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Articles filed in: Story Skills

The Inner Scorecard

We regularly measure our status, progress and success against others. It’s no wonder.

We’ve been subjected to comparison since our parents bragged about when we got our first tooth. At school, the race to see who could collect the most gold stars was on from day one.

We are acutely aware of what makes us remarkable in the eyes of others. We have learned to live and work by, what Warren Buffet calls, an outer scorecard—often at the expense of doing what’s right, and what’s right for us.

If what’s on our inner scorecard grounds us, we must get into the habit of understanding and prioritising those things. Inner scorecards are essential for individuals and organisations alike.

What are you proud of that others would find unremarkable?

What’s on your inner scorecard?

Image by Volkan Olmez

The Value Shift


Sally studied Film and TV at college. She wants to be a director one day. But that’s a distant goal. In the meantime, she’s decided to put the skills she learned in college to work. Sally built a website and started working for friends of friends on their promotional business videos.

Sally is building her portfolio and has clients who are thrilled with the results. But she is less than thrilled with the filming and editing process. Over time, Sally’s realised the thing she loves best about her work is everything she does before she picks up the camera.

Her gift is getting her clients to open up about why they do what they do, not what they do. The reason Sally’s films are so good is because of the unbilled hours she spends with the client before filming begins. It’s hard to explain that to most people and it’s just as hard to charge for it.

What most clients pay Sally for—the deliverable, is that five minutes of video footage. But what Sally dreams of doing and being paid for is finding stories worth telling.

It’s easier for Sally to sell the outcome—the video, than it is to market her process and the impact of her work. So, she defaults to doing what’s easy and ends up selling videos in one-minute increments to clients who don’t understand or pay for her genius.

People happily pay for the tangible. But if the tangible—the logo, the report or the cup of coffee, is a fraction of the value we create, then we need to get better at selling the intangible.

It’s not unusual to wake up one day and find that the work people pay us for isn’t the work we intended to do. It’s our job to fix that, by telling the right story to the right people.

Is the work people pay you for the work you want to do?

Image by Vanilla Bear Films

Reaching Resonance


Many of us spend the majority of our time thinking about what people want to hear.

And while it’s important to understand your audience, it’s equally important to remember what you have to say, as only you can say it.

Of course, you want to make a bigger impact and reach more people.

But the impact you make will depend on your ideas resonating with the right people—not just reaching the most people. The people who believe in you and your message will enable you to do your best work. You will draw those people to you by clearly making your assertion and stating your intention.

It’s a lot easier to tell true stories over time than it is to keep coming up with new and interesting angles.

What’s the truth you want your audience to know?

Image by Jeremy Bishop

10 Benefits Of Strategic Storytelling


We humans have long recognised that stories are a great way to transfer knowledge and wisdom. We know that better stories result in more resonant messages. But we’re selling storytelling short by putting it in the ‘communications’ box. This limiting belief that story is simply how we impart information means we don’t harness its full potential.

A good story well told helps you to:

1. Communicate with clarity and confidence.
2. Achieve emotional resonance with your audience.
3. Be more persuasive and influential.
4. Consistently act in alignment with your mission.
5. Attract the right people, whether they be customers, employees, volunteers or donors.
6. Inspire people to buy into your mission or get behind your cause.
7. Execute plans as you work towards your vision for the future.
8. Add value to your products, services and company
9. Spread your ideas.
10. Change the culture and create the future you want to see.

Stories do more than help us to tell and sell. Shared narratives are powerful catalysts for change and the building blocks of our culture.

Image by Scooter Lowrimore

Persuade On Purpose, With Purpose

When you were three years old, you knew exactly what to say, and how to say it, to get what you wanted. But somewhere along the line, you became reluctant to use these skills. We all did.

Stories of con men and unscrupulous marketers, manipulating people into doing things that were not in their best interests coloured our judgement about what it meant to be persuasive. Our culture taught us that persuasion was a trick used by people with dishonourable intentions.

But manipulation isn’t a necessary by-product of persuasion. Being persuasive can be a valuable skill used to impact the people we serve. Like any tool or skill, its effect depends on how it’s used. Our intentions matter. An axe can either build something or destroy it, and persuasion can be as much a force for good, as for bad.

If we’re in the business of making things that change people’s lives for the better, we must master the art of persuasion to help people make decisions they’re glad about.

Instead of wondering how we can convince people to buy our product or support our idea, we could ask ourselves what’s at stake for them if they don’t. Then we can be more persuasive on purpose, with purpose and our heads held high.

Image by Annie Sprat

The Myth Of Significance


Lately, we have come to believe in the myth of significance. Put our faith in being chosen, becoming ‘the one’. Striving to be bigger, noticed or more than, while simultaneously recounting a narrative of never enough.

In our minds, significance boasts a title, resides in a corner office, speaks from the centre stage, gaining recognition far and wide.

Significance, though, hides in plain sight. Carrying out seemingly small, unimportant acts, with intention and conviction. Without permission, to rewrite the future

Image by Anders Hellberg, Courtesy of TEIA

How Good Is Your Story?


There’s a reason why this post about how to write a compelling about page is the most visited page on my website and has been since I wrote it almost eight years ago. It’s an ironic and universal truth, that the story we know best is the story we have the least confidence telling—at least when we sit down to write.

We fear saying the thing that nobody cares to listen to. But our fear of saying things that people hear and reject is even greater. So we play it safe and end up looking and sounding like everyone else. It’s not that we can’t tell better stories. It’s that we resist doing it for fear of not being good enough, or worse, right enough.

What’s the difference between a good story and a great story?

A good story tells.
A great story engages.

A good story informs.
A great story moves people.

A good story chronicles events.
A great story invests people in the outcome.

A good story changes how we think.
A great story changes how we feel and what we do.

You already have a good story to tell. It’s how you tell it that makes it great.

Image by x1klima

Without You


If I were to ask you to explain your company’s ‘value proposition’ you’d probably hesitate. But if I asked you what your customer would miss if your work didn’t exist, you’d likely have some thoughtful answers about why she needs what you make, serve or sell. Sometimes the language and frames we use stop us expressing ourselves clearly.

One way to begin describing the value you create is to talk about what can’t happen without you.

Without us fewer people can/are/feel/have/do/become [———————].

We tell better stories when we understand how customers’ lives change in the presence of our product.

Image by Garry Knight

The Two Rules Of Good Marketing


The best marketing does two things:

1. It empowers people to make decisions now that they won’t regret later.
2. It helps people to do the things they want to do.

If you’re helping the people you serve to do both of these things, you can proudly say you’re a good marketer.

Image by Eric Shoniya

Pitch Perfect


The two falafel makers at the weekend market sell an almost identical product but achieve very different levels of success. The marketing tactics they use are similar. Make eye contact with potential customers, offer them a small sample to try and use the time they’re chewing to launch into your sales pitch.

The first maker tells passers-by his falafel are the best in the world. ‘I should know, I make them,’ he proclaims.

The second tells potential customers that her falafel are vegan, dairy and gluten free. ‘They are delicious hot or cold. Wrap them in pitta bread with some salad and hummus, and you’ve got an easy, tasty and healthy lunch,’ she says, as customers line up to hand her their ten dollar notes.

We spend days, months and sometimes years perfecting our product recipe. We should honour that devotion to creating something that matters by perfecting our sales script too. If you want to make something matter, you must be able to tell the people you want to serve why it should matter to them.

Image by Stijn Nieuwendijk