Getting to the Heart of Your Brand Story: Q&A with Author Miri Rodriguez
Looking for a tool to help you organize your thoughts and catalyze the brand storytelling process? Look no further than the recently released book Brand Storytelling.
Written by the award-winning storyteller Miri Rodriguez at Microsoft, this actionable guide goes beyond content strategy and, instead, demonstrates how to leverage brand storytelling in the marketing mix to strengthen brand engagement and achieve long-term growth, with advice from brands like Expedia, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Adobe and Google.
Brand Storytelling caught up with Rodriguez to learn more about the book:
Miri - When and why did you set out to write this book?
Hi Jordan! I was in London on a speaking engagement in 2018 when a book commissioner approached me after my talk proposing the idea of the book. I wasn’t immediately sold on it, to tell you the truth! There was a lot going on personally and professionally so it didn’t seem like the right time to write a book. But when is it ever the “right time”? The commissioner pressed in and finally convinced me when she painted the picture of many more people learning insights and democratizing storytelling.
We, like you, place a lot of emphasis on the importance of brand storytelling because we recognize its power. What’s one of the main things you see brands do over and over again rather than tell brand stories? Was that part of the impetus for writing this book?
I’m so glad you do because it is extremely powerful and important! I see brands confusing what brand storytelling is. They’ve probably heard the term and believe that if they share content in story form (tell stories), that in itself is brand storytelling, but we know it is not. Brand Storytelling is twofold in that it encompasses both the story of the brand as an entity and transferring information in an emotional manner through a character, plot and conclusion to your intended audience. There is an art and science to brand narrative and both require deep understanding of the designing of stories. That is the impetus for writing the book. In my book I share not only the many elements of story, but also structure and mechanisms that exist to design a brand story that evokes emotion from your audience.
You detail a number of great ways to key into strong foundational elements and positioning when it comes to telling brand stories. One of my favorites is the “Robin to Batman” effect. For the uninitiated, what is it? And why is it so central to the ideas you put forth in this book?
Ahhhh, yes! The Robin to Batman effect is one of my favorites too! It’s this idea of true alchemy when it comes to storytelling. In a story, the audience is intently seeking to “find themselves” within the narrative. Think of the stories that have captured your attention. Whether a book, a piece of poetry, a film. We innately are trying to connect with at least one of characters in the story. The Robin to Batman effect suggests that you dial down your hero character and empower your customer to become the hero instead. This way, they see themselves not only as a character, but as a main character in the story, and your brand is the enabler, the sidekick that helps them win. The customer becomes intricately involved with the narrative as they recognize they story is about them, and they stay tuned in. And of course, when they win, you win.
You interview some great heavyweight brands for this book. What made you seek out the brands you did for the book? How willing were they to share with you?
Social media truly is a powerful platform! When I began to do research in the storytelling space for my job (the book came years after), I decided to start connecting with people who also held the job title of “Storyteller” and pitch a quick interview question (“To you, what is not storytelling?”) to gain insights from their perspective and lived experiences. This opened up so many great doors and new friendships! I also expanded my network on other channels by consistently using the hashtag storytelling in my posts. That, combined with my existing network, enabled so many opportunities for knowledge sharing in this field. It has been an incredible journey!
What can readers expect to learn, take with them, and apply to their future brand endeavors upon reading your book?
My hope is that readers can learn all the beautiful and creative ways a story can be told and why. But also what needs to be considered once you uncover the true power of storytelling. During one of my quick one-question interviews a respondent said that storytelling is not exploitation. I thought hard about this and the why behind it. Because it can be. I then decided to share my own experiences around this powerful tool and the necessity of creating some checks and balances around it, so I dedicated an entire chapter to Ethics in Storytelling. I have heard from many readers, this is their favorite chapter 😊. All in all, I want to democratize storytelling for all and elevate this cognitive ability we all have as humans to leverage it as a platform to help us connect better, and with empathy, with our audiences, whatever they may be.
You can purchase Brand Storytelling today online or at a bookstore near you.
About Miri Rodriguez
Miri Rodriguez is a globally recognized Storyteller, Head of Global Internship Program at Microsoft and author of Brand Storytelling. She is a creative journalist and content strategist, evangelizing brand narrative and showcasing how thought leaders can leverage storytelling techniques for culture activation and influence in the digital age. Miri has earned several awards in digital marketing and customer experience and is ranked as top in-demand speaker at leading industry conferences around the world. Miri brings 15+ years of expertise, valuable industry and consulting insights matched with a lighthearted and connected delivery approach. Her social advocacy and philanthropic work include volunteering to train social enterprise leaders in Southeast Africa, coaching students at Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in the U.S., and mentoring men and women of all walks of life to build their personal brand with empathy, passion and purpose. Her biggest accomplishment to date is being a mother of 2 boys and an American Bulldog. She can also run in heels. Ice cream is her superfood.