Posts Tagged ‘story’

Stories Help to Fix Content Marketing Mistakes

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Are you making any of the four content marketing mistakes recently discussed by best-selling author and executive coach Christine Comaford? One of the four that I wholeheartedly agree with is neglecting to think of your core information as a corporate story (#3 below, conveying facts but missing emotion).

A recent blog posted by Comaford discusses the top four common mistakes people make when developing their content marketing. If you’re committing any of these missteps, you may not be getting the results you want or deserve.

Based on an interview with Amanda Milligan at Fractl (an online marketing agency specializing in engaging and emotional web content on the web), whom Comaford calls a “super brain,” here are the four big mistakes to avoid:

  1. Content that’s too branded
  2. Not getting your audience involved
  3. Conveying facts but missing emotion
  4. Overthinking content and missing context

And, I would add, a fifth mistake you definitely want to avoid: failing to illustrate the benefits of your products or services with relevant stories. Stories help your audience to experience the benefits, and that experience makes a stronger, longer-lasting connection than data can.

The full discussion on Comaford’s blog not only explains each of the four points she focused on, but also offers tips on how to fix or avoid these missteps. What was the most important tip you learned?

Truth Be Told, Your Story Must Reflect Your Culture

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

True StoryDoes your corporate story reflect your company’s values–and your leaders’ behavior? Or are prospective employees told one story, only to see a totally different one enacted after they’ve been onboarded?

With the youngest generations in the workforce expecting to move up quickly, and moving on much more often than previous generations would even consider, companies need more than ever to ensure that the story of their culture is true. If they don’t, they’ll find themselves struggling to compete not only in recruiting the best and brightest, but also in retaining them. As a result, they’ll incur increasingly higher costs due to employee turnover and continuous recruitment.

In a recent worldwide survey, Randstad found that the trait people want most in an employer is honesty (78%). They want to know that the story they’re told is true! The survey of 11,000 prospective employees also found that 71% value reliability and 62% look for financial security.

How does your corporate culture stack up with those traits? Does your core story ring true?

If there’s a disconnect in your stated values and the behavior employees observe, it may be because not everyone is clear on how to enact the values. To ensure alignment of values, mission and purpose with goals, department by department and employee by employee, you need clear, consistent communication. You need a collection of stories that exemplify the desired behavior and show employees how to succeed in the organization.

That’s where Corporate Storytelling comes in. If you’d like to explore how the Storytelling system will help your organization  reflect its true values clearly and consistently, let’s talk!

 

 

6-year-olds Offer Lesson on Managing Change with Story

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Children can teach adults a lot of lessons about life–if the adults pay attention! One of my favorite lessons on managing change was demonstrated by 6-year-old twins whose father attended one of my Corporate Storytelling workshops for sales managers a few years ago. It’s a story I love to tell because it has all the basic elements of a memorable tale: it’s concise, it’s clear, it begins with a challenge to be overcome, describes how the hero overcomes the challenge, and concludes with a memorable lesson for leaders in any organization–business, nonprofit or family.

Paul Smith, a former Procter & Gamble executive, loves the story, too. He included it in his book, Lead with a Story, and asked me to share it when he interviewed me for a podcast that was broadcast yesterday. It’s a great example of how a meaningful business message can be conveyed in a charming and engaging story that everyone can relate to. We’ve all been children, after all, and we’ve all been faced with change. And sometimes, like one of the twins featured, we haven’t been sure how to handle a change that at first seemed overwhelming. Listen to the podcast here and let us know how you will apply this savvy lesson on change management from two 6-year-olds!

Word Choices Determine Whether A Story Soars or Bores

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

When I lead workshops–whether the focus is Corporate Storytelling, media relations, or business writing–one of the key components is a segment on developing–and especially, editing–the participants’ core stories. Just as story construction can make or break a good tale, so can word choices. They determine whether your story soars, bringing the audience along for a spectacular ride, or bores, losing the audience to the multitude of distractions surrounding us all 24/7 (or even worse, putting some to sleep).

Here are a few tips from a colleague in South Africa, Graham Williams, that I particulary endorse. He included these in an article about word choices in a recent issue of his e-zine, The Halo and the Noose.

1. If there’s a choice between a long word and a short one, use the short one.
2. If a word isn’t necessary to convey the message, cut it out.
3. Whenever possible, use the active form of a verb instead of passive.
4. Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word or jargon if there’s an everyday term that will work.
5. Ignore any of these rules if following it complicates your story or makes it sound awkward.

I especially love the story Williams shared to illustrate his points. It’s from the book, Halo and Noose:The Language of Work, the Language of Story, written with Dorian Haarhoff. As Williams explains, We refer to a cartoon where Hagar and Lucky Eddie are exchanging ideas. One says to the other, “I can’t stand people who use big words. They are pretentious.” The other asks what pretentious means.

What simple, everyday word(s) would you use to simplify the first character’s statement?

