What Does a Storytelling Agency Do Anyway?

People no longer expect a brand to simply produce the best products, people also expect brands to have a great story. I have a personal conviction that humans were designed to share and listen to stories and this goes beyond dining room tables, this also applies to the workplace. Here is my take on how stories can be used to make a difference in the professional world.

To say the marketing agency world is crowded would be an understatement. In every city, there are agencies filled with creatives who are doing their best to come up with the greatest gimmicks, graphics, and game plans to help their clients get a bit more of the market share.

The problem with this model is that the market is quickly shifting as Consumers are changing the way they interact with brands. CONE Communication’s research shows that over 90% of consumers will willingly change their brand loyalty if they believe a brand with comparable product/price is more socially responsible than the other. Consumers are beginning to support brands not based on what they offer but based on their hows and whys.

Over the last few years, there have been inspirational moments and movements that have prompted consumers to shift their support towards more socially-driven brands. TOMS changed the model of retail by committing to give millions of products away; many of us listened to the famous Simon Sinek talk about “starting with why”; and there is increased support for local craft breweries like New Belgium who give all of their stock to their employees.

Regardless of what the research says and regardless of what customers say, the radio, newsfeed, and billboards are still consumed with gimmicks rather than stories. People are more interested to know the story of how a brand is making a difference. For consumers to be able to connect with brands based on values, brands need to talk more. Brands and organizations need to be investing time, treasure, and talent into telling the stories of people whose lives have been improved as a result of their work.

All of this points to a dramatic shift that needs to take place in the agency world. I believe with all my heart our world needs more storytelling agencies. You might be saying “Wait, do those even exist?” The answer is yes, but only a few.

My point is that even though “storytelling” is a marketing agency buzzword and every creative lets everyone know they are a “storyteller”, there needs to be a fundamental shift towards focused and consistent storytelling efforts for brands. When brands begin to consistently tell great stories (not just the highlights) of how they are making an impact, customers will begin to trust them. And as I mentioned in this article, when our culture embraces storytelling as a norm, the brands with no depth and no stories will be exposed for the money-driven mongers they are.

The solution is for the world to have more storytelling agencies. Here’s what that looks like:

Stories as Supplemental Strategy

A Storytelling Agency exists to help brands create unique pieces of media content capturing stories of impact on a consistent and long-term basis. Nine times out of ten these stories can be integrated into the strategies and campaigns a brand is already involved with. You do not have to stop everything you are doing with marketing and start over; good stories will be supplemental to the communication and marketing work you are already doing.

It Starts with This Question

If you don’t know where to start, ask the question, “Who is most impacted by the work you do?” It may be customers, employees, nonprofits, board members, or anyone else. Once you ask that question, you know what stories you need to capture and what stories your audience will be interested in. When your audience begins hearing those stories they begin to understand that they are giving to more than shareholders, they are supporting a business that is supporting people.

Consistency and Quality

Every business should be sharing multiple stories a month (if not more) in order to build lasting loyalty with customers. It would take months to hire a new staff or team, train them, and get into a rhythm of consistent storytelling. This makes it advantageous to hire an agency that is accustomed to producing regular, quality stories with a quick turnaround. Your stories might not get as many impressions as your billboards, but when a smaller group of customers engage with quality stories on a consistent basis, those impressions run deep and the relationship is more likely to last.

Don’t Run from the Details

The details and mechanics of storytelling is one of the main things holding brands back. Working with a storytelling agency helps you have access to a trusted team of creative professionals that understand how to capture stories efficiently, with care, and with the quality that your brand requires. The mechanics of this (planning, interviewing, editing, distributing) can be stifling, which is why a storytelling agency can help. If consumers are wanting to support brands who are making an impact, please don’t let your brand be limited by the details. Work with an agency who specializes in helping you with those details.

In order to survive, brands need to understand that more and more people are not just wanting, but expecting them to make a tangible difference in the world and to talk about it.

The brands that make a commitment to telling stories on a regular basis will build trust that turns into longtime loyalty. The brands that stay quiet, will fade away quietly. We won’t notice because we will be busy reading, watching, and listening to the stories of the brands who are doing it right.

For the sake of your brand, and for the sake of preserving the integrity of marketing, begin with stories. Look at the work you are doing, and tell the stories of the people being impacted.

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Over the last twelve months, our team at Story On has had the privilege of helping brands like OtterBox, Galvanize, Asian Hope International, and others tell stories of lives their work has impacted. Contact me, and we can talk about how your stories can transform your business.