Boost your brand muscle with human stories, better integration

(Editor’s note: Jody’s on vacation this week, but because she’s never come to a deadline meeting empty-handed, her GP&A business partner, Barbara Hernandez, offers suggestions for marketing, her area of expertise.)

Author Annette Simmons was spot on with her book Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins. Communication must be clear, she acknowledged, but Simmons adds that a human presence in communications is too frequently replaced by desires to make information bite-sized — and that’s shortsighted at the expense of your brand. Your message should also be compelling, encouraging the reader or viewer to learn more. To add humanity into every communication, she added, you have to tell stories.

Take a look at some of the communication from your company (e.g., emails, memos, press statements, brochures, direct mail, etc.). Do the pieces individually or collectively tell stories about your brand? Are they positive reflections of your organization or just another ho-hum piece of communication? Sadly, for most organizations, communications has become formulaic and boring.

My first boss, Gaylin Morgan, was a phenomenal writing talent. He shared some of his writing secrets with me early in my career — too many years ago to count, but captivating writing is timeless. Adding humanity isn’t fluff, I learned; it’s authentic and makes your message more credible. Now, whatever I write, I imagine there is someone sitting across the kitchen table from me and I’m telling a story.

I’ve since written for many different industries through the years, and no matter what kind of communication I deliver, humanity is present.

What? You say you don’t have any stories to tell? How about sharing how the engineer came up with the idea for your new product! When did he have the “a-ha” moment? Changing internal policies, and you want others to know that there will be a change? Make it personal. Tell a story about what would happen if you didn’t change the policy. Don’t tell your target audience that your company believes in green technology — tell them why.

Telling stories about your brand isn’t as difficult as changing formulaic thinking about communication, but adding humanity back into your messages will reap brand benefits for your entire organization.



Once you have storytelling down pat …

Let’s talk about where you use those stories. “Touchpoint” marketing is a common buzzword today, though there is nothing new about spreading your message over multiple platforms. More than a decade ago, full-service marketing agencies highlighted the benefits of integrated services (everything from research and planning to advertising, direct mail, public relations, interactive, and more — that’s why you needed a full agency rather than your sister’s daughter, though she was good with graphics. Sadly, few organizations actually delivered on the promise of true integration. Some had an organizational bias for certain marketing services — direct mail, print advertising, or radio — while others failed to understand the dynamics or how to align the various touchpoints to maximize each connection.

In short, many agencies presented an integrated model to the world but retained a silo philosophy. True integration means selecting the best marketing tools or touchpoints to achieve a successful business outcome, and every organization can benefit from integrating all sales, public relations, and marketing efforts into a master plan — all carefully orchestrated to achieve business objectives.

Where to start? Plunge in with a deep dive to fully explore which problem you’re trying to solve. Awareness? Attitude shift? Then consider all the touchpoints surrounding your target. Select the cross-market experiences that are most likely to reach out and tap your target at a time when they’re open to your message. That’s the true power of truly integrated marketing — maximizing every spend to strengthen your brand.

Build your brand muscle — tell your story in every way you can, and then put it anywhere and everywhere your target market is most receptive to the message.

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