The Power of Storytelling: A Brand’s Forgotten Art

Article By: Cory Edwards

There’s real power in a story. So much in fact that a fan­tas­tic account, fact or fic­tion, often dic­tates the news cycle—regardless if it’s news­wor­thy or not. Sev­eral weeks ago I was reminded of this fact while lis­ten­ing to a Freako­nom­ics pod­cast. They reminded me of a news story that broke back in Feb­ru­ary about an 18 month old giraffe named Mar­ius from the Copen­hagen Zoo. Marius was euth­a­nized and fed to the lions at the zoo because of his less than ideal genetic makeup. Do you remem­ber hear­ing about this?

My intent isn’t to pro­vide a com­men­tary on whether this was right or wrong. It was with­out a doubt a sad event. But the Freakononom­ics pod­cast reminded me that despite sig­nif­i­cant tur­moil and esca­lat­ing civil con­flicts result­ing in many human deaths world­wide, this is the story that cap­ti­vated the nation, trump­ing most other news for an entire week. The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Time, and The Guardian among oth­ers may have given this story legs, but social media made those legs move. Social has given new life to sto­ry­tellers, and its power is clearer than ever. For brands, cap­ti­vat­ing con­sumers with com­pelling, engag­ing sto­ries that are rel­e­vant and mean­ing­ful is more impor­tant than ever.

What You Have to Say Matters

Why is it so impor­tant that brands learn to tell a good story? Well, for starters, con­sumers place more value on what their fel­low con­sumers think than what brands have to say. That’s noth­ing new; we’ve known for years that cus­tomers trust one another more than com­pany spokesper­sons, even the CEO. But here’s why it mat­ters. When a brand can relate to its tar­get audi­ence on a higher level with some­thing real—whether it’s a heart­warm­ing tale, a unique expe­ri­ence, or sim­ply a good laugh—customers lis­ten. A great story evokes emo­tion, per­suades, even com­pels. More impor­tantly, peo­ple who have felt some­thing while being lost in a good story want to share. If social media is the vehi­cle, your story can be car­ried away in an instant. What you have to say mat­ters. Make it res­onate and your mes­sage will cap­ti­vate the crowd.

A Pic­ture Is Worth a Thou­sand Words

By now, most of us have real­ized that our con­tent is bet­ter received when com­ple­mented by pic­tures. Per­haps it’s because we are a visual learn­ing soci­ety; as many as 85 per­cent of peo­ple describe them­selves as such. Social media posts with images increase click-through rates con­sid­er­ably. On Face­book, for exam­ple, research has shown that the engage­ment rate dou­bles if a pic­ture is added to a post rather than just a link. Think about your own posts to Face­book, do your pho­tos do con­sid­er­ably bet­ter than just your thoughts or links shared? Mine sure do.

Con­tent in long form ben­e­fits sim­i­larly: a blog post or arti­cle with images receives 94 per­cent more views than those with­out. It’s more than that, though, because today’s mar­keter has a unique oppor­tu­nity to cap­ti­vate, com­pel, and per­suade through images. The pop­u­lar­ity of plat­forms like Insta­gram, Pin­ter­est, Tum­blr, SnapChat, and other image-sharing plat­forms is only expected to increase, and the growth of video in just the past year is stag­ger­ing. And let’s not for­get the value of video in sto­ry­telling, a topic wor­thy of vol­umes of books on its own.

Here’s a for instance. A Thai cell­phone com­pany called True Move H pro­duced a video enti­tled “Giv­ing” that chron­i­cles a pow­er­ful story of com­pas­sion, giv­ing, and pass­ing on good. The video’s story is unmistakable—a tear­jerker for sure, leav­ing the viewer want­ing to do good for oth­ers. To date, it has gen­er­ated tens of mil­lions of views across the world. It is a pow­er­ful story, but it is also on-brand for the firm that cre­ated it, which believes in the power of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and connectedness.

