A fake United PR Twitter account (@Fake_UnitedPR) was created earlier this year after the forcible removal of a passenger. A few example tweets…

  • Free punch with lunch. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
  • Fight or Flight. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
  • Where fists fly free. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “narrative”, or in other words, the story that is being woven around a series of facts or connected events. Storytelling is a tradition as old as the human race, and we often share stories in order to give our lives meaning and context. While this has traditionally been done in face-to-face situations, more recently social media has allowed many a narrative to be formed and shaped by those whom we may never interact with, and who’s motivations we will never truly understand. Those narratives, as you might expect, can be true, false, or somewhere in between. This can have major implications for individuals, as well as companies and brands. Just ask United.

What has been circling around in my brain over the past few months is why we believe certain narratives and dismiss others….why do some stories just “stick” and others morph and change due to external perceptions and interpretations?

Science has shown us that even though we recognize that fiction is about fake people and events, our brains will process it as if it were real. Have you ever read a story and felt your heart race or maybe started to cry as if you were actually with the characters? That’s because our brains “light up”, as though that thing were happening to us, not just to those in the book. This seems to be the same reason we believe others we identify with (similar lifestyle, beliefs, etc.) when they pass on the latest story…whether true or not. We mentally and physically experience it as “real” because we can relate to the events and the narrative around those events.

So, in our current world, where the narrative can be re-written by virtually anyone at any time, what can companies and brands do to protect their stories?

  • Simplicity and Consistency – Insure an easy to follow (e.g. problem-solution-emotion), dependable story line
  • Authenticity – Anchor/align the consumer’s experience with the company/brand reality
  • Reflection – Use familiar language and imagery to “put a face” on your brand/company
  • Connection – Speak to your consumer’s world and demonstrate empathy
  • Engagement – Allow/offer direct consumer interaction to enhance their experiences and deepen the relationship

Have you thought about your company or brand’s narrative and how it could be affected? What about your own personal narrative? Let us know your thoughts.