By Michelle Spita
Storytelling. An art form as old as the history of mankind. As one of the oldest methods for conveying experiences and historical events, storytelling has long been the sole asset for the purpose that it serves, but with a plethora of new media channels introduced over the last 100 years – the art form is getting lost in the white noise that makes up the modern day digital media landscape.
From pop up ads to digital billboards to pre-roll ads — distraction is all around us, which is why authentic storytelling is crucial to inform consumers thoughtfully about sustainability initiatives in such a crowded space.
Sustainability is a metrics heavy topic with much focus on quantifiable data that can speak to the energy, water and waste conserved which translates to dollars and a healthier bottom line. But, that’s only one part of the equation – the part that you need for board members to buy in. The rest of the equation relates to the emotional response consumers, employees, and stakeholders have to your sustainable messaging, a story that can be lost if it is forgotten or not told in an honest and compelling way.
Storytelling in Stages
In thinking through how to position individualized stories about sustainability, it can seem overwhelming to share information and translate messaging but, visualizing it as four separate but linked components will make it more digestible.
Below are a few key themes to stick to in creating a narrative about your sustainability journey. Building a narrative founded on these concepts empowers the brand to own the conversation while also creating a collaborative and nurturing environment for consumers.
- Set the stage – We all know that sustainability is a journey, which is why it’s important to tell your consumers where we’ve you been, where you are and where you hope to be someday. Consumers will not only appreciate the humility but they’re more likely to remember an authentic brand.
- Know your audience – Developing a narrative is not easy but having a clear idea of who your targeted audience is will help from a creative standpoint. It’s essential to have a keen understanding of what your brand means to your customers and stakeholders – are you about nurturing and caring, toughness and resilience, technical know how? Knowing your audience – whether they be employees, investors, or customers – how they relate to your brand, and what they expect from your brand promise will help you craft sustainability stories that reinforce the relationship that these groups have with your organization and its products.
- Share values – More often than not, a brand’s values are not overtly clear to a consumer. Consider storytelling as a serious opportunity to share brand values with the consumer. If banning plastics is important, craft a narrative around single use products not being in-line with the integrity of the brand. One brand that exemplified this idea is REI with their #OptOutside. By shutting their doors and encouraging their customers to go outside on Black Friday, it sends a strong message to consumers that staying true to their values as a wilderness brand is more important than making money.
- Create shared experiences – As part of your brand’s journey to sustainability, create a narrative that allows the consumer to be a part of the experience your brand has embarked upon. People, especially customers, love feeling like they’re part of something special and by creating a shared experience the journey becomes collaborative for both parties.
Finally, remember the vital role that storytelling plays in the greater landscape of your brand’s journey to sustainability. Metrics matter but so does the way that you frame your story to ensure that it will make an even greater impact.
Michelle Spita is a marketing & communications professional and communications strategist specializing in sustainable transportation, smart city implementation and food technology.