David Beebe, founder of Storified Brands, has earned an Emmy, a Cannes Lions Award and a James Beard Award for his work in content production and brand marketing. He has helped brands like Marriott, ABC/Disney and even 24 Hour Fitness tell value-based stories that build brand loyalty.
In today’s social media–centric world, Beebe says that everyone is a storyteller. We’re constantly posting content to a community of followers, much like brands do to customers. With so much content available and so many different means of consumption, today’s audience is more selective in the people and brands that they choose to spend their time with. The stories we tell must feel personal, authentic and emotional in order to make an impression.
The storytelling tenets that Beebe uses when advising brands are applicable to anyone who uses social media. If you’re hoping to achieve a deep connection with your consumers, followers or friends, read on for Beebe’s storytelling tips.
Focus on core values—Beebe says that your products or services are secondary to what you stand for. Figure out your core values, then be consistent in expressing them in all content and across all platforms. In doing so, you’ll “build a strong community that loves you and supports you,” Beebe says. People want to give their time, attention and money to brands whose values align with their own.
Define your purpose—Before telling a given story, Beebe says to make sure you know the story’s purpose, which serves as a road map for the content’s narrative. Are you trying to gain followers? Are you trying to introduce a new service? Think about your desired outcome before you start creating.
Be authentically you—Beebe says to “ask yourself how you stand out in the sea of sameness.” Instead of just offering content, he says to imbue your content with your unique take. The stories you share with your audience should be entertaining, informative and unabashedly “you.”
Explore different mediums—While a story’s purpose should influence how it is told, Beebe says to consider all modes of communication (e.g., static image, video, audio, virtual reality, etc.). Mixing it up keeps your audience interested.
Use a three-act structure—You may not be crafting an epic work of fiction, but having a beginning, middle and end is still essential. The beginning grabs the audience’s attention and lays the foundation, the middle introduces the plot—which is often tied to a problem—and the end presents a resolution to the problem.
Just do it—Beebe says that fear of failure is a major roadblock to great storytelling. Stories need not be perfect, and even if they are, he says, “you are going to get haters regardless.” Sharing content is essential to not just getting your message out there but also to learning and growing thereafter.
Engage—Once your story is out in the world, your job isn’t over. “It’s called social media for a reason,” Beebe says, “be social with it.” Responding to audience-submitted comments and images allows the conversation to continue and makes your community feel like they are not just receiving the story but also are actually a part of the story.
Use data wisely—Beebe believes in data-informed rather than data-driven storytelling. Statistics should inform stories but not completely guide them. They’re just one piece of the puzzle. Human insight and even gut instinct can be just as important when making decisions.
One size doesn’t fit all—Just because another person or brand is doing something well doesn’t mean you should follow suit. “You shouldn’t shift your strategy, “Beebe says, “especially to one that doesn’t align with who you are.” However, he thinks that applying the ideas, techniques and technology you see someone else doing well to your specific point of view is a great way to inspire new, creative ideas.
For a more in-depth profile on Beebe, see “David Beebe: From Homeless Veteran to Branded Entertainment Producer.”