Rosie Di Lecce is a Persuasive Content Expert and Coach. After years working as a content and copywriting specialist for a variety of startups and big brands, Rosie started her own business to support entrepreneurs struggling to create content that sells. Her current mission is to help entrepreneurs to learn how to sell more through the power of persuasive content and storytelling, while supporting them to embrace their voice and connect emotionally with the audience, too.
Born in Italy and passionate by nature, she is a fervid supporter of self-expression and believes that being authentic, a defined persuasive message and good storytelling skills are key to a modern thriving business.
In this episode, Rosie and I talk about how stories can help you grow your brand – I can’t wait to dive into this conversation!
TL;DR For those who want to connect with Rosie, you can find her here:
Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then edited by me and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s most certainly not 100% accurate.
P: Rosie, thank you so much for joining me in today’s episode.
R: Thank you for having me Petchy.
P: I’m really looking forward to our conversation today, we’re going to be talking about brand storytelling, right?
R: Yes, we are. I am quite excited about it. It’s part of my expertise, and I do believe that everybody should, you know, have a story in their brand.
P: Yeah, I think branding is a lot about storytelling, but before we really dig into things, I would love it if you could tell us in short what people who are tuning in today can expect to take away from this episode.
R: All right, So, as you said, we will be touching on the stories in branding. And specifically we will be talking about why storytelling is important. And I’ll share with you a couple of examples. I will also be talking about the stories you actually need in your brand and your business, stories that will help you sell. And then we will be talking about storytelling plots and the three key elements of every good story that sells.
P: That sounds like it’s gonna be something really actionable for people to take away after today and implement in their own brand. So I’m not going to sit here and talk anymore. I’m gonna hand the stage over to you. Take it away.
R: Thank you so much. So let’s start off as I said with “why Storytelling?”. I mean, we hear it all the time. You’re a branding specialist so… Many times we hear somebody tell us about a story brand or about how you need to tell your story and all of that. But the question is “Why?” Is it just because we have a giant ego? Generally speaking it’s not about the ego. Actually what it is about is making a connection… about creating a narrative that your audience can buy into. It’s all about having a story that can create that emotional connection with your audience.
P: I love that you said that, because that’s what branding is all about – that emotional connection that’s gonna make someone click with your brand, right?
R: Exactly. And I think a lot of people really underestimate it, because branding is not just about the great visuals, and things looking pretty right. That’s absolutely not going to be enough eventually. But if we start to connect those elements with everything else and especially with the story, that’s when actually that connection happens. And that is like I always see it; as literally the threads, you know,coming together between the brand, the business and the audience. And there are a lot of examples from big companies out there. Of course, you know you’ve got Nike, you’ve got Tom’s… literally every brand that we can think of has always come up with a story in every campaign. They really think about “OK, what kind of story do we need to tell? What is it that we need to pass on as a message as a connection to our audience?” And there is always this one example that I love to share, which is the one of “a diamond is forever.” You heard that before, right?
P: Who hasn’t heard that?
R: I know and it’s such a powerful example, because it was actually created by a copywriter very much like me. A woman way, way back a few decades. At that time, after the Great Depression and all of that, at that time there were a lot of diamonds, but they didn’t have a high value like they do today. So the people on the inside of the industry, they knew the worth of those gems. But on the other side, nobody really understood it. Everybody was more into, you know, emeralds and rubies and all of that. So this agency was given the job to just come up with a good story that would just connect everybody emotionally to diamonds – so they could sell more. And this copywriter in one moment just before going to bed. (That’s at least how the story goes.) She was just about to go to bed and then she started to think about this whole connection, and feelings… and a feeling that is universal is love and the idea came: “Wow, What if love is forever… and diamonds could be forever too?” I mean, I’m not sure that this is exactly how it went in her head, but that’s how I imagine it every time. So I’m kind of believing it, and I’m buying into it. It’s a good story that works and that literally changed everything – because all of a sudden it’s not “buy a diamond ring because it looks good” anymore, but more like “if he loves you and this love is real, he’s going to buy you a diamond ring.” And look at us now. It’s such a common thing, you know? In just about 10 years, 60% of brides in America actually had a diamond ring, whereas before… even just a few years before, this was not a trend. This was not a concept. But now everybody expects it. And that’s really the power of a story in branding – they created an emotional connection, an emotional narrative around what a diamond is.
P: And I think that’s a stroke of genius because they connected it to one of the strongest emotions there is, right? Love is a very positive emotion.
