Good storytelling is the foundation to forming a positive connection, and a strong image, in the mind of a potential customer.
As part of WATT Global Media’s 2020 Chicken Marketing Summit webinar series, Megan Ernst, senior marketing manager for Wayne Farms LLC, and Lexann Reischl, the founder and principal of Opera House Communications & Advocacy LLC, spoke about the fundamentals of storytelling and why its critical for modern poultry producers. They spoke on June 24, 2020, in the sixth of a series of seven webinars proudly sponsored by Zoetis. The webinar will be available to view on demand for free and free registration for future webinars is now open.
Reischl said storytelling is the great human connector. There are six key aspects to successful storytelling: backstory, inspiration, alignment, visuals, personal and simplicity. These elements help create an image that’s relatable and unique, creates connections, makes business personal and creates brand love.
Reischl said the backstory is an asset for a company because it is unique to the company and explains its origins and motivations. The past cannot be changed, she said, but it can be viewed, positioned and reframed to create change and richness in an individual story. The backstory is the foundation of a understanding.
The next element, Reischl said, is the inspiration or the reason why a company is doing business. It helps to articulate the passion behind the work – or provides the reason for being – and shapes the overall identity of the business.
Megan Ernst | Wayne Farms
This aspect can be thought of as a company’s personality. It’s a mixture of the company culture, the values of its leaders and its employees and voice which creates a sense of authenticity for those hearing the story.
Ernst related this concept to her own work forming and launching Wayne Farms' Naked Truth brand. That brand was created in order to satisfy a growing demand from customers and consumers expecting more from their chicken. The brand, which offers enhanced welfare and production claims over standard commodity chicken, is built, Ernst said, on being open and honest and providing the choice consumers want.
More than half of communication is nonverbal, so Reischl said, its an essential part of a storytelling and communication platform. Therefore, visuals are needed to form a personal connection. For Naked Truth, Ernst said this approach has meant showing the faces and hearing the stories directly from the people involved in hatching, raising, processing and packing the chicken used for the brand. Not only does this provide a visual, but it helps to humanize both the brand and the company.
Successful stories include a personal aspect which makes the storyteller more relatable and allows the audience to see themselves in the storyteller. Again, Ernst said, showing the faces and names of the real people involved in producing the chicken helps to provide a personal touch to those outside the company. Inside the company, Ernst said, Wayne Farms is using the personal words of its leader, CEO Clint Rivers, to dispel fears and share facts about the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it’s using the inspiring words and images of its own processing employees to personalize its internal messaging about working safely during the pandemic.
Finally, storytelling is most successful when its easily understood. Making the proper word choice is essential, as it creates a more conversational tone, its more authentic and it makes complex concepts easy to understand.
One way to think about simplicity in the chicken industry is in describing the actual farming operation. Ernst and Reischl shared examples of descriptions of chicken houses. One, styled as an industrial description, speaks about the structure and function of the house in a way that appeals to reason and science. Another, styled in what they called the story form, describes a chicken farm as a relationship between a caring, observant and expert farmer and the flock of birds the farmer cares for every day.
Why tell stories?
In closing, Reischl said stories are critical to sparking curiosity and what chicken companies do. If the company itself doesn’t seem to care about its story, why would anyone else, she asked. Stories help others see what makes a chicken company and its brands unique because the story it is telling is unique and genuine. Storytelling is the great human equalizer and connector and can help share experiences of change and growth and present something that was not previously well understood in a positive light.