Finding a Brand’s Story Then Using It in Their Marketing Outreach

I was recently in Keith Yamashita’s ‘Storytelling for Leaders’ class in Skillshare, where I gained a whole new way of looking at storytelling in business.

Only 6097 people in a world of 7 billion know about the techniques he taught, so I recommend you check it out and prepare to amaze your clients.

But what blew me away was his comprehensive and insightful answer to a question I asked in his Ask Me Anything session. This could be a class in itself.

Here was my question: How do you approach finding a brand’s story then using it in their marketing outreach?

I’ll summarise his answer.

First, get clear on your type of story.

In the class, he taught that there were 4 types of story:

  • The story of Me
  • The story of Us
  • The story of An Idea
  • The story of Results

A brand’s story might be any one of these – that’s for us to decide.

For any type of story, ask the following:

  • What is the brand’s purpose?
  • What is the brand’s most authentic, deeply-rooted mission in the world?
  • What makes the people at the brand get up in the morning and go to work?

Let the story be that important, that powerful.

Next, break down and experiment with your powerful brand story for a marketing effort.

 Think about, and answer, these questions:

  • What are the core tenets/principles of the brand’s story?
  • What key ideas must you communicate anytime you talk about the brand?

When you have the answers, try experimenting with some ways you can manifest those ideas when marketing the brand. You might not get it perfect the first time, but that’s ok.

He suggested devising a system for prototyping marketing efforts. Make them small and experimental at first, then progressively adjust them as you get feedback and you see what’s working.

Then, consider playing with these areas.


  • Identify the main elements of the story and play around with the order that they appear in the story.
  • Depending on the audience and the moment in time, decide which elements should be emphasised the most and which should support, or be secondary?

Importantly, decide what to leave out or what to ‘lighten up.’


  • Is there a way to shift tone that makes more sense for a particular audience you’re addressing (from “Greetings” to “Hello” for example)?
  • How does the story flow?
  • Is it choppy and to-the-point, or fluid and flowery?

DON’T, however, confuse tone for voice.

Your brand’s voice is as central as the story. It’s the essential way that the brand expresses itself. It doesn’t change unless the brand changes.

A brand’s tone can shift slightly, however, based on the circumstance.

Think of it like this: you’re still you, whether you’re talking to your parent (in one tone) or your child (in a different tone).


  • Is there a way that imagery, video, audio, or some other medium can carry some of the burden in communicating the story?
  • Maybe this audience should just be spoken to in words?
  • How about a cartoon?
  • Or, is there a completely new way that this brand’s story can show up?
How’s that for an answer in a Q&A session?

I would say that if you follow this sage advice (and take the class for a deeper understanding) you’ll be on your way to becoming one helluva brand storyteller.

That last sentence might mean a bit more when you realise that Keith Yamashita, apart from being a supremely nice person, is the Chairman of SY/Partners, which he founded over 20 years ago.

His clients include: American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bloomberg, Campbells, Citibank, Coca Cola, Deloitte, Ebay, Gap, General Electric, Google, HP, Hyatt, IBM, Levis, Mozilla, Nike, Ogilvy, PayPal, PBS, Starbucks, USA Today, Virgin America, and Xerox – to name just a few.

If he’s helped some of the most successful brands in the world to tell their stories, I’ll happily sit at his feet to learn a thing or two.

I hope this has been helpful and insightful information, whether you work with brands professionally or you work with your own brand.

Whichever it is, be aware that every brand has a story but only a few actually know HOW to tell their story. Those who do know are destined to live in the hearts and minds of their customers.

About the Author: Robin Kirkley helps business owners and companies create remarkable content for their brands so they enjoy a profitable return on their marketing spend.

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