Companies have more control than ever to write, produce and distribute their own branded content across a variety of mediums. If you’ve ever pitched, prodded or pleaded with a journalist to land favorable media coverage, you’ll welcome the prospect of having more control over your own brand story.

The key to success is to clearly define what your brand stands for and how to use it to connect with audiences to drive loyalty, referrals and sales.

Sure, your company probably already has a logo, a website and maybe even some letterhead. These are design elements. They do not constitute your brand. (Hopefully, they were designed with your brand in mind.)

A brand is intangible. It is the emotional connection that consumers and prospects feel when they interact with your product or company over time. Interactions with brands used to be limited to the physical world. Today, they are expected to take place in the digital world, too. The implication is that whether you sell products or services, consumers expect to have a relationship with your brand online. Brands with the strongest identities and stories will thrive.

So how do you develop a strong identity and brand story? Each organization is different, but we recommend a three step process.

Step One: Brand Audit

Conduct an analysis, or audit, of your current brand (“where we are”). The objective is to develop a clear understanding of how your brand is currently perceived in the marketplace. Interview employees, clients, prospects, vendors and analysts. Evaluate competitors. Uncover strengths and weaknesses. Find opportunities to differentiate your brand and stand out from the crowd.

Step Two: Brand Development

Use the information and insight obtained in the audit phase to develop your desired brand identity (“where we want to go”). There are several tools to help you develop a comprehensive brand story:

The brand personality is a way to put yourself in a customer’s shoes. It is a set of human traits to help people relate to your brand on a personal and emotional level.

The brand promise is a clear and concise statement of how your brand connects with its audiences. It implies internal action. The brand promise helps guide the actions of your company and your employees.

The brand positioning is the foundation for all external brand messages. The brand positioning articulates the unique and compelling advantages of your brand over its competitors to create sustainable competitive advantage and ensure revenue and profits.

Step Three: Brand Implementation

A brand comes to life via its touch points. Touch points are all the different ways that a brand interacts with the outside world. Each one of these interactions, or touch points, is a chance to reinforce your brand…or take away from it.

The first step of any brand implementation should be to create a plan for managing each touch point throughout the organization. This includes the strategic development and dissemination of branded content through a variety of mediums, from ‘traditional’ media outlets to word of mouth mechanisms such as eNewsletters, referral programs, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and more.

The time you invest in expert analysis and sound strategy will ensure that your brand messaging will contribute to company growth for years to come.