Not Just Nike and Apple - How Can Startups Build Their Storytelling?

18.02.2020
Gil Kraiem, CEO of Pitch Media | Reading Time: 7 min.

Storytelling is usually identified with corporations and enterprises such as Nike, Apple, Starbucks or Ford Motors, which have long-standing and rich heritage and values. But what about newly established companies such as startups, which are still trying to brand themselves in the market; can they also build their storytelling skills, and even do so  optimally? 



The answer is positive and especially so in the case of startups. Startups strive to change the existing situation in the world, and most entrepreneurs left their comfort zone long ago- which  is a great foundation for storytelling. But in order to do this in the proper fashion, it is important to take into account 2 factors: 

First, building the story of the company is a lengthy process that requires strategic planning and thinking of the content, messages and design language already during its initial stages. Second, to build the company's DNA, requires the design of a uniform language that will harmonize through all interfaces with target audiences - be it the website, the booth at the show, the social media pages, the promotional materials, videos and even the office design - so that the recipient can identify it. The goal is that you won’t even need to explicitly write the company’s name to understand which company is associated with the design.

One should ask, why is the story so important? The assumption underlying storytelling is that people are motivated by, and usually make decisions  emotionally. This way, we are able to motivate them to the desired action (purchase a product, invest in the company, strive to work with), using messages  conveyed in a way that evoke feelings of inspiration, identification and even excitement with the product or company (think, for example, think of the excitement that an Apple fan feels when he first holds the new model of the iPhone).

The story is, in fact, a technique with fixed themes and elements that include a narrative of some kind of conflict – a fight between good and evil. If this sounds familiar, then it’s easy to show how these stories have accompanied us from our childhood, and since the dawn of history,and have affected how we interpret reality. Whether rooted in  biblical stories, stories of mythology or national ethos - each have emphasized to us what is right and what is not and has given us a sense of belonging to a broad collective of people with shared values, norms and ethos.

So what are the steps in the process of building the storytelling of a company?  

The first step should be planning out which values ​​and emotions should  be identified with the company. Each brand raises a range of sensations and emotions to its consumers - try and  think what ideals you want to represent your company and what is the promise you want to fulfill for your customers if they use your product.

For example, let's take Airbnb as a story-building model. At the beginning, their concept was short term rentals, but in 2014 the company changed its marketing strategy to a new direction - finding a "home" (in the most basic sense of the word).  Behind the new slogan it introduced - Belong Anywhere - stood a promise,  stronger than the force of technology. At the heart of their values, was the hospitality of human guests. What Airbnb was sayings that it opens the door to us,  allowing us to belong no matter where we are in the world, and feel welcome and loved. This message can carry through a video or through building a community of hosts who are the heart and soul of the brand, constituting its driving force.

The choice of a startup’s values also depends  on the characteristics of the target audience, but it is equally important to be authentic and try not to "sell" a story that is completely accidental and immediately related to the company.

To convey this idea we have a number of main tools:

Be Storytellers

So far, we've been dealing with "the company" but behind every company you are actually dealing with people - and you as entrepreneurs and founders actually constitute its representative face and ultimately its story. There are different types of entrepreneurs;  not everyone likes the exposure and some even avoid being in the "front" and a face to the company. This is a serious mistake. Your target audiences (potential employees, investors, customers, etc.) are looking for you and want to know who you are. Through your story you can create those sought after emotions that can make them loyal fans. While not all of us were born Richard Branson or Steve Jobs, you can still learn and practice standing up in front of an audience and how to convey the proper body language. You just have to jump into the water and it's a matter of experience. 

Entrepreneurs, just like leaders who have transformed and motivated people, embody their personal story as a source of inspiration as people who left their comfort zone to the uncertainty and new challenges. 

 So, beyond the excel tables and boring presentations, remember to tell your own story: what motivated you to start the company, what difficulties you face and what difficulties you seek to resolve. Be it an investor presentation, lecture or press interview - be human and let the other side connect with the emotional side and give them a sense of empathy through they are facing the same challenges. Take them on a guided imaginary trip to let go of the skepticism and sit at the edge their chair attentive to every word and finally believe in you and attached to your vision. 

Website - the face of the company

The site is one of the first places we meet the company, so it is important to emphasize the look and feel that it broadcasts. More and more companies  have already chosen their homepage - the most important "real estate" strip, to write about the drive behind the company and tell the "story" of the company.

It is important to personalize the site and not just focus on the products or solutions you offer but to showcase the face (literally) of the company and ultimately the people who broadcast the company's vision, inspiration and vibe. To do this, you should emphasize two main pages:

The first is the "About Us" page, is worth leaving the stencil of senior staff photos and a few sentences of what they did and where they learned but also to incorporate the more junior staff. It is important to find interesting angles for each employee, to incorporate images and videos from the company's life and to give the reader a sense that they should be part of a team. 

The second is the “blog” which is an important tool to reflect the company's face through the construction of additional stories, conflicts and narrative, in a simple, direct and clear manner. The blog provides an additional angle to your story through an authentic and collaborative way. 

Using Storytelling \ Infographics

Which sentence of the two  catches your attention?

 "There is a hunger problem among US children"

"One in six children in the U.S. will not have dinner today."

There is no doubt that the second sentence  attracts more attention. The combination of data and storytelling is one of the hottest trends in the field - especially in an era where we are bombarded with data, statistics, excel sheets and graphs. The question is how to access the information and convey the desired message. It's important to remember that people do not have the patience to embed in digest masses of data and should illustrate it story-wise - for example, finding the lone story within the data (if we use, for example, a phrase like "8-year-old Steve won't get dinner today") or make your data visual with infographics which is a great tool for conveying interesting graphical information. Turn the data you have into a story through numbers or percentages that have no emotional significance.

Customers as your Ambassadors

Every time a customer posts about your product, they are basically sharing with you their  personal experience, which is very powerful and authentic and reliable. Therefore, sharing your product through your customers - whether through a Facebook post,  video testimonial or a lecture -this is definitely an effective way.


The writer is the owner of Pitch Media, a PR firm which specializes in tech companies and startups. For more information, please visit: www.pitch-media.com

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