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May 6, 2020

With portions of the country slowly starting to re-open, brand marketers find themselves in a challenging position: how do I tell my story during a transition that, frankly, still leaves a lot up in the air? While this return might suggest the need to aggressively make up for lost time, or lost sales, it’s important to think less about quickly moving full steam ahead, and instead be incredibly thoughtful about why, when and how you tell your story.

While brands still need to remain highly cautious and alert to the dangers of telling their story in ways that are insensitive, self-serving and mis-timed, new storytelling opportunities are opening up as consumers re-engage in a world influenced by the presence of COVID-19. As brands look to ramp up their storytelling efforts, it’s imperative that they remain highly aware of the best ways to shape and share those stories.

Here are eight simple tips to help brands steer their storytelling efforts as we shift from “beware” to “be aware.”

  1. Be helpful. How is the story you are telling helpful to consumers? How does it offer a solution, or teach them something new? Think about how your storytelling efforts position your brand as a helpful resource. It’s what consumers what and need right now.
  1. Be authentic. In an environment where both brands and consumers are still facing so many challenges, it’s imperative to think about what we are saying and how it represents who we are. The key to authenticity in this environment is honesty. If brands don’t have something meaningful to contribute to a conversation, then it’s better for them to say nothing at all. Brands need to be careful about inserting themselves into a narrative that doesn’t fit with who they are, or that they are not qualified to be part of.
  1. Be human. It’s more important than ever for brands to be empathetic, compassionate and appropriately sensitive in their messaging. They should carefully consider how the stories they tell reflect an understanding of the way people feel and what we are all going through. It’s not about what brands want to say, it’s about what people want and need to hear.
  1. Be nimble. The adage “the only thing constant is change” has never been truer. It’s critical for brands to understand how shifts in the COVID-19 story are impacting consumer sentiment, beliefs and behaviors. Brands need to ensure their stories align with those shifts.
  1. Be patient. It’s certainly understandable that brands want to make up for any lost momentum, but they must also remember to be patient and carefully consider when the time is right to communicate certain messages.  
  1. Be local. As the pace of re-opening will be different depending on where people live, brands must think locally about their storytelling efforts. A customized, city-to-city or state-to-state approach will ensure your stories resonate. Think local first.
  1. Be joyful. From birthday caravans to virtual proms, consumers are craving moments of joy. Where and when they can, brands should create and tell stories that position them as a source of inspiration and champion for happiness.
  1. Be generous. Not all brands have the fiscal flexibility to support those in need right now, but many are succeeding by finding creative ways to give back.  Whether its donating products or services to worthy causes, offering special incentives to customers in-need, or rallying company resources to support relief efforts, the stories that are most engaging right now are ones that demonstrate care and generosity from an authentic point of view.

As we shift from “beware” to “be aware,” marketers will have more and more opportunities to tell their story and reclaim their space in the conversation. Regardless of what story brands are setting out to tell, we must all keep in mind the current environment, which remains unsettled and uncertain.  A thoughtful and measured approach is the key to moving your brand forward.   

 

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