The Power of Storytelling in Employer Branding

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. We’ve heard about the power of storytelling – but how does it fit into your employer brand strategy?

Bryan Adams is the CEO & Founder of Ph.Creative, an employer brand agency and very passionate about storytelling. In this episode, we explore why storytelling is critical, how to focus on human stories, and how to harness storytelling for talent attraction.

Have a listen to the interview below, keep reading for a summary and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.

Listen on Apple PodcastsStitcher RadioGoogle Play or SoundCloud.

So why is Storytelling important?

Storytelling has been around from the start of time, but I’ve heard it being described in a number of different ways but my favorite came from Robert McKee who describes storytelling as; “If your body is the hardware, story is the software that runs it‘. We tell ourselves hundreds of stories every day just to make sense of the world around us.

It’s the most effective means of communication, and when it comes to business strategy, even that can be boiled down to a story. It’s the building blocks and the essence of good business.

Do brands create stories or do stories create brands?

What a great question. These days you cant own your brand, you can only influence it. Behind a good brand, there should be well-crafted stories. Probably one of the greatest short stories ever told is Nike’s ‘Just Do It’. It’s a really good example of a different story structure. It’s just three words, but it leaves the ‘It’ part up to your interpretation. It forces the audience to tell a story, whether that be a run around the block, a trip to the gym or a running a marathon, it’s about creating your own story.

How does content marketing relate to storytelling?

Storytelling is a good building block for a good content marketing strategy. But I’ve seen plenty of content marketing strategies that comes without any story structure, it’s just a blizzard of content designed to create engagement. So there’s a real difference between a purpose-told story and storytelling just for story’s sake. So their not the same, but there is definitely a crossover. Content marketing done well will be riddled with great stories.

What about the stories that your employees are already telling?

User-generated content and audience story is incredibly powerful, and I think as part of an effective employer branding and proactive employer brand, it’s the brand’s job to put initial stories out there that can be discussed.

A great story doesn’t require a great budget. I would start by asking yourself what the purpose is. And with a purpose-told story you will want to achieve 4 things:

  1. Educate
  2. Entertain
  3. Convince
  4. Inspire

Is there a way to measure ROI of storytelling in employer branding?

The ROI measured has to be discussed in a wider context. So if you designed a talent attraction campaign and you understand that funnel of methodology that I’ve discussed earlier, that’s been designed with a purpose, then you can apply tangible funnel metrics to the content that you produce. Typically you’ll measure by views, shares, sentiment and whether people take from the story what you intended, even hard metrics like click-throughs, but the key thing is understanding why you are doing it.

What brands inspire you in terms of storytelling?

I’m really inspired by Red Bull, their story is really special. They don’t only sponsor people, but fund people’s stories. So their brand is now made up thousands of individual stories. It fascinates me because they sell a pretty unhealthy sugar-based product, but it’s kind-of cool, they own their space, and they are still perceived quite well because of their distinct personality and brand positioning.

On a smaller scale, Lego is quite cool. Years ago they had two bricks crossed over each other on a blue background, but then the shadow is a sophisticated shadow of an airplane. So from a storytelling point of view, it gets the audience to fill in the gaps, and it gets the audience to tell the story and use the most powerful emotion there is; nostalgia.

Connect with Bryan on Twitter and check out Getting Goosebumps!


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