The Convergence of Effective Brand Storytelling and Positive Customer Experiences
This week’s guest is Miri Rodriguez, senior storyteller – Future of Work at Microsoft and author of the bestselling book Brand Storytelling – Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story. Miri travels the globe sharing insights on the power of brand storytelling. In this episode, Miri discusses the correlation between effective brand storytelling and positive customer experiences and how brands can think about the convergence of the two within their company culture and in how they communicate with customers to build brand loyalty.
Where the Story Begins
Miri’s senior storyteller role didn’t exist when she joined Microsoft 10 years ago. But with her passion, insights, and experience she built the foundation for a brand storytelling job at one of the top brands in the world, and she loves what she does! She believes in it so much that she wrote a book about it and travels the world sharing her insights to help brands elevate their narrative and create valuable customer experiences.
Brand storytelling wasn’t an academic discipline when Miri majored in communications in college. Now Miri’s book on the subject serves as a textbook in many colleges and universities. Throughout her experiences over the years, she learned to pivot communications and connectedness strategies as they continue to evolve in the digital age. As Microsoft went through its own digital transformation, Miri’s job changed and she believes that will continue to happen as new roles and positions emerge.
Miri began her career working for various tech companies before joining Microsoft on the operations side and then moving into the emerging area of social media at the time. She and the rest of the social media team navigated channels and determined which ones to develop a presence on. She quickly noticed that they were telling Microsoft’s brand story on the support side, but they were telling a different story through digital marketing on social media channels. Miri determined that it was essential to develop a unified voice so she began telling stories that connected the customer experience across their entire journey.
That led to a series of creative ideas as she navigated the look and feel of storytelling with a unified voice across channels. She accepted the opportunity to become senior storyteller for Microsoft’s digital transformation. She relishes her role in guiding Microsoft’s brand story and influencing how everyone at Microsoft collectively thinks about the narrative and how it is positioned across channels for a consistent brand identity.
Why Brand Storytelling Is Important in CX
Brand storytelling is more than general marketing or communications content or social media posts. It’s a culture-shifting strategy for brands to think about the way that they’re communicating their values and connecting on a human level with consumers.
For today’s consumers, purchasing from a brand means investing in something bigger than just a product or service—they need to know if the brand aligns with their own core values. Brand storytelling empowers companies to share their core values, their origin stories, their why, and continue to remind customers why they exist beyond their product or service. It must be an authentic brand story that begins with an individual’s first interactions with a brand, before they’re even a customer, and extends throughout their customer lifecycle and loyalty to a brand.
Miri explains that because today’s customers look beyond a brand’s products and services to assess the brand entity and what the company represents, brand storytelling is essential to improve customer engagement and advance the customer experience. Customers want to know the brand’s voice, its political stance, and whether it’s socially responsible. Is the brand worth friending and following?
Because the customer experience is no longer solely about the quality of the service or product, but also about the entity the brand represents, the story of the brand enables opportunities for customers to connect with the brand on a human level. But brands can’t just talk like a human, they must actually behave like a human. Brands need to recognize that they have a voice and a stance, and what they say and don’t say carries weight in the customer experience.
Many things impact the ways in which consumers look at a company or a brand and determine whether or not they want to purchase from them. This has intensified the relevance and importance of the messages a brand communicates to its constituents and potential customers. A company’s stance on social justice issues, climate change, and the like is important to consumers and essential to customer loyalty and the brand’s success.
How Brands Foster Effective Storytelling
Effective brand storytelling centers on designing—not just telling—the story because it’s more than just telling a compelling story. The storytelling must align with the company’s core values, mission, and the overall narrative of the brand itself.
One way to accomplish this is by integrating the origin of the brand into the storytelling, consistently reminding the audience why the brand exists and how everything it does aligns with its core values and original mission. Weaving this nostalgia into everything from marketing campaigns to products provides a strong and consistent foundation for storytelling that shapes the customer journey.
Indeed, ensuring that products and marketing campaigns complement the narrative strengthens the storytelling. Incorporating stories from employees, partners, and customers that confirm how the core values are alive throughout the brand’s ecosystem provides credibility and enhances the message. It’s critically important to make sure that the brand narrative itself as well as the messages across channels are congruent and true to what the brand actually says and does.
Embedding Storytelling Within the Company Culture
Storytelling must reflect the company’s culture. Owning the mission of the company and embodying it from the inside out builds a strong company culture and validates the storytelling.
When Microsoft updated its mission to reflect its commitment to empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, it captured a feeling of empowerment that provided a clear universal truth and intangible feeling at the heart of all of its storytelling.
Empowerment is a universal feeling that everyone knows. It’s embedded in Microsoft’s culture to empower people. Everyone at Microsoft is focused on empowerment at their core, even if the tasks themselves vary.
These core values must either come from the top of the organization or be supported by the top and permeate throughout the organization. Microsoft’s employees all live the brand mission in some way. Effective brand storytelling reflects this culture as employees, partners, vendors, and anyone else who touches the brand owns the story and makes it theirs as they live out the company’s mission. They become the brand storytellers rooted in the company’s culture as they realize the core values in their day-to-day experiences.
Once an organization determines the core values of its story and commits to telling that story, the next step is to build resources that empower people to tell the story, owning it and making it their own. To this end, Microsoft has built a storytelling community with a global council. Miri builds content marketing capacity for storytellers at every level and vertical, from finance to engineering. Providing employees with resources to tell their stories yields powerful narratives and a hub of information that sales, marketing, and finance teams can access and share to build brand awareness.
Advocating for Young Women in Tech
Starting out as a Latina woman in tech wasn’t easy. In fact, it was lonely at times without a significant presence of women in the field. As Miri navigated the tech industry, she encountered other women who felt the same way. Because women represent a small percentage of the tech workforce, Miri wanted to become a resource that she didn’t have for herself—she wanted to be a friend and a coach to young women entering the fields of STEM and tech.
Empowering and inspiring young women in tech is a passion project for Miri. As a mentor in the industry, she has coached young women one-on-one for years, supporting them and guiding them so they know they aren’t alone. Her support has encouraged many women to stay in the industry and pave the way for future generations.
What Miri Does for Fun
Miri is a self-professed workaholic. She loves what she does and she loves to work! So, when she’s not working on brand storytelling, she starts working on something else for fun. She keeps many smaller projects in the background and picks one up when she’s not working on things that require immediate attention. Whenever possible she works on these projects at the beach or the pool, soaking up the fresh air and sunshine.
Her extra projects range from researching topics relevant to her work, assessing market research, or even launching a new brand! Keeping busy with work gives Miri a satisfying feeling of productivity and importance. She enjoys making valuable contributions in any way she can.