Every Community Has A Story – What’s Yours?

Over the last few years, I have become fascinated with the relationship between story telling and branding. It started with watching Bill Moyer’s interview of Joseph Campbell on the power of myth, and has grown from there.

I believe story telling is key to great place promotion. For perspective, there is a growing body of literature focused on corporate storytelling that can be particularly reapplied to place branding. The books and articles will help you better understand storytelling as a process. They share proven story constructs that can be used to frame your community story.

Equally important, is to appreciate the cornerstones of great brands – relevance, competitiveness and authenticity – are also critical elements of a great story as well.

There is a formula or recipe to a great story. Learn and follow the steps and you can become a good storyteller. In their book “Storytelling: Art and Technique”, Baker and Greene define seven key characteristics of a good story.

  • A single theme, clearly defined
  • A well developed plot
  • Style: vivid word pictures, pleasing sounds and rhythm
  • Characterization
  • Faithful to source
  • Dramatic appeal
  • Appropriateness to listeners

To create a good story for your community, you need to understand its heart and soul. In my experience, the best place to begin your journey of understanding is to listen to the stories people in your community tell you about what they love about living and working there. After a few stories you will notice a rhythm and pattern to what you are hearing. That is the heartbeat of your community you are hearing. It is the authentic story and you will want to figure out how to tell in a mind and heart opening way.

Too often, economic development professionals focus only on communicating facts and figures about their community. But, this approach is more like reading an owner’s manual to somebody rather than telling a story. Facts and figures are void of emotion. They speak to the head but offer no connection to the heart. There is not plot, no appeal, no drama, nothing memorable.

Melinda Partin understands this difference. In her article titled “Brand Storytelling: Connecting With Your Audience”, she wrote “At its very core, marketing is storytelling. The best advertising campaigns take us on an emotional journey–appealing to our wants, needs and desires–while at the same time telling us about a product or service. A brand’s story comes from the company’s own information, and if successful, it is accepted and integrated into the consumer’s story. You must understand how your brand emotionally resonates with customers and then position your message in the right place to tell the right story at just the right time.”

An emotional journey is such a wonderful description for what you want to accomplish to create a connection with your community that can serve as a foundation for a productive relationship that ideally leads to capital investment.

Telling great stories is part science and part art. There is a process to creating and then telling a story effectively. It is something you can learn to do. If you are interested in better understanding the mechanics of how to be a good storyteller, watch the following video – Storytelling Theory and Practice video.

Take the first step on your journey to discover the heart song of your community. As one of my colleagues was fond of saying – “There is 30 cm between the brain and heart. Take the journey it is worth it.” Learning to tell your community’s story will help you close the 30 cm gap.

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