How to Tell a Story that Defines Your Brand (a Lesson from GoDaddy’s Editor-in-Chief)

How to Tell a Story that Defines Your Brand (a Lesson from GoDaddy’s Editor-in-Chief)

Successful businesses need to tell compelling stories.

Think of brands like Apple or Nike and how important their stories — Think Different and Just Do It — are to their identities.

So what’s the story of your business?

Shawn Pfunder is the Editor-in-Chief at GoDaddy and he’s got a few simple tips that can help you become a great storyteller.

In this TGIM short, you'll...

  • Learn why stories are important to getting your brand's message across
  • Discover how to take advantage of templates for effective storytelling
  • Find out the two priorities everyone should have when it comes time to write

Check out the full short below:

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Recording: "Today you are going to be the hero of this story. You’re going on a quest to be a better communicator at work but you’ve got a fatal flaw. You don’t know how to tell a story. Don’t despair. Every hero on a quest needs a mentor. Just as the Karate Kid has Mr. Miyagi, I found a mentor just for you."

Shawn: "My name is Shawn Pfunder. I work at GoDaddy. I’m the editor in chief. That’s a really pretentious title. That means that I get to work with a lot of content. I get to a lot of stories. We get to help as many small business owners, web professionals, nerds out there as we can."

Recording: "Shawn is a theater major who became a creative writing major, who ended up at a tech company."

Shawn: "Yeah. The useless theater degree has become valuable which has been wonderful otherwise I’d be doing summer stock in Rhode Island or something."

Recording: "Whether it’s in theater, creative writing or at GoDaddy, there is one thing that Shawn Pfunder is sure about. The power of stories."

Shawn: "Stories are one those things kind of like smelling chocolate or smelling pie. You smell pie, you smell chocolate, you’re like, “Okay. That smells really, really, really good,” and you just instantly know. Whatever it is, it’s delicious and it’s right around the corner. I think in Disneyland they like pump vanilla scent out onto the street when you walk out. I’m like, “You want waffle cones.” Stories are a lot like that. When stories work, they resonate with us on such level that we almost don’t recognize why they’re working."

Recording: "What exactly does he mean by that? Well, imagine you’re in front of a group of people talking about how hard it is to start a business."

Shawn: "When you stand up in front of a group a lot of times you want to connect with them and you connect with them in a such a way they kind of talk about the way their world is right now. You say like, “Yeah. You know what? Starting a business is hard.” They’ll all be like, “Yeah. It’s really hard.” If you get up there and you say, “Starting a business is as hard. I remember the time my lips were perpetually chapped because I ate ramen noodles for 3 weeks in a row, right?” I had to borrow ChapStick from somebody like at a local coffee shop, right? As soon as you do that then you start to picture it. You start to see it. It resonates on a different level. That’s the power of stories."

Recording: "Writing a story can seem hard. It can feel impossibly hard. It can feel like you’re trying to pull this living, breathing thing out of thin air, but Shawn says that’s because you’re not taking advantage of the secret weapon of effective storytelling - templates."

Shawn: "The templates are all there. A lot of people just don’t use them. The templates are readily available to use. It’s kind of like an exercise I do with a lot of people. I pull them into a room. I ask everybody, “How many of your are poets in the room,” and nobody’s hand will go up because they’re like, “Please. Please don’t call them. Yeah. I don’t want to be a poet right now.” I’ll say, “All right. We’re going to an exercise.” I’ll throw up the form for Haiku, right, 5-7-5. Then I’ll up throw up a picture of Chewbacca or something. I’ll say, “Okay. Everybody you’ve got 3 minutes. Everybody in the room is going to write a Haiku about Chewbacca. As soon as you put those constraints on it and as soon as you put a template around that they recognize that people can recognize, everybody in the room becomes a poet.”"

Recording: "Okay. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to write the origin story of your company as a Haiku. I get it. Don’t worry. You want a more conventional story template."

Shawn: "The best one. The one that goes back to Joseph Campbell and Star Wars and everything is the quest, right? The hero’s quest. There are elements in the hero’s quest. Usually it’s somebody that’s unassuming, that has potential and something has to propel them onto that journey. Then once on that journey, there are different players that are always in it. If you look at Man of La Mancha has it. Star Wars uses it. A lot of the great myths use it. There’s like the wise person that helps them on their way. We’ve got Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ve got Yoda that helps them out. On the quest they have a fatal flaw. There’s something that’s keeping them from being successful, that they have to overcome. Another one. The underdog is really similar to that one but it’s even more the odds are stacked against them where you think there’s no way. This is the David and Goliath story, right? There’s no way they’re going to make it because it’s not paired up neck and neck."

Recording: "Just Google story or plot templates so you’ll get a sense of the full range of what’s out there. Most of which I bet you’ll recognize. There’s the stranger comes to town. Maybe your company is the new kid on the block in an established industry. There’s forbidden love. Do you have a product that not everyone would approve of? Metamorphosis. Maybe your company has evolved from its early roots. There’s ascension, descension, pursuit, escape, rescue. The list of story templates goes on. The reality is that pretty much any book or movie that you can think of is probably based on a story template. What does this have to do with your company or brand? Shawn says, “That’s actually pretty simple.”"

Shawn: "If Nike just kept telling me how amazing their shoes were, I would never buy anything from Nike ever. Because Nike is part especially of that transformation story and the quest of “Just Do It”, it’s not Nike Just Do It, right? It’s not, “Hey Nike employees. ‘Just Do It’,” right? It’s me go do something awesome or Apple with “Think Differently.” They figure that part out and there’s use value in that."

Recording: "Okay, so far we’ve learned why stories are important. We learned about story templates. We’ve seen how a story template could be applied to a brand. Now you’re ready to start writing some stories. Shawn says you should have 2 priorities."

Shawn: "Well, there’s 2 different stories that you need to figure out. One of them is the story about your company and that’s great because it resonates with the employees, it resonates with the people that are there. It’s usually not the same story as your brand. As a brand, you’re trying to identify your main customer, whoever the main customer is or the main person you’re trying be successful. You’re trying to figure out what their story is. Then you’re going to resonate with that. You’re going to work with it."

Recording: "That brings us to the end of your quest. Go forth young storyteller. Keep telling stories until you master them. Persevere but set the bar high and soon the apprentice will become the new master. The end."

Show notes:

About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want.