Jan Gordon
August 13, 2014

Activate Your Brand With Participatory Storytelling

By Michael Brito

Advocacy happens when customers or employees talk favorably about a brand or defend it without being asked to do so. They love the brand, what it stands for and how it makes them feel.

They are all influential too. It doesn’t matter what their Klout scores is or how many followers they have or whether or not they have a “verified” Twitter account. Their words and opinions are trusted. They aid and influence their peers down the purchase funnel through organic conversations they are having both online and offline. In many cases, they also influence others not to buy depending upon their personal experiences.

At WCG, this is a part of a broader content approach that we call Content as a Service.

As you think about mobilizing your employees, customers or both to “participate” and tell your brand story, consider the following:

Content Strategy Alignment

Before you decide what you want your advocates to say, you must know exactly what the story is that you want to tell. A comprehensive content strategy should help you establish:

  1. What you want to say (storytelling principles, narrative)
  2. How you want to say it (tone of voice)
  3. Where you want to say it (aligning stories to digital channels)
  4. Who you want to participate (employees, customers, etc.)

A solid editorial framework will determine content and platform priorities and the content supply chain (workflows that facilitate content ideation, creation, submission, approval and distribution.)

Smart Technology Deployment

You can’t manage an advocate program using email or a private Facebook Group. There are several technology vendors in the market place that can help streamline the process:

Many of these vendors offer very similar features so it’s important to first gather your own requirements and program initiatives and then ensure that the vendor you choose if flexible enough to meet those requirements. Don’t do it the other way around where you manipulate your requirements based on a pre-selected vendor’s existing capabilities.

Strategic Content Activations

Content StrategyAs much as your program must include curating and distributing content from your advocates to help tell your brand story, you must also have a content plan for engaging directly with them. Unfortunately, many teams that manage these programs often over look a content plan and then struggle to keep the conversations alive and fresh with advocates; more so with customers than employees. Your content should be planned weekly, monthly and even quarterly; and take into consideration several factors like the following:

  • Upcoming events or industry trade shows
  • Upcoming product launches or new releases of an existing product
  • Fun things like contests, polls and research questions
  • Asking for user generated content (uploading and sharing photos on Facebook/Twitter)

Smart and innovative companies are taking it one step further and co-creating new products and services with the community. One example is GiffGaff, a mobile virtual network operator based in the UK that built their entire business with their community members. Using the Lithium platform, a community software application, they reward active community members for running various portions of the business including answering questions in the community, attracting new members, or using content to help promote the company.

The future of digital marketing is brand storytelling. And storytelling happens at every customer touch point within the digital ecosystem – paid, earned, shared and owned media. Whether employee (brand journalism) or customer advocacy, brands will have to enable storytelling through smart technology solutions and empower advocates with quality content and rich activations.


0eee787This piece was originally titled “Participatory Storytelling = Activating Brand Advocacy” and published on Linkedin . It is republished here  with permission.

Michael Brito is a Group Director at WCG and also an Adjunct Professor at San Jose State University and UC Berkeley. He is the author of two books: Smart Business, Social Business and Your Brand: The Next Media Company. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+.

About the book: There is a content surplus and an attention deficit in the minds of consumers today. They are highly influential and aiding others down the purchase funnel using organic conversations about the products they care about and the ones they don’t. In order to reach these consumers, brands must create recent, relevant and value add content in order to break through the clutter and successfully change their behavior. Order here from Amazon.




Images: Pinterest


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