Tell Your Brand Story / A Brand First Workshop | Chris Fredricks | Skillshare

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Tell Your Brand Story / A Brand First Workshop

teacher avatar Chris Fredricks, Brand Strategy & Content Creation

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Welcome

    • 2. Know Your Brand

    • 3. Plan Your Story

    • 4. Prototype Your Story

    • 5. Get Feedback

    • 6. Revise & Finalize

    • 7. Stay Weird & Tell Stories

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About This Class

Finding the best way to tell your story is hard, but the good news is everyone has a unique story. Maybe it’s about what motivated you to get started, or the way you do business. Your story is already there to tell. You just need to figure out the best way to tell it. 

In this class, I will go through the process of putting together a story, using one of my own businesses as an example. You can follow along and build off of what you already know about your business in order to craft a specific story for your audience that connects emotionally, and gets the results you are looking for. 

All of the content you put out into the world should be a continuation of your story. This class can help you tell that story. 

Follow along with the worksheets and share your progress in the "Class Project" section to get some feedback.

This class is part of a series covering the Branding process. They do not need to be taken in order, but I'd obviously recommend them all. 

1 / Find Your Focus

2 / Find Your Voice 

3 / Keep it Consistent

4 / Tell Your Brand Story

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Chris Fredricks

Brand Strategy & Content Creation


Hi there! I've worked as a designer for over a decade in a bunch of different roles. I focus on building and managing brands. I've helped a variety of clients develop a brand strategy, and then apply that strategy to the design of their website, catalog, or whatever they needed to share with the world. Designing eventually led me to teaching design both online and at the the University level. In 2019, I was super pumped to join the team at InVision University, where I learn a ton every day while applying my background in design and education. 


When I'm not doing all that stuff, I create illustrations for my apparel brand, Grow Up Awesome. Everything I make is inspired by my weird family, and many pets. I live and work in Grand Rapids, Michig... See full profile

