Use Storytelling Techniques in Personal Branding: Narrative


As we’ve seen in the previous two parts of this series (covering characterization and plot), using storytelling techniques to help communicate your personal brand can make for clearer, more consistent, more compelling branding efforts. In this final part of the series, let’s look at the storyteller’s other tools — narrative and description — and see how they fit into the personal branding picture.

What is Narrative?

Narration is the telling of a story, and narrative is the way you tell stories. It’s the glue that ties your characters to the plot events in your story. As well as elements like scene setting, narrative includes description, so we’ll deal with these aspects together.

A storyteller uses narrative to tell the story — to relate what’s happening, give a point of view, and explain events, characters’ responses, and so on. Narrative exists above and beyond the plot and characters, though — in a film or novel, for example, narrative can tell us things that the characters themselves do not know.

Narrative and Personal Branding

You are the key narrator in your own personal branding story, though other characters may have a part in narrating from time to time (for example, a guest blogger narrates part of your brand story while you’re on vacation, or away at a conference).

Since you’re the narrator, the way you tell your story will be driven largely by your character. The channels you choose, and how effectively you use them to narrate your story, will also depend on your character.

A friend of mine who’s an interface designer and early adopter was one of the first of my contacts to give Google Buzz (s goog) a try, with a post that began “Must be my turn for a Buzz” and mentioned some of the things he liked about its interface and interactivity. Since then, he’s been one of the more prolific of my Buzz contacts, pulling in a range of relevant information from other social networks he uses, but also posting event (plot) and opinion (character) information specifically on Buzz.

In this way, he’s made Buzz central to the communication of his narrative. I know I can rely on his Buzz account to provide a slightly cut-down version of his overall story, and that I can use it to access more information in any of the subplots — family, his social life, his interests — in his life.

Like many social networks, Buzz allows me to observe his interactions with his other contacts. Importantly, these interactions adds an extra layer of narration to our stories. Not only do your contacts get to experience your own narration through your exchanges with other contacts, but those other contacts’ voices also combine to help to tell small parts of your story. These other perspectives can add a real richness to your story, and help to cement an authentic personal brand, so if you’re not making the most of opportunities to engage publicly with others, you’re missing out.

Some of my contacts choose to narrate their stories in real time whenever that’s appropriate. In my last post, I mentioned a friend whose social life is easy — and entertaining — to follow on social networks as well as in real life. He updates his status on various networks as an evening, weekend, or week progresses, which provides for suspense and enjoyment and ensures the continuity of his story’s narration.

As this contact’s example suggests, one of the keys to effective narration lies in plot — in the events and information you choose to relate to your contacts, as well as when you choose to tell them. If you choose content that you’re passionate about, that enthusiasm will come through in your narration. The things you have to say will likely be more considered, your descriptions will be more engaging, and your character will come across more effectively than if you waste time trying to talk energetically about something that doesn’t really set your world on fire.

So don’t get stuck in a rut, or wind up becoming a caricature of yourself. Let your character, plot, and narrative evolve with each day. And perhaps thinking about the storytelling concepts of character, plot and narrative will help you communicate your personal brand more coherently.

Can you see any opportunities for using narrative to support your personal brand?

Photo by stock.xchng user Lens.


Nasr Khan

Very insightful article Georgina. Personal branding is all about carving your niche and use the appropriate tools to project them. And what better than the ones offered by today’s web 2.0 world. However, some caution is to be observed while experimenting with narration as people may not be too enthusiastic towards someone bragging himself all day long on twitter/buzz/fb etc. Substance self restraint are as important. What do you think?

Georgina Laidlaw

Nasr, I agree completely. Narration doesn’t need to be all about yourself, though.

One recent example of narration has come from all those lucky SXSW attendees. I’ve known who’s been where, when, and what they’ve thought of it, for the duration of the conference thanks to narrative provided by my Twitter contacts.

Laura Denktash

Great post. Most of my clients are authors. I ask them “why” twice. Why are you different, and why would anyone want to buy your book? They need to be able to answer these questions. Once they can do that, their stories can be blended to create a personal brand that is authentic and compelling.

James Frey

Great posts — I enjoyed all three. My big thing with clients is getting them to ask ‘why?’ That is such a powerful question that forces them to think about what they say, who they say it to, and how they say it.

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