Helping content marketers more confidently navigate the world of brand storytelling.
Oct. 18, 2020

What is Brand Storytelling Marketing? - episode 1

What is Brand Storytelling Marketing? - episode 1


Welcome to the first episode of the Marketing With Empathy podcast.  This episode starts at the beginning to make sure we’re on the same page about: brand storytelling definition; why I decided to create an entire podcast dedicated to brand storytelling; what my obsession with Empathy is; and I’ll pull back the sheets to tell you more about who I, Sarah Panus, am.



After working nearly 20 years as a content marketer/communications pro, I created the Marketing With Empathy podcast because I want to create a community where brand content marketers, brand storytellers & communications professionals like YOU can go for inspiration, focus, and tips to build your own winning brand storytelling strategies.  ALL in the spirit of helping you reduce overwhelm and confusion so you can excel in your career and feel really proud about the work you’re creating. 


You see- I’ve been there. Like you, I’ve worn a lot of hats. Faced scrutiny to prove the value of storytelling; I’ve creatively brainstormed with teams of varying sizes; planned by myself, planned with internal teams and with external agency partners.


I’ve managed larger teams but also understand what it is to feel like you’re on an island sometimes where you just have to figure it out yourself. I know what it feels like to have demands coming at you from all over the place and just wish you could focus everyone more.  I’ve had to work really hard to sell-in ideas that kicked butt, but as someone who experiments, I’ve also launched things that end up being ho-hum—or don’t work like we thought they would.


And like so many of you– I’ve had that moment of creative defeat where an idea I put my heart and soul into got shut down in such a way that I secretly cried in the bathroom.  Come on, I know I’m not the only one who’s done that.  If you haven’t, you’re not putting yourself out there enough. Give it a try. I’m living proof, that you’ll live through it, and in the process, gain people’s respect for having the courage to speak up and share your ideas.



I understand the pressures you face.            


I’ve lived a variety of lives so far which has given me the gift of perspective that I can infuse in my work to help better serve you and your brands.


I’ve gone from a small-town Minnesota farm girl to a New York City fashionista working in the Fashion District as the communications manager for high-end bridal gown designer, Christos. 


From there I helped drive biz results through PR and influencer marketing campaigns as a PR-leader at a mid-size Boston agency helping my brand clients Starbucks, Nestle Waters North America, Lindt Chocolate, American Heart Association, and Game Crazy (to name a few)  Then, I dove into corporate America driving top ROI results managing PR, Social, SEO and Content Marketing Strategy at a billion-dollar Minnesota retailer.


Today, I’m mom bossing it up as the CEO of my own consulting biz in the suburbs.


I’ve managed small budgets up to $10 million budgets.


I’ve been in team environments where I had a lot of people to learn from, and also been in places where I was at the top and needed to find coaching on my own to teach myself how to do new things and continue advancing my skillset.


At my core—I’m a creator and a lifelong-learner. I create things. For example, while working at that billion-dollar retailer, I started and led the Social team for 9 years; and then created our Social Command Center in-house; even got approval to have our group be the first to test standing desks for the company as long as we were making room for the Command Center. 


Then, it was creating a new role in the company by becoming the first Sr. Manager of Content Marketing Strategy. 


And, the biggest idea was working two years to create, test and launch a new 30-day challenge program—RICH in consumer insights & brand storytelling.


Two years of proving it, testing it, pitching it, and gaining allies and proof points along the way. It was a lot of work—but I saw the amazing results our beta testers were getting and knew this thing had to be available for everyone.  Leaders applauded me as the example of having COURAGE. Courage to keep going despite internal objections along the way.   It was then that I truly realized, while things can be hard, you have to speak up or your new idea will 100% NEVER happen.   I see so many people who are scared to speak up and share their ideas for fear of: rejection, embarrassment, or facing an up-hill battle. That sucks. So, I vowed to have the courage to always share my ideas no matter how crazy they may sound. To lead by example to help empower others.



Mentally, I’ve ridden the roller coaster of emotions that so many of us driven women & moms do. Early in my career I was super focused on career advancement. I used my strong Midwest work ethic to work insanely long hours, pay my dues, lean-in, and learn as much as I possibly could from those around me. It paid off and set the foundation for a great career that I’m super grateful for.


Then, I had two kids. And, over the last 10 years my priorities changed. Life wasn’t only about work anymore. Life is now about my family AND feeling valued and proud of the work I do. The days of checking my phone for work at all hours, or feeling stressed to open my email, or hearing groans from my husband that I was on my phone yet again in the car when I should be talking with my family— were done.


Now I have the enjoyment of using my strengths to feel valued and creative in my professional work AND have the schedule freedom I need for myself and my family. I want to help you feel the same level of empowerment that I’ve achieved.



Because I’ve worn all these hats and learned all these things, I want to give back by helping you enjoy the feeling of more focus, prioritization, empowerment, and confidence at work.


I mean, how many times do you wish you had a cheat sheet to reference smart, creative things other brands are doing right now?  Or an unofficial biz coach to give you ideas and step-by-step advice on how to improve your career? 


Each week, you’ll hear from me and other smart storytelling leaders across B2C and nonprofit brands.  We’re going to dig into brand storytelling, influencer marketing, creativity and valuable mindset topics to help you believe in yourself more (or as I like to call them—the pep talks we all need). 



Brand Storytelling occurs when you use a narrative to connect your brand to your customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers. source


Brand storytelling can happen across almost any medium. It’s not the low-funnel, promo-heavy buy-now CTA. It’s more the upper and mid-funnel that attracts new leads into your business, and builds trust and advocacy that helps increase customer lifetime value through repeat & referral actions.


When building brand storytelling strategies, I use my signature trio of: Focus, Empathy, and Data.



Empathy is HUGE in my book. You may have heard of Simon Sinek’s popular “START WITH WHY” book/video/speech.


To me, empathy plays the same role that Simon talks about the word “why”. So, I guess if I was writing a brand storytelling book, I’d call it “START WITH EMPATHY”


Empathy is all about connecting heart to heart or mind to mind. At it’s core, empathy is about truly understanding your target audience and speaking to them in a way that makes them feel heard; gets them to stop and pay attention to your brand, and drives them to action. 


In my experience, the best campaign results come when the content is rooted in empathy. So, naturally, I wanted to make sure my podcast dug into that in a useful and meaningful way for all of you.  In future episodes, you’ll hear how brands are taking empathetic approaches to drive strong biz results.  And, we’ll definitely disprove any skeptics who think brand storytelling and empathy are just touchy-feely nice-to-haves.    Did I mention my previous brand storytelling work drove top ROI results across all paid media?





Sarah Panus is a brand storytelling marketing strategist, podcast host, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps corporations attract upper-funnel leads that drive bottom-funnel results through storytelling. Her mission is to add value to the world by humanizing brand+consumer connections. Her online courses teach content professionals inside corporations how to think like Editorial Directors to drive stronger results while enjoying their jobs more. She’s spent the last 20 years helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others, speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Learn more at