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1. Welcome: Finding the best way to tell your brand story can be hard to do. The good news is you already have a unique story to tell. Maybe it's why you started your business in the first place, maybe it's the way your business operates today. Your story is already there to tell. You just need to find the right way to tell it. Successful storytelling is all about connecting with your audience. All you have to do is talk about something they care about, do it in an authentic way and likely you're connecting with a worldview you already share with that audience. Today we'll be tackling the storytelling process from outlining and prototyping to a final story that you can share with your audience. Maybe you're creating a presentation to share it with your peers or an ad series for social media or creating a landing page to capture new leads. Whatever you're doing, in some way you're telling a story to the audience. I'm going to talk to you about how to craft that story today. My name is Chris Fredericks. I'm a graphic designer with a focus on building and managing brands. I started a few businesses of my own, and I'm also a visiting professor of graphic design at Grand Valley State University here in West Michigan. Now let's get started in telling your story. 2. Know Your Brand: The trick to successful storytelling is you need to be different, and then you need to showcase that difference when you tell your story. Easy, right? Or a simpler way to put it, you need to stay weird and tell stories. First things first, you need to make sure that you understand your brand. It's important to make sure you define your brand before telling the story. The reason is your brand is based on the perception that people have of you, so what your customers think of you, that becomes your brand. It's really important to figure this out beforehand. I'm going to be talking about a company I recently started called, By Fred. Which is an on-demand, apparel printing and fulfillment company. The first thing you need to know about your brand is, what's your brand focus. Sometimes you'll hear that called your value proposition or your differentiation. If you don't know what your focus is, you can start by asking yourself some questions. What do you do better than your competition? What makes you different? What do your customers want from you? Why do you do what you do? Your focus should be the main thing you want your customers to know about you. It's what sets you apart from your competition and it makes it easy for your audience to see the difference. I'm going to figure it out real quick just by asking myself a few questions. What do you do better than your competition? I think it's that I'm simplifying the process for them. Simplifying the act of having shirts printed. What makes you different? I think that simplicity makes me different, but also the fact that people can have things printed on demand. They don't need to order a big stock of things, they can order one thing at a time whenever they need to. What do your customers want from you? They want apparel, but I think mostly it's shirts. This one should be easy. Why do you do what you do? I started my apparel line, Grow Up Awesome when I was starting to have children and mostly I wanted to be able to design things and make things for my own kids. Once I did that, I realized other people would like these too, so it grew from there and it's inspired by them. But really, what it came down to is I like to make things by myself. I don't necessarily want to go buy everything at a store. I started by making things for myself and now I make things for other people. You can see the theme there being simplicity making things easy, making things quickly, and making things in general. My focus for By Fred is that printing shirts should be simple. We simplify the process from beginning to end, and make it really easy to print shirts. That's what sets me apart from my competition. That's what makes me the most different. Next, you need to know about your audience or audiences. A lot of time in branding and in marketing you hear about target markets. If you have a target market, that's a great place to start. But honestly, we might have more than one audience and you can create a different story for each one of those audiences. I think generally speaking, my audience is small businesses, also a good audience for me in the service I provide would be like bands or musicians. Also comedians, I currently work with a comedian. That works for that to. Also other people that make other things but maybe you don't specialize in apparel. That could fall under small business though. If you have multiple audiences, that's totally fine. I think what's most valuable here is having a very specific audience. My audience for this storytelling exercise today, is going to be small businesses that print apparel. Whether it's for an event, for uniforms or to sell to their customers. That's our focus and that's our audience. That's what we need to get started telling our story. Let's go. 3. Plan Your Story: Let's make a plan. The goal here is to define and then narrow the focus of your story. First, set a goal. Maybe your goal is to convince someone of something, or to sell more products, or to get someone to contact you for more information. It doesn't matter what it is, just pick a specific goal. My goal, by Fred, is that I want people to contact me to get more information on printing and a place to printing order. Next, you want to pick one specific audience for this story. If you have multiple audiences, you just make up different stories later for them, but right now you want something specific, so you know exactly who you're talking to. I promise as you go on and make other stories, it'll get easier because you'd be able to build off from that first story. I have more than one audience, but they fit into the umbrella of small businesses. Sometimes I might be a comedian, people that are working for themselves, or a musician, or an illustrator, or a designer, someone that's creating content that works on apparel. Next, you want to figure out how you're actually going to present your story. Maybe you're giving an actual presentation, making a landing page, or some social media posts, or ads. It doesn't have to be this big grand advertising campaign. The stories can be spread out and expanded and made smaller, depending on the audience, and depending on the medium in which you're presenting it. My story will be a social media ad that when clicked on, will take potential customers to a landing page with the contact