5 Brand Storytelling Tips to Stand Out in a Crowded Ecosystem

By Association Adviser staff • April 30, 2021

If your organization is getting lost in a sea of digital noise, you can raise awareness by connecting with your audience through storytelling. According to social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, the human mind processes stories, not logic. Using storytelling to bring your audience into the narrative helps them care about what you do.

In short, brand storytelling gives your audience a reason to show support. Here are five practical tips on how small-to-midsize associations and nonprofits can best leverage storytelling to stand out among much larger organizations in a noisy ecosystem.

1. Meet Your Audience Where They Are Online

According to Oberlo, 3.78 billion people worldwide use social media in 2021. Nonprofits and associations have a ripe opportunity to use these free platforms to tell their story, increase awareness, encourage engagement, and set up fundraising campaigns.

Most social platforms have resources to help nonprofits. You can set up your Facebook page as a nonprofit to accept donations and organize fundraisers. Both Facebook and Instagram Stories are prime spots to practice brand storytelling without the need to increase your marketing budget.

Another platform to consider is TikTok. The short-form video platform makes it easy to produce and edit videos using your phone. If you think this social platform is just for teenagers, think again—TikTok for Good partners with nonprofits to create campaigns that educate and engage your audience to take action.

One example is the platform’s partnership with Do Something, Oceana, and Best Friends on the campaign #CreateForACause. Users create videos and receive a donation to the charity of their choice for each video they produce. This brilliant campaign increases the nonprofits’ visibility organically and enables them to get to know the platform’s audience through storytelling.

TikTok is an opportunity to determine what matters to your audience and bring them into the story. It’s a place for associations and nonprofits to find a new generation of volunteers. The platform offers analytics, so you can track video performance and promoted hashtags.

2. Engage with Your Audience

Social media is an excellent way to find out what your audience needs, cares about, and how they invest their time. When you listen to social media conversations, you monitor your platforms for brand mentions, find out what your competitors are doing that works, and discover relevant hashtags.

Some ways to start the conversation include a hashtag campaign, live-stream event, or a video contest. Be sure to respond to all comments, and thank your supporters. Additionally, you can use an all-in-one online database app like Airtable’s interactive spreadsheet that acts as a hub for all your social media platforms. With Airtable, you can customize and manage data, develop and schedule social media posts, and more.

3. Share User-Generated Content

When you find customers posting positive comments about your brand on social media, like their post and share it if it fits. Ultimately, user-generated content that aligns with your brand story is one of the most powerful ways for your organization to stand out in a crowded ecosystem.

You can also be proactive about asking your followers to share content. For example, Rails to Trails Conservancy uses Instagram Stories in an awareness campaign that highlights the country’s trail systems.

Their campaign #TrailMoments aligns perfectly with the organization’s vision statement that Trails connect everyone, everywhere,” as they encourage their audience to share photos of great trails.

4. Showcase Company Culture

One of the best ways to tell your brand story is by showcasing company culture with photos, video, and individual narratives. Your website generally allows for longer narratives with more details. Here you can highlight volunteers, donors and share Q and As with the organization’s founders, among other things.

Habitat For Humanity does an impressive job of highlighting the organizations’ history and mission by involving volunteers, members, staff, and the CEO to join the conversation. They house their videos on YouTube and use their website to expand on the messages. Each touchpoint adds to the story and illustrates the organization’s culture.

5. Publish Beneficiary Testimonials and Interviews

Be proactive in asking for feedback and consider that your organization can stand out to donors by publishing testimonials that go beyond a quote. A great testimonial video illustrates your organization’s impact rather than you talking about the good you do. These types of testimonials follow the golden rule of storytelling—show, don’t tell.

This video testimonial from Leader in Me is an excellent example of a story coming from a beneficiary that will catch donors’ attention. Keep in mind that testimonials should be specific and visually engaging for maximum impact.

Free Conference Call is another option for limited budgets. You can record a phone interview and upload the audio file to your podcast, social profile, or website. Then add a written blog post from the transcript and photos for a multi-media post that catches attention.

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