GE's Tomas Kellner on Brand Storytelling
At The State of the Story Summit 2020, Tomas Kellner, Chief Storyteller at GE, spoke with our Director of Creative Development, Max Alex, about what makes a great story and how brands can be more authentic in connecting with their audience through content.
How much of a brand should appear in a story?
As Chief Storyteller at GE, my goal is, obviously, to tell the story about the GE brand. Yet I try to extend it out and educate the audience.
We don't just talk about ourselves. We tell stories of how GE helps our customers overcome their challenges to achieve their goals. We don't have to tell our audience every second paragraph that GE did something amazing.
In many ways, the less you talk about the brand, the more curious the audience will be about it.
"In many ways, the less you talk about the brand, the more curious the audience will be about it."
Does long-form or short-term content work best for a brand?
I am a big fan of longer, more engaging stories because you have time to explain a complex subject, e.g. climate change, healthcare, or AI, while your audience really learns from the piece. With those you often need a little more space to explain key points and bring something new into the discussion.
When you work on a story, it's your duty to bring in some new insights that your audience doesn't know, something they can walk away with. By going longer and tackling more complicated subjects, you are rewarding them for their time on your site.
"By going longer and tackling more complicated subjects, you are rewarding them for their time on your site."
What type of incentives are you giving your audience to engage with GE stories?
We stay humble and give respect to our audience.
A reader pays a brand with their time, so pay them back with something to make it a two-sided transaction. And that something is equipping them with knowledge to become more aware and make better investment decisions or buy better products.
Our newsletter debrief goes out twice a week to 70,000+ people who chose to subscribe – these are investors, employees, customers, and technology enthusiasts.
People who interact with our emails and open them frequently are treated as our ambassadors. We provide them with access to more information. If they are really invested in a topic, we invite them to our webinars. This is one of the ways we reward them for the time they spend engaging with our content.
"We stay humble and give respect to our audience."
What is a holistic strategy for brand communications at GE?
One thing that's set in stone in GE’s brand strategy is that it rolls out from the top. The communication strategies are tied to the CEO’s overarching strategy: What does the CEO want to do? Where are they leading the company?
We try to go beyond the press release and illustrate what the technology is and who the people behind it are. At the same time, when the marketing team is running social campaigns, we provide them with the material.
It's about slicing and dicing to create a different type of content that resonates with that specific platform to serve the right content to the right audience.
"We try to go beyond the press release and illustrate what the technology is and who the people behind it are."
How can brands create authentic content that their audience will enjoy?
First of all, your stories have to be tied to the overall strategy, as you cannot live in a vacuum. You have to tell stories that are relevant to what people are talking about, something that they can really use.
Second, some marketing professionals make a brand a little bit bigger than a message they are trying to deliver. And that often spoils things. It's like putting too many spices into a dish that's already perfect.
I use Cinderella in my storytelling workshop as an example.
The fairytale is about Cinderella. She's the heroine and it's about her problems, and she gets a happy ending. But the key person in this story is the Fairy Godmother. She's the enabler and makes everything happen.
So when you tell a story, make your brand be the Fairy Godmother, not Cinderella. Cinderella is the customer who has a problem. Tell the customer's story. People who are interested in the outcome will find you.
"Tell the customer's story. People who are interested in the outcome will find you."
Hear more from Tomas Kellner and learn more about world-class storytelling and how brands can engage with their communities through content.
We tell stories that matter
For over 20 years, Magnet’s mission has been to tell stories that matter so that we live in a more empathetic and just world. We intentionally pursue this mission by:
Having our teams and work represent the broader culture
Choosing projects that have positive societal impacts
Creating a community of thought sharing and leadership
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