form. From that contact form, obviously, I'm hoping that they'll contact me to learn more about printing services. Once you have all of that, I want you to ask yourself, what's your big idea. What is the main thing you want your customers to get from your story? A lot of times this comes directly from your focus that you figured out earlier, but it might be a little more specific, to connect even more to your specific audience. My big idea is getting shirts printed should be easy, that's it. Simplicity in the ordering process, this should be easy. It's usually not, it's hard, I'm making it easy, that's my story. When picking your big idea, make sure you ask yourself, "Is this something that audience cares about?" If no, obviously, you've a problem and you got to go back to the brainstorming process, to figure out what that focus is, how it makes you different. Make sure your audience cares about it, and then you have your big idea and you can move forward. I know this big idea connects with my customers because I've been in their position before. I've worked for companies where we had to order apparel, and I've worked with printers, and I know it's a hustle to manage all that artwork, manage, figuring out quantities and placing orders. Again, my goal is to make everything as simple as possible for them. If you're not sure about your big idea, what I would do is just ask people that fit into your audience. I would ask people that have ordered shirts from you before, "What is your experience with other places you've ordered shirts from?" "What's the hardest part about ordering shirts?" "How could that be easier?" "What's most important to you when picking a company to order shirts from?" You already know who your audience is, so take that audience, talk to them about it, and make sure that big idea connects, before you write your story. 4. Prototype Your Story: To prototype a story, my go-to method is always Post-it Notes. You don't have to use Post-It Notes, you can just grab a piece of paper, and jot down some notes, jot down an outline, mess around with it that way. But what I like about Post-it Notes is you can brainstorm and then you can move around those ideas to create the final story that you want to create. You can start out by brainstorming story elements. So what I mean by that is the main points you want to get across. Obviously that's going to include your big idea. This is where you're going to start thinking about how do I get that big idea across? How do I get that message across? Jot down ways that you could say that. Jot down different steps along the way, different parts of your story. Jot down anything that comes to mind. It doesn't matter if it's good. You're going to figure it out and you're going to weed out the parts that are weaker until you put together that more solid story. Some things to consider before you start brainstorming or if you get stuck along the way, these might jog something in your head and get you going if you're having trouble at all. What connects to the needs and wants of your customer? What are things you can say that connect to that? The goal of a story is to connect emotionally. Remember, businesses are run by humans so even when speaking on behalf of a business, you need to be human. Be authentic. Talk like your audience talks. Consider voice as a way to be more approachable. Most of the time you want to be less formal and less technical. If that's the way you see yourself going, try to avoid it. Try to talk in a conversational tone. Again, a way that your audience would talk to you. When crafting your story, a simple relatable story is often more effective than facts and figures. So again, avoid that technical language, is telling a story, you're telling something that has some emotional connection to your audience. Do you have a real life example you can use? Maybe a customer that you've already helped? You can tell their story. In my case, I might want to use something that shows the simplicity of my system, just by explaining the way I've interacted with a customer in the past. So I can explain that through something I've already done, that proves instantly that it works. So someone can easily put themselves in the shoes of another person. If you don't have a real life example, you could run through a scenario that a customer may go through when they're working with you. So maybe you haven't even started your business yet. You're just creating this business model, but you have an idea in your head of how that business model may work. You can walk a fake customer, imaginary customer through that process. You see this all the time in commercials, in explainer videos. They might not be talking about a real customer, but they are talking about a potential customer, and you could do that same thing. Again, as long as it's relatable, as long as it's something that a customer can actually see themselves doing, then it will connect emotionally. Think about the experiences of your customers. What they go through when they work with you, or what they go through when they work with your competition. How are you making it better? Also, consider how stories work. We all know how to tell stories. We all have a favorite story, we have favorite books, we have favorite movies. All those things follow something called a narrative arc. The narrative arc is used because it's effective and its satisfying as someone who's consuming a story, we like the results that a narrative arc produces. The classic narrative arc. You have a beginning, a middle, and an end. At some point shortly after the beginning, there is some conflict, there's rising action, there's a climax, and then there's falling action as things begin to resolve. Then finally you have a resolution. In your case if you're trying to sell a product or something, your customer has a problem. They look for a solution. They find your product. That product solves their problem. Story finished. That's pretty much how every commercial works ever. That's also how stories in general work. So use those things as starting points and begin brainstorming the elements of your story. Arrange them and rearrange them until you have a story that you feel like is starting to work. Take things out when you need to, add new pieces, just keep switching things up until they begin to work. Eventually you'll have an outline that starts to resemble a story that you can start sharing with people to get feedback. Now I'm going to show you the Post-It Note madness that goes into prototyping my story for by Fred. So first of all, what connects to the needs and wants of the customer? Simplicity. I mentioned that already, but again, keeping it simple is really important to what I do. So we're trying to connect emotionally. Trying to act human, be authentic, talk like your audience talks. So simplicity, how might I convey that in a simple phrase? I think I actually already did that when I came up with my big idea. So getting shirts printed should be easy. I think that's a really simple to understand phrase. People know what I'm trying to get across really easily. 