The Power of Putting the Human Story First

by Malia Bachesta

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Dorris, Shana, and Jennifer are all women who previously worked as prostitutes on the streets of Nashville. Coming from broken families and difficult childhoods, these women found themselves working the streets at as early as 12 years old. After years of drug and sex abuse, Dorris, Shana and Jennifer found a new beginning at Thistle Farms.

Thistle Farms, a social enterprise that specifically focuses on creating economic independence for female survivors of sexual exploitation, is one of the many inspiring organizations I visited in a recent field research assignment to Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky on social entrepreneurship.

Social enterprises such as Thistle are built on stories that originally inspired the Founders to take action and now sit at the heart of the business. As a result, the company is able to capitalize on the personal connection that stories create between the product and the consumer.

However, it is not just social enterprises that have mastered the art of storytelling. As more companies begin to understand the benefit of embedding social and environmental values into their business, storytelling is becoming more common. Companies are increasingly looking for ways to share their social impact beyond data points and economic growth. Below are a few examples of companies that have successfully used storytelling as a way to integrate their brand and mission.

Sweet Green is built on the stories of local farmers who grow local and sustainable food. This is thoughtfully integrated into their company and brand. Sweet Green also uses storytelling techniques to share its story with stakeholders. For example, it creates compelling “Meet the Farmer” videos. These stories are genuine portrayals of the social impact locally sourced food has on the economy.

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For many years Dove has committed its brand and company to empowering women and improving their self-image. Dove has launched several powerful mainstream media campaigns about self-esteem and true beauty. In addition to this, Dove has partnered with other nonprofits and provides open resources to teach women about self-confidence. The combination of powerful media messages and Dove’s actions behind the scenes creates an authentic and genuine story about women and self-confidence that has become such a strong component of their brand.

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Sam Adams, is built on the storyoffounder Jim Koch and the challenges he faced when he was a young brewer and entrepreneur. This story inspired the creation of the Sam Adams’ social initiative Brewing the American Dream (BTAD). BTAD helps small business owners achieve their dreams and create their own narrative through launching successful food and beverage companies. These human centered stories make employees, customers and consumers proud to be associated with Sam Adams.

Jim Koch

These examples, such as Dorris and Shana’s experiences, show the increasing power of human-centered personal stories and the use of storytelling techniques in the success of both social enterprises and for profit companies. Authentic, compelling stories help to enhance a brand, drive a social mission, and convey the genuine impact that companies are having on the world.

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