The Social Busi­ness Is Storytelling

When we think about what it means to design a social busi­ness, we can’t ignore the role of sto­ry­telling in the process. More specif­i­cally, brands who engage their cus­tomers do more than describe their lat­est prod­ucts or ser­vices. They tell the story of who they are, not only the peo­ple behind the brand, but also how their cus­tomers con­nect to their prod­ucts in ways that give them the abil­ity to do more. These are the sto­ries that bring dif­fer­en­tia­tors to life, that illus­trate the why and how behind the what and where. The social busi­ness is sto­ry­telling. The faster we start reveal­ing, the bet­ter off we’ll be.


What In The World Is A Death Cafe?

The name caught your attention didn’t it? That is the point!

Death Cafe’s are a worldwide movement to talk about DEATH. Why would people do such a thing you ask? Well, despite death being a taboo topic in American culture, Death Cafe’s are popping up all over the US after launching in the UK in September 2011. As of today there have been almost 900 death cafe’s worldwide. What happens at Death Cafe’s?

There is no agenda, objectives or theme but rather a group directed discussion of death but not necessarily a grief support or counseling session. Death Cafe’s thrive on the following principles, which makes them a unique event that individuals find to be a safe and warm environment to have discussions about the very few certainties in life.

Death Cafe’s are offered on a not for profit basis, Iin an accessible, respectful and confidential space, with no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action, alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!

Death Cafe’s in The News

Video about Death Cafe’s from Portlander Kate Brassington

BBC Interview with Jon Underwood, Death Cafe Founder

What We’re Up To – May 2014

Wow, talk about a whirlwind! Since our launch on April 16th (National Health Care Decision Day) we have been up to great things…mostly spreading the word about our guide and the resources we offer! On a daily basis our community and distribution is growing through relationships with hospitals, hospices, community organizations, non profits serving terminally ill patients, the list goes on!
  • Gay Men Together In Grief – Hosted by Legacy Hospital. Details
  • Dove Lewis Pet Loss Support Groups (several recurring events). Details
  • Do you have empathy? This video brings the thought provoking question to the forefront. Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care


Show us the love….


Today Is The Day

Today is the Day….

Our first guide has launched and is ready to download or distribute to families throughout the Portland metro area!

Our launch happens to fall on National Health Care Decisions Day – a day to educate and advocate for people to make their medical wishes known.

Download or request a print copy of our guide. It includes several planning checklists as well as a directory of local service providers helping families with end of life planning.

Wonderful Events and News Worth Sharing – March 2014


Here are some wonderful events and valuable news worth sharing.

Next Week’s Events:

  • Monday March 17th 3-5pm: Saying Goodbye: Life Transitions with Penny Carter at SPIN
  • Tuesday March 18th 8am-12pm: Small business success demands efforts on many fronts, harness the power of LinkedIn at LinkedIn Live In Portland.

In the News:

Death Cafe’s:

    • Death Cafe in the Couv (Vancouver, WA): April 12th 1:30pm – 3:30pm
    • What is a Death Cafe? Check out this YouTube video from friend Kate Brassington

Get Your Business Listed:

  • March 21st is the deadline to get your business listed in our April directory. For details visit our sponsor page.

Pre-Order Our Directories:

  • FREE directories will be distributed to hospitals, hospices, social workers, churches and to anyone who serves families before or after a death. Pre order a set to share them with the families you serve. Click here to request copies. 

Have an Event to Share?:

Join our new LinkedIn Group:

  • Your invited to join an exceptional group of service providers that provide support to families before or after a death in Portland, Oregon. Login to LinkedIn and visit us here. 
We are in search of musicians and singers:
  • Do you know someone with a lovely talent that performs at funerals and memorials? We are specifically in need of getting their information in our directory to share with families. 
  • Please share this opportunity with them or you can forward their info to us and we will contact them. 

The Legacy of my Grandmother – Happy 90th Birthday Ruthie!

Today, we celebrate the 90th Birthday of my grandmother Ruthie!