5. Get Feedback: Once you have that prototype or the outline, no matter how rough it looks, even if it's just a photograph of a bunch of Post-it and notes he stuck to the wall, start sharing that with people to get feedback. Where? Start here, post it in the discussion forum, ask me for help, help each other out, get some feedback from one another. I love to give feedback on stories, even if we aren't your target audience. Again, we all know how stories work. We can let you know if things maybe don't make as much sense as they should, or we might be able to give you ideas on how to clarify certain points. Post it here, and get some feedback. Ask your friends, your coworkers, your peers. You can show them your outline or you can actually pitch the story to them, meaning talking it out loud in words. Then make sure you're asking questions to get the best feedback you can. Ask the person that you're pitching your story to: What they think the main point is? Do they understand? What do they get out of the story? What do they think you're goal is? Make sure that these are connecting in a way that you want them to connect. If there's a big disconnect from what they think your main point is, in what your main point actually is, that's probably a pretty good sign that you need to revise your outline a little bit. To get the best feedback though, make sure you show it rough, don't polish that story outline too much. Really, you can show the Post-it notes that you wrote, or just type out a quick outline, but don't start putting that story together, don't start showing visuals. Because once something starts to look complete, it makes people not want to give feedback as openly as they might otherwise do. This is a principle that you see in user experience design also. If people are designing an application or a website, they show a black and white sketch most of the time when they're testing out whether or not this works the way they want it to work. Because once they start showing something that looks finished, people are reluctant to give honest feedback. Show it rough, keep it rough. We're just editing, we're revising, we're working out the details. You don't need to make it pretty first, so don't. Take all that feedback into consideration. Maybe some of it doesn't work out, that's fine. Some feedback works better than others, but the point is to get a bunch of it so you can apply some of those things to your story to make it more solid. I asked a few people what they thought that big idea was. Most of them got it, which is shirt printing and it should be easy. They got that. One person asked who my target was, who my audience was. I think that might be something that will hopefully come out more once I add visuals, once I add a little bit more context, which comes to another comment. Someone told me to make it more personal, which there was just an outline for my prototype. I don't take that too personally. I hadn't added all the details yet because I was just trying to keep the story in the outline simple and will flush that out once we dive into that revision and start finalizing that new final piece. I'm going to add more details to make it more personal to connect to more emotionally. That same person knows me pretty well, so he asked me, what else do I offer? What else makes me different than my competition? What's the quality of the shirts? What are you giving me that any other screen printer can't already give me? Is there any environmental impacts that your company has or anything that you do better than your competition? It's cool to ask people that know you pretty well, especially if they know what your goals are as a business person, because it'll push you a little harder to get those things out of you. Because in some cases, he probably knows more about it than I do because he hears me talk about it all the time. That's just some of the feedback I got. I'm going to take that and I'm going to apply that feedback. 6. Revise & Finalize: Now we're going to bring it all together in a way that best fits your story, your audience, and achieves your goals. As I mentioned from my story, I decided to go with the social media ad that goes to a landing page that then has a form at the end that can collect information. To finalize your story, you take that outline or that prototype and you start refining it. This is when you make it pretty. This is when you start adding visuals, often you can use those visuals as a way to reduce the amount of text you have to have in your story. In my case, I need to remember when people go to a website, they often don't read the whole thing. People generally skim websites. So I'm going to have a skimmable amount of content. I'm not going to tell a lengthy story, there's not going to be long paragraphs. I need to keep things short and sweet and really easy to read. Visuals are really important. As much as you can, show, don't tell. The same principles apply as they do to the rest of the storytelling. You need your visuals to connect with your audience. When you're expanding and finalizing your outline, you also need to decide on a final voice for your piece. Again, you're trying to match the voice to your audience and trying to talk to them in a way that they'd expect to be talked to, probably the way they talk to each other. Make sure the visuals and the words feel consistent, work together. I'll say it again, make sure they connect with your audience. Don't forget a call to action. Why are you telling this story in the first place? What is your goal? What do you want the customer to do once they've heard it? If you have a website, a landing page, make sure there's a contact form at the bottom of that or a phone number. If you're giving a presentation, make sure you tell at the end of that presentation, what you want the outcome of that presentation to be. Make sure that call to action is there so you can achieve that goal that you set at the beginning of this. Now I'm going to show you my final story for By Fred and walk you through why I chose to do what I did. I want to go over really quick the final story I came up with. I did go and take my outline and then I wrote that out into a full