Long Arc is our brand storytelling workshop

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At any given point in time, you are somewhere in the story of your brand. You may be starting out or on the cusp of huge change. Your brand may be continuing something you started years ago. There may be plenty to share right now. Or plenty to come in due course. Our brand storytelling workshop helps you co-ordinate not just what you share but why and when you share.

All brands tell a story – but some do so by default. Their campaigns or feeds become their story. If your brand has an iterative strategy, that may well be fine. Leave things as they are.

If however, you have a deliberate strategy or an emergent strategy, adding structure to your storytelling through this kind of workshop will enable you to:

  • Apply strategic discipline to your storytelling
  • Demonstrate value to the rest of the business
  • Bring marketing into more conversations and
  • Hold your contributors and agencies accountable to an enduring narrative.

Through our brand storytelling workshop, we set out to solve three questions:

  • What are your intentions strategically?
  • How do customers need to perceive you in order for that to happen?
  • What story do you need to shift their perceptions – and how is that story best told?

We cover six crucial aspects:

  1. Your business strategy and where it’s taking you
  2. The brand story you intend telling
  3. The shape of that story
  4. The focus of your story
  5. How the brand story aligns with your products and services
  6. When the story starts, and how long it runs

Business narrative and brand storytelling

A brand is as strong as its storytelling, and the business that it supports. By understanding your brand story as a whole – what it is, how it aligns with the business objectives and where you currently are in that storyline – marketers will be able to get out in front of short-term objectives and better understand and control the whole story they need to tell.

Crucially, a good business storytelling workshop should align two lines of narrative that tend to remain silo-ed: the strategic narrative, which sets out, in narrative form, the intentions of the business and where your strategy is going; and the story of your brand and how you intend to present that in order to achieve your objectives.

Your strategic narrative is an important story of course in terms of setting out your commercial journey. But it can (and probably should) be largely invisible to the market.

A brand storytelling workshop works from that narrative to help you find the story your brand needs to be telling in order for your business to succeed.

Our goal is to identify the story you need  tell to engage customers so that your brand(s) can achieve your business objectives. It forms the basis for the work that your ad agency, digital marketing team, social media team and public relations people will generate.

The brand story you intend telling

The reason why we refer to this as a storytelling workshop (rather than a story creation workshop for example) is because most brands have to make three key decisions about their story.

The first is, which story to tell to support their strategy (because there are many options).

The second is, which audiences to engage in that storytelling.

The third is, how smaller pieces of story come together to feed the brand story you are telling.

12 stories you could tell

For example, your brand story might focus on chronology – on the emotive and literal journey you have taken to get to where you are.

In which case, it might focus on your founder, or your founding product.

Or your story could be based on commitments – how you came to believe what you believe now and where that will lead you.

It could be a story of inspiration, or hard work, or discipline or innovation.

Or you may wish to tell a story based on reaching a goal that others thought impossible.

So it could be about a belief or a hunch or a mistake that led to a realisation.

Yours could be the story of a pioneer, or a laggard turned good.

It could be about the formation of a community.

Perhaps it’s a story of protest, justice, persistence or triumph.

It could be a story where potential has yet to be realised.

It could involve a battle with a brand enemy. Or how you came to join forces with an unexpected ally.

It could be a story of love or refusal to compromise, of no money or too much money, leading to disaster and perhaps redemption.

Three things a story must always be

As we’ve said, it must be a story that aligns with your strategy.

It must of course be a story that is true to your brand.

And it must be a story that adds to how others see you and value you.

The focus of your story

Different stories have different shapes, with each shape influencing how your brand will unfold for customers now and in the years ahead.

Most brands need a long story – an arcing narrative that takes in your history and projects forward to where your strategy tells you the brand is heading.

In this workshop, we work together to build the long form of your story. Once you have this narrative, decision makers and teams will have talking points that they can reference, internally and externally, and a context for a full range of other actions.

Smaller stories and sequences can then be fitted inside the overarching narrative – meaning everything you articulate is consistent with where you are heading and adds to customers’ understanding of the brand.

Deciding the shape of each brand story

In our brand storytelling workshop, we piece together the structure, span, twists and turns of the story that you will tell. And to do that, we might use the storytelling shapes of Kurt Vonnegut, the proven principles of Pixar or the simple structures of screenwriting legend Syd Field.

We evaluate stories two-dimensionally: those that move the overall story forward; and those that add depth or dimension.

If you are an established brand, you will already have storytelling elements or pieces of story that you are using. Some we will retain and work with. Others will be less important. Some may be distracting or unrelated to your core strategy.

Equally, you may have “moments” (past, current and projected) that you want to include in your narrative. If you decide to keep some of those moments, then you will need to shape your brand storytelling around these.