I often think about what it would be like to talk with my Grandma like I did when I was a younger, but sadly she has severe dementia. It makes it hard to want to go visit her, despite the encouragement from family to do so. I feel like I was the closest to her of all her grandchildren, yet why can’t I get the courage to go visit her? It is so hard to try and pretend that everything is ok and have a normal conversation with her, she doesn’t make much sense. I am thankful for my husband Don who has made many of the trips with me to see her.

Many who are friends and family or have asked “How did you get into the death business?” know that it is because of my Grandmother. After my Grandfather passed away in 2008 we had several close calls with grandma, the kind where the entire family gathers round in the hospital and just hopes we get to keep grandma around just a little longer. Statistics show that the last survivor in a marriage as long as they had (60 years) end up dying shortly after their deceased spouse.  It was after one of those close calls that I started to think about how we would honor my grandmothers life and what type of funeral we would have for her. It was time to start getting some of those things in order, so that when we are faced with the inevitable we can focus on what matters most, instead of having to spend time with all the details necessary for a funeral arrangements.

My grandfather had a beautiful ceremony, representing his involvement as an Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler, his love for fishing and the honor for his country as a US Navy Gunner (read an article about my Grandfather’s service during the bombing of Pearl Harbor here).

My grandmother was the housewife, the glue that kept the family together, the one that brought the laughter and entertainment to so many as a fabulous hostess. She raised 3 children, was quite the fashionista and so kindly knew the value of the words “Thank you” and even to this day, nurses have said she continually would say thank you for their help. Now I know why those words are so powerful to me.

I identify a lot with my grandmother, her humor, her love to entertain, to give back to the community and for the color red. Every time I go for an ole fashion hamburger and milkshake I think of the times we would go together to enjoy them. We could play a mean game of 21, even if she was giving me her jar of pennies to gamble with as a child. Oh how I wish I could play a few games with her now. If Grandma was younger I imagine us getting all dolled up, wearing matching red patent leather heals and hosting a fabulous holiday party together!

Grandma, I love you and wish you a wonderful and HAPPY 90th Birthday!


Remember Pearl Harbor – My Grandfather’s Story

Departing Decisions Founder Angela Kienholz shares a personal reflection about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

December 7, 2011 – It is 8pm here on the West Coast, and although most of today’s Pearl Harbor memorial events have already finished I still felt compelled to write a post about what happened 70 years ago today. This morning I watched a special on the Today Show sharing the story of the men who served our country and the day filled with memorial ceremonies. I started to think about my grandfather who died in June 2008, I remember his military funeral like it was yesterday.

Afterwards I decided to call my uncle to find out about my grandfather’s military service during World War II and where he was during the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. It really is a story of close calls. My grandfather was on the USS Lexington, which had just left Pearl Harbor port the day prior on December 6th. The Lexington was on a mission with Task Force 12 to deliver U.S. Marine Corps warplanes to help reinforce the base at Midway Island. The Lexington was 400 nautical miles away from Pearl Harbor, and because of its close distance to the attacks, it could have easily been part of the days devastation. My grandfather along with the over 2,000 officers and men of the Lexington changed course and rushed back to Honolulu only to discover the severity of the aftermath. The crew of the Lexington served our country in the following days by cleaning up the rubble and bodies from the attack before heading out to sea for war.  2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 were wounded that day.   1,177 alone died from from the sinking of the USS Arizona.

After the attacks, my grandfather had his second close call with tragedy.  He had volunteered to rebuild one of the Navy’s gunnery schools that was destroyed during the attack of Pearl Harbor, which took him off the ship and onto land.   Sadly, at age 19 my grandfather had to grieve the loss of many friends on the USS Lexington after it was struck and sunk by a torpedo on May 7th, 1942 during the Battle of The Coral Sea – including the man who took his place on deck.  Many men survived the torpedo and battle, but over 300 men were trapped below deck on the Lexington after the explosions and could not be saved due to the horrific fires as it sank.

Today is a day of reflection for many, including me. What better way to honor my grandfather and all our veterans than to share this story!

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