Episode 65: Embracing Change and AI to Evolve Your Brand Storytelling

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Miri Rodriguez09/19/2023

Change is the only constant in today’s business world. From new technologies transforming how we work, to disrupted supply chains, to shifting social values, change is everywhere. So how can brands remain purpose-driven and effectively engage customers in the face of rapid, relentless change?

We recently had the opportunity to explore this question with best selling author and Microsoft senior storyteller Miri Rodriguez. Miri has partnered with global brands to help them evolve their storytelling and connections amid disruption. Our wide-ranging conversation offered some key insights for brands looking to embrace change, while staying grounded in their core purpose:

The Pandemic Reset Values Around Work

Miri explained that the pandemic profoundly reshaped attitudes about the role of work. People are seeking more meaning, passion and flexibility. They want to connect to company missions, not just clock in and out. “It's almost like we've reawakened to the idea of what is important,” Miri said. “We awaken to ideas of how am I spending this time? What am I doing? How am I investing this very currency that does not come back?”

This has huge implications for how brands engage employees and customers. It requires focusing on genuine emotional connections, not transactions. Miri urged brands to keep asking themselves an essential question as they navigate change: “What do our customers need right now?”

Balance Empathy and Growth Through Experimentation

Of course, brands can’t all function as nonprofits. They still need to sell products and drive sustainable growth. So how do you balance empathy and business results?

Miri suggested an experimental mindset. Brands should pilot small changes to become more purpose-driven, then evaluate the customer response. They can maintain existing revenue streams while exploring new, more empathetic approaches. “Do a small pilot here, a customer success or whatever, and do three months of something different that is more purpose driven or more empathetic toward our customers and see how that lands,” she recommended.

AI Should Enhance, Not Replace, Human Storytelling

What about all the dazzling new technologies on the horizon – like AI? Such tools can turbocharge content creation and storytelling, but Miri cautions against over-reliance. “AI will never be able to replace the context and the lived experience, the human genome, and the ingenuity and intention that we have,” she said.

Rather than hand off brand narrative fully to AI, Miri suggests brands view it as a “co-pilot” - playing a supporting role to human creativity. AI can surface insights and options, while people provide the emotional core. “There is an opportunity for the entity of the brand or the persona of the brand to show up human,” she explained. “And if they do that, you capture the attention of the customer.”

Stay Grounded in Core Values When Embracing Change

In a world of swirling change, how can brands stay centered?

Miri emphasized the importance of anchoring in your core brand mission and values. While strategies and stories may need to evolve, purpose should remain fixed. “Go back and review it and revisit it and see if it still makes sense today,” she advised. “Because that's what drives your brand.”

Miri pointed to Microsoft’s transition from “a PC on every desktop” to the inclusive mission of “empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.” By grounding in purpose, brands can maintain integrity and credibility even as they adapt stories and techniques.

Prioritize Audience Needs Over Temporary Trends

Technical storytelling formats – like short-form video – tend to come in and out of fashion. But Miri cautions against following trends for their own sake. “Understand again what the customer needs,” she said. “How does your audience consume content? What's relevant to them, not what's relevant in the market today?”

Leaning on AI and varied formats allows more personalized, targeted storytelling. But relevance comes back to human understanding of your core audience. Connection depends on their needs, not the latest fad.

Build the Plane While Flying It

Summing up her guidance, Miri advocated starting small but getting started. With technologies like AI, perfection shouldn’t be the enemy of progress. “Go and do it. I'm not saying full adoption of everything, but I am saying awareness and initial integration,” she recommended.

Miri acknowledged there are still many unknowns and ethical considerations around emergent technologies. But the risks of stagnation outweigh the risks of careful experimentation. “If you don't have a service that you can offer to your customers when they're exploring this new technology, your competitor does already. So you're going to definitely lose market share,” she warned.

The bottom line? Brands must be willing to build the plane while flying it when it comes to digital disruption. Small steps in the right direction are better than none at all.

The Essence of Brand Storytelling Remains Human

Miri’s advice highlights that while new technologies are reshaping brand storytelling, human creativity and empathy remain at its core.

By staying centered on their purpose, while carefully experimenting with new methods of audience engagement, brands can evolve with the times while remaining authentic.

The path forward lies in blending emerging digital capabilities with unchanging human needs for meaning, relationships and inspiration. Although the tools change, storytelling itself endures.

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