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The Importance of Strategic Storytelling With Lynne Golodner

Posted by Greg Smith on September 10, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Telling Your Story

Your brand's story is a crucial part of your brand - it says so much about who you are and what your values are! It can be highly advantageous for your brand to invest in a SEO specialist who can help you find the most effective wording to describe your brand successfully. 

Recently, our CEO Stacy Jones, sat down with Lynne Goldoner, the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Your People, a marketing and public relations company that uses strategic storytelling to help companies and organizations grow. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns how important it is for a company to find its story and purpose in order to help build their brand awareness and grow their bottom line from the expertise of Your People's Lynne Golodner.


Lynne Golodner

A Little More About Guest

Lynne Golodner is the founder and chief creative officer at Your People, a marketing and public relations company with a focus on purpose and story that revolutionizes how companies and organizations build brand awareness and grow their bottom line. Her agency's core focus is on helping schools, universities, and education-focused entrepreneurs, organizations, grow through strategic storytelling, mutually beneficial relationships and higher purpose.

Additionally, Lynne is the host of the podcast, Make Meaning, a Forbes agency council member, and she's received numerous awards for her innovative leaderships in marketing and public relations. Today we're going to talk about the role of story and relationships in marketing.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: Would you start off and share a little bit about what got you to here today in your career?

Answer: I'm a storyteller first and foremost, and I have been since I was a little girl. I would carry around a corduroy covered journal in the 1970s and 80s, and just write down poems and skits and stories wherever I went. That was just my first love and as I grew up and started thinking about careers, it never occurred to me that I could actually make a living storytelling. So I thought, "Is it business, is that law, is it medicine?" While I was on the school newspaper at University of Michigan and I was freelancing for local publications.

Then one day it hit me - this is what I love, and this is what I should do. So I started out my career as a journalist and I lived in New York City and Washington D.C., came home to Detroit in the late nineties. I was a journalist writing for magazines and newspapers all across the country until about 2007 when the economy was changing and so did journalism with it. I was becoming a single mother to three little kids ages one, three, and five, and I thought, "Okay, what do I do? I have these skills, I can communicate. I know how to tell a good story. And so how can I use these skills to help businesses that will pay me?" And Your People was born. At first it was just a hunch. I want to take my communication skills, go to companies, see if they'll hire me and do what they need.

Over time that really grew into focus on public relations and marketing. I pivoted those journalism skills into marketing savvy. And so I do it from the perspective of telling a story and connecting with people. It's not cookie cutter PR, it's not cookie cutter marketing, but I've done a lot of trainings since then. So I do have those skills in my toolbox as well. My hunch was that if you connected with people on an authentic level, a person to person, heart to heart, with a story that really pulled at those heartstrings, you built a relationship that was mutually beneficial. Then it benefited the business, it benefited the customer, and that would have some longevity. All of this revolves around having a higher purpose. Businesses that I work with are not just out to make a buck, although we all are, we all want to earn a living and do it well, but really there's something more than that.

They want to make a difference. They want to affect change. They want to make the world a better place. That is what connects their customers with them and really ensures their success.


Question: When you're working with a client and it's a new client that come to you and they're like, yeah help me with my story, I want PR, I want the world to love me. How do you start off? What is the first thing that you do with them?

Answer: It used to be that a client would come to us and say, "Get us on Facebook and that'll grow us. Or can you send out media, press releases," whatever it is. I would look at them and I'd say, "Well, let me understand what you do and why you do it, and the backstory." And that's when it would occur to me. You guys don't have a clear story, and everybody is saying different things about this brand. So we need to take a step back and we need to define who and what you are and why you do what you do. t sort of just happened in the natural course of working with a client.

Now we really try to start with the story development, what we call foundational narrative development. We try to have clients bring us on for that and then build a marketing strategy. If they want us to help implement it, we will. But we try to impress upon people that that story is where everything begins. Then comes the question - where do we start with that? Well, I always go back to the origin. So why did this organization come to be, and was it a founder? Was it a need? What was the story that really started it all? And then how has it evolved over time? So I want to see that progression. And then if I'm lucky, I'll have the time to interview people. So people who have already, maybe they've been past customers and they were thrilled, maybe they're current customers, maybe it's the CEO, maybe it's somebody who was just hired and you know, why did they come to work here?

I try to interview at least a dozen people and listen to what they say. Why did you choose to engage with this organization? What was your experience like? What do you think they do well? The same words start to come up again and again, and that's when you know you're hitting on some truth, because when a variety of people from all different backgrounds and interests can say the same thing about your brand, then you know that you're hitting on something that's really important. I don't even think a lot of companies know what that is. You know, what their value is. They think it's one thing, but their customers perceive it differently. If we have the time and luxury to really dig down and determine what that is, the story is going to be stronger and richer and way more successful.


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Question: I know you've worked with a lot of, you said food entrepreneurs right, so smaller, but you also work with very large educational driven companies that are a little bit more corporate. Would you say that storytelling is not about the size of your company, but really about the ethos of your brand?

