Are you clear on what your brand story is? Listen to this episode as Kelly Keenan shares how you could change your business perspective and scale your business up. Kelly is a leading brand strategist, agency owner, highly sought-after speaker, and leadership consultant. He is the founder and President of Brand Story Experts and, for over the past two decades, has helped hundreds of brands clarify their story to ignite their culture and sales. In this episode, he discusses how you could claim your power and connect with your people. So, what is your starting point? That’s a key concept you have to know. So, stay tuned!
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What’s Your Brand Story With Kelly Keenan
Kelly Keenan is a leading brand strategist, agency owner and highly sought-after speaker and leadership consultant. He is the Founder and President of Brand Story Experts, and for over the past couple of decades, has helped hundreds of brands clarify their story to ignite their culture and sales. In his new release, Everyone Is An “Influencer”: Building A Brand By Engaging The People Who Matter Most, Keenan unlocks the code to recognize and utilize true influencers to soar their organization to new heights. Kelly, it’s great to have you here.
It’s great to be here. You sounded so good.
We’re getting started here and I am excited to learn about your book and who you are. Specifically, I like to start with the following question. Why did you write a book, Kelly?
I started in marketing several years ago. I always felt that there was something about pulling the best out of brands and allowing them to be something that they weren’t necessarily connecting to. That’s where I had success. Over the years, I formalized it in a way where I understood it but I wasn’t able to put my finger on how to do that.
I built a process and had a lot of success with it. What I noticed is I was having not just the relationships that were good business relationships but the relationships that made work not seem like work. When I got into the culture development side of it, when I extended beyond marketing into the teams, I wanted to find a way for more companies to do this work.
I can only work with so many companies. It’s a game-changing perspective and a way of doing business where you celebrate your story and who you are and your company and your culture. It’s a different way of marketing for sure but when you use that as the foundation, it changes everything. I wanted to formalize that, which I did and then share it. The book took me twelve years to write, so it’s not something that I did and said, “Let me pump it out there without doing it.”
I’ve been using this process exclusively for and that entire twelve years. I trademarked the process in 2009 and have been added at Brand Story Experts with the team here. I’m excited about sharing it. Hopefully, it’s going to bring some happiness to a lot of people and a lot of success. That’s the goal of why I wrote the book.
It sounds like you created a framework for brands to be able to share their story with the world. It’s a different way of marketing. It’s a type of marketing that we’ve been seeing over the last decade or so, where people are more sharing themselves, the brand story, how they got started, who they are, versus what they do and how much it costs. I would love to hear from you, what are some of the principles in your framework in terms of being a brand? Whether you are a business brand, maybe perhaps you’re a personal brand. What are some of the principles in your book, in your framework, that you can share with our audience at home?
Nurture good business relationships that make work not seem like work.
The biggest thing that we do is, and the starting point is you have to go from the reputation that you’ve earned. If you’re a business that is doing good business and you’ve got people out there that appreciate what you do, you’ve got employees that are working for you, they are inspiring aspects of what you do and understanding that is the starting point.
We begin with impression analysis because it gauges how people view you. Impression analysis, if you’ve ever done one, it starts out by giving 120 attributes, 150 attributes. Whatever number you get to and say, “Choose 20 that best represent the brand,” and narrow it to 10. You do a forced ranking on that 10 and drag them and drop them in order of dominance, 1 being the most dominant impression.
If you could have a group of people taking this with different perspectives, what you start to see is where they recognize the value in the brand, where they connect. You can stack these attributes. If there are trust attributes or if there are negative attributes that stack in a portion of your business. You can have an awareness of where you might be failing at to a degree but the story that you’re looking for is, where do we deliver? What things do we do best? We’ve called that the most inspiring aspects of the brand.
That’s the starting point. You want to own those things because those are the strengths that people connect with and bond with already. They recognize them in your brand. It’s a cheat code for connection for content. You don’t need to wonder whether or not you’re going to connect because when you’ve distilled it down to saying, “This is how people see me. This is the reputation I’ve earned.” I know if I can shine a light on these inspiring aspects, not only will people be able to recognize them but we’ll be able to multiply those things because people will come and expect those things and we can deliver upon those promises.
The biggest principle is be who you are, understand who you are and embrace that. That’s what we say, “Celebrate that story.” Celebrate the story you’ve earned because there are two things that will happen. One, people will connect better. The second thing is your team members know that it’s real. Nobody wants bullshit. For you to say, “We’re this or we’re that,” because another company is saying that and being successful with it. When you are who you say you are, your people can take pride in that. They can recognize their role in that and everything gets better.
Your social media content is celebrating who you really are. You’re not trying to prompt people. You’re not giving them a mission statement or a vision memory.
Your social media content is celebrating who you are. You’re not trying to be, “Take a picture and say this, or do this.” You’re not trying to prompt people. You’re not giving them a mission statement or a vision statement to memorize. This is who you are and it’s a continuous celebration. That’s the number one principle that I would say start there. The second part, which is the main principle, when you come and summarize who you are.
