The problem with your brand story is that your brand is not just one story.
You brand is made up of a multiple of stories and each one plays a crucial role in connecting you with the right audience.
Why do we think of our brand story as a singular story?
Because we are bombarded with advice that reduces branding to a single brand story. Your personal story – “Tell your story!” – is the advice dished out by every branding and storytelling consultant. As I’ve pointed out here, it’s bad advice for a number of reasons.
So, everyone rushes to tell their Brand Story – their Hero’s Journey, a story formula so predictable, it falls straight into the black hole of ‘heard it before’! The most common one is the final instalment of the journey, i.e. how, after many struggles & challenges, you are now successful. And that success is measurable in your current earnings – at least 6 digits, more likely 7 digits.
Are you a unique personal brand or a mere iteration of a standard template?
If you want to tell an individual personal story, skip the template and tell a story about what makes you unique & what is relevant to your clients.
Here’s one possibility. Tell the story of how you embody your values. For example, a lot of professionals brand themselves as ‘honest’, ‘caring’, ‘authentic’, etc. Instead of making a list of values, choose a value and tells them that story because it actually shows them something about you that could build trust and credibility.
Your personal story is just one story & your brand story is not reducible to that story.
Your brand story is where your story intersects with other stories.
It’s also your clients’ story – the story of a problem they struggle with & how it impacts on their business.
It’s also the story of how you can help them solve that problem.
And it includes the outcome you create for them after working together.
Which story will get the attention of your potential clients?
The one in which they find themselves most easily. The one that makes them say, “Yes, that’s me!”, “That’s where I’m stuck!”, “That’s what I want!”
Your personal story is one of the stories that makes up your brand story. If you want to attract a new audience, it’s not the story to lead with.Learn More
Many years ago I attended my first formal networking event. It was a baptism of fire on many levels. I came away from it with a number of essential networking tips on how to communication in a business setting and beyond. During the first half of the evening we sat around tables in groups of 8 and introduced ourselves – a kind of warm-up for having to do it later in front of the whole room.
I introduced myself as a Storytelling Strategist. The man sitting next to me responded by assuring me he would never need my services as he was a “natural born storyteller”!
For the next hour he told us story after story after story … about himself. He interrupted others, he didn’t listen when others spoke. His endless anecdotes were of no relevance to us or the event.
Ever been in the company of someone like that?
When his turn came to pitch to the whole room later on, he swaggered to the front and talked & talked & talked … about himself. He went over his allotted time of course. He sat down next to me and proudly announced “See, I told you I’m a natural storyteller!”
In the mix & mingle session afterwards he floated from one group to the next, to the next, shoving his business cards into the hands of everyone he came in contact with.
The essential networking tips I learned that eventing:
- Telling random stories to impress is NOT storytelling. It’s waffling.
- Sharing anecdotes about yourself is NOT connecting. It’s a verbal selfie.
- Interrupting others with your opinions is NOT having a conversation. It’s a monologue.
- Pushing your business cards, ideas & views at people is not communication. It’s hustle.
- Going over your allotted time is NOT respectful of other people’s time. It’s rude & selfish.
- Talking non-stop is NOT networking. It’s broadcasting.
The same offline tips apply to networking online. The form is different, but the behavioural norms are still apply. The advantage of online networking is we can discreetly disconnect!
Then some people wonder why they don’t find networking effective or useful!
When we net-work we are creating a net, a web of connections in our field that will help us in a variety of ways.
I connected with two people that eventing and I’m still in contact with both of them Neither became clients of mine. One became a trusted mentor and friend. The other has referred clients to me over the years.
It was a very successful networking event for me on two counts:
- the lessons learned
- the two lasting connections I made that eventing.
There are many reasons why the race to embrace storytelling in business has often ended up being a swift race to the bottom. Here’s just one example of bad storytelling advice:
“Tell YOUR story”!
