The Importance of Storytelling for Brand-Audience Connection

Kimberly Surico |
 08/17/18 |
5 min read

Storytelling is as old as language itself – and a cornerstone of marketing technique. Storytelling taps into consumer emotions to bring your brand into their lives in a personal way. But how do you know which emotions to target? Sentiment analysis, of course.

Lessons from the Field

It’s easy for us to tell you how sentiment analysis supports storytelling, and why you need both – but it’s always more satisfying to hear from those “in the field” using social analytics in the day-to-day to support brand strategy and reap brand success.

Our friend Lucy Cording, Director of Digital Engagement at CNC Communications shared storytelling best practices during our NetBase LIVE London event. CNC advises clients on what stories to tell through all stages of business – from cycles of change, growth, mergers and acquisitions, transformation, or crisis – so they certainly know their stuff.

Picture of Lucy Cording with presentation description

Here are the five principles of storytelling they use:

1. Understand the Context

You won’t know what story is relevant unless you know how consumers feel about whatever they’re talking about.

For example, at press time, the top daily search on Google Trends was the new movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Crazy Rich Asians in Google Trends

But what’s driving this trend? Until we know more, we can’t join the conversation. This is why sentiment analysis tools are so important. It’s not enough to know your brand, your film studio, your movie is being mentioned on social. You need to know why.

Here’s what NetBase Pro tells us:

Sentiment Attributes for Crazy Rich Asians

There’s a lot of conversation – both positive and negative – about the highly-anticipated movie. On the positive side, everything from the costumes to the adaptation from the book, the score, the importance to the Asian community, and Steven Yeun showing up to the premiere looking “fine” are mentioned.

On the negative side, there are criticisms about problematic elements, the way Asians are represented, the movie being just another generic romantic comedy, and more.

The story you choose to tell, if this is a topic that matters to your brand, is dependent on your specific audience.

2. Understand Your Audience

Insights collected from social media should confirm and expand whatever you know about your audience – or think you do.

Don’t assume anything – look to social listening and sentiment analysis to know for sure. Work your way through the different functions of your social analytics tools to refine your insights until they give you something to act on.

CNC did exactly this for a client looking to understand the FinTech space. They analyzed social to uncover the hot topics within the space – like Start-up News, Products Launches, IoT and more. Then they looked at how those in the FinTech audience tag content they like:

Hashtags that stand out reference Bitcoin (#btc), #AI, #tech and the #IoT – among others. Notice a hashtag missing from the word cloud? #FinTech doesn’t appear – reminding us to look beyond the obvious in our social analytics.

3. Engage on an Emotional Level

Once you have an understanding of the topics of interest, and the sentiment attached, you can engage with content that tells an emotional story. This doesn’t mean something sad or necessarily poignant – though those are great stories to tell if they apply.

No, all it means is connecting in a way that resonates with your audience on the topic at hand. You don’t have to be selling Hallmark cards to appeal to people’s emotions.

For example, searching on “car insurance” reveals some expected terms:

When we look at Sentiment Attributes, “cheaper car insurance” is the most prominent positive term, with “expensive” the most prominent negative.

A look at Emotions makes it clear how people feel about this subject. We’d have to present nearly a white graphic after editing out the expletives, but suffice it to say, it’s a topic that inspires strong emotions in both directions.

However, looking at Popular Posts and Popular Media reveals the more human side of the conversation:

Instagram post about buying a car for mom

It’s digging into the human element that inspires brands like Liberty Mutual to come at the subject of car insurance from a sentimental place in their commercials:

Screencap of Liberty Mutual commercial video

“You named it Brad. You LOVED Brad.”

How many people can relate to totaling their “Brad?” A lot.

4. Tell Stories that Matter

The importance of connecting in this way, and telling stories that matter to your audience, cannot be understated. It’s them you’re trying to reach – you can’t do that if you make it about you.

CNC shared insights they uncovered while helping a brand that wanted to engage in Diversity & Inclusion communications across the globe. To do that, they needed to understand regional distinctions on the subject, as well as themes that crossed geographic lines.

Here is a snapshot of CNC’s social data from the UK, US, and Australia:

Diversity and inclusion word clouds for US, UK and Australia


Identifying the common themes of LGBT rights as well as awareness of mental illness helped the brand understand how to focus on the right stories in their outreach efforts.

5. Simplify

It’s easy to be drawn into the minutiae of a topic – especially when looking at word clouds, or long lists of terms. While you want to have an awareness of all that’s being said, it’s smarter to focus on the terms and emotions that stand out first.

They’re the ones the majority of your audience have in common – and many of the smaller conversations may even be variations on the same theme. Simplify your approach to include the most important topics for your audience. Or create audience segments for smaller groups of feel-alike consumers so you can target your storytelling more precisely for each segment.

And let your social monitoring tools tell you if there’s anything else you need to worry about. If you’re alerted to a particularly troublesome post, pay attention. It’s easier to land yourself in hot water than you realize. Even for the biggest of brands.

Pepsi + Kendall Jenner = a hard lesson all brands can take to heart.

Find Sentiment, Find Your Story

We’re so grateful to Lucy Cording for sharing how CNC uses NetBase to inform the stories they help their clients create.

We know the power of social analytics and sentiment analysis, but we love when others testify on our behalf. Stories have always been, and will always be, an important way to experience the human condition – so don’t be afraid to share stories worth telling.

They’re out there – just waiting for your social analytics tools to find them.

Want us to show you how to write your brand’s story with sentiment analysis? Reach out for a guided demo!



Premier social media analytics platform

Expand your social platform with LexisNexis news media

Power of social analytics for your entire team

Media analytics and market intelligence platform

Enrich your media analytics with social data

Social media benchmarking
and competitive intelligence

Data streams & custom KPIs for advanced data science

AI, Image Analytics, Reporting Tools & more

Out-of-the-box integration with other data sources