Some of the stories we told ourselves three months ago have had to be rescripted. These days, you are probably writing new stories daily. If you said to yourself that you simply cannot start a new week without that tall latte from your favourite coffee spot on your way to work, well, that story has now likely become one where you are your own barista. If your start to the weekend story began with work drinks with colleagues, that story currently consists of days where week and weekend days look pretty much the same, in fact, sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart.
This change in our weekly narratives doesn’t mean that storytelling has lost its value, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The search for ‘good news stories’ was at an all-time high during April when, globally, we started coming to terms with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside searching for stories of hope and optimism, we are also searching for answers, predictions and guidance as we traverse the unpredictable and rocky roads that C19 have led us onto.
As a brand, if you are still telling the same story as pre-COVID, this is about as valuable as using the first edition of William Shakespeare’s First Folio as a doorstop. You may be tempted to remain silent in a time like this for fear of getting it wrong, and although this demonstrates caution, it is misplaced caution. Remaining silent might mean that your brand disappears amongst many others that are actively communicating with their communities. By the time we are fully immersed in the ‘new normal’, your voice might be altogether lost.
Other urges might include blasting messages of how great your product or service is across the digital space due to the onset of panic over whether your business will survive, or telling the tragic story of how your business is struggling and how you may not be able to pay employees without the help of a crowdfunding campaign. At no point are we trying to trivialise the trauma of not knowing whether you will be able to pay your employees or whether your business will survive; these are very palpable realities and to feel like your life’s work is slipping through your fingers due to something you have no control over, is no laughing matter. But, what we do want to highlight is that in addition to stories about how great your offering is and about how the current situation might have destroyed aspects of your business entirely, you do have other stories, and these need to be told.
In a reality that seems more and more surreal as the days and weeks pass, we long for real stories we can relate to. So tell the story of how and why you started your business in new ways. Encourage your employees to tell their own stories in their own voices – what do they love about their jobs, and what do they struggle with? Being honest and open doesn’t make you look weak, it makes you look real, and real is relatable.
Part of the reason why influencer marketing initially became successful was that people were telling their own story of how they interacted with brands through their own voices. It is conversely also the reason why the macro influencer bubble started bursting. Audiences realised that these stories were scripted and no longer authentic. Can you encourage your community to tell their own stories of how they interact with your brand?
For some brands, it will work really well to go back to their roots. If your business started to flourish due to your pizza bases, then focus on that. Share the recipe, have online cook-together classes, share the story of how this recipe got perfected over generations, or how you happened to convince an Italian nonna to share it with you on a trip to Napoli. Forget about the fancy cocktails and go back to what your community loves most. For other brands, they will have to start telling completely different stories. Is it really still relevant to talk about the seasons’ hottest shoe colours when 1) nobody can see your trendy shoes on a Zoom call and 2) when most of us are not worried about being seen as fashionable when we are experiencing extreme anxiety about our livelihoods and health.
If you are experimenting with different approaches or products or services, share the story with your community. We are all having to try different methods, and your audience will be sympathetic to your efforts to rework, reposition and respond to current challenges.
With the shift of focus towards localised living, local stories are compelling. We have become aware of our acute interconnectedness and now is an excellent time to share and spread the love through brand messaging. In our previous blog post, we talked about not having to be the hero right now, so use your voice to celebrate stories of others that are being innovative or making a difference.
As we reimagine brand storytelling, reminding ourselves of what the stories around the COVID-19 pandemic will be one day will help us stay inspired. Stories will be told of how communities had to pull together not only for support but indeed for survival. Tales will be told of how things fell apart, but also how they were rebuilt through collaboration, innovation and resilience. Stories will be told of how some brands thrived by being meaningful and how some drove social transformation. You don’t need to be in the tech industry to be a part of this innovation and transformation. Use this time to consider how your product or service brings value and builds social cohesion. How is your brand part of progress, and what does progress currently mean for your customer?
And remember, a lot of these stories will be told by Generation Z. The pandemic has become part of their formative years and will shape their values and behaviour. If you intend to be around post-COVID, this group will also become one of your most valuable consumer segments. So, consider what you say to this generation throughout the pandemic and post the pandemic. How are you helping them navigate this new dawn, and how are you becoming part of their stories of a time when a pandemic swept through the globe?
We at Kaitoma Creatives wish you creativity and success as you write your own story.