Branding is no longer focused on a slick logo, a dynamic colour palette and a bold vision statement, it’s about who’s behind the business and what they stand for.
Heads up business folk, there’s a great way to outshine your competitors that goes beyond honing what your business offers: it’s time to let your potential customers get to know you. Personally.
You know everything there is to know about your customers and should know the common goals and pain points of your potential market – now tell them a bit about you. Because while potential clients are interested in what your business does, its knowledge and its solutions, in many cases it does very similar things as your top three competitors. What’s unique about your business is you.
An approach we take with every one of our clients is to share who the founder or business leader is. This is why.
The ‘who’ behind your business
As human beings we are curious. We want to know why you do what you do and how you came to be doing what you’re doing. People like what we can relate to and are interested, sometimes more so than in the organisation, in the people behind the business – in particular the founder or CEO. As are the media.
Businesses can promise a lot and say a lot of great things, particularly if they have great marketing, but you can tell a lot about an organisation by knowing the people behind it, hearing from them and seeing what they are like. Increasingly, people are looking for these stories and their voices to establish the authenticity of the brand.
Secondly, the story behind the business – the ‘why’ – is far more interesting, compelling and attention-grabbing than technical information, business offers or messages that are better suited to an advertisement.
Use the human thirst for narrative in media interviews and articles to introduce potential customers to the person behind the business. This helps you stand out from your competitors and shows that you are professional, relatable, trustworthy, likeable and approachable, and any other personal qualities that you want to promote, from your compassion and motivation, to your expertise.
Developing the story
Finding this story is not as hard as you might think. Many founders already have a natural trajectory that starts with a problem and ends with a solution: the business. For example, a good story might include an honest retelling of the hard times, the early stages of business, even some of the early mistakes or failures that you’ve overcome. This is interesting to a general audience but it also helps other business owners feel connected to you, your business and your brand.
According to a Russell Reynolds Associates study published in the Harvard Business Review, great CEOs or business leaders have two things in common: they are significantly less cautious and more likely to take action when compared to other senior executives. These two traits are the source of many interesting stories and make great fodder for the business news pages. And it is appealing to media who like to lift the veil on businesses and go behind the marketing.
Done well, a ‘tell all’ style of coverage talking about failures or the less glamorous side of a business shows a willingness to be transparent, which helps to build trust. It shows your confidence in your business and it can bring humanity to a business or an industry that’s potentially faceless.
Obvious examples of this are Steve Jobs, whose history of highs and lows with Apple is one of the most interesting business yarns of all time. Or Arianna Huffington, or any number of the small businesses that we do PR for. The narrative works in every level of business – from startups and SMEs to large multinationals, and not-for-profits.
Remember that it’s not just an origin story that can do this for your business, you can offer advice based on your experience. And you don’t only have to focus on the founder or CEO. Look for others in your business who can bring its story to life, for example, the creatives behind your seamless product design, the tech team in charge of innovation, the staff member who has been with you for 20 years, or even the COO who has just commandeered your digital transformation.
One last thing to keep in mind is to make sure the silver linings are clear and the story ends on a positive note so it does not negatively impact the business or its owner’s reputation. An expert PR professional can help you craft a narrative that hits the right notes.
How to start your story:
- Deep dive into the business and team to map out potential spokespeople and their stories.
- Write personnel bios.
- Work with your PR team to analyse your audience and see where they’re spending their time and then work out a content calendar for both owned (e.g. your business’ blog) and earned channels (e.g. media coverage).
- Start the storytelling!