Telling your chamber story is incredibly important. It helps people identify with you; can drive membership sales; helps people to know, like, and trust you; and shows a side that is difficult to show in a more formal situation. Storytelling is an art. Here’s a creative way to use it for your chamber.
Marketers who specialize in storytelling will tell you that you need to make your stories about your members and how you assist them. This will help prospective members long to be a part of your organization when they see what you did for others in the community.
But storytelling should go beyond convincing someone to join the chamber. Telling your story is less about
- Membership sales
- Your website
- Your foundation
- Email communications
- The chamber blog
- The membership renewal letter
- In lieu of a chamber benefits list
- and any other place you want to entice someone to connect with you on a deeper level
In this article, we’ll cover why you need to replace your chamber benefits list with storytelling, the dangers of disconnected storytelling, and a storytelling event idea that could be wildly popular for you and your member businesses.
Let’s start by talking about benefits. Many of us are guilty of wanting to throw it all in there to impress potential members but this section will tell you why that’s not always a good idea.
Why Storytelling Should Replace Your Chamber Benefits List
I had a former boss at a software company who always used to say, “As a customer, if I have one problem that keeps me up at night and you can solve it for me, I don’t care what else you do.”
That’s why a list of benefits is seldom helpful. If the first thing on the list is what the customer is looking for, they’ve stopped reading the list. If what they’re looking for is the penultimate benefit on that list, you had better hope they read all the way down to the bottom.
Benefits Lists Never Won Any
This same logic can be applied to chamber benefits in that if you’ve solved a potential member’s biggest issue, you’ve paid for the cost of membership. However, unlike a software program a chamber’s benefits aren’t black and white. You can create a list of things members receive but often the things you claim — like networking, and improved visibility — are things to be enjoyed or partaken in. They don’t automatically happen just by paying dues.
In software you buy the program, you get the feature. With membership, you have to put in something to reap the benefits.
Ditch Your Benefits List for Stories
How do you prove what the chamber offers? You can’t measure it in a lab–although some people can do some amazing things with data if they ask the right questions–but that’s another blog post altogether. Assuming you don’t have access to those sorts of numbers, like what the average return on a membership investment was, you need social proof.
Social proof can come in the form of reviews, testimonials, and quotes from members in how you helped them but the most effective are those stories you can tell to illustrate your point.
Jim Carrey recently gave a graduation address. In it he encouraged the audience to get past their fears and follow their dreams. That’s a moving enough call-to-action but one people easily write off because of his fame. After all, it’s simple for someone with his bank account to follow his dreams.
But then he told the story of his father.
His father was a funny guy too, but his father lacked the confidence in his own talent. When the time came to either follow his dreams to be a comic or find a stable, safe job, he chose safety. He became an accountant. There’s n
Chambers can use this type of close-to-home storytelling as well. This sort of meaningful messaging stays on the mind long after the 10 seconds it takes to forget a list of benefits.
If you don’t believe me, try to remember the first paragraph of this blog post; then recount the story of Carrey’s father. Which one stays with you?
But as I mentioned earlier, good business storytelling is a commitment to change the way you communicate and present important chamber information. If you decide to only adopt storytelling in a new member video, you will have a disjointed communication strategy. The video will show a side of you that nothing else does and your potential members will be wondering which one is the real you.
The Danger of Disconnected Storytelling at Your Chamber
Storytelling is about more than just your About Page.
That’s a good place to start to begin telling your story, but telling an effective chamber story goes beyond what you write about yourself in your web copy.
Chamber storytelling is shaped by all marketing components, including those you have no control over, such as:
- word-of-mouth marketing
- social media commentary and conversations
- chamber communications and coorespondence
- web copy (outside of the About Us page), including staff bios
- social media profiles
- offline marketing
When you are molding your chamber story, you want all pieces to be consistent and fit together. Every time there’s a disconnect between what you are saying is your story and what your members, or potential members, are perceiving, you are forcing them to decide what they believe to be the truth. If this choice goes in favor of the chamber, you better make their leap of faith worth it. If on the other hand, they believe the other side in the story, your chamber looks to be at fault and untrustworthy.
Examples of Disconnected Stories
If your business story is one of helping business and growing the community and you’ve taken great efforts to write your copy around this story, host business expos, publish articles about your involvement with the EDC, and so on, you cannot afford for a member of your staff to be seen publicly bad-mouthing a local business or refusing to assist a visitor when she’s asking about a non-member business. Being an advocate for local business, which is the story you chose, means all local business.
A disconnect of the kind mentioned above hurts the credibility of your chamber because:
Your chamber story is your mission in action.
When the story does not follow what you say you stand for, your reputation is at stake. That’s why telling your story is more than just a marketing fad or exercise.
A brand by itself is cold and hard, not something people identify with until you begin to tell a story. Companies used to do this through advertising but now no one listens to that. They want a more authentic story than something dreamed up on Madison Avenue.
Organizations have found other ways to tell their story now, more effective ways, through social media. Yet if these stories you’re telling don’t match the stories people see in your actions or hear from others, your storytelling will look more like false advertising.
So now you know why it’s important to tell the chamber’s (and that of your members) story in all of your communications, I wanted to share an idea that came out of an event software company.
A Creative Idea to Incorporate Storytelling into Your Next Chamber Event
Have you ever noticed how amazing the TEDx presentations are? They’re often not flashy. Sure, the presenters have interesting theories but what makes their presentations amazing are the stories they tell. They connect with an audience and many of us feel as if we’ve been invited into their home or are part of a salon.
A salon, for those who don’t know, is an event or gathering aimed at discourse and/or entertainment. The primary form of that entertainment is intellectual debate or storytelling. DoubleDutch used this idea at a recent event of theirs where they hosted a story-fueled, speakeasy event. The event brought together employees from several large companies to share their stories of personal growth, frustration, and lessons learned. Something that could be easily done with your chamber members.
But this wasn’t just a storytelling event. It was aimed at networking. The idea behind a successful networking event is to get people to connect. This intimate venue, along with a format centered around story exchange, helped solidify relationships on a deeper level and give participants something to talk about. So if you’re looking for a way to change up your networking, consider adding a storytelling component.
If you would like to use storytelling for your chamber, or if you’ve already begun doing so, remember that the most effective kind of storytelling is interwoven into all of the chamber communications. After all, when you have a tool that can help you effectively connect with members and potential members on a deeper level, why wouldn’t you want to use it in all of your communications?