R: Well, yeah, absolutely. And you know, like I think that at that time, if we look at the campaigns themselves… They were quite, you know… sometimes tapping a bit more on the negative emotions. But if we do connect a story to a positive emotion, then it becomes really, really powerful. But you said it yourself. This is one of the strongest emotions, probably the most universal emotion that there is, you know, love. We all want to be loved. We all want love.
P: Well, who doesn’t like love?
R: Exactly. And it’s also that idea of making it forever. It’s something so deep that has always been with us humans, as you know in the books that were told already like centuries ago, you know? So this is something that stories can do for your brand. They can create a new narrative, a new emotion, a new connection to something that maybe it was nothing at first. So that’s something that I think is a good example of why storytelling is so important in branding.
P: I now imagine our listeners sitting on the edge of their chair thinking “yeah, but how can I do this for my brand? How can I get this magic?”
R: I’ve heard hiring a copywriter works! But to be honest, there are ways that you can do it yourself. And for me it goes back to the way that we do modern business right now. And especially if you are a small business owner, then there are three things that you want to have; three stories that you want to have for your branding. Let’s say you got the why story, the money making story and the dream client story. That’s how I identify them whenever I work with my clients, and the why story is all about your story, you know… what is the reason that pushed you to start this business to start this brand? And usually it’s really connected to your story and your purpose. You know, it really goes back to that background information and I will tell a little bit more in a moment. But this doesn’t need to be a story that is dramatic or some sort of big drama happening.
P: I guess it ties in with the rest of your brand strategy and how you really need to hone in on your why in your general brand strategy, and if you’re going to start with a story, this is this is the one to start with?
R: Yeah, I think in a way it depends on what you’re doing. This is more the story you tell if somebody asks you “why did you start? Why should we choose you?” So in a way it is the first one. But it’s also like a foundation, you know. The foundation story that actually makes a big difference. And then the one that makes you money is the money making story, which is really all about what you do. So that answers to the question of “OK, but what do you do or how do you help your clients?” And it’s really all about identifying what makes you you in your business, in your expertise within your field. So it’s that unique selling point you could say, but that also ties back in with your branding strategy because technically, if you’ve got good branding strategy you should have a very clear idea of what makes you stand out and what uniqueness you can bring. Write all of that down, and all you need is to put it together with that story that you’re going to be telling. I’m going to give you a very practical example of a why story and a money making story. I love baking, so usually my examples always involve some form of baking. So I’m just gonna go in like that. So, for example, if you own a bakery, your why story could be something along the lines of “I started my bakery because I remember when I was a child these moments of baking with my grandma, and I remember how it brought us all together… And it just made a difference. Because there were all those moments that usually we wouldn’t have because they were working, and for me that brought me happiness. And I want to bring the same happiness now to the customers that come into my bakery. And that is the ultimate goal: I want to bring happiness to my customers in the same way that I felt it.” So I gave you a very quick example, but you can, of course, expand it and make it your own. What is the emotional value of that story? What is it that sets me apart? What am I really selling? Because, for example, I would say I sell self expression and a voice for my clients. A baker, maybe they sell happiness. You know, somebody else might be selling freedom. So you can really take it from there.
P: Because you’re making it almost personal. So if someone is listening to that story they will know instantly whether or not they actually recognise themselves within it or resonate with it. When I speak to my clients about how to really dig into their brand personality, whether it’s, you know, their verbal identity or the visual identity – or any aspect really… is you really need to not to be scared of pushing some people away because when you have a clear story, when you’re clear on your values – you are going to potentially put some people off. And I think that’s the risk that you run when you really get that clear on your brand story. But then again, that’s what you want! Because you want to get into the hearts of the right people with your story.
R: Yeah, absolutely. And it is exactly what you said. It’s a matter of embracing that story and embracing that you are not everybody’s cup of tea. That’s what it is and that’s OK. It’s absolutely OK. So the money making story, for example, could be something along the lines of telling a little bit more about your clients as well. So for example, again to the baker or bakery example: if we are a bakery that just specialises in super cute cupcakes, we can suppose that we are targeting an audience of young women in their twenties, super cute. So maybe we do bachelor parties, whatever. So the money making story could be something along the lines of “We create cupcakes that will just bring you a smile and we’ll give you an unforgettable experience because they can be customised to who you are. And they can fit whatever party personality you bring. And they can give you, you know, like a beautiful memory. They are too cute to eat.” And that’s what we do with that kind of story, we tell the reason why people should buy from you. That’s why I call it the money making story when I work with my clients, because it’s really about defining that moment of “Oh, wow.” Okay, now we go from “any bakery can bring me happiness” to “wait a second, this is the bakery that I want.” So that’s a way to stand out and to push away some of the people. Because if you are a super serious kind of person, you’re not gonna like the super pretty cupcakes that are Alice in Wonderland themed. Do you know what I mean? They’re not gonna be for you, but that’s okay, because that bakery should not be wanting to sell to those people. So that’s usually how it works with these two stories. And that’s why you need both of them, because it almost identifies who you are and creates more of a personal connection at first – and like on an emotional level. And the other one creates a connection. But it’s more on a practical level of “Yes, this is the problem I have. This is the solution I’m looking for.”
