Powerful signature stories come from telling stories with a strategic message. They are powerful because they attract more business to you. This post features the book, Creating Signature Stories: Strategic Messaging That Persuades, Energizes, and Inspires by David Aaker.
Stories are much easier to remember than facts. They also apply meaning to facts. They tell you why you should care about something. Stories make your messages come alive. Stories allow you to gain exposure, activate social media, and be remembered.
Communicating strategic messages can be difficult in this age of information overload. Stories provide interest, add authenticity, and raise credibility. The story's heroes and plot become the focus. Stories provide a way to break through distractions and disinterest. Audiences take notice when stories are told.
Signature stories are an enduring asset continuing to provide direction. A strategic message to your audience. Stories are narratives that portray actual or fictitious events and experiences. Signature stories grab attention, support a strategic message that clarifies or enhances the brand vision, customer relationship, organizational values, and/or present and future business strategy.
Criteria of Stories
Stories stimulate work-of-mouth communication both personal and via social media. Signature stories must meet four criteria:
- Be intriguing or fascinating: the story needs to grab attention
- Be authentic: authenticity means the audience does not perceive the story to be phony, contrived, or as a transparent effort to sell
- Are involving: means the audience is drawn into the story, empathizes with characters, the plot becomes important, and it encourages a cognitive, emotional and/or behavior response
- Have a strategic message: connects the brand to the signature story
6 Ways Brands Can Connect Their Message to Stories
According to Mr. Aaker, there are several ways the brand can connect their message to the signature story. I list the book's example along with a way for hospitality businesses to apply the same method.
- Brand as hero: when you recall the story you recall the brand
- Example: Blendtec company has popular "Will it blend?" videos with unusual items to put in a blender (one of the most popular was them blending an i-pod!)
- B&B Application: have a photo contest on Facebook, encouraging followers to post pictures related to a theme (such as nature) and offer one free night's stay for two at your inn (or some other meaningful reward) to the picture that best captures what you are looking for (be sure to specify the rules in advance and you may want to appoint outside judges to determine the winner)
- Brand surrogate as hero: the hero can be something very close to the brand
- Example: Budweiser Clydesdale stories (horses are an accepted symbol of the brand)
- B&B Application: tie something related to your name into your advertising and/or logo (Rosemary House Bed and Breakfast in Pittsboro, North Carolina has an image of rosemary spice in their logo, the herb of friendship and remembrance)
- Story reflects passion of customer base: a shared value
- Example: the Molson brand demonstrated their passion for hockey by building an ice rink in the mountains
- B&B Application: share pictures of projects (renovations, gardening, etc.) that you completed at your inn in social media (and mention how beneficial staying at your place is for people who also like to work hard)
- Supporting programs that carry brand name: events that have special meaning
- Example: Avon's Walk to End Breast Cancer (featuring personal stories about the event)
- B&B Application: become a sponsor of a local event so your name is listed in its promotion (it's more meaningful if you have a personal connection to the event)
- Prominent display of brand as a story sponsor: putting the brand name on the story
- Example: the Always brand is prominent during their stories
- B&B Application: become featured in a magazine and share stories of people in your local community who make a difference in the lives of others (and share how you came to know this person)
- Adjacent communication: stories featured alongside the brand
- Example: Charles Schwab commercials played alongside the "Person Who Changed My Life" stories
- B&B Application: (with each guests' permission) write a blog post featuring meaningful stories told to you by your guests (you do not have to share their last name) and connect it to your inn
Benefits of Telling Signature Stories
Powerful signature stories take stories to the next level. They are persuasive, inspiring, and they stimulate others to act. Signature stories elevate brands and they persuade without lecturing. Signature stories can help change the conversation when a brand is in a crisis. Signature stories are vehicles to promote the strategic message. Aaker states that an organization must be story friendly.
Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography