Maybe you want to reach a younger audience of new business owners or perhaps your chamber is recovering from a less-than-stellar reputation from years ago. Whatever the case, do you feel like your chamber isn’t receiving the interest it should based on what you’re doing for the community? If so, you’re not alone. Many chamber pros want to convey who they are now. But first, you need to get past perceptions. The easiest way to do that is by reshaping your chamber story.
First, let’s talk about how to create a successful chamber story.
If I could go back in time, one of the things I would change is using the word “story” to describe this concept in marketing because there’s a misunderstanding when it comes to storytelling for marketing reasons. You don’t start with “once upon a time” and add in everything the chamber has done. Just as an author will choose the characters to focus on and what to write about, you will do the same. However, unlike an author writing a story, the chamber story will not end. You are looking to create an ongoing brand narrative and it should shape every marketing component and communication piece of the chamber. Your chamber story grows and evolves. This is not something you will write and place on a shelf.
Much as you might hold a chamber decision to your strategic plan and ask if it fits before deciding to undertake it or not, when communicating and marketing the chamber, you will hold up your campaign or content and ask, “Does this fit the chamber story?”.
Now that we’ve addressed the problems with the word “story,” let’s go over the strategies you will use to reshape your chamber’s story, making it more appealing and relevant to your target member while showcasing the innovative, forward-thinking essence of your organization.
Next, the prep work…
Know Your Audience
Understanding your target audience is the first step in any successful rebranding effort. Recognize the needs, interests, and expectations of the demographic you want to attract. What are their aspirations, challenges, and preferences? What are they using instead of chamber membership to grow their business or develop professionally? Are they doing it all on their own? Are they paying for online courses and training? Knowing where they are and what they’re doing will help you in crafting the educational component that may be necessary to reach them.
With marketing, there’s a difference between marketing to people who know they need you and those you have to educate on the need. The latter takes more time and finesse. For instance, when your AC breaks in the middle of summer (assuming you’re not in the heating and cooling business), you know you need to call for repair. No marketer has to teach you that. But you might not know that there is also a need for AC services to maintain your system when it’s running fine. Marketing to someone who knows they need you is much easier than teaching someone about a need and how you can meet it.
Once you understand your target market(s), you’ll want to use the information you learned about who they are and what they need and tailor your message to resonate with the audience. Content that resonates also engages.
Ways to Create a Kick-butt Chamber Story
Use the information you gained about your target market and apply it to creating (or revamping) your chamber story into something that resonates specifically with them. If you have multiple audiences, you may be wondering how you can unite them under one chamber story. In that case, think of the chamber story as a “genre” like romance. There are dozens of subgenres under the romance category. There’s something in that genre for nearly everyone who enjoys romance because they all follow the same arc. Only the details are different.
Let’s show how that would work for your chamber story.
If your chamber story is one of innovation, how you tell it to each audience member will vary. For instance, for Gen Z business owners, you might tell the chamber’s story of innovation through a quick-hit video that shows comradery among young people doing cutting-edge activities. To appeal to a large tech company, you may create a helpful report on the state of tech in your area. These are very different types of content appealing to different audiences but both support the chamber’s story of innovation.
Draw Parallels or Focus on Truth Telling
When trying to decide on what your chamber story is, look at your audience(s). What do they want? What are the lacking? Look for commonalities among the different audiences you serve. Come up with a succinct vision of what they will find appealing.
The other way to shape the chamber story (in the case of overcoming a bad reputation or stigma) is to examine where you’ve been and what you want to overcome. For instance, maybe your chamber has a reputation as being a “do-nothing” chamber and you’ve been trying to shake the reputation since that terrible CEO in the 90s. Get clear on what you need to overcome and what you want to be known for now.
Choose a Story Word or Concept
The easiest way to decide what will be part of your chamber story and what won’t be is to use what you know about your target audience(s) and come up with a guiding word or principle to shape your content and communications.
