What’s Your Story?

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I realize that might sound aggressive? “What’s your story?” may sound like, “What are you looking at, bub?”

But what we mean is this: Do you know your story? Are you communicating it effectively?

A recent AdWeek article talked about “taking the brand out the branded content,” saying “marketers must be confident enough in their own storytelling not to cast themselves in the leading role.” The example of putting the brand in a leading role, which backfired, is the recent Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

Written by Molly DeWolf Swenson, the article urges brands to “believe the story is worth telling and that people care about it and want to hear about it.”

That’s an important point so I will highlight:

  • The story must be worth telling.
  • People will care about it.
  • People want to hear about it.
Too often, the story we want to tell is about ourselves. And it may be a story worth telling.

But it may not be a story people care about.

And even if it’s a story they might care about, that doesn’t mean they want to hear about it. At that moment. 

You don’t want to be, or your organization to be, that guy at a party whose small talk is boring everyone else. Who’s clearly working on a angle without really interacting with the people he’s speaking to.

What that means is that we need to figure out not just what our messaging and positioning is but what is our story. And once we figure out our story, we need to ask: “How do we make sure people will care about it.”

We recently heard about a client who desperately wanted to break into a new category, and ahead of doing so, wanted to speak to reporters covering that category. The reporters weren’t interested. Not surprisingly. That’s because the client didn’t have much of a story to tell yet. It had a good story from its internal perspective — we’ve been successful in category A and now want to enter category B. But with no clients, no experience directly in category B, reporters in category B don’t care yet. 

If the client (not one of ours but this is true for every company in a similar position) does get a customer in category B or has some true insight into the category, then reporters are likely to be somewhat more interested. But their readers won’t care until the client has a story that is relevant and compelling to them.

That’s the part of having a story people often forget. 

Without developing a story that’s relevant and speaks to your key audiences, you’re a bit like asking someone to see your vacation photos. They may be great photos. You may have had a fantastic time. But there’s not much of a story there, unless it’s a place I want to go to or have been to before.

Look, companies (like people) need to believe in themselves and their stories. But in a social media world, they need to make sure their resonate outside the company. And if it doesn’t, they need to work on developing a story that connects to their audiences. 

Without that, it shows you don’t understand your audience. That you don’t really care about them — except in terms of making a sale. That’s what’s in it for you. They want to know what’s in it for them.

So make sure your story does that.
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