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The Best Of Us

filed in Brand Story, Success

Our youngest son got his first paying job at a fast food restaurant this summer. He’d walked up and down the street handing out resumes for days and got a single call back. He was interviewed over the phone and invited in for trial one evening. He got the gig. Twenty dollars an hour and as many shifts as he could handle taking orders and wiping tables late into the night. The shifts ran from the evening until the early hours of the morning. Sometimes he was barely in bed before dawn. But he stuck with it for the entire summer without complaining. Then one day he mentioned he hadn’t been paid for a couple of weeks. His boss owed him over a thousand dollars in back pay.

My husband and I reacted as many parents would. We were suddenly on guard, wary that our child (who is his own man now) wasn’t exploited. We offered unhelpful suggestions about what he should do next, telling him he probably shouldn’t work more shifts until he was paid. Our boy didn’t blink. Not showing up wasn’t an option. He’d committed, they were short staffed. He wouldn’t let his other team members down.

I remember when he was seven years old and winning prizes for being top in everything at school. The quiet, watchful blonde kid with deep brown eyes, who seemed to make no effort and yet always come out on top. After an assembly where he was awarded a medal for the best piece of creative writing in the state, one of the class Mums approached me. She had two questions. ‘What does he read? What do you feed him?’ I laughed until I realised she wasn’t joking.

People who don’t know our son judge him by his academic performance. He’s evaluated by his grades and ability to ‘achieve’ in the conventional sense of the word. What they don’t often see is the real measure of him. His kindness. His sense of fairness. His tenacity. His wicked sense of humour. His character. The things that can’t be measured. The things that make him, him.

He will probably be picked one day because of how he looks on paper—for his scores or the number of research papers he’s published. Whoever works with him won’t know until later why they are lucky to have him on their team.

Our stories are not defined only by what is seen and known. The imagination can’t always capture the best and the beauty of us.

Image by Robin Jaffray

How To Craft A Powerful Message

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

The acceptance speeches are the highlight of every Oscars ceremony. I’m a sucker for them. It’s fascinating to see how the best communicators in the world share their personal message in a just minute or two. This year, actress Frances McDormand stole the show. This wasn’t an accident. Frances knew how she should craft her message to create the change she was seeking. And while our delivery may not be as fabulous as Frances’, we can get better at crafting more powerful messages by following these three steps.

Three Steps To Crafting A Powerful Message

1. Determine the who
Who is your audience?
Why are they here?
What do they care about?

2. Work out your what
What do you want the audience to know, think, feel, say and do as a result of hearing your message?

3. Work on your how
How can you craft and deliver the message in a way that helps you to achieve your goal?

All great storytellers begin with the end in mind.

Image by Kevo Thomson

Make Fewer Promises

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

It’s a Saturday night. Jeff, the on-call Planning Enforcement Officer for the local council, is just about to sit down to a takeaway meal and a movie with his wife when his phone rings. Residents close to a new nightclub want him to come and assess the noise levels at the venue. Even before the conversation starts, Jeff is not primed to listen. What he thinks is a good outcome—getting the caller off the line in the quickest time possible, doesn’t align with what the caller thinks is a good outcome—Jeff dropping everything and getting around to the nightclub in the next thirty minutes.

Misaligned expectations are the greatest source of dissatisfaction in any service interaction. You can’t begin to satisfy or delight your customer unless you are prepared to meet his expectations. Two things need to be in place to make that happen. Firstly, you need to understand the customer’s desired outcome. And secondly, you need to have the resources and the willingness to meet it.

If the last thing Jeff wants to do when he’s on call is get in his car to investigate complaints, then it’s unlikely he’ll satisfy ratepayers. The way he handles incoming calls is affected by his desire to enjoy a quiet night at home. His tone will be defensive and his manner abrupt. The organisation does more harm than good by having a 24-hour hotline that sets the expectation that an officer might visit in an emergency if that’s unlikely to happen.

Excellence is about making fewer promises that you always keep.

Image by Nathan Rupert

Why Do You Want To Tell A Good Brand Story?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Why do you want to get better at storytelling?

When I ask clients and potential clients that question, I get a mixed bag of answers.

By far the most common reason is to increase brand awareness. Conventional wisdom argues that the more people who know about your product or service, the greater chance you have of selling more products and services. The simplest way to make everyone aware is to buy the attention of the most people. But the downside to that strategy is that you’re wasting resources speaking to people who have no interest in hearing or buying from you.

The second most common answer is to speed the process of attracting more customers. This mindset can lead business owners down the path of compromise, which presents its own unique set of challenges. You can’t do your best work when you start appealing to customers who don’t share your worldview. When you do, you attract the kind of customers your business is not designed to serve well.

Another reason commonly offered is to make sure to be seen in the right light by the right people. And while it’s smart to think about the audience you hope to engage with, you need to be mindful of telling a story that isn’t true just because it resonates with the people you’re speaking to.

Three Lessons From Great Brand Storytellers

1. Allocate resources where they have the most impact.

2. Get clear about the kind of customers you do and don’t want to attract.

3. Be as good at turning off the wrong customers as you are at attracting the right ones.

Your marketing motivations will ultimately inform your brand strategy and marketing tactics. That’s why it pays to know not just what you want to say and how best to say it, but also to understand why it’s important to you to say it at all.

Resonance begets belonging and belonging scales.

Image by rotesnichts 

Who Will You Impact?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Success

The bus headed back over the Golden Gate Bridge as we neared the end of our tour of Sausalito. The driver pulled over at the second last stop and turned off the ignition so that he could ‘address his guests’. Then Dwayne Johnson (the man who had the name before the celebrity who made it famous), stood facing us, looking out towards the iconic bridge in the background.

He explained that he loved the city he had called home for almost sixty years. He told us he regarded his job was both a pleasure and a privilege. And then he began to evangelise about the stunning monument we’d just driven across.

‘This bridge will be the standard for every bridge that will ever be built,’ he said. ‘They say Disneyland is magical. No, this bridge is magical. Even guys take selfies on this bridge.’

Dwayne explained that although it was a cold day, we were in San Francisco at a beautiful time to experience it. On foggy days much of the bridge is obscured from view. He told us that he drives across it every day, but he walks across it at the weekend whenever he can. And then he invited us to get off the bus and do the same, even though we didn’t have to because the bus was going back across it anyway.

‘Maybe you think it’s too cold or you’ll do it next time. But you don’t know if you’ll be back. And one day, when you get home, and you’re showing the photos of your trip to friends they will ask you if you walked across the bridge. Your trip will be defined by that.’

Then Dwayne stood back and gave us a moment to decide. Half of the passengers (many of whom would have left a tip in the tip jar on the dashboard at the end of the trip), left the bus to walk across the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, as our guide got back in his seat and turned the ignition.

Dwayne Johnson doesn’t own Big Bus Tours. But he does own the power he has to touch people’s lives every day. Who will you impact today?

Image by 305 Seahill

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