Take that, Dickens! Building a better brand story

April 21, 2015
Angie Emrey Integrated Producer

From first dates to job interviews, at one point or another, we’re all brand storytellers. Admittedly, some of us are better than others. In advertising, storytelling takes a central role; as clients ultimately come to us to better help them tell their “story.”

But what is that “brand story”? And how do we ensure it’s effective?

A few colleagues and I recently attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) luncheon presented by Rob Biesenbach titled “Unleashing the Power of Storytelling to Build Trust and Influence Audiences.” Rob combines extensive experience in PR with training from Second City in acting and improvisation to help companies cut through unnecessary word clutter and engage audiences in storytelling that goes beyond the moment and leaves a mark on the person who hears it. (Fun fact: His skills—all of them—were put to the test when the projector lost power and he had to improvise the second half of his presentation… and he still managed to keep us entertained. Now THAT is expert audience engagement.)

There is a difference between telling a story for the sake of telling a story, and telling a good, meaningful story that leaves a lasting impression. Here are a few takeaways to help you frame up a story that delivers on the latter:

Stories are Powerful.

  • Americans spend about 35 hours per week watching television. We are hardwired to appreciate storytelling.
  • Stories tap into emotion, put a face to an issue, connect and humanize us.

Good Structure is Key.

  • Stories should have three parts – a character in the pursuit of a goal in the face of some challenge or obstacle.
  • Think of any book, TV, or movie you love and you can find this structure in there. (It’s a fun exercise – try it!)

Stories can do the work for you.

  • You’ve likely heard this before, a good presentation tells your audience what you want them to know, feel and do. A good story should do the same.
  • Facts are often called “cold and hard” because they’re just that. Stories evoke emotions, which helps with alignment.

Less is More.

  • Remove the clutter—anything with a capital letter (names, pronouns, labels). Unless it serves the story, leave it out.
  • Precision is the enemy of a good story—leave out numbers, round up, and only use dates if it is imperative to the story making sense.

Be Original.

  • We are our stories and our stories are us—people will relate and feel more engaged when you share your own story.
  • Always be looking for unique and fresh stories you can use or share.

So whether you’re telling your client’s brand story, or that time you caught the game-winning pass, make sure it’s original, structured and engaging and you’ll have a story worth telling.

Think of the best story you’ve heard recently – whether it is from a friend, the news or a commercial. How did it utilize the above takeaways?


Core Creative is a branding agency that specializes in telling the life-changing stories for mid-market healthcare systems and the emerging med-tech world.


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