P: Yeah, so in a way, you’re taking your why story and then developing it into your money making story that targets a very specific audience, the people that you want to bring into your business and you want to reach with your brand?
R: I love how you just sum up everything that I’m saying with 200,000 words into just a sentence! But yeah, exactly. I mean, you describe it beautifully. I will also say this: the money making story is the one that you should be using more often then the why story. Because, of course, the money making story is the one that you can post about what you’ve got going on now, the service, the product that you’re selling… whatever it might be. So that becomes a foundation, the money making story is what everybody really sees all the time. And then of course, I mentioned the third story, which is the dream client story. I’m not going to talk a lot about this because it’s quite straightforward. This is about… not necessarily a case study, but a form of case study, you know. It’s just all about identifying those one or two clients that really represent the best of the best you’ve ever worked with and just learn “Okay, How can we tell the story in a way that is going to fit in line with those other two stories?” That’s literally what it is about. But if you got that as well on your repertoire, then it means that your brand has come full circle. You know, you got how it started, how you’re going to solve that problem and then eventually, where they can be if they work with you. That’s how I kind of see it with these three stories.
P: So you’re painting this picture, with words, of what difference you’re going to make in someone’s life if they choose your brand. Like, what’s the transformation going to be what they’re going to get from choosing you over I don’t know how many thousands of other brands that probably deliver similar services of products.
R: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what it is. And I know that you like to keep the show quite practical and giving some tips to implement. And gosh, you know, there are so many things that we could say about how you create a story, right? Where do you even start? For me, there are two things I think you can do and implement straight away. And one is really to identify for yourself: What is a storytelling plot that you can use? Now, what a storytelling plot is… is basically this very basic concept that defines every book or movie that we watch. One of these types of storytelling plot that we all know is the rags to riches, which is not my favourite one. I’ll tell you, it’s been a little bit overused at this point, but you know that story of “I had nothing. Now I have everything.” We see this especially in the personal development world, for example, with a lot of coaches and strategists, that’s what we hear all the time. But again, that’s just one type of storytelling plot. There are in total seven (google it!) The Lord of the Rings is a great example of one of the storytelling plots that is called the quest. And literally every story can be brought back to a storytelling plot, but usually what I have observed with my clients is that there are two plots that can apply to most brands.One of them being indeed the quest and the other one being overcoming the monsters. Overcoming the monster is very much all about you being the protagonist with your business or your personal brand, whatever it might be. And you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a challenge. That’s the monster. So, for example, if I’m a fitness coach… a lot of the fitness coaches right now use the story of how they used to be overweight and struggling with their health. So that is the monster, and the whole idea of this story is to describe how you actually overcame that challenge. And you can do that very easily, of course, by identifying those two or three main obstacles that you had to overcome to actually get where you are now.
P: So basically, you’re positioning yourself through your story as someone who can help your ideal client overcome the same challenges and get the same results that you did?
R: Exactly. And again, if you think about coaches, the strategists and mentors… They all have a similar story. So this is one of the most used ones. This is also something that, for example, Nike uses a lot because, you know, we can all be athletes… we can all beat whatever problem we got if we get the right gear. So overcoming the monster is great great plot to use. And then there is the other one, which is the quest. Like in The Lord of the Rings, it’s all about his journey and his companions. And in a way you can do the same for your clients, your audience, whatever it might be. And the Companions are basically you and your methods, your tools, your solution – whatever it might be. So you can basically tell that person if you are struggling with this and your mission (because, of course, in the quest there is a mission that the protagonist needs to go through). So the mission can be… if I am the fitness coach, the mission is “this person wants to lose weight to look good for their wedding.” And if that’s the mission, the way you’d describe it is “I have a lot of clients that come to me, who are women who just want to feel even better and stronger and more beautiful and completely love their body because maybe they’re preparing for a big event. And they know they want to look at their best, for example, for their wedding…” And that’s where you describe how this journey goes. If you think about what we were saying before, with the money making story, you start to talk about the problem and the solution and how you fix it. And then you describe that journey with you for your client, and at the end of it they should be thinking, “Wow, That’s exactly what I want! That’s exactly what I need. That’s my problem. That’s my mission. I want to work with this person.”