By treating all these elements as contributors, we can establish how pieces of story and moments work with each other, and the cumulative impression they should be making as your brand storytelling unfolds.

Building this narrative together in a workshop setting means your long story is more than just “marketing”. Teams across the business will see how the decisions they are taking contribute to your collective direction and future.

Great stories include reveals, tensions, developments, new ideas, elaborations, history and anticipation alongside characters, situations and a momentum that carries the reader and watcher forward.

The pace must be right. The empathy levels must engage. The situation must feel believable and involving.

How your brand storytelling aligns with your products and services

If your brand is closely tied to a range or ranges of products and services, and you have a release programme for how new iterations of these will reach market, you can also align these market releases with your projected story.

Gaming companies and the big film companies are masters at this. Their products sit within what we call a ‘storyworld’ – an imagined universe that allows them to shuttle back and forth between the current, the history of how the story got to this point, and where the story s going next.

Product releases are slotted into the long story arc, enabling every new product or product improvement to be a reveal in its own right but also to sit within a context that is defined and cumulative.

Plotting the launch of your products and services against the trajectory of your overall story prevents what you sell being separated from what you tell.

Instead, each acts as a proof point for the other.

Co-ordinating this can feel complex (especially for portfolios of brands) but it needn’t be.

The key is to establish the long story arc first, and then look for opportunities across your organisation to inform and add value to where your brand storytelling is going.

When the story starts, and how long it runs

Different stories can also start at different points in your history, depending on what has happened and the trajectory of the story that you want to tell.

Deciding where you are and mapping how you want your future story to unfold is a critical part of knowing how the story and the strategy of your brand align.

You may want to tell your whole history. Founder and heritage brands do this a lot.

You could start later in your chronology. This makes sense for brand who want to focus their storytelling from a certain point on.

Or you might talk about the future you envisage. This can work for brands that are looking to change their story for example.

Equally, you may want your story to stretch out years ahead – or not – depending on the timeframe of your business strategy.

Who should attend?

A brand storytelling workshop does not need a lot of people to participate. We’ve done workshops like this with just three people, but we’ve also done them with whole teams.

The key to success is stimulation, imagination and a willingness to start big and then fill in the detail. You might just want to have the brand team in the room. Or you may wish to as others to join you to provide a more rounded way of interpreting your strategy as a story.

There is no formula. Your story is yours – and our intention throughout is to make it ownable and specific to you while using storytelling elements that people recognise and relate to.

The goal is to create a brand story structure that maps out your narrative past and future, enables you to engage customers, complements your strategic intentions and sets the scenes for all the stories-within-the-story that you need to tell.

Through this workshop, internal teams essentially become the producers of their brand storytelling.

They come to hold the story – which means they can confidently represent the story itself and its value to others internally, bring in other parties as contributors as they see fit and assign specialists to build out parts of the story to make them richer and more interesting.

They can also apply the story to other parts of the business. Or work with others to ensure that new releases, products and ideas are incorporated into the story streams.

That in turn makes the brand and your storytelling more relevant and more valuable to other parts of the business. And more coherent and inviting for your customers.

Brand storytelling workshop outcomes

This brand storytelling workshop is a powerful first step for organisations looking to become  a more Articulate Company.

By aligning your storytelling with your strategy, you align your decision-making and direction-setting internally with how you engage stakeholders and customers.

And once your strategic narrative and your brand storytelling are in sync, they can stay that way: each adapting in response to cues from the other.

You can adapt your strategy to respond to favourable or unfavourable responses to your storytelling, for example, and vice versa.

As a result of this storytelling workshop, your brand storytelling will be:

  • More cohesive and integrated
  • More focused
  • More aligned with your overall strategy
  • More accessible (and therefore more valued) by teams within your organisation
  • A blueprint for how you communicate through your brands long-term

More about Long Arc

Our brand storytelling workshop, Long Arc, is available as a one-day facilitated workshop in New Zealand or Australia. Or you can deep-dive over two days if you prefer.

To prepare, we undertake interviews and research to ensure we have a working understanding of your business strategy. And we ask participants to dig into your history so that we have access to pivotal moments and ideas in your development.

This workshop is best done in a room together so that we can storyboard progress on the day.

There’s something very effective about seeing a story come together this way. As it does so, you’ll gain an integrated understanding not only of the story you are telling, but why you are telling that story, and where to find the past, current and future elements of your story. With ownership established, you can then work with other parties with confidence to bring all your brand storytelling to life.

Next steps

If you’re interested in seeing where your story could take you, let’s talk about how our brand storytelling workshop could work for you. Please contact us to make a time to chat. From there, we’ll draft a proposal setting out how we would approach your Long Arc workshop.

Photo by SpaceX on StockSnap

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