The idea behind this advice is that ‘your’ story will inspire people who don’t know you to do business with you! Think about this. Would you want to do business with someone you knew absolutely nothing about after you heard them talking about themselves? No, you wouldn’t.
Why the rush to tell your story?
Plain egoism is a biggie here. There are lots of people who love talking about themselves and live under the illusion that others find their stories interesting. How many times have we been cornered at a party or a business event by someone like that? Another popular argument put forward for telling your story comes from Simon Sinek’s theory Start with Why, which, as I’ve pointed out in a previous post, he applied only to established, well-known businesses and which he has since revised.
One of the keys to successful storytelling is correct timing!
No one is interested in YOUR story until they are ready to buy from you. So telling your story too early is simply bad storytelling advice! Basic neuroscience helps us get the timing right.
When we talk to strangers, we are operating from the reptilian brain. That‘s the part of the brain that is responsible for our survival mechanism: it knows only yes/no and fight/flight responses. When we are in the reptilian brain we cannot hear the other’s story. Only when we have moved into the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotional and logical response, located in the front lobe, are we able to ‘hear’ someone else’s story, connect with it and respond to it.
How do you move someone out of survival mode into receptive mode?
Tell them THEIR story.
Until that shift in the brain has happened, the only story you should tell your potential clients is the one they are able to hear, i.e. THEIR story. That’s how connection happens! To get their story right, you have to know their story. And to know their story, you have to have listened to them so closely that when you tell it, they can say:
“That’s me!” “That’s exactly what I struggle with!”, “That’s what I want now!”
If that’s not their response, you need to go back and listen again so that when you tell them their story you are holding a mirorr in front of them in which they see themselves more clearly than without it.
Only when you have successfully done that, are they are ready to hear your story. Otherwise, your story will fall on deaf ears!
If you could do with some help with telling the right story at the right time to the right audience, I’m here to help you!Learn More
If you’re still struggling to create a post-Corona business model, don’t worry. Change is coming. Lots of it and it’s heading our way!
Change is the new normal!
The Corona crisis has marked a major turning point. As the weeks and months pass, we’ve come to realise that the changes it introduced are not temporary. What’s actually happened is that Covid has destroyed existing templates for the ways we live, think & work.
For example, in our pre-pandemic world, employers dismissed working-from-home arrangements as unworkable and untenable. These arrangements are now fully operational and here to stay! Wearing masks in public and speaking through glass partitions are also part of our daily ‘normal’. Some jobs that were ‘lost’ due to the pandemic are gone for good and more are about to disappear – forever.
And that’s only the beginning! We’re getting mere glimpses of the magnitude of the changes that are shaping our future. Changes that will see robotics and AI as part & parcel of our daily life.
How do we prepare for the changes ahead?
It’s no longer about managing the disruptions, it’s about preparing for the beginning of a new era – without a roadmap. We have to be willing to re-imagine our lives in an emerging world. And one of the best places to start is to ask yourself a simple question.
What can I bring to the table that is uniquely ME?
If we’ve learned one lesson from this crisis it’s this. Our ability to survive and succeed is dependant on our willingness to connect with others. The days of the solo super-hero, braving a hostile world alone are over.
What’s needed now is knowing how to express our individuality AND connect with others.
One way to do just that is in the way you communicate with the world.- your ability to listen deeply to what’s being said around you, the words you choose, the stories you choose, the ways you tell those stories. That’s how your response to this changing world is shaping the outcome.
Developing your storytelling skills is a good place to begin exercising your unique perspective on a changing world and creating connection with others.
If you want to know how to begin, I can help you get those storytelling wheels moving.Learn More
Do we talk to get a reaction or a response from others?
Our intention defines the quality of the exchange and it’s outcome – whether the audience reacts or responds to us. That difference can be explained in terms of whether our communication is a ‘monologue’ or a ‘dialogue’.
Even when the trendy communication props are in place, it isn’t difficult to spot the self-serving monologues – often masquerading as interactive dialogues. You’ll get an insight into how the ping-pong game of monologue is played out by watching two politicians talking, or the typical political interview – each side is simply delivering their respective sound bites and not engaged with the other’s arguments.
