Plan Your Brand Story: Part One

Before you start external communication of your new startup brand, STOP!

Take a deep breath. Grab a Moleskine notepad, sit down and ponder a few things first.

You’re starting with a clean slate in terms of your marketing communications. Whatever you do will set the tone, and before you know it, if you’re not a little bit planned you might start throwing mixed messages out into the marketplace.

This is not ideal — it’s a noisy world out there. Cutting through with clarity is hard at the best of times, but more so if your story is a muddled one.

I recommend spending a little time planning what I like to call your ‘Spheres of Conversation’ before mapping out and communicating via your ‘Spheres of Influence’. (These are the channels you will be using — we will look at these in a future article.)

Remember: There’s no need to overcook things and draw up some dense-looking strategic document that you’ll probably never end up looking at again. The idea is to bring about some clarity in how you will communicate your brand, and this can be achieved with just a few sheets of paper. (Personally I like using an A3 sketchpad to plot and plan such things).

Ask yourself: What conversations do you want to start, or be part of? What hot topics do you want to ignite debate around? What discussions do you want to lead?

Brand Story

Your brand needs a story, and to be effective, it needs an added dimension of what it is that makes you different from your competitors in the marketplace.

Thus you need to go a bit deeper than just who you are and what you do, although it’s important to be able to articulate this information. Your story should capture the essence of your brand and what you are all about — the ‘why’ is critical because it adds context.

Key Messages

In working out your brand story, you will need to decide what your key messages are going to be.

Key messages are important when it comes to communicating your brand. They are the words and phrases you use to ensure your story stays on track and remains consistent, whether you’re writing copy for a media release or website, preparing a pitch, or having an introduction read out before you give a presentation. Key messages are particularly important when a business has several partners, as they help everyone ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’, so to speak.

Proof Points

It’s important your brand story and key messages are anchored with facts.

In the world of public relations we call these evidence-based nuggets of information ‘proof points’ — their role is to help you to build and reinforce believability in your story and, ultimately, your brand and reputation. In other words, make sure you can back up what you say with facts, stories, testimonials, etc.

Once your brand story is in place and is underpinned by a set of interchangeable key messages and accompanying proof points, the next step will be to determine your Spheres of Influence.

I will cover this in part two of this article. You’ll decide what digital, traditional media and ‘face-to-face’ channels you will use on an ongoing basis to communicate your story and your messages. In the meantime, start plotting and sketch out your brand story.

Note: This advice also applies to existing brands wanting to rethink their communications and perhaps change the way they’re doing things in light of how rapidly the media and marketing landscape is evolving.