how to share your story in these places in the “7 Powerful & Effective Ways to Share Your Brand Story” guide.) (link)

On the right, your brand story is surrounded by all the “super short stories” you have within you to share with your audience.

This time, the arrows flow in both directions like a conversation.

Your super short stories work together to build and support your brand story in the same way people like me use story swapping as an opportunity to nurture a conversation with another person.

Every time you share your brand story, you’re creating an opportunity to start a conversation with your audience. 

Every single one of those conversations reinforces your brand story in the minds of your audience, even if they never hear or read the full story.

Regardless of where you choose to share your story, think about how you can

  • start each conversation without mentioning your products or services,
  • make sure it’s more valuable to your audience than it is to you,
  • share “super short stories” that back up your brand story,
  • And make sure everything you share is relatable to your audience and relevant to your business.
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