To help you spot the difference when you talk between getting a reaction or a response from others, here are a few guidelines.
Some typical characteristics of a ‘monologue’:
- talking AT someone
- a closed form of communication, i.e. one-way messages & viewpoints
- curated comments and explanations that push a specific agenda, i.e. create a REACTION
- no ‘real’ attempt to listen to & reflect on what the other is saying
- impersonal language filled with jargon, sound-bits and buzzwords
Being in a ‘dialogue’ with someone is about a deeper, richer and more textured form of exchange.
Some typical characteristics of a ‘dialogue’:
- two-way exchange
- talking/engaging WITH someone
- an open exchange of active listening & deep reflection that can lead to a shift in opinions – on both sides
- exchange is the result of mutual RESPONSE, i.e. actively responding to what the other is saying rather than waiting for the opportunity to speak
- direct, personal language that is jargon-free
Here’s a short quote by Andy Sivell that will help you understand the profound difference between getting a reaction (monologue) and a response (dialogue) these two forms of communicating:
“Two monologues do not make a dialogue“Learn More
Has story become a ruse to deceive and mislead; a manipulation tactic at odds with ethical marketing?
I’ve been drawn into three different conversations in as many days about the ‘end of storytelling’ for business. The arguments made were that all storytellers are ‘liars’, that storytelling is a polished decoy, that it has been ‘ruined’ for business by ‘unconventional’ politicians who don’t even try to conceal the political agenda behind their ‘fake’ stories.
I agreed with every argument – to a point. Here’s why.
I’ve had my own ‘dark night of the soul’ since leaving academia to work as a storytelling consultant for business. I’d spent my final years in academia researching the relationship between storytelling and trauma and knew I’d have to ‘shift gear’ for the business world.
Nothing could have prepared me for the way the market had emptied storytelling of its primary purpose in service to profit. Instead of creating meaning in a world gone awry & helping us understand each other better, story was used as emotional bait, a sophisticated selling tactic, peddled by endless books, articles & cheat-sheets that told us ‘Story Sells’, ‘Tell to Sell’, etc.
Story had become the Trojan Horse of marketing.
Just like in the original Greek myth, story is used as a ploy to win a war, in our case, to breach our defences against the onslaught of selling. Story is the poisonous apple that lured Snow White with its shiny red skin to dismiss the danger. Story is the puppet cleverly manipulated by the invisible hands of the puppeteer.
So, why do I do what I do?
The uncertainty and trauma caused by COVID-19 has given us the perfect opportunity to restart, realign & reimagine. We’re witnessing first hand how human relationship is an invaluable tool to create a different model of ‘normal’.
If story has become a ruse, then simple, honest storytelling has a huge role to play in helping us build our business around trust, credibility & community as we search for a sustainable way out of the current crisis.
My on-going mission to revive authentic storytelling as an integral part of meaningful, honest business communication is gaining in relevance. To help you become part of this revival, I’ve distilled what I’ve learned about authentic storytelling skills into a short, intensive online workshop which I’m offering at a very affordable price.
Check out the events page on my website for more information!Learn More
In a recent post I asked what kind of heroes were appropriate for the new normal unfolding in the world. It’s clear they will be vastly different from the old ones. And the same goes for our stories!
The coronavirus is not the first pandemic in history – and it won’t be our last! We have a rich library about life during and after plagues, spanning over the last thousand years, whether it’s about the Plague of Justinian in the 6th century, the Black Death in the 14th or the Great Plague of London in the 17th century (to name just three).
There are two things we can learn about storytelling from that history
- During a pandemic we tell stories to entertain, distract and fact-check. These popular narratives include: conspiracy theories, bawdy tales, what-if setups, high drama scenarios & futuristic escape. Does this sound familiar?
