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Renee Farris headshot

How to Tell Stories That Enhance Your Brand


If you are a corporate responsibility communicator, “you are your CFO’s best friend. Because 30 percent of a company’s stock value is intangible; it is the g-word: goodwill.”

These were the opening remarks of Clark Dumon, senior vice president of corporate communications for MGM Resorts International. He was moderating a discussion at the CommitForum about the role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) storytelling in brand management. Joining him on the stage were Jenny Robertson, director of citizenship and reputation management for FedEx, and Debra Benton, director of community programs and engagement for Southwest Airlines. Both shared examples of stories that boosted their brands' reputations.

FedEx tells the love story of two seals

In January, FedEx was contacted by the Seattle aquarium to donate a cargo flight to a northern fur seal named Commander. There were only nine northern fur seals in the United States, and Commander was supposed to travel from Seattle to Boston to visit the last breeding-age female, Ursula. The hope was that Commander would charm Ursula, one frisky thing would lead to another and soon there would be seal pups.

The FedEx citizenship and reputation management team pondered what angle to put on the story in order to engage people. A lightbulb flipped on when they realized the timing was around February, and they turned the story of Commander and Ursula into a fun Valentine’s Day piece. Awwww. 


The story of Commander and Ursula received high engagement on social media. So, FedEx approached several news outlets, and the story was picked up by 41 broadcast outlets. "Good Morning America" featured the love story in its trending now section, and from there it went on to "ABC World News Tonight." That’s a lot of publicity for such a small donation. It’s a fantastic return on investment. Well played, FedEx.

Southwest tells the story of a little boy with a medical disability

Every year Southwest Airlines gives over 8,000 tickets away to patients who need to fly somewhere for treatment (that’s over $3 million worth of transportation). This is done through Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program which has been running for about seven years.

The program donates transportation to hospitals that in turn provide the airline tickets to patients. It’s a wonderful program but a difficult story to share with the public because HIPAA laws dictate that the patients’ information not be disclosed.

However, the Southwest community programs and engagement team got a break when they met the family of a young boy named Toby who needed to fly and receive treatment. His parents gave permission to tell his touching story.


In addition to increasing brand reputation among the public, another benefit is derived when stories like these are shared internally with employees. When they see the good things their company is doing for others, they will feel pride in the company and the work they do.

Your story

Those are great stories, but what about your company’s story? When thinking about how to tell your story, you might want a refresher on what makes a good story. Clark Dumon from MGM shared this hilarious short talk from acclaimed author Kurt Vonnegut about how to craft the perfect storyline. Good luck!


Image credit: FedEx

Renee Farris headshotRenee Farris

Renee is a social impact strategist who works with companies to help them focus on key social and environmental opportunities. She loves connecting with people so feel free to contact her at renee.a.farris@gmail.com.

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