That’s a starting point to have that awareness of those impressions but the next phase is how do I summarize this into something that is a story that people will bond with and relate to? Many people talk about, “This is our past story. This is who our founders were. This is what we do.” What they don’t realize is the framework is you have to build trust in a way that people will bond with. That’s what they’re looking for in a story.
Can we see this in action? Can you perhaps share a case study or one of your clients where they are utilizing your principles or your framework to share their brand story?
I have a story in my book about Halo Water. They’re a great client of mine. I used Halo Water. My wife had psoriasis. She used the product that was recommended and it was magnificent. The water filtration looked fantastic outside of the home but when I went to their website, it was underwhelming. Their owner wasn’t visible at all, the story of the company. It was only about the product. They were like every other water filtration company. What happened was when we went in, I talked to them. It took about a couple of years because sometimes, when people get stuck with their marketing, obviously, you’re trying to help them and you’re recognized saying, “There’s an opportunity here,” but in their mind, you’re a salesperson.
It took two years for him to come around. We went through the process. He changed his company. He began to tell us his story and celebrate who he was. Not only was he able to see tremendous results with consumers but his partners and the people who he dealt with and the distributors. All those people began to respect his business at a whole different level.
They began to seek out new relationships and people were welcoming those relationships. What ended up happening is he doubled his business and his sales. His business became a lot more fun for his team members. People took a lot more pride in it. I know this because I speak to the team. One of the benefits about doing business the way we do is we become a part of that team and that’s the benefit.
You want people to stick around, be loyal to the company and you have to allow them to be a part of something.
You can’t be part of a brand story celebration, whether you’re an employee or management or a partner and not be involved in a personal way. I’ve seen that. What resonated with me whenever we interviewed him, as he said his slogan for his brand is, “Change your water, change your life.” That’s what came out of the brand story summary. He said, “This whole process has changed my life because it’s improved every relationship that I have.”
That’s the difference because you’re telling a complete story. What I was talking about in the principle that we have is building trust on every level. Not just on what you do or the outcome but also the way you do it in the mechanics. That’s the drive. Also, the attitude of the brand has to be a part of it and the personality and detailing that.
It’s good for people to say, “Our personality is not important.” It’s important. The product’s what’s important. In some brands, that’s true. You have a corporatized attitude but that’s still an attitude that you need to recognize. Having an understanding of the attitude, the habit systems and processes and the outcomes associated with the brand. Those are the three areas of a story that we tell.
We call that the Three P Principle because you define it and your attitude becomes Positive. You define your drive, it becomes Powerful. You define the direction that you go and you become Purposeful. There’s a whole section in the book about how those areas by themselves to find are meaningful but when you define them together, you build trust on all levels.
The Three P Principle process, again is?
It’s the principle behind the process of culture development marketing, which is what we do. Positive, Powerful, Purposeful.
I’m curious. What’s your brand story? How do you get people to trust you?
I’ve been working in this business for a lot of years and it’s always been the same with me. That’s the thing. If you go out there and your work and you’re consistent or are real about what you’re doing, your reputation builds. That’s what’s happened to us. We don’t do a lot of marketing. I don’t go out and look for a ton of clients. We haven’t done that because what’s happened is basically we do a great job, then we get people to talk about it. We have long relationships. That’s another thing too.
I had a marketing agency. I started one when I was 24, went for 12, 13 years before I went in the Brand Story Experts. When you specialize in this and helping people uncover that story and celebrate their story, as I said, you develop these relationships. Our tenure with these clients, we have people that have been with us from the beginning. The Pittsburgh Pirates, we’ve worked with them for several years.
We’re working with Cool Today, one of the largest HPAC plumbing and heating and air companies in the country, working for them for several years. These companies stay with us because we become a part of it. That’s the bond that you get with your team members whenever you do the same thing. You want people to stick around, be loyal to the company. You got to allow them to be a part of something. That’s a side benefit too.
It’s the way that it works with human resources, recruiting, retention. When you talk about culture development marketing, it brings it all together and that’s a beautiful thing. At least I don’t know how much you’ve seen of divided cultures and companies that have sales departments and marketing departments and people in programming. It’s like everybody’s got a different mindset and mentality.
It’s true that people have different duties but there are core consistencies and companies that you can take pride in and that you can celebrate. Everybody should be able to join in and add that inclusive environment. When you make that clear, then other people outside the brand want to be a part of that. Apple, Starbucks, they all do that, phenomenal.
A lot of companies don’t think about it. They don’t want to do it or they say they want to do it but don’t know how to do it. I believe it’s as simple as recognizing who you are and your most inspiring aspects, how you show up, what you do best and celebrating those things as the main starting point. That’s not saying you can’t grow and do more but you got to be honest, authentic and celebrate those strengths.