story, and then I just chopped a bunch of stuff out of it and tried to make it a little bit funnier to give it the feel that I wanted overall, to give it the right voice for my customers. I started with a social media ad. Like I mentioned before, the goal of my story is to get people to engage with the social media ad, click on it and that will take them to a landing page. Then on that landing page, they'll check out a really short story about how the process works, working with my company. Then at the end they'll have an opportunity to contact us. Luckily, I had some really nice pictures of some shirts I had printed for this event previously. I have nice pictures showing them wearing the shirts, doing their bar crawl, and it goes really nicely with my story. I used those throughout. My social media ad is really basic. It's just a picture of them enjoying themselves, and then it just says getting shirts printed should be easy, now it is. Then get shirts, learn more. Then once they click on that, it'll take them to this landing page. On this landing page again, I'm trying to use that imagery that I think works really well because it's showing people have a good time. It's showing actual customers and telling a real story. Starting with the headline, yay a bar crawl. Amelie is the Community Manager for The Factory, a co-working space in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She's cool enough to plan the annual Bar Crawl. Everyone gets matching shirts and they head on out to a few local bars because why not? Right here, I'm giving a really quick intro. Hopefully it's not too long and people will actually read it. I'm also trying to keep the language really casual. My first draft, I think there was too much going on. There's too much text. It just gave more details unnecessary. So I'd recommend going through that first draft of your final-ish story and chopping out whatever you can just to make it a really quick read. Next up, I started going to that process, like I talked about in my outline of how hard ordering shirts often is. Normally ordering shirts means she has to collect everyone's T-shirt order, find out their size, collect their money, and submit it all to the printer. Amelie probably has better things to do. A big part of my messaging, I think, the way I want it to be is that everyone has better things to do. I might work with designers, comedians, illustrators. They all have a craft that they're working on. They don't want to worry about figuring out how to order T-shirts or how to order other things to sell to their fans. They have fans, their fans want things, but they should still be able to stick to their craft, and getting those other things should be easy. That's the message I'm trying to put out there, trying to show how hard it used to be and then I'm going to compare that to how easy it is now. We took the artwork and setup a page so everyone at the factory could order their own shirts on their own time. Then we printed them up and delivered them a couple of days before the event. Easy, right? Another nice picture showing everyone being happy, and then printing shirts is what we do and we thought we could make the process easier for people like Amelie. Getting shirts printed should be easy. Now it is. Get started. Again, I'm trying to keep the language super casual and really friendly and really straight forward. I want this story to be straightforward. One, so people read it, and then two, so people can relate to it. I think this straightforward aspect of it is what makes it so people are like, "Yeah, I can see how that would be a pain to go through normally," or, "Yeah, I've experienced that before. This does sound easier." The call to action again is super important. Make sure you include something like that at the end of yours. I think probably I should include that call to action a little earlier on too, so people are already convinced halfway through the story, there should be a way to click and contact me earlier than at the bottom of the page. I think I could apply a similar format to my other audiences, so people like bands and comedians, illustrators, designers, all those people that create content that would look good on a shirt. I can edit this story in really slight ways, change out the imagery, and apply a very similar story structure for each of them. I'm very likely going to do that and I will update you on how that goes. Once you have that outline, start trying to flush out your story in a way that you'd actually use it. That might just be going straight to your website and adding that story to your website. Or maybe that's creating a series of social media posts. Whatever it is, whatever your story, whatever format your story takes, get on it, try it out, and test it out. If it doesn't work, you don't quite get the results that you want, feel free to go back and edit that and also ask us for feedback, especially if you post something live after you've gotten our feedback earlier on and you've crafted this final thing and you've posted it live, share it with us so we can see it and give you some more feedback. I'd love to see your final projects too. 7. Stay Weird & Tell Stories: Remember, stay weird and tell stories. We're natural storytellers and the goal of all this is to figure out what makes you different and to point out that difference through your stories. Pointing out that difference in a story is how you can connect emotionally and then build on that and become even more memorable. This process can help you out with just about any presentation or marketing campaign. Again, things as simple as the about section of your website or a television commercial. Any sort of pitch that you need to make, storytelling will help make that pitch stronger. Once you get going and finish up your first story, do it again. Like I mentioned before, you probably have more than one audience. Take a shot at writing a story for the next audience on your list. A lot of times you can build off of those things. In my case, my stories are very similar. So whether it's a comedian or musician or a small business owner, their needs from an apparel printing company aren't much different. It might be adding one or two additional services to each of those things. So that explanation, that story, it doesn't change a whole lot and chances are that's similar in your case. Share your story here and follow along with me on social media and online to hear about the stories that I'm putting out into the world. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook at and my website is also Thanks again, I look forward to seeing your stories. Good luck.