True Stories: A Process at the Heart of our Creative Work

True (adjective): In accordance with fact or reality, (a true story).

True (verb): Bring (an object, wheel, or other construction) into the exact shape, alignment or position required.

At Spruce, we have a passion for creating brands that help our clients better tell their stories and for developing creative campaigns that help organizations make a difference for their communities. We love this kind of work: for the strategic and creative challenge it presents, for the privilege of getting to spend time learning about organizations doing amazing things, and for the difference it can make.

Over the years, we have come to realize that both our branding and creative campaign work revolve around storytelling. To help our clients reach their goals, we need to help them tell their stories better—whether it’s the story of their organization or of a particular project. And the best way to get to those better stories is by listening. 

By listening to a range of personal stories about an organization and its work—from leaders, clients, partners, funders, etc.—we gather a diversity of hopes, dreams, experiences, strengths and challenges. When we get the right balance of stories, a “true” expression of the brand or project emerges. This brings the required “shape or alignment” to our storytelling, paving the way for the next phase of creative work, whether that is a visual identity or ad campaign.

We call this our “TRUE process” and if you have received a proposal from us in the past five years, you have likely come across some version of the following:

Tell us your stories – We start by listening to the stories of your leadership team, your partners, your audiences and any other people who are an important part of your community.

Research your environment – We conduct secondary research, including a literature review of any existing research or strategic work you have done, as well as digging deeper into the overall environment in which your organization is operating.

Understand your unique value & potential – We go away to reflect on all we have heard and learned, brainstorming as a team to identify the elements that make who you are and what you do unique in your environment.

Express your truth – We write, write and re-write a value proposition for your organization and/or project that expresses this uniqueness in a way that feels true and newly exciting to those who have told us their stories.

This is the approach we took to rebranding Electricity Canada. As a 125-year-old association, Electricity Canada had a long history of bringing together organizations and companies to support a robust electricity sector in Canada. In listening to the association’s leaders, members and external partners, it was clear that much of Electricity Canada’s story as a trusted catalyst and advocate was still true. But a new thread was emerging: a clear desire for the association to take up a leadership role in Canada’s energy transition. This thread energized the unique value proposition we wrote for Electricity Canada and was ultimately expressed in a bold visual identity and a new tagline—Our energy future.

In our experience, the outcome of the TRUE process is a value proposition and messaging that resonates deeply with those who know the organization best. Our clients often feel that their unique value and potential is finally (sometimes for the first time) being articulated clearly. This new language is true in the sense that it is in “accordance with reality” but just as important, it “trues” our creative process, bringing forth the “exact shape, alignment or position required” for our projects, and our clients, to reach their goals.

Curious about how the TRUE process can benefit your organization? Reach out. We’re here to listen and help.

Andrew Vincent is a Partner and Content Director at Spruce. He always feels inspired by the stories clients share about the vision and potential of their organizations.