Possible chamber story word ideas include:
- innovation supporter
- diversity and inclusion hero
- small business advocate
- sustainability and resilience example
- local culture proponent
- entrepreneurial cultivator
Once you have clarity on the main crux of the chamber story, you should…
Communicate Impactful Initiatives
Highlight how your chamber is making a difference in the community as it applies to your story word. Showcase success stories, innovative projects, and collaborations that have positively impacted local businesses. By emphasizing concrete outcomes, you demonstrate your chamber’s proactive role in driving positive change.
Leverage Digital Platforms
Utilize platforms like Instagram, X, LinkedIn, and Facebook to share engaging content, updates, and success stories that reflect your guiding chamber principle/storyline. Leverage these channels to communicate your initiatives, actively engage with your audience, and showcase the vibrant personality of your chamber.
Showcase Diversity and Inclusion
Demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion within the business community. Highlight the stories of businesses from various backgrounds and industries as components of your chamber story. Show a culture that welcomes and supports a range of entrepreneurs and professionals, reflecting the dynamic and inclusive nature of the modern business landscape. Remember, your story word (or chamber story) is multi-faceted. There are many chapters and components that bring it to life.
Collaborate and Network
Forge meaningful partnerships with local organizations, educational institutions, and emerging businesses. Actively participate in events that bring together a diverse array of professionals. By collaborating and networking, your chamber expands its reach and positions itself as a central hub for fostering connections and opportunities. These actions also serve the old writing advice of “show, don’t tell.” Don’t just talk about who you are as the chamber. Show people as well through your actions and your connections. After all, you are the company you keep.
Figure out How it all Fits Together
Finally, as part of your chamber storytelling, examine how your chamber story word fits into all aspects of your chamber and find ways to demonstrate your commitment to the story through things like:
Infuse a fresh perspective into your chamber’s events. Incorporate interactive elements, workshops, and networking opportunities that appeal to your target audience. Showcasing innovative event formats demonstrates your commitment to adapting to changing preferences.
Showcase events, programs, and partnerships that demonstrate your commitment to your story word. Highlight solutions that streamline processes for your members and contribute to the overall advancement of the business community as it applies to your chamber story.
Highlight businesses that have thrived and grown with the support of the chamber. Showcase specific achievements, milestones, and success stories that tie into your story to inspire others.
Communicate the positive impact of local businesses on the community. Showcase businesses giving back through philanthropy, community events, or sustainable practices.
Collaborations and Partnerships
We touched on this one earlier, but it’s important to highlight successful collaborations between businesses, the chamber, and other community organizations. Showcase partnerships that have resulted in mutual growth and benefit.
Feature different chamber members, showcasing their unique offerings and contributions. Include interviews, behind-the-scenes looks, and member testimonials. Feature the entrepreneurial journeys of business owners within the community. Share stories of challenges, perseverance, and ultimate success to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs. Highlight businesses that successfully navigated challenges, such as economic downturns or global crises. Focus on resilience, creativity, and adaptability in the face of adversity. Feature success stories of start-ups that have flourished with the support of the chamber’s resources and networking opportunities. Showcase how the chamber contributes to the growth of emerging businesses.
Programs and Initiatives
Highlight programs and initiatives that support your story within the community. Showcase businesses that actively invest in your programs.
Local Economic Impact and Beyond
Share statistics tied into success stories that demonstrate the chamber’s role in fostering a robust local economy. Provide insights into industry trends, market analyses, and predictions that benefit local businesses.
Offer thought leadership on key issues affecting the business community. Do so in a variety of formats so everyone can enjoy it on their favorite platform.
In reshaping your chamber’s story, the key is to be authentic, transparent, and adaptive. This is not a “one-and-done” activity. Showcase the spirit of your story that has driven your chamber’s success throughout the years. Demonstrate a commitment to evolving with the times. Strategically communicate your initiatives and embrace a forward-thinking mindset, so you can effectively rebrand your chamber to fit your community’s aspirations.