Capturing your brand stories is an essential part of building your expert practice. But what stories are important? Here’s 4 key brand stories every expert needs to tell.
Recently Peter, who’s very savvy and switched on and extremely experienced in solving small business problems, asked me to review his content strategy. So, I looked at over 40 pieces of content in his business and the thing that struck me the most was that it was all very left-brained. It was logical, practical and super smart. But it was also incredibly boring.
My advice to Peter was to work on bringing in more right-brained aspects into his content. This is the creative side, the storytelling aspect of content creation. But, like many business owners, Peter wasn’t completely sold on the idea. He said, ‘I don’t like that kind of fluffy content’.
I said to him, ‘But you aren’t your customer. Your customers are not the left-brained, organised people who find running a business intuitive and straightforward. Your customers are the right-brained, creative types who are looking for help in their small business. And you need to write for those customers’.
As experts we’re trying to build our teams and our practices and create compelling reasons for people to work with us. But experts can tend to be very logic-oriented (or left-brained), rather than creative (the traditional right-brained thinkers). While, scientifically there really are no ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’ people (instead, we all think we both hemispheres of our brain), it is very true that different people respond to different types of content. And some people respond more to data and statistics, while others respond more to anecdotes and memes. But, of all these things, the most important is stories. Stories connect us at a very basic human level.
Stories bring brains together. Emotional stimulation is extremely powerful for humans because it allows us to figure out if the people around us are safe or dangerous, which is essential for survival. It helps us to determine if they have our best interests in mind, or not. These neural mechanisms also allow us to form relationships with other humans so they are no longer strangers, but people we can safely count on to cooperate for our survival.
We aren’t fighting for our survival in our content creation, but human nature remains the same. Our stories help us form relationships with an audience who otherwise might feel like strangers. And when we do, we’re able to come together and form our tribe and inspire and move them to action.
Seth Godin said it really well when he said, ‘People do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic’.
You can imagine that there’s a big wall around your practice. Your stories are the bridge over that wall – the things that bring your audience into your world and allow you to engage and connect with, and, ultimately, sell yourself to, them.
The 4 Key Stories Every Expert Needs to Tell
Once we’ve determined that we need to tell our stories, the struggle becomes knowing what stories to tell. At the brand level it’s sometimes hard to see where the strategic stories are – the ones that build your brand.
But strategic stories are powerful stories. They’re the ones that provide the sense of connection for our audience and make them feel like they’re part of the tribe. And that sense of belonging is absolutely vital for humans – surpassing even our physical needs as shown by Matthew Liebermann’s research.
So what are our four strategic stories?
Your ‘essence’ story tells who you are, and what your world view is. These are the things that people won’t necessarily see when they look at you, but what drives you internally. Some might describe it as your ‘why story’. Why do you do what you do?
This story is very important because it’s a key differentiator. It’s the thing that drives your unique value proposition and gives your audience a sense of why they might choose you over someone else.
Your next level is your ‘message story’. This is about what you do, or what you are doing. So, you can think about it as what it is that your practice delivers to your clients. If your message is about resilient leadership, then your story would be those things that taught you resilience in your own life or business (perhaps a failed entrepreneurial venture).
But in the end, this story needs to be about what your customers can buy from you.
Your third level is your ‘program story’. For this one you need to be able to articulate the brand story around the programs that you offer or sell. If you have multiple programs, you’ll have multiple stories. For example, if you have a program that teaches resilience in sales teams, your program story might be a case study about a team that you worked with that needed a boost of resilience.
Often, with program stories, they aren’t actually about you. But they are about situations or experiences that you have had personally within your own practice.
Finally, we have your content stories. These are the ones that most of us are familiar with, and they are the stories that we use to engage in our content. For this one, Peter’s story took a starring role, but in another, it will be a different story. Each piece of content will have their own story, or unique spin on a story.
Content stories help our content to get cut through. It’s only through stories that our content has a chance of going viral.
Sharing stories is sometimes an exercise in vulnerability. We worry about maintaining our privacy, our professionalism and about oversharing. But as Brene Brown said, ‘Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect’.
And those who have the courage to be imperfect will find they relate better with their audience.
Once Peter understood what kinds of things his audience needed to hear, and the best ways to tell them, we were able to start unpacking his own stories. I recently received a message from him that was short and to the point. ‘Stories work’, he said.
Have you started to capture your brand stories? Have a file and write them down when they come to you. Or come along to Signature Stories and we can grab them together.
Jane Anderson is a strategic communications expert, speaker and the author of seven books including the upcoming Catalyst Content. With over 20 years of experience helping people to communicate confidently, she is obsessed with authentic influence and human connection to drive business growth in a world of disruption and automation. She delivers Content Creation Bootcamps (Virtual and Face to Face), Coaching and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.