7 Ways to Start Using Authentic Storytelling to Build Your Brand

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7 Ways to Start Using Authentic Storytelling to Build Your Brand

There’s a pretty good chance there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who could be bragging about you and your brand right now, but they aren't because frankly --- they don’t even know you exist! You can’t blame them, they’re busy and the world’s full of endless distractions. Even if they have heard of you before, they might not actually know you or what you’re about. 

So how do you fix that? Here are 7 things you can do right now to break through the noise and connect with your potential audience, customers, and supporters at a level that will stick.

1. Start with your “why”

Simon Sinek has a powerful TED Talk called “How great leaders inspire action” that currently has over 28 million views. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll want to watch this one. The premise is that you need to know why your company or non-profit exists before doing anything else, because it determines who will be attracted to you. People are not attracted to products or campaigns, but the reason the products exist.

Your “why” acts as your anchor to attract others to you. If you don’t know your why, others won’t know either. Once you have this clearly articulated internally, you can start to put this in your own words and communicate it to people in a natural way.

2. Use video to connect with others

So I realize we’re a bit biased since we’re documentary filmmakers, but it’s pretty clear that video is one of the best ways to reach people. The statistics just show that whether you’re communicating via email, social media, or on your own website, including video in your efforts is a smart move.

One of the reasons video is so effective is that it allows people to connect with others on a human level. We are social creatures and being able to look into another person’s eyes and see they are speaking from their heart goes a long way towards making us like them. In the end, it’s all about a relationship and video helps make that happen faster and more effectively than other methods.

But, is all video the same? We think you can go one step further to make it even more powerful.

3. Forget the script and just say it in your own words

If you’re thinking of using video, you’re probably imagining standing in front of some type of teleprompter, lights shining on you, while you read a script as it flickers by.

We’re not talking about this kind of storytelling.

Instead, if you want to connect with people authentically you’re going to want to say it in your own words. Sure, you can think ahead about what you want to say, maybe even outline the key talking points you want to cover, but it’s going to come across much more naturally if you just speak from the heart.

Imagine that you’re having coffee with the other person on the other side of the camera. You wouldn’t pick up a script while having coffee with a friend and start reading it to them, right? No, instead, think of your "script" as a conversation that flows from deep inside you because you’re passionate about your business, mission, or product. People know when you’re speaking honestly and they are drawn to it.

4. Use true fans, not actors

Once you’ve said it yourself, it’s also good to find others to back you up. It’s called social proof. We all want to know that we’re not getting scammed, so we look to see who else is jumping in. When we hear from others (even if we don’t know them), we can sense if they’re telling the truth and see how the brand affected them.

The best way to make this authentic is to find true fans of your brand and let them say it in their own words. Sure, you could hire actors (we actually like actors and know there are lots of talented ones out there), but no one will be able to brag about you more than someone who loves you, your mission, or your product.

Let them say it like they mean it. Let the camera capture that glint in their eye that lights up when they’re saying something they care deeply about. Let them share how your brand, mission, or product solved their problems and made them happier. It’s infectious and will only support your own voice.

5. Film in a real location, not on a blue screen or set

Cinema is it's own language with its own rules. When you film in a real location (such as a customers home or place of business) there is a level of authenticity that reflects not only in what your fans say and how they say it, but it also conveys the subtle subtext of their surroundings.

People often think they need perfect lighting and beautiful sets to build their brand. This can actually be counter-productive. Viewers are not looking for “perfect” they are looking for honesty. Without some level of believability, you will not connect and build the relationships you are looking to attract. Keep it real and people will see you as both approachable and admirable -- all things we like in our friends.

6. Use a cinema vérité style of shooting

In the world of documentary filmmaking, there is a style of storytelling called “cinema vérité” which literally means “cinema truth”. It’s about using the camera to follow your subject as they move throughout their world. They do the things they would normally do and you’re there, in the right place, to capture it. It’s different than having a shot list and trying to capture shots that you need that have been pre-scripted. It requires a cinematographer with experience shooting in this style who knows how to interact with the person or subject in a natural way.

The beauty of shooting this way is that it supports all the things we’ve been talking abut earlier — being able to be honest with your audience by speaking from the heart in a real way and in a setting that is not manufactured. It’s kind of the icing on the cake for authentic storytelling. 

7. Let the viewer see the eyes

The human face and specifically the eyes is where true human connection happens. If you're making a film and it only shows your product or service, but we never see another human being or their eyes, it's going to be hard to care about it very much. Instead, show us another person, light the eyes with natural light if possible so we see that glint it them, and instantly it's going to be more memorable and relatable.

So those are 7 tips that if you figure out how to use them well will help you connect with your audience in ways that will break through the noise, make lasting relationships, and build a lasting brand.

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Watchfire Films has been making independent feature documentaries for the past seven years. We are now adding a creative services side to our production company. Our specialty is in creating powerful and authentic stories, so if you’d like help capturing these for your company, brand, or non-profit, please let us know. We’re friendly and would love to see how we can help.

For more information about how to use authentic storytelling to build your brand, get our free "Authentic Storytelling Checklist: 21 Tips for Creating More Genuine and Effective Films For Your Business or Non-profit".

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A Manifesto

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A Manifesto

We are here for only a brief moment. While there are promises of more, what we know for sure is that our time here is limited. In those quiet moments of reflection, when we take a moment to notice our breath and be present, the questions linger — Why am I here? What is this all about? And what do I do in the mean time?

The name Watchfire Films comes from a poem by James Masefield called “The Seekers”. It’s a poem about seeking something that looms just beyond the horizon, a city maybe where things are better. It’s about the moments we share as we journey life together. The “watch-fire” is the night time fire that’s set to provide warmth and light. It acts as a center point to fellow travelers. It’s the perfect kind of fire for late night discussions about what matters most.

We see the films we make at Watchfire as representative of the kinds of stories you might share in those quiet moments. They are deeply authentic, powerful, life-changing, and impactful. They come from a place of deep longing for community, justice, peace, and prosperity. They are stories for seekers.

A beautiful irony is that the human experience is both universal and personal. We share so much in common and yet no one is exactly the same. We long for many of the same things, but no of us longs for exactly the same thing. It’s what makes the human experience so fascinating, complex, and fun.

Watchfire is about capturing those stories and moments of unfettered humanity. We are not about bells and whistles (who wants to travel with those anyway?), but about core human connection, compassion, and empathy. We don’t create aimless warm fuzzies, but experiences of deep human connection.

The process is hard to describe, but goes something like this:

Truth illuminates through the eyes of the subject (they truly are windows to the soul) and pierces through the lens eventually making its way to the viewer on the other side of the wall. It’s somewhat intangible to explain, but you know it when it happens. It’s a mixture of magic and meaning.

The power of these connections is that they are lasting. They are not throw away or disposable moments. They stick deep in the psyche and connect themselves permanently to the viewer. A synapse is triggered never to be the same.

When this happens lives are changed, sometimes forever. There is no other option because the viewer sees the world differently than they did before. They can no longer ignore what might have been glossed over, passed by, or worse stereotyped. The general is now personal and matters in a way that it didn’t before. Something happened.

Transformation is addictive so the impact reaches far and wide. Maybe it’s slow at first, but it picks up momentum. Soon others join in and communities are strengthened, movements are created, and nothing becomes something. One hand grasps another and what was once a solo journey becomes a united effort.

Then the dawn lights up the morning sky. We breath. And travel forward together hand-in-hand.

Yes, it is brief, but we are not alone.

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