That’s very powerful. I’m sure that you’re teaching your clients or your prospects the value in building a brand story and that it’s long-lasting versus, I always call it, relational versus transactional. When you’re gaining trust, sharing there for the long haul, sharing your own personal story and being authentic, some of the keywords that you’ve been sharing. It’s building a relationship versus it being a transactional one-off, which is we get to have more of that in this world and in business. Thank you for that.
I want to jump into the speed round. This is where I ask you a question and the first thing that comes to mind, you share. This is all around books and authoring since you’ve authored your book, Everyone Is An “Influencer”: Building A Brand By Engaging The People Who Matter Most. You can buy it on Amazon. First question for you is, what is your legacy going to be?
I want my legacy to be personally trying to bring out the best in others and try to be honest and authentic. I love what I do because whenever you work with people to help them with that, it opens doors for them. It opens doors to the teams that they work for. It improves the experience for everyone. I want to be a person that was focused on helping people bring out the best and be a part of something bigger.
Kelly, what is your favorite book?
I’m a big Pam Slim fan. I like the Escape from Cubicle Nation. She put out a new Widest Net. I hired her as a coach at one point because I liked the energy of entrepreneurship and how she teaches you how to be more as well. There’s a synergy between the message that I have and her work. Any of her books, you can’t miss.
I know Pam Slim but I have not read any of her books, so I’ll have to put that on the bookshelf. Next question, who’s your favorite author?
I would say she’s probably my favorite author as well.
We got a Pam Slim fan in the house. I love that. What are you reading next, Kelly? What’s on your books stand?
I bought Beyond Diversity with Rohit Bhargava. I’m excited about reading that. There’s a lot of great information in the book from what I’ve read initially. I’m not all the way through. I’m probably a quarter of the way through and I’m excited about that book.
Final question, what are you writing next?
I’ve been doing a lot of writing around the content and the book, trying to help people connect with the message. It’s one thing to have a book that tells a message in totality but it’s another thing to break apart messages and help people through different blogs, writing assignments, magazines, anything that we can get out there to get the word out.
I’m probably writing two hours a day now on things of that nature and having a good time doing it because it’s neat. Whenever you have something that’s finite but nothing’s done, it’s always growing. To go back in, it’s rewarding to take different angles and expand upon smaller points or even related to different issues and things going on now. That’s pretty much what I’ve been writing.
I would love for you to share another tip as we get wrapped up here. Another tip you can leave our audience with from your book, Everyone is an Influencer. What’s your last piece of advice you want to leave?
The biggest thing that can change your perspective is looking at the way people look at stories. People look at a story and they embrace the idea to tell the story. You hear that, “Tell the story.” I say in the book, “Tell to sell.” The idea is to get a conversion to get people to purchase something, so they have to say this to make them do that. There’s so much psychology that goes in about what you tell people to sell that it’s a whole science.
What I encourage people to do is understand your real story. Instead of telling to sell, celebrate that story to educate people. You want them to know who you are. You want them to understand who you are, your personality because you want the right people to connect with them. Those are the people that matter most.
When you can celebrate yourself authentically and other people are also celebrating that story, you educate people in a way where you’re going to build the best relationships with customers and employees that come to work there because you’re telling them, “This is what the experience is all about. This is what we are. This is who we are. This is how we do business.”
In that, with social media, you will find ways to educate people one close to the time, one video at a time, one blog at a time. In that, there’s so much joy in celebrating your story and educating people that way because of getting those real relationships inside and outside, everything gets better. The experience gets better for everyone.
Resist the opportunity to tell your story. It’s so easy to tell people when you get a quick conversion but don’t do that. Celebrate your story, your real story, in a way. Invite other people to be a part of it, be inclusive. The payoff is going to be fantastic because what you’re going to do is you’ll enrich your company and your culture, and you’ll help a lot of people in the process.
Kelly, how can people find out more about you?
My company is Brand Story Experts, BrandStoryExperts.com. You can go to EveryoneIsAnInfluencer.com to learn about my book. On Twitter @KellyKeenanSr or Instagram, Facebook, everything. LinkedIn, the same thing. You can contact me anywhere.
I want to thank you, Kelly, for sharing your book, for writing your book, for sharing your book and for giving us tips on how we can build our own brand story. It was wonderful to have you as a guest.
Thank you so much. I appreciate the time.
I’ll see you next time for the next episode.
- Brand Story Experts
- Everyone Is An “Influencer”: Building A Brand By Engaging The People Who Matter Most
- Halo Water
- The Pittsburgh Pirates
- Cool Today
- Escape from Cubicle Nation
- Widest Net
- Beyond Diversity
- @KellyKeenanSr – Twitter
- Instagram – Kelly Keenan
- Facebook – Kelly Keenan
- LinkedIn – Kelly Keenan
About Kelly Keenan
Kelly is a leader in Brand Story development who formalized and trademarked a story development process for defining a brand’s story in 2009. He is a speaker,coach and leadership consultant who has helped hundreds of brands clarify their story over the past two decades.