7 Part post series that explores the ways in which social has humanized brands and their stories
Evolution Theme #1 : FROM Corporate Size & Stats TO The People Within
“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it”
–Hannah Arendt/ Philosophy & Political Theorist
Prior to the emergence of social networks, brand stories would typically unfold as a controlled narrative told from the perspective and interests of the business/brand. As traditional media such as TV, print and digital brought such stories to life, distinct traditions formed in how stories were communicated and the content of the stories themselves. The combination of absolute control and the limits imposed by such traditions, would often limit the growth and appeal of the stories. Many of the story themes that were once regarded best practice and believed to be useful, we now know via social media as ineffective in generating meaningful and enduring interest. The new tradition of storytelling for business/brands evolves from what “THEY (corporation) want people to know,” to the stories that people can relate to on a human level. The humanized story themes that support a more “human” centered form of storytelling have now become the “new traditions” in growing business/brand interest.
I’ve been working with brands for 15+ years. Over that time, I have crafted my fair share of “traditional” stories for my clients and their brands. As the strategies came to reflect a greater social influence, I’ve recognized growing trends in how story themes have had to evolve from corporate traditions, towards a more human minded perspective. I’ve summarized the seven most prominent themes and have created this series of posts dedicated to exploring each theme over the following weeks.
From: Corporate Size & Stats >> To: The People Within
“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” – M. Scott Peck
The traditional stats such as the number of employees, office locations and number of years in business used to be the lead-in, if not the main points in a corporate introduction and story. Phrases such as “In business since..” or “the largest manufacturer of…” was often believed to provide credibility by its very declaration. Thereby commanding respect from others. Employees were usually referred to as a number or in general and in aggregate form. The typical exceptions for highlighting an employee by name was reserved for the prominent leaders that businesses felt should be of interest to investors and the public.
Today, not only is greater transparency expected of corporations, but also a direct connection to those employees behind the scenes – not just the leadership. This direct connection gives people the opportunity to learn more about a business/brand. And when employees are given the opportunity to serve as brand ambassadors, this form of employee engagement produces exponential wins. Employees feel greater satisfaction and reward from the recognition, opportunity and responsibility. According to a recent report by PayScale, in the United States, the median tenure for a worker at one job is only 4.6 years. When reviewing their top 20 List of Fortune 500 Companies with the least loyal employees, all but the exception of Google and Amazon, are relatively faceless, emotionally disconnected brands. There are countless studies which prove that strong employee engagement is good for business culture, bottom line and relationship building between brands and people. When corporations celebrate the people within – employee retention and recruiting becomes less challenging, and the connections formed between business and people become human thereby social and meaningful.
A great example of how corporations are evolving their story from size and strength towards stories that showcase their employees and culture is GE’s Stump the Scientist. A bi-weekly series that allows readers to submit questions to GE’s science minds.
If stories rely on sharing to live on, then ask yourself which GE story would you prefer to hear or share with others? Choice a) the one about “General Electric – a multinational conglomerate corporation formed in 1892 with over 305,000 employees or b) one about GE’s Chief Scientist, Jim Bray, and the unanswered questions he faced on the latest episode of “Stump the Scientist?” Judging from the growing audience and interest in GE’s Global Research – option “B” succeeds in providing a truly meaningful, human, and share-worthy brand story.
Great stories are timeless. But this doesn’t mean that the content of the story itself, or the way in which it is conveyed cannot evolve or be re-framed. When stories evolve in ways that connect an individual to a bigger ideal, concepts such as a brand, can evolve into a human connection, and ultimately a unifying community link.
Check back next week for a dedicated post on Theme 2) From: Mass Media Push > To: Engaging Relationships.
Related posts worth reading:
- The SocialCMO #MMChat 9/16 Featured Guest: Anneliza Humlen. Topic: Building Humanizing Brand Stories. Click for transcript and highlights.
- Theme #2 Humanizing Brand Storytelling: From Mass Media Push to Engaging Relationships
- Theme #3 Evolving from Demographics to Social Communities and Shared Interests