Answer: Yes, it's a willingness to connect. It's funny, because you would think with storytelling, you don't want to be doing all the talking. But so much of it begins with the listening and to understand really what your market niche is. It may not be what you intended. It may not be what you started out doing. It might have grown and evolved, but you have to be open to that shift and that flow. You listen in order to really get a story that satisfies you, that satisfies the people you're attracting.

And then you use that. What we do is we have, it could be five to 10 paragraphs, it's not super long, but that's the foundational narrative. We establish it and everybody agrees on it. That is sort of what we're empowering everybody within the company to use when they speak about it. Those are the words and anecdotes that we go back to for all the communications. When it comes to our media relations, our stories should really align with what they want to stand for. When it comes to social media, we want to know have a content calendar that keeps hammering home the same concept. The same thing goes with events and just anything we do, email blast, I'm a big fan of editorial calendars so that all the communication channels are interweaving and speaking about the same topics in the same way, because then we're really hitting people with a brand message that's consistent and it's compelling.


Question: So you have the story development, you have the boiler plate, you are now fairly well prepared to go out and pitch to media, what are the next steps? What do you do then? You've gotten that piece of business, they've hired you on, now what are you doing with it?

Answer: So you have this story, and then the next piece is building mutually beneficial relationships. I believe that marketing is a relationship. You know, we're in a really different era of business. It used to be that you could pay for an ad and people would buy whatever was in the ad. It was just an easy transaction and it's not like that anymore. People are purchasing ways of living. They're purchasing values, they're purchasing perspectives and hopes and dreams. You have to rise above and actually be more than whatever you're selling. It has to be integrity based. It has to be something that's really going to change people's lives. With that in mind, it has to have mutual benefit. This goes for your customers and for you and also for media. So when you're pitching media, what's in it for the reporter or the editor or the producer, why would they want you on the air or in the pages?

There has to be a benefit all around. It's funny because the way that I've built relationships with journalists, because I was one, is one of person to person. I'm not a schmooze person. I'm actually more of an introvert than I should be for this industry, but I build relationships with journalists that are real friendships. I want to get to know who they are. I want to really interact and care about them and have them care about me. So I'm not pitching people blindly. There are reporters that I know that I pitch maybe once a year because I know that the other times just not a fit. When I do pitch them, they look at it and they respond. Even if it's not a fit, they'll tell me why and they'll send me to someone else. So I have to know that what they're looking for in their coverage and what's going to help them do their job and make sure that that's a fit.

That's a really responsible approach to pitching media. So that relationship element is probably even more important than story. Once you have your story, you have to have that respect for the customer, respect for the media. You have to make sure there's something in it for every person along the way.


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Question: So what is the next step? Where do you go from there?

Answer: So story and then relationships. The idea is to be consistent. I love the question people often ask of, "Well what's the return on investment?" And I'll say, "Well, it's not going to be in the first month or two. I can tell you that." As you know, marketing is a gradual and consistent build and it's something that you have to be in for the long haul. If you want to see that your revenues are up a 100% in a month, please don't hire me, because it's not going to happen. I will say that over time, when you are faithful to the process, it definitely happens. I'm not going to say a 100%, but it definitely happens. So you develop the story, you create the strategy.

So for me, even before the relationship piece, it's coming up with, what's the roadmap, what's the plan, let's understand the market. I love delving into research and understanding the competition and the niche. I think a lot of people have a hard time dialing in their audience. When they say, "Everyone can be my customer," that means nobody can. And so you have to really get specific. Frankly, specializing is a brilliant thing to do, because you can be more clear on your audience.

Then there's deciding on what tactics. How are we going to build relationships with that audience we've just identified. We've mentioned media relations, social media, e-blasts, blogging, anything that you're doing, podcasting. We have a podcast, events when we can meet in person, Zoom events when can't. Anything that we can do to get in front of people and stay in front of them.

As you know, the marketing research is that you need to be touched by a brand an average of seven times before they interact. The most likely way that they interact is a word of mouth referral. Somebody that you trust says, "You got to check out this brand." That's what solidifies the deal, but all the other things validate that decision. So seeing you on TV, hearing you on a podcast or radio, getting you, watching you on social media and engaging that way and all these different things. We do the story, we do the strategy and then we start to implement. My preference, because I've always worked with small companies, small institutions, and I respect small budgets because I believe everybody needs marketing and PR and not everybody can or should pay a fortune for it.

What I would rather do is set people up with their story and their strategy and then coach them to implement it, doesn't usually happen. People just say, can you just do it? And I do, but it's a lot more expensive. And so I do coach people and give workshops and things like that to try to empower people, to take on what they can because social media is something frankly that you're in every day, why not do it yourself? So that's the implementation. I do think it takes time and repetition and then nurturing those relationships over time, reminding people that you're glad they're there, getting in front of them in a lot of different ways and being there in a true caring sense to continue that relationship.


Check Out The Podcast!

Lynne has SO MUCH great information from her experience in all things writing from blogging to copy, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to drive your business with effective storytelling!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews