American Express was a brand publisher long before it was trendy. OPEN Forum is a website that the brand launched way back in 2007 – it features blog posts, videos, and long-form guides that aim to help entrepreneurs make better decisions as they navigate the small business world. Content is organized into four main sections: planning for growth, managing money, getting customers, and building their team. These are the areas in which small business owners need help the most. The site serves as a helpful resource and companion to American Express’ small business offerings of charge and credit cards.
OPEN Form also serves as a great foundation for experimenting with rich, in-depth storytelling, which has strengthened the brand’s reputation as the expert in all things small business.
The brand regularly produces long-form, engaging digital storytelling. Its series “Local Business Stories” showcases small businesses that are making an impact in their respective communities.
The stories featured in this series are well over 1,200 words each. They are well-thought out, beautifully written, fully-formed journalistic stories of the highest quality. The user-experience is top-notch as well – with multimedia (images and videos) included to provide an interactive element to the story.
Why “Local Business Stories” Works
Being a small business owner isn’t always easy. A lot of entrepreneurs learn on the job, and a lot of them learn from other small business owners. Enter: Local Business Stories by American Express.
By sharing the stories of small business owners with other small business owners, the brand is providing the content that a.) its target audience wants b.) helping small businesses learn from the success of others c.) establishing itself as they brand that knows everything there is to know about running and owning a small business.
In terms of narrative arc, American Express has successfully found the right content, plot, structures, and narrative devices that bring its thought leadership to life. There are common elements within each story:
A Beginning – Exposition: This includes a description of community in which the small business resides, backstory of the small business’ conception/why the company exists and a profile of the entrepreneur.
Middle – Climax: How the small business found its place within it’s small community and endeared itself, how any adversity was overcome and soundbites from regulars.
End – Conclusion: Future plans for continued success.
American Express is featuring its target customers – not its products or services – as the protagonist of each story. An important element is creating and maintaining thought leadership through storytelling is building trust and expertise without advertising or selling. By featuring customer stories in such depth, American Express is showing (not telling) that it understands its customer base, their needs, struggles and what they need to be successful.
Along with rich, unique and personal stories like “Local Business Stores”, American Express also provides tactical how-to content and guides for small business owners – perfectly rounding out the brand’s Open Forum credibility as a trusted resource for entrepreneurs and solidifying American Express as a small business expert.
The success of “Local Business Stories” inspired the recent launch of a new series,“Growth Stories,” which showcases the emerging businesses and nonprofits that have set up shop in Ponyride, a 30,000 square foot building in Detroit’s Corktown Area.