A Values-Based Story about Canlis Restaurant in Seattle

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

A reknowned Seattle restaurant often rated among the best in the country as well as the world, Canlis is a third-generation family-owned business with an impressive values-based story. The family’s values guide the owners’ long-term plans as well as day-to-day operations. Those values, as explained by Chris Canlis, the second generation to run the elegant dining room, are simplified as TGD: trustworthy, generous, and other-centered.

Speaking recently with his son, Mark, at a meeting of the Seattle Philanthropic Advisors Network (SPAN), Chris was quick to explain, “I’m not an owner; I’m a steward, and it’s my job to care for it and pass it on.” According to the restaurant website, the family believes “everything we are, we were given.” Chris says their perspective is based on a Bible passage in the book of Proverbs: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” He added, “Generosity is not a decision; it’s a function of character. It isn’t conditional on how well you’re doing. The poorest of the poor can be generous.”

As an example, Chris said, his wife, Alice, grew up in a family that “had nothing material and all things familial.” He described her parents’ home as a place where “the door was always open and an unusually long dining table (which seated 18) always had room for one more.” He said most of what he knows about philanthropy he’s learned from his wife.

For more than six decades, Canlis’ generous philanthropy has helped many organizations, even when the economy slows and business suffers. Mark described a time when he was prepared to turn down a request for a donation to a community event during the recent recession–and then realized that even though times were challenging, the restaurant should still be generous. Among the beneficiaries of Canlis’ support is FareStart, a well-known Seattle restaurant that serves as a training facility to teach marketable skills to homeless adults and at-risk youth. Guest chefs from a range of Seattle restaurants are a regular feature at FareStart, giving trainees a close-up look at how to succeed in a service industry.

When Chris and Mark were asked how the parents have passed their values to the next generation, Mark, the father of three, jumped in. with an answer that befits his generation: “Living with three kids is like living on reality TV with three cameras in the house. They watch everything you do!”

Chris and Alice are still involved with the business, but turned over the reins to Mark and his brother, Brian, in 2005. The brothers have been careful to make incremental changes with an eye on retaining familiar features of the iconic restaurant overlooking Lake Union. Beloved by generations of Seattleites and sophisticated travelers, Canlis is consistently a top choice for celebrating special occasions. Exemplifying the family’s guiding values, the new generation of management is committed to continuing the tradition: delivering a fine-dining experience in every detail by focusing on the guests.

21st Century Business Culture Requires Soft Skills

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

According to branding expert and best-selling author Dan Schawbel, 61% of managers value soft skills over hard skills. If you haven’t yet developed and honed your own soft skills, including the ability to tell your own unique story, this book promises to be a valuable guide, outlining what it takes to build a successful career in new business culture of the 21st Century.

Soft skills include effective interpersonal communication (listening as well as speaking or writing), the ability to prioritize work and handle conflicts, and basic traits such as having a positive attitude. As Schawbel explains in his latest book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, having these skills and being able to brand and promote yourself is more crucial today than ever due to the dynamics of the internet, social media, and a non-stop 24/7 business schedule.   

Schawbel’s book explains how to navigate this new environment as an employee. Based on his own research on the current workplace, he details outdated standards and details how to succeed despite economic uncertainty and the need to constantly adapt.

Among the topics Schawbel covers in this book are how to use your current job as a platform for landing a better one; today’s new rules for the workplace; the need for continuing education; and how to use social media appropriately. He explains the disconnect between Gen Y and their managers and posits that the awareness of your own unique strengths and the ability to differentiate yourself are crucial.

Stephen R. Covey, who rose to fame with his first best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says “Schawbel’s book is a game-changer for any employee who is looking to get ahead at work. It reveals the skills and strategies that will turn you into a future leader.”

Tell Stories Worth Telling, Win Customers and Employees

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

“Fast Company” recently posted an excellent article on 10 ways that companies can bring core values to life, which emphasized that in today’s information-loaded environment, having a purpose that benefits your community is essential. The article reports that 87% of global consumers believe businesses “should place equal weight on societal issues and business issues,” and a study on meaningful brands found that “73% of existing brands could disappear and consumers wouldn’t care.”

Three of the 10 ways to bring core values to life align with three main points in my Corporate Storytelling® system. They are

  1. Make customers the celebrity of your brand story, explaining the benefits of your products/services
  2. CEOs must lead by example, enacting the values on a regular basis so that employees understand the desiredbehavior that will be rewarded
  3. Inspire employees to become brand advocates

Each of these can be achieved by clearly articulating a relevant story that engages your employees, customers, and community and galvanzies support for your mission. Stories are powerful communication tools for many reasons; chief among them are that stories touch people emotionally, act as glue that sticks your brand in their minds, and motivate them to promote your business.

The lesson here is that you have to work harder to cut through the information clutter, and the most effective way to do that is to tell a story worth telling–one that clearly communicates values your customers, employees and community share.

