Brand Storytelling Step #3: Define the Role Your Company is Playing

By Todd Anthony, Founder, Head of Strategy

No matter what story you’re telling, your company will obviously have an important role to play. And determining what that role is helps to create the story itself… and vice versa. 

Very often, the company’s role in the story is related to the customer needs. Let’s take the story of Airbnb for example. Airbnb noticed that the travel experience could be improved if travelers could live like locals, and that locals’ lives would be improved if they could earn short-term money on unused spaces. So the role that the company played in their story was that of a matchmaker. 

Pinwheel client Opportunity@Work helps company leaders improve their hiring and promoting practices by rethinking their approach to college degree requirements and their biases around non-college skills training and development. In their story, the heroes are the employers, and specifically the talent acquisition team and CEOs. The heroes are trying to solve their talent gap and Opportunity@Work plays the role of their guide.

Impactful brand stories exist at the intersection between your audience’s reality, the company’s authentic story and what the brand stands for in the world. So the goal in this step is to figure out what the company’s authentic story is. 

You’ll want to get some time with the leadership at your company (founders, C-suite, etc.) and ask them a slew of questions. Sometimes you’ll only get short, truncated answers, so it’s your job to pull the whole story out of them. 

  1. What was the initial spark for the company? (encourage them to tell it as a story)
  2. How did the company get its name?
  3. What problem in the world was it designed to solve for?
  4. Why was that problem not being addressed well by anyone else?
  5. Why do you feel it’s good that this company exists in the world?
  6. Why did you join/start the company?
  7. How did the company grow from the beginning until now? Who did what, when, where, why, and how?
  8. What major obstacles did it overcome along the way?
  9. What is the secret to the company’s success? What makes this company special?
  10. Imagine that I’m someone who’s never heard of the company, how do you explain its promise?
  11. Why is that valuable?
  12. How do you pitch the company in 60 seconds?
  13. How did the consumer promise evolve over time?
  14. What is the vision and mission of the company? Where is the company headed?
  15. Who or what is your biggest competition? (hint: it may be something other than another company)
  16. What does your competition do well? Not so well?
  17. What’s unique about your company in the marketplace?
  18. What are the three biggest challenges facing your company today?
  19. Can you describe the company culture here?
  20. How did it get that way?

Some of the questions above may elicit similar answers, that’s fine. Sometimes phrasing a question slightly differently can uncover hidden dimensions to the story. You should also ask additional questions that take into account the things you already know about the company and industry. We highly recommend recording and transcribing these conversations and then working with that data to establish the patterns and themes. 

To learn Pinwheel’s entire brand storytelling process, get our free eGuide, Imagining Reality: Five Steps to Brand Storytelling.

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