P: I think from the two examples of plots that you’ve talked about now, this last one has got to be my personal favourite because it somehow feels a little bit more authentic and a little bit less bro marketing than the first? You’re kind of putting your ideal client in the hero role here, So they’re gonna be doing it for themselves and you’re just gonna help them along. And so you’re putting them in the centre.
R: I think it is my favourite as well. But also because of the nature of the work that we do, I think it could not be any other way – because I cannot talk about my copywriting struggles or struggling with persuading my audience whatsoever. That’s my job. If I’m gonna talk about struggles, it ain’t gonna look pretty because it means I had a very bad career. Also that’s why you want to think about “OK, what is it that really suits me and what is authentic.” You know, it feels more aligned to you, so it’s definitely about finding that. But I also do agree with you, and whenever I work with my clients I always advise that if they are undecided… to go with the quest because it does feel like the most authentic, it feels like the one that can actually sell because it’s all about the client. So whereas with overcoming the monster, you might want to use it for your own why. Because you can tweak it so your why story could be that. But again, find what works for you. So if you want to start working on your story, you don’t need to overcomplicate it, but just try and draw out: What is the plot? Who’s the hero here? Who’s the protagonist? What are the challenges? And then there is one last thing I’ll share with you today, which is for me what eventually brings it all together because let’s suppose that now you’ve got this great idea. You know, your story, you know your why or you know your money making story. And now you have to tell that story and this is where my expertise comes in. This is a lot of what I do with my clients, which is all about the persuasive side of things. So this is where we connect the dots and take it from “I just got a story and I’m just selling” to “I’m actually telling a story that persuades, that creates emotion.”And there are three elements to it, it’s quite funny because every time I say this, if there is another copywriter or persuasive content writer in the room, they’ll tell me “Oh, but this is the same structure as a sales page.! I’m like “Yes, dude, that is correct.” So these are actually three elements that you can use every time that you want to create something that is persuasive as well. So bonus. Let’s say this is not just about stories and these three elements are something very, very old that Aristotle came up with in ancient Greece. And they are: pathos, which is all about the emotions. Then you’ve got ethos, which is instead all about basically showing the values that you’ve got. You know what you stand for, the things that define you. And then you’ve got logos, which is more about the facts, you know. And all these three elements, when they come together with you in your story, are able to show the facts, the values that you stand for and the emotions that you were going through, The things that you’re feeling, the things that you want, the emotions that you want your audience to feel. That’s when the story becomes powerful, persuasive, emotive.
P: So I just wanted to ask something related to the last section that you spoke about now. I’m the kind of person who is scared of becoming all bro marketing in my selling and becoming a sleazy salesperson. So how can you tweak your story to make it more of a connecting story rather than just “hello, I’m here to sell and you need this!” How can you make it not so salesy, but still persuasive?
R: I think again like you, I would go back to that part of emotions. So the more you pour emotions that are positive into the story, the more people will recognise it as you’re just telling a story and you’re not trying to sell through throwing fear at them to make them scared. And this is such an old way of doing copywriting and doing persuasion. I moved away from that school of thought when I started my business.
P: Even though you’re saying it’s like the old school way of doing things, you still see it all over the place. And I know that… well, I can’t be the only person who has been told that this is the right way to do it. It just doesn’t feel right, and so I love your approach because you’re not telling me to break to be this sleazy sales dude, you know.
R: Yeah, I really don’t agree with that anymore. Like I mean, it used to work. And if we go back to the old a diamond is forever story… I mean, to tell somebody he doesn’t love you if he doesn’t give you a diamond ring, it’s so bad. I mean, maybe the guy just doesn’t have the money. You know what I mean? So this used to be the way to do it, whereas right now it’s all really about getting a bit more positive. And especially if you look at how 2020 went, this trend of moving towards more positive emotions has been going for already like the best 3-4 years, but especially in 2020 there’s so much going on and people are already in pain. They’re suffering. So the best thing you can do is really talk about the desired outcome. What makes you happy. Let’s not just talk about your problem.
P: Yes, the feel good factor.