- Once the pandemic dust finally settles, there is no going back to pre-pandemic ‘normal’. Our existing stories, the ones that made sense of our old normal, are irretrievably broken. A corner stone of modern physics was developed by Sir Isaac Newton – theory of gravity – while cocooning at home in 1665 from the Great Plague of London.
The biggest challenge we face is this: our story has no closure. We see the challenges, but no resolutions.
History tells us we’ve been here many times before and we have two choices:
- We try to retell the old narratives to cover the gaping cracks created by the crisis. But these fragments quickly collapse into the cavernous holes left in its wake.
- Or we stare into the uncertainty and the unknown and after a time realise we are different now – wiser, more compassionate & more resilient. We begin to tell stories about the experiences and the insights that got to this point and how these can help us set our compass for a way out.
We tell about the lack of solid ground, the absence of a pathway ahead, the challenges of sitting with uncertainty, the faint outline of new possibilities emerging, the flicker of hope in the darkness.
Then, one small story at a time, we slowly begin to create a new normal.Learn More
If our stories are reflections of our world and our heroes the values of that world, then it’s certainly time to tell new stories and create different heroes!
Let’s start with the heroes!
For decades our views on the ‘hero’ were defined by the comic-strip characters created during WW2 and the post-war years. The clean-cut, muscle-flaunting, super-powered hero (Captain America, Super-Man, etc.) single-handedly confronted an external enemy, defeated the evil forces & restored ‘good’ to a world that had temporarily veered in the direction of ‘bad’.
Those popular characters rode the gravity-defying waves of individualism and singularity. Until … suddenly & unexpectedly the waves came to a crashing halt on the shore of Coronaland.
The heroes in Coronaland were very different.
They were not driven by personal glory or powered by ‘super’ strengths. They were the millions of nameless & individually-unacknowledged helpers, carers, service-providers, parents, friends & neighbours who worked together in the interest of community and the common good – some of them as part of under-resourced, over-worked teams.
The ‘elixir’ in Coronaland?
It was not carried by a triumphant super-hero, whose solo performances had rescued the world. The elixir in Coronaland was shared generously among all the unsung heroes. Those who drank it showed heightened levels of caring, compassion, generosity & humanity.
The stories emerging from Coronaland?
One thing is clear. Like the out-dated heroes, the old story-formulas didn’t fit their journey anymore.
Their stories about a time when a great darkness fell across the land and the people were very afraid are being written. One story at a time …Learn More
Whats your story of Covid-19? Which story are you telling about your experiences of ‘social distancing’, quarantine or lock-down? That story defines how you experience this crisis!
1 As the story of imposed confinement that disrupts your plans, interrupts your life & destroys your business?
What are the underlying energies behind this story?
Panic, self-righteousness, victimhood?
Are these the energies that compel people to act in their own interests (hoarding, non-observance of ‘social distancing’ guidelines)? Are people so unable to be with themselves that they constantly seek any kind of distraction?
2 As the story of a journey into your inner world, an adventure into unexplored territory, filled with insights, ah-ha moments and true wisdom?
What are the underlying energies behind this story?
Gratitude, compassion, connectedness?
If you need a reminder as to why these responses are also a very real perspective on the Covid-19 crisis, watch here!
It’s no coincidence that some of the greatest scientific break-throughs, art works, inventions happened during periods of social isolation – whether imposed (Isaac Newton & Shakespeare during the bubonic plague) or chosen. Social isolation creates a space in which we can go deeper, get in touch with our inner creativity, avoid external distractions, listen to our inner voice, etc.
The story you choose to tell now defines how you experience this crisis.
It also defines the story you are passing on to others and in turn their story and their experience of getting through this momentous challenge.
Your story of the Covid-19 today also defines the story you will tell when you emerge from this crisis! This the point between ‘before’ and ‘after’, the turning point in every story.
This is the moment when you are called on to make ‘heroic’ decisions – for your own safety and well-being and those of others.
Choose your story carefully!Learn More