Brand Storytelling: How to Connect and Communicate Through Magnetic Stories

Brand Storytelling With Gabrielle Dolan

Stories connect us and engage us. We’re drawn to them, in a way we never could be to simple “copy” or “content”, because stories feel innately authentic and ultimately more human. This is the idea behind the concept of Brand Storytelling – crafting a narrative that connects you with your customers and employees on the basis of shared values. Our guest today is author and global thought leader Gabrielle Dolan. Her latest book is Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage with Employees with Brand Storytelling, and here, she explains:

  • Why stories help us connect;
  • How storytelling can help you take control of your brand;
  • The Five Types of Stories that allow you to connect and engage; and
  • What makes a story "magnetic!"


If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


The Relevancy Of Brand Storytelling

  • Over the last few years (including during the pandemic), we have become so physically disconnected from one another that stories can help facilitate a genuine connection.
    • This has become very apparent in consumerism. People want to buy from companies that have similar stories and values to their own. 
    • There are two ways to show your values: The things you do and the stories you share.
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It’s Not Just External Connections

  • Ms. Dolan actually began her career in brand storytelling solely focused on the employee, internal connections as opposed to the external, consumer based connections.
  • Stories can help companies and leadership at companies drive culture and create meaningful connections with employees that hopefully make those people proud to work where they do.
  • Not until recently has brand storytelling become so prevalent and useful externally with customers with the changing capitalistic landscape around the world. 
  • With an internal audience, your stories can be a little more personal. The most powerful way to share your values is through personal stories.

Why Is Brand Storytelling So Intriguing?

  • Ms. Dolan first became interested in brand storytelling while working at one of Australia’s largest banks. 
    • As she moved into senior leadership positions, she found that it was easier to get her message across and have it resonate effectively with employees when she used stories.
    • In her last few years at this bank, she worked in HR and a Change Manager. In this role she was focused on getting messaging out to every single employee, and she found that personal stories helped her achieve that.
  • There have been other publications written on storytelling, but Ms. Dolan took the concept and ran with it, hoping to teach others how powerful of a tool storytelling can be.

Defining “Brand”

  • Ms. Dolan defines brand as “the stories people share about you/your company when you are not in the room.”
  • If your brand is the stories that people share about you, brand storytelling is how you can take control of those stories.
  • A brand is important whether you are an individual, a group, a company, etc.
    • Your brand will determine whether or not people will work for you, will recommend you, will refer you, and will buy from you.
    • Taking control of this brand and the stories people share about you via brand storytelling is key to ensuring you/your company remains desirable both internally and externally.

Defining A “Story”

  • Storytelling, and specifically brand storytelling, is a hot topic at the moment.
  • A recent trend is the “About Us” page on many company websites.
    • This page has often become “Our Story,” and according to Ms. Dolan, nine times out of ten, it is not a story.
  • A story needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • It needs to be very clear on the single message that you are trying to communicate. 
    • A common mistake is putting too many messages in your story, which in turn makes it no longer a story.
  • Your story must also tap into emotion.
    • Without an emotional and/or personal connection, your story will not resonate with others. 

What Makes A Story Magnetic?

  • In order for a story to truly be “magnetic,” the person sharing the story must help you visualize the events within, and those events then tap into your emotions.
  • A really good story helps you to understand the message and is instantly memorable because of that emotional connection.
  • When company leaders share magnetic stories, internal and external audiences alike will be able to connect with, engage with, and remember the message.

Five Types Of Stories Businesses Can Use To Connect And Engage

  • Culture Stories
    • There are two different types of culture stories.
      • The first is when a leader shares a story about what the values at hand mean to them and provides a story with relevant examples of those values at work.
      • The second consists of stories showcasing employees living those values at hand.
      • Culture stories should be shared extensively in onboarding programs and training.
  • Creation Stories
    • This is usually how the company started but can also be about how a specific product or service came to be. Ultimately, creation stories are the “why” behind a company.
  • Community Stories
    • These are stories about the impact your company and/or employees have on the surrounding community. This goes beyond your typical Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and it can highlight specific instances and efforts of employees in the community.
  • Customer Stories
    • These stories focus on customers in the community - so long as those customers are the “hero” of the story.
    • Stories that are customer-centric go beyond just customer testimonials.
  • Challenge Stories
    • These are all about how your company has responded to challenges and how your employees battle through issues.

Discovering Your Brand

  • Looking at brands from a leadership standpoint instead of a marketing standpoint can help companies to understand their brand better. 
  • Companies can compile a list of values and practices and from there determine what they want to be known for.
  • Once that has been determined, companies can decide on exactly what they want their brand to be and commit to supporting and communicating that brand through their stories and their actions.

Finding Your Stories

  • Brand storytelling requires relevant and truthful stories that support your brand, so finding the right stories to tell is critical.
  • Leaders need to know the power of stories and also need to know how to share them well.
  • Once leaders understand the power of brand storytelling, the situations from which stories are bron become easier to identify.
  • One method Ms. Dolan utilizes is called “Story Harvesting Sessions.” This is when leaders and employees of a company are able to sit down and share their experiences that might be great stories to tell internally and externally to communicate the company's brand. 
  • In order to find powerful stories, specific questions must be asked of people to get those stories out of them with the brand values in mind. 

How & Where Should Brand Storytelling Occur?

  • A company website is a great place to share stories with both internal and external audiences and will provide a feel for the company’s values in a central, easy to find location.
  • Brand storytelling should also be used within orientation programs. The best kind of education on a company’s brand is through stories, so new employees will be able to very quickly understand the importance of this brand by connecting via these stories.
  • Leaders should also be verbally sharing stories at any chance they can get.
  • Social media is another valuable outlet for sharing stories. These can be shared externally and internally on social media and it also allows for your company’s brand storytelling efforts to have the opportunity to catch fire and spread all over the world.
  • Internal & external newsletters also give the opportunity to share stories with your audience. 
  • Annual reports that go to stakeholders can be utilized as well.
  • Share stories with clients and potential clients - they will help create connections and enhance the message.

Delivery & Sharing Of Your Stories

  • In business, stories need to be very succinct, usually about 1-2 minutes. 
  • Avoid placing too many different messages in your stories.
  • Leaders should be trained on how to deliver a story.
  • If your stories are effective, other people will repeat those stories and internalize them, taking with them a piece of your company brand. 

More On Ms. Dolan’s Offerings

  • Ms. Dolan offers Business Storytelling Workshops that typically last a half day.
    • These workshops can be in-person or virtual and help leaders to better their skills in story discovery, delivery, and sharing. These workshops take participants through the entire brand storytelling experience.
  • She also does Thought Leadership Intensive Programs.
    • If you are a company and you want to be known for “something,” this training will be specifically designed to help company leaders to understand how to develop that “something” and put it into practice. 
  • Jargon-Free Fridays
    • Ms. Dolan founded this initiative about four years ago to shed light on how prone we are to use jargon and acronyms to communicate with each other and how that corporate jargon can affect our communications with others. 
  • Books
    • Ms. Dolan has numerous books to help companies understand brand storytelling and become more proficient at it. 

Gabrielle Dolan Background

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About the Author Jacqueline Gregory

As a creative, persuasive communications professional with extensive experience guiding projects from concept through completion Jacqui has produced custom communications for some of the world's best known brands. Producing ProjectHR has been one of her favorite ways to engage and delight HR and Labor Relations professionals!

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