Why Storytelling has the Power to Shape Company Culture

November 1, 2017

For as long as humankind has existed, long before the oral language was developed, we’ve told stories to give our lives meaning. Stories link us to our past and provide glimpses into our future. Good storytelling gives us the opportunity to feel another’s pains, joys, heartaches so that we can have empathy and connect with others and the experiences we haven’t gone through ourselves.

For brands, well-told, inspiring stories have the ability to unite a company on a sense of identity. It builds a narrative and explains why you’re doing what you’re doing. In the journey of telling your own story and designing a brand identity, you’re holding up a mirror and looking face-to-face with your true reflection. It’s this self-reflection that’s needed for companies to grow, for teams to understand where the company comes from, and where you’re headed.

American author Ruth Sawyer said in her book The Way of the Storyteller that “to be a good storyteller, one must be gloriously alive.” In many ways, for brands, being alive means always progressing, always pushing forward, and always thinking of new ways to flourish.

Go ahead, look back to move forward

As one of the greatest modern global brands, Nike has long used storytelling in their digital branding strategy to provide consistent and compelling content to paint a picture of the company, not only for its customers but also, its employees. In the late 1970s, the champion brand builder launched a corporate storytelling program to tell the story of its heritage and today, still places extra care on teaching senior executives the art of good storytelling.

Nike’s dedication to storytelling built a kind of pinnacle cult following, connecting emotionally to and inspiring loyalty from those inside and outside the company.

Inevitably, it’s storytelling like Nike’s that communicates your values and shapes company culture. And because culture shapes our minds and thinking process, it’s not difficult to imagine how cardinal it is in a business environment. The popular saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” implies that you can set whatever course for your business you want, but success is always determined by how your people behave, what they believe, and how they get work done.

digital branding strategy - teamwork

For instance, do your stories encourage people to take risks, or will it push them to play it safe? Does your culture focus on driving results and achievements or reinforce the importance of people and relationships? How do the stories you tell influence working styles and how people prefer to get work done? Do they collaborate with one another, or become too competitive and possessive of credit? What can your stories teach people during times of growth and setbacks?

The stories you tell, the culture you build determines the people you hire, how they’re trained, how they work. In the end, it impacts the kind of company you grow into.

Looking ahead

At YML, we haven’t been so focused on telling our stories. Instead, we’ve been busy making stuff. We’ve been hustling turning vision into execution and connecting humans to technology. We’ve been busy design-making, not just design-thinking. We’ve been distracted solving problems for people and making a difference in their lives.

So now we’ve finally looked up and realized we’d been neglecting telling our story. Content hasn’t always been our priority in our digital branding strategy because we didn’t want to produce content for the sake of content. It is really important to us that content not be made for its own sake, but to bring better value.

But now it is time to tell those stories. We do a lot here. We’re building a lot of great things. We want to tell people why we’re building these things. So get ready. Grab a seat by the fire because you’ll soon be hearing a lot more stories on what we’re cooking up over here in the Y Media Labs.

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