The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Nick Cowling Headshot

How to Create Your Brand's Story

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

I'll admit it -- I'm a news junkie. I follow all sorts of topics and am constantly watching for stories that stick out. But of all the stories that interest me, the ones I follow the closest are the stories that last. I watch especially closely when those stories are pitched out by a brand.

In today's incredibly rapid and completely democratized media landscape, there are a small number of campaigns that manage to create a lasting impact, and they are able to do this because they follow a solid recipe for success. Here are that recipe's four key ingredients:

Story: you can't achieve success without a great story. There are a lot of ways to build a story, but the approach often determines whether it's hot for 24 hours (or less) or has legs to run with for much longer. I like to think it can become almost mathematical: (Insight + Trend)\(Fact) = a great story that can stand the test of time. But there's still plenty of room for art -- you still have to develop relevant insights and have the foresight and conviction to identify and follow a trend.

Messenger: While it may seem secondary, selecting the face and voice of a story is as important as crafting the story itself. A great messenger needs to be credible: They must have both the passion and the background to sell the story. Charisma is also important. The messenger needs to have a personality that relates to a broad audience. Lastly, they have to be able to articulate the content to a multitude of audiences.

Delivery: How the story is released (or discovered) can determine so many things. This is not a time to decide the story is fluid and will "live or die" on its own. You need to be explicit and strategic about when, how, where and to whom the story is released to ensure you maximize your strengths. Ask yourself if it's worthy of an exclusive, if it should be released online (and commented on) first or sent out en masse, if you can create some snackable pieces and release them to a number of platforms and channels or if you can orchestrate all of the above. There's no right answer, but there is a right way to approach it -- deliberately.

Maintenance: This is where you really add value. The coverage, comments and discussion about your story need to be considered and leveraged in your content marketing plan. You have to respond to both criticism and praise, keep the conversation going by adding depth, leverage any links with your community, and share the news and opinions you receive with both your supporters and your detractors. If that sounds like too much work, then at least consider spending more time on the story and keep the conversation moving with additional data, research, anecdotes and other relevant information that builds on what you've started.

Organizations of all sizes spend their hard-earned (and sometimes limited) resources on communications with a specific result in mind. They don't always get the best results possible. To make your story stick and to get the success you deserve, you have to build a great narrative, you have to have a plan, you've got to use every tool at your disposal, and you've got to see the whole thing through to the end.