In: Branding

Content Strategy from Start to Finish: Your Brand Narrative

Mar 22, 2016

Creating a content strategy for your brand can sometimes feel like throwing a steaming hot bowl of spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. Not only is this process messy, even when something does work, there’s no way to determine how or why it did.
We’d like to help you take the randomness out of the equation. In the coming weeks, our comprehensive content strategy series will teach you how to develop your brand narrative, set up a pristine editorial calendar that actually works, and track how impactful your content is.

Part I: Establish Your Brand Narrative

Before you tackle your full blown Content Strategy, let’s take some time to get your brand narrative straight. If you don’t know who your brand is for and what it should sound like, there’s no way you can speak in its voice and craft cohesive content around it.
Brand narrative is key in making your customers feel emotionally connected to your company and helps make their purchases feel more personal. The biggest mistake you can make is to “wing it” and hope your customers don’t notice the inconsistency and lack of focus in your messaging. Even a whiff of disingenuousness can drive potential customers away.
So what exactly is brand narrative? It isn’t just what your product or service is, it’s the story surrounding your product or service. It’s what helps create a personal relationship with your customers by connecting with their values, identity, or emotions. It’s what your brand stands for, why your brand exists, and where your brand is going. If determining what this is sounds like an insurmountable task, take a deep breath, we’re going to give you some pain free exercises that will help you make decent headway in this process.
Just think, once you nail down your brand narrative, you’ll be able to craft a guide for your voice and tone and present your brand’s story clearly, and consistently; no more winging it or playing guessing games. (Bonus, you’ll find that this process can also help feed into the development of your brand identity, which includes visual elements such as your brand logo, typography, colors, and style.)
Here are some simple brand narrative exercise that you can conduct with your team. Grab some paper and pencils, put your best brainstorming cap on, and let’s get started:

Free Word Association

To pinpoint your brand narrative, it helps to have a few keywords that clearly describe your brand. Without thinking too hard, quickly jot down 20-25 words that you think describe your brand. Now, with the help of your team, cross out the words that aren’t quite right and circle the ones that seem to stand out. Narrow the ones you like down to ten words, then five words.
Getting this just right can take some time, and that’s ok! Once you’ve determined your three to five keywords, stick to them. You’ll find them most helpful when you run into a branding snag or for doing a quick gut check to see if something is on brand or not.

Create an Ideal Customer Model

In this exercise, you’ll be painting a picture of your ideal customer. Knowing who you’re creating content for is half the battle. You want to make sure the content you’re putting out is geared towards the right type of customer, that’s why it’s important to create a model. The more rich and relevant this ideal customer model is, the more useful it will be in helping you decide what content you’d like to create.
Feel free to draw from real data about your clientele or work with who you’d like your customer to be.

Answer these general questions:
What is their gender?
What is their name?
What is their age group?
What is their average household income?
What is their occupation?
Why do they use your product?
What are three words you’d use to describe this person?
Where do they live?
What problem are you solving for them?

As you continue this exercise, add in brand-relevant questions that will help make this model even more useful.

What’s Your Brand Personality?

Want to avoid a brand identity crisis? Let’s uncover your brand’s personality so there’s less room for confusion. Take a piece of paper and draw six horizontal lines.

On either side, write the following:
Personable ----------------------------- Professional
Spontaneous -------------------------------------- Careful
Modern --------------------------- Traditional
Cutting edge -------------------------------- Established
Fun -------------------------- Serious
Casual ------------------------------ Luxury

Think about each set and draw a dot on each line where you think your brand falls. Don’t overthink it and don’t be afraid to use this to envision what you’d like your brand to be. Spend no more than 10 minutes on this. Use your results to help determine what your brand voice should sound like. For example, if your brand is more “Spontaneous” and “Fun", you’d probably like to use more conversational and colloquial language, while as if your brand is more “Traditional” and “Established”, your tone should be more formal.
Up next: Now that you’ve had a hand at developing your brand narrative, it’s time to put it to good use. Next week we’ll show you how to determine what types of content can most effectively help you tell your brand story.

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