Acclaimed author Phillip Pullman once famously said that after “nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
And while that may seem like a stretch for some, the fact remains that everyone loves a good unique story. Maybe this is because that as social creatures, human brains are wired to do so. In fact, many psychologists believe this skill (commonly referred to the theory of mind) was a trait evolved over time to help advance communal relationships within society.
With that in mind, the art of storytelling should be viewed as an essential aspect of personal branding. After all, the goal of any branding effort is to create a narrative that connects with your audience. And to do that, your brand has to tell a story that truly resonates.
If done effectively, sharing your story adds depth to your personal brand-allowing it to grow and evolve as you generate interest for your business. But how do you tell the story in a way that truly matters? Especially in situations where you have one chance to give the perfect elevator speech on who you are and what you do? I’ve got five suggestions that should get you started.
First, start with what you do
So you might be thinking right now about how to get started. Don’t worry-it’s natural to feel that way. The important thing is to take time to ask yourself some great questions to get to the heart of what you do.
Remember that you are the living representation of your story. So once you have determined how you see yourself and identified what you have to offer, it should be easier to narrow your focus to a concise narrative.
And if the words don’t immediately come to you, that’s fine. Think of this process is a progressive one that may change as you get closer to your authentic unique self. One of things I recommend to others during this time is to pay attention to the words that come up time and time again as you are working on this part. You can use them as keywords that you would use to describe yourself.
Identify the audience
Mandalay Entertainment Chairman and CEO Peter Guber once wrote an excellent article for the Harvard Review about what makes a masterful storyteller. In it he explained how connecting with the right audience, whether in boardroom or the movie theater, is a key component to successfully building a brand.
For the unique story to be successful, audiences must be able to relate to the narrator. They must be able to receive a cathartic release for whatever tension or buildup that takes place during the tale. More importantly, they must be moved to action.
So how do you find the right audience for your story? A lot of this done with understanding your underlying brand persona. If you see yourself as a hipster-naturally you are going to want to gravitate to individuals who think as you do. If you’re brand is one that is tied with provocative content (i.e. the boomerang) you may want to align yourself with people who are not afraid to push the envelope.
If you don’t feel passion, then it’s not the right story.
Have you ever seen a movie or a play where it’s clear that the actors are just going through the motions? Perhaps they took the role to meet a financial obligation. Or maybe they were unfortunately miscast and the resulting performance was underwhelming. No matter the cause, the end result for the audience is still the same-disappointment.
The fact is that if you don’t convey passion and conviction in your unique story – then it’s simply the wrong one. Consider yourself the lead actor in a play about your brand. If you don’t bring your true feelings to the role than your audience is going to recognize it right away.
Want to be engaging? Then you have to get personal.
Want to know what separates a good anecdote from a great one? How about ones that incorporate a human element? Let’s face it. No one’s perfect. And sometimes it’s the stark imperfections that make a person relatable.
A friend of mine once equated it to Spiderman’s backstory and why many consider him one of the greatest comic book characters. Sure, Spidey’s the hero and can always be counted on to save the day. But what makes him so intriguing is that his many neuroses often takes center stage. He’s frequently unsure of his powers, his job and even his place in the world.
Sure, it’s hard to maybe hard to understand what it’s like to be bitten by a radioactive spider But we’ve all felt the crushing sting of a disapproving boss.
In the real world, I think Jane Pratt is the one of the best examples of how this can be put in practice. Founder of the site XOJane, as well as the iconic magazines Sassy & Jane, Jane’s personal brand is built on her willingness to be honest with her readers. Over the years she has shared both embarrassing mistakes and incredible triumphs. And through it all she has built a legion of fans that has followed her for over 20 years.
Be prepared to start small in your storytelling
So you have your unique story laid out, recognized your target audience and injected some passion into it. But without the chance to share it – all of your hard work will be for nothing. You must be willing to tell your unique story (even if it is only an abridged version) whenever you can.
It’s like the classic elevator speech. Sometimes this is all the time you have to make an impression. Do you waste time setting up the scenario? Or do you entice your listeners with just enough details to get them wanting more? Therefore, you must always be prepared with a short and sweet account of your personal unique story to relay in these types of situations.
Unique story personal takeaways
An important part of personal branding is drafting a unique story that sets you apart from competitors. For the stories to be an effect part of your brand, you must be willing to get personal while speaking to the correct audiences. The most successful tales are those that represents yourself in an authentic way.