Lessons from the Banking Industry: Storytelling Requires an Ear to the Ground

No Comments Yet | by Elise Perkins

Any small business owner knows that telling your brand’s story to customers is critical to success, especially when competition is tough, resources are tight, or you’re managing through a difficult time.

But the same issue is equally challenging for big brands and big businesses, including the Fortune 100 companies like Wells Fargo.

The banking industry as a whole still has a lot of catch-up work to do with consumers since the 2008 financial crisis. But when Americans are showed compelling data about the vast improvements that banks are making (which they are), it falls on deaf ears.

We may be living in an age of lightening-speed data that can help businesses show how big, successful or innovative they are. But public relations research consistently tells us that customers don’t find numbers all that compelling or relatable. Instead, customers connect best with brands that communicate memorable, emotionally-tied stories about how the company’s work impacts the lives of everyday people.

That’s why over the last several years, Wells Fargo developed an innovative online communications platform to function as a newsroom. After hiring former reporters, staffing a full video production studio and retaining other storytelling experts, the company launched Wells Fargo Stories, an online journal that brings the company to life by sharing content about how its customers and communities are thriving.

One recent Wells Fargo story highlights the heartfelt testimonials of disabled military veterans who have strengthened their recovery efforts by participating in a Warriors to Summits mountain climbing challenge (which Wells Fargo sponsored in part). The challenge uses climbing to help veterans overcome physical and emotional barriers.

Another recent piece features customer Alejandrina Felipe Asuncion and her mother Paula as they fix tamales for customers at their family food cart, Mixteca PDX, which has been helped through a Wells Fargo nonprofit grant to help low-income families with business training for immigrant entrepreneurs.

These stories are only a few of many, and they’ve been making a noticeable difference.

Storytelling isn’t rocket science, and you don’t need a full newsroom on staff or big budgets to do it well. Sure, maybe the daily grind of your hardware store, graphic design firm or one-man kazoo band may not initially seem like the stuff of award-winning documentaries. But let’s be honest – neither does banking.

What good storytelling does require is an ear to the ground, getting to know your customers and a bit of basic online promotion. The story of how supplies from your hardware store helped build a new home for a family in need, or your kazoo band’s latest YouTube video soothes someone’s cranky baby to sleep could be your next stepping stone to success.

 Erika Reynoso is AVP of Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo. She was previously Director of Communications for Financial Services Roundtable and covered Capitol Hill as a reporter for POLITICO.



About Elise Perkins

Elise Perkins founded ep communications in 2014 after seven years of working for trade associations and think tanks. Today she focuses on building brands for businesses and people, using a savvy mix of content and influencer strategies. She sits on the board of Washington Women in Public Relations.

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