R: That’s exactly what it is. So if you focus on the positive emotions of your story, that’s when a story is still persuasive. It’s not just about “Oh gosh, I feel so bad. I really need this desperately because he’s going to solve of all my problems, and if I don’t do this, that I’m a bad person.” My “favourite” one is the “If you don’t buy this programme, your business is going to fail and your family will resent you” which is a horrible thing to say. Absolutely awful. Okay, don’t anybody go and do that in your story telling? I think that’s the bottom line here. You know, you’re gonna turn from a hero to a villain very quickly if you do that right now. So definitely, yeah, that I think that would be my take. That’s what you can do to not feel sleazy. Positive emotions, desired outcomes. Also connecting in an authentic way. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Just tell your story as it is. Don’t try and look for the challenge or the drama if your life has always been great and you didn’t have any specific challenges that you want to talk about. You still have a story to tell. Everybody’s got a story to tell.
P: Yeah, and the trend that I’ve seen is that people want to connect with genuine people. They want they want the person on the other end to be a human being with all of their imperfections and flaws – as a part of the package. You know, I certainly am not expecting perfection from people I choose to work with, because I don’t think perfection exists. And I think if somebody is putting themselves out there as perfect… I think they’re lying. I’m sorry, but I think they’re lying.
R: Yeah. And, you know, I always joke about this, but I’m gonna be very, very honest now. But again, because I’ve worked a lot in the personal development industry with my business, I think that one day I will write a book that is like, you know, just tell all of all this perfection. It is quite sad to see how old guru’s are, you know, trying to come across as perfect and as having it all… the big houses, the big cars. And I have dealt with people that have said to me, and specifically a brand specialist example that actually once said to me “It doesn’t matter. The audience is stupid, so you can lie to them.” And that’s quite upsetting. That’s quite a thing… completely out of order. Yeah, I’m no, I’m not even joking. And it just feels so bad for everybody on the other side listening to whatever lies they’re telling. So definitely, you know, don’t don’t pretend to be whatever. Perfection definitely does not exist. And that’s okay. You know, I always say I have quirks. I come with quirks and all, and it is absolutely alright. You know, my clients know I am gonna be quirky as hell. Why would I pretend to be something I’m not?
P: I totally agree. I’m very much the same, in that there’s an element of quirkiness in my brand, and I think that’s why I enjoy working with the clients I have – because they have seen that quirkiness come through in my messaging and how I communicate and where I show up and they’re okay with it. They like it. And so how can it be wrong when you’re attracting the people who you really enjoy working with because you kind of click on a personal level as well as on a professional level.
R: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah.
P: Oh, I’m loving this conversation. If we could round off before we go with one simple and very actionable tip, you know something that whoever’s listening could really just… you know, take it and roll with it and implement it today to start to improve on their brand storytelling. What would you say to them?
R: So I always have difficulties when people tell me one thing. So I’m gonna tell you two.
P: You’re such a rebel!
R: Yes, let me have it. So I would say the first thing is really try to identify what your audience wants on an emotional level, because clearly that’s what we’ve been talking about all the time. Is those emotions emotions emotions. So really try to take some time, get to know your audience and get to understand their psychology, what they want, what kind of emotions they are looking for. That is like the base of everything. But after that, the main thing that you can implement is don’t try and tell it all. Just really be selective about your story. Ain’t nobody got time for a 500 page book. So really be selective. Try to ask yourself things such as “Okay, what are the main positive or negative emotions that I felt? What I was going through in certain parts of my life? What are the turning points?” Identify three or five milestones and just really take them apart to understand how they could really connect with your brand and audience. And if you do that all of the sudden your stories will become likeable, engrossing and also relatable, and that’s really what we want. So be selective. Get to know your audience and you see your story forming just in front of you.
P: You make it sound so easy.
R: Thank you.
P: I can imagine that quite a few of my listeners are now thinking, OK, this woman is fantastic. I need to learn more from her. I want to maybe work with her. Where can they find you online and how can they work with you?
R: All right. So they can just connect with me on social media. Usually that’s where you find me anyway. So you could connect with me on Facebook. You can connect with me on Instagram. And of course you can even just email me. I don’t bite and am quite approachable and friendly. And yeah, and if you want to learn a little bit more about storytelling I also have a mini guide that walks you through those stories that we talked about. So the why story, the money making story and the dream client story. It gives you some pointers on how to actually create them for yourself. So go ahead guys, connect with me! Say hello.
P: This has been brilliant. Thank you so much for a really informative and fun conversation about storytelling.
R: Thank you, it was really my pleasure to be with you on the show today. Thank you so much for having me.