What’s your story?

Sarah Ball, client strategy director at Balls2 Marketing, talks about the importance of PR and storytelling in marketing strategy.

One of the best ways to connect your company with your audience is through storytelling. We know that it’s an effective marketing practice, because some of the biggest brands in the world are using the tactic and telling stories direct to their audience, through their advertising, direct marketing and social media campaigns.

We also know it’s effective because it’s how we build most of our campaigns at Balls2 Marketing; it all starts with the right message.

Our agency was founded on PR principles, which means we have a very clear focus on getting the message right first, knowing that the rest will follow. There are many reasons why it’s so important: it makes sure that you have clear, consistent messaging across all marketing platforms; it also gives your audience something to really connect with, and communicates your values, your goals or what you deliver for customers.

Brand storytelling is about bringing together the facts and the emotive stuff that your brand creates to give prospective customers a real reason to buy your products or services from you.

Nike is one of the best examples of a brand using storytelling to communicate what its values are and it hits the three goals of brand storytelling: authenticity, relevance and inspiration; since its launch of the ‘Just Do It’ tagline and 1988 campaign which saw 80-year-old Walt Scott on the Golden Gate Bridge going for a topless jog, through to its ad supporting NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racism and police brutality through kneeling during the American National anthem.

Nike may divide audiences with some of its campaigns, but its position and its values are made clear, supporting real people who do extraordinary things.

It doesn’t always need to be political, of course. The recent ‘Snowbrawl’ offering from Apple created a cinematic extravaganza with the quick story of a children’s snowball fight, all beautifully captured on the new iPhone 11. It’s one of the reasons why John Lewis Christmas adverts are so highly anticipated; from The Man on the Moon, to Buster the Boxer, and The Boy with the Piano.

There are plenty of B2B brands doing it well too. eBay has done a good job with its Sellers stories, telling audiences about how businesses have grown by selling through eBay. IBM’s ‘Every Second Counts’ campaign highlighted the importance of cyber security with two short films about real life crises. One of my favourites is Quickbooks’ campaign, which features Sanjeev Bhaskar visiting real businesses and showing them how easy it is to use their software.

While you might not have the marketing budget of Nike or eBay, that doesn’t mean you can’t take inspiration from their marketing tactics. Think about what your brand stands for and how you want to connect with your customers. A great starting point is to think about what the world looks like without your company. For Quickbooks it’s a pile of paper receipts, disorganised and time-consuming. For IBM it’s a cyber security breach with no plan of action, so as the minutes tick by, there’s no quick resolution to get a business back online.

For you, it might be an installer waiting weeks and weeks for their aluminium bifold door to be delivered, so they have to keep rescheduling their fitting date. Or perhaps it’s a homeowner wanting new double glazing, but left with new windows that are badly fitted and badly finished.

As well as offering solutions to these issues, aligning your story with brand values that appeal to your customers will make the world of difference; think what’s important to them. Single-use plastics and the environment are hot topics; what do you do as a company to reduce your impact on the environment?

Whatever you do, make sure your story is relevant, authentic and connects with your customers.