Beyond the Positioning Statement with Tamsen Webster

January 1, 2015

tamsen webster on brand

“Your brand exists in the head and heart — not necessarily at headquarters.” If there’s one thing that Tamsen Webster knows, it’s that brands are built from a variety of perspectives. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it, and also how that message is heard. “Ultimately I help people sell ideas.” With a background that includes agency work, message consultancy, and producing successful TEDx events, I was delighted to chat with Tamsen.

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About Tamsen Webster

Tamsen Webster specializes in how to tell the right story to the right people at the right time. As the Senior Vice President for Executive Communications at Oratium, a messaging consultancy, Tamsen is responsible for helping brands and individuals tell their stories day-to-day to drive business results. As the Executive Producer of TEDxCambridge, she also selects and coaches speakers for the TEDx stage.

Tamsen is the the mother of two boys who regularly challenge what she thinks she knows about communication, a retired Weight Watchers leader, and a midlife marathoner. She’s also delighted to be Tom Webster’s other half.

Episode Highlights

What does branding mean to you? “I’m like a human tuning fork for brands … My job is really clarifying and articulating the thing that gives a brand its power.” While it may seem obvious, many organizations haven’t always done this homework before hand. Now more than ever, it’s critical to have a clearly articulated brand. As Tamsen tells us, this keeps brands from breaking down in day-to-day conversations.

How does one uncover this position of power? Webster notes that she often asks brands what they mean to their customers today (most of the time we aren’t starting with a blank slate — why do people like you already?). From here, she asks them where they want to be so that together they can plot a path to that desired position.

What’s the problem with storytelling? “Just because you’re telling a story doesn’t mean you are storytelling,” Tamsen cautions. You need to consider why you’re telling the story and what you want your audience to do. “You need your audience to be an actor in your story. Not passive listeners.”

What are most brands missing? Once organizations have their messaging plotted in a more compelling and persuasive way, most realize that their website is totally wrong. Most visitors to sites are “new traffic” and yet we have everything laid out from our internal perspective — our services, our people, etc.

Brands also fail to embrace all of the different kinds of influencers and advocates that digital media can help us cultivate. Here’s a visual from a great talk Tamsen gave at NMX about this called, “Glasses: A Love Story.” (Warby Parker is her central example. Here’s a post I wrote summarizing her talk.)


What are things brands could be doing better? Establishing a methodology for brand communications, similar to the one Oratium has created, is a good start. It’s also valuable to narrow the focus of both your communications and your audience.

What brand has made Tamsen smile lately? She loves Diane von Furstenberg and all of the “on-brand experimentation” they’ve done with everything from social media and email marketing to a reality show.

Fun Fact … Tamsen has an inimitable love of ice cream and absolutely no sense of humor at all. Seriously.

To learn more about Tamsen Webster and her work, check out or follow her on Twitter.

A Few Final Reminders

A big thanks to a mentor of this podcast with a new resource that you should know more about. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert has done it again. In addition to being a digital marketing thought leader, speaker, and best-selling author he’s now created a new online resource indexing all of the great marketing podcasts out there — it’s called Marketing Podcasts and you can find it at If you like marketing and podcasts you need to check this out.

Last but not least …

Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.