To ensure that your company’s brands aren’t among that startlingly high 73% that the marketplace doesn’t care about, read the “Fast Company” article and assess how well you’re doing on all 10 measures recommended. http://tinyurl.com/nwvewr5

 

Howard Schultz Tells Starbucks Story

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

As evidences by a recent post, I’m becoming a very big fan of Howard Schultz’s leadership of Starbucks. He not only clearly communicates his personal, and his company’s, core values, but he also demonstrates his commitment to those values by enacting them.

In a talk at the University of Denver’s School of Business, Schultz tells the story of how Starbucks has survived during the economic downturn, turned around a precipitous decline in business during those years, and also rekindled the fire for the business that for many reasons had nearly burned out among many of the company’s employees (known as partners). His return to the position of CEO after almost eight years as Chairman sparked a renaissance based on tough decisions and an astounding commitment to retraining employees and re-energizing his own–and the company’s–social consciousness.

This story also is told in his books, Pour Your Heart into It and Onward! Both are recommended reading.

Watch Schultz’ talk at the University of Denver: http://tinyurl.com/mzeatkj

Starbucks Story Is about Passion and Authenticity

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Starbucks is proof positive that passion and authenticity can drive a company to huge success. Founded in Seattle in 1971 by two guys who sold whole bean and ground coffee as well as tea and spices in a retail store in Pike Place Market, Starbucks originally set out to educate consumers about dark-roasted coffee and the wide variety of beans and teas in the world. The founders were comfortable being small and selling only bagged products for customers to brew at home. The company grew by leaps and bounds only after Howard Schultz, now chairman, president and CEO, got involved.

Hired in 1982 to head up marketing, Schultz became CEO in 1987 after leaving the company for a while to start his own business. When he returned to take the top post, Schultz convinced private investors that his vision was achievable. Aiming for a national chain of European-style warm, inviting neighborhood cafes, he and his management team grew the business from a company with 6 stores to a national chain of 1,300 stores and 25,000 employees–within 10 years! Now a global company of more than 20,000 stores and 151,000 partners in 62 countries, Starbucks is still an organization run on passion.

Schultz had been bitten by “the bug” of high quality coffee and the classic Italian cafe culture in 1981 when he first sipped a cappuccino at a neighborhood coffee bar in Italy. He’ll never forget that pivotal moment–and he still loves sharing that experience with the world. He was certain Americans would enjoy the experience just as much as he did, and in some communities Starbucks is, in fact, the “Third Place” gathering spot that Schultz envisioned. And his concept caught on to a far greater degree than he originally imagined.

As he says in his first book, Pour Your Heart into It, How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, “People connect with Starbucks because they relate to what we stand for. It’s more than great coffee. It’s the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth and community…. Starbucks strikes an emotional chord with people. Some drive out of their way to get their morning coffee from our stores.”

Based on an authenticity that permeates the culture, Schultz’s leadership emanates from his contagious passion for coffee. The mission “to inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time” inspires store managers, executives and partners at all levels. Management decisions, as well as the one-on-one interactions between baristas and customers, are evidence of their commitment.

Starbucks has proven, as Schultz says, that “a company can grow big without losing the passion and personality that built it, but only if it’s driven not by profits but by values and by people. If you pour your heart into your work, or into any worthy enterprise, you can achieve dreams others may think impossible.”

How about your organization? Is the leader’s passion evident? Is the vision clear? And what about you? What dreams do you have for your own future that passion and authenticity will help you achieve?

Burning Man Inspiring Recruitment Tool for Creative Culture

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Executives at Burning Man? At first glance that sounds like a headline from “The Onion.” But as “Fast Company” reports, a high-end business service provides direct flights to the week-long Black Rock, Nevada, event, where plush accommodations and fine dining await groups of executives seeking creative inspiration–and even the possibility of finding great recruits who will fit into their business cultures. If they’re as unconventional as the founders of Google and many other 21st Century organizations, that isn’t as far-fetched an idea as it may sound.

“Fast Company” reports that Google Co-founder Sergy Brin has explained, “Larry and I searched (for a leadership candidate) for over a year” before he and his co-founder, Larry Page, attended Burning Man, where they met Eric Schmidt, now the chairman of Google. Commenting that Schmidt is a great fit with their approach to business, Brin added, “More companies should look at cultural fit.”

He’s absolutely right. Too many companies have traditionally sold candidates on the benefits of their organization by telling stories that paint an unrealistic picture of the type of person they want. The importance of identifying the personality traits and behavior styles that truly will fit into the organization is often overlooked. It’s an oversight that can be very costly, particularly in terms of low productivity and high employee turnover.

What does your company–or any you know–include unorthodox practices as part of its recruiting efforts? We’d like to hear how creative thinkers like the founders of Google find the people who fit well into their cultures. Share your stories with us!