How a Unifying Brand Narrative Helps Your Organization Achieve Strategic Goals

From mission to movement: How you can leverage your association's story to ignite purpose, engage members and increase retention.

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Brand Narrative Bridges Past Leadership Legacy & Voices of Modern Members

As a brand advisor who has guided brand evolution for many organizations, I've witnessed the powerful impact of storytelling in shaping an association's values and vision. A well-crafted brand narrative draws from both the legacy of leaders past and the voices of today’s membership. It bridges history and vision, serving as a guiding principle for focused decision-making in the present.

When an association's leadership embraces storytelling, they do more than recount history - they ignite a collective sense of purpose. The branding frameworks we deploy at Muse are narratives that capture the organization’s essence: Where has it been? What has it accomplished? How have those actions shaped its services of today? And, most importantly: Why does it matter to members?

From there, we pinpoint specific topics of interest and align them with the mindset and motivations of different types of members. Personas are helpful in these circumstances, presenting a roadmap to adapt the messaging while anchoring in the organization’s core narrative and mission.

Simply put, our methodology helps organizations communicate a clear, compelling message to the right people at the right time, enabling organizations to achieve measurable benefits as these narrative strategies are applied.

Benefit #1: Campaign Differentiation and Brand Recognition

A compelling organizational narrative creates a coherent, distinctive identity that differentiates it from competitors. By expressing the narrative through creative campaigns, the brand builds recognition, resonance, and a unique market positioning centered around the story it tells.

EO Truth Booth Campaign

Compilation of graphics that showcase Muse work for Entrepreneurs' Organization

Vulnerability is a core tenant of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) narrative. Members are encouraged to share the highs and lows of their life experiences in small group forum sessions. This practice creates a safe and welcoming space to “go deep” with fellow members at any EO event, locally or globally. This is a distinct cultural experience compared to competitive organizations Vistage and YPO, where conversations tend to center on the business, not the leader’s (whole) experience.

With this theme in mind, a traditional member testimonial video series would not do. Instead, we created an experiential Truth Booth, where members could laugh, cry and share their successes and failures…while reinforcing how EO helped them along the way.

Capturing members’ vulnerability presented a humanistic side to the brand where leaders are embraced without judgment, fostering a true sense of belonging.

Benefit #2: Increased Member Engagement & Loyalty

Members who feel like active contributors to a shared narrative rather than passive recipients foster a deeper sense of investment and loyalty. Members are more likely to renew and remain engaged when they see themselves as protagonists in the organization's evolving story.

COSE User Generated Campaign

An example of Muse work

COSE, a regional small business association, came to us with a brand perception challenge. Despite offering extensive education, events programming, and business resources, most prospective and active members associated COSE membership with one benefit: discount group medical insurance. As new and more competitive insurance options came to the market, the association risked losing members who didn’t engage with all the organization had to offer.

We asked members, “What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?” This demonstrated the associated mission in a way that both underscored educational value and engaged members. Members delighted in seeing (and sharing) their contributions on a campaign microsite while learning from the others. This campaign instilled new confidence in the brand as a go-to authority on small business education.

Benefit #3: Improved Stakeholder Alignment

When an organization’s narrative clearly defines the people and the places it serves, every policy, program, and initiative can be categorized and prioritized accordingly. This simplicity eliminates confusion and helps secure alignment and approval across stakeholder groups. Case in point: the Aerozone Alliance.

Aerozone Alliance Brand Restructure

MUSE_CommunityThoughtLeadershipBlog_AZA Logos

The Aerozone Alliance was formed to steward the economic hub around the Cleveland airport into a new era of economic prosperity. All marketing and communications featured the Alliance (the people), not the place (the Aerozone). This muddied the waters among partnering communities, who were familiar with the Alliance as an organization, but had little to no awareness of what - or where - the Aerozone was.

What started as a narrative challenge was solved by effective brand architecture. A second brand – The Aerozone - was born from one, clarifying the geography of the place (a global economic hub) and who is behind it (the alliance of business, community, and aviation leaders). This solution leveraged the existing logo without extensive further investment. The new positioning and narrative structure were turned over to the client’s web developer, creating efficiencies in the approval process.


Organizational Brand Narrative Fuels Sustainable Growth

When organizations invest in brand and communication strategy, stakeholders rally around a shared purpose and a strong core identity. The right members are drawn for the right reasons, and they become loyal, engaged advocates. By embedding the narrative into campaigns and strategies, we ensure that as an organization evolves, its core identity remains intact. This enables evolution without compromising foundational principles. Indeed, each step forward is a new chapter in a central story - one I am committed to persistently advancing on behalf of our clients.

About the Author

Jackie Bebenroth is Founder and Chief Brand Advisor of Muse. She works alongside leading brands and executives to develop strategic positioning and messaging strategies that set the stage for long-term success. Her work, from local restaurant branding to six-figure global initiatives, has flown her around the country to speak on the art of content marketing. Jackie has earned a number of accolades, most notably a SXSW Interactive finalist award, the American Advertising Federation’s 40 under 40 award and Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Leader of the Year.

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