Humanizing financial brands with good storytelling

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Heading into my first job after college graduation, I knew I wanted to work for a top financial PR firm that was not only committed to making a difference for clients, but also a workplace that could challenge me to put my education into practice while investing in the continued education of its staff. At a recent educational workshop given at our agency offices by Penn State Professor Curt Chandler, I realized I nailed my selection—at Gregory FCA, we have a unique opportunity to not only positively impact our clients, but those our clients serve as well.

During the workshop, Professor Chandler emphasized the power of telling a good story to advance your objective, a concept that I found to be invigorating. He used the example of National Geographic’s most-viewed video in 2015, which told the story of two blind sisters in India who were able to see for the first time through an operation from a nonprofit organization. The video tells a heartwarming and powerful story, while subtly sending a strong message that people should donate to the charity.

The video struck me, and its story and message has stayed with me in the days since I first saw it. It made me wonder, “How do our clients do this? Do things like ETFs and retirement savings have the same capacity to evoke emotion like the video of a child gaining eyesight for the first time?”

The answer is yes.

Financial services firms, like other consumer-facing brands, need to cultivate their narrative and tell their story about how people’s lives will improve by making smart financial decisions. While managing the details of your financial life may seem mundane to the average consumer—401(k) options, life insurance, college savings—these decisions greatly influence people’s lives and the lives of their family members.

Through storytelling, financial services firms can humanize their brand and bring their products and services to life in ways that will resonate with future and current clients.

Simply put, most people will tell you they know saving for retirement is important, but often things get in the way of being able to invest in their 401(k) and, as a result, they are not saving enough. A story about the logistics of a 401(k) plan is not going to get people excited or passionate about saving for retirement, but a story of a family who struggled to save until meeting with a financial adviser who helped them improve their decision-making and work toward their financial goals might.

By telling stories, financial services firms can accomplish two major things. First, they are softening their brand and bringing their work to life through personal connections and anecdotes that will resonate and connect with people’s emotions. Second, they are establishing trust and credibility with their clients. Storytelling can help invigorate emotion within an audience and create the foundation for strong relationships. It also resounds with current clients and helps attract new clients who likely want to work with someone who will not only be able to advise them, but understand them, as well.

Last fall, Penn Mutual used short narrative videos to educate and inform people about the benefits of life insurance during Life Insurance Awareness Month. These videos provided stories about how life insurance can play an important role in the lives of people and their families. By leveraging clients and their stories, Penn Mutual was able to make a much more compelling case for life insurance than they would have if they had not included real people with real experiences into their campaign. The effectiveness of the storytelling was so strong that Penn Mutual is revisiting the campaign for Life Insurance Awareness Month this year.

Businesses and companies are increasingly becoming more aware of the importance of building relationships and establishing connections with their target audiences. As the choices we make financially are some of the most important decisions that guide our lives, financial services firms need to continue to focus on establishing relationships and connections with clients. Storytelling can play a key role in making this happen, and financial services firms make a great main character.

As for me, I hope to help make an impact working with our clients in their storytelling. Check back here to read more from our team!