Small Story = Big Empathy

With storytelling, smaller is bigger. I recently met a screenwriter and he told me about a project he’s working on, a cross-cultural romance. In his story, a feminist from the West falls in love with a chauvinist from the East. He was having trouble creating the backstories of these characters, why they are together despite their differences. We kept coming up against sticking points and the story wasn’t working.

I asked him why he needed to tell this story? He said when he was 19, he met a woman who changed the trajectory of his life. He was what he called a ‘thinker’. He hadn’t seen much of the world and was very sheltered. He met a woman who was adventurous, what he called an ‘explorer’. They become very, very close. And because of her, he experienced a lot of things for the first time, going to clubs, meeting people from different sexual orientations and different worldviews.

She changed the way he lived his life. They were so close that they would spend hours and hours and hours talking. Their relationship was a platonic and yet closer than a normal friendship. He loved her, but he knew he wasn’t in love with her and that one day the relationship would end. Eventually, it did as they went their separate ways in life.

The story he wanted to tell was this process of getting to know her, of exploring the world through her eyes. He felt he owed her a lot and he would never forget her.

It was the story of a ‘thinker’ and an ‘explorer’ who fell in love but didn’t end up together.

His story wasn’t about a big culture clash and diametrically opposed worldviews. It was a coming of age story where someone learns new things about themselves. And through that process understands what they need in life and in a future partner. In this story, two people realised that even though they loved each other and grew together, they were on different paths. This is a big step in a person’s maturity.

It’s something that we’ve all experienced. We have all learned from a relationship that ultimately has no future. It’s a beautiful moment of growth. We go through our lives owing a lot to those people and experiences.

This is a universal moment, and it’s going to connect very deeply with an audience. One of his goals is to create a story that is cross-cultural. This hits the mark, many cultures around the world have these coming of age situations.

He went from telling a big grand story full of drama and tension to a beautiful contained moment in time that was authentic. One that many would believe and connect with because it is true and they had a similar experience.

How does this relate to the world of business stories? A very common thing I hear is, why would anybody care about my story? We tend to discount our own stories because they aren’t always a big grand adventure. This could not be more wrong, the power is in the small moments of authentic emotion someone else can connect with.

This is the power of empathy.

These small empathic connections transcend time, space, culture, everything. Moments of empathy are crucial to telling a story about a new product or service. Critical to telling a story to break down silos between different departments. The perfect way to explain a cultural shift or change within an organisation.

It’s small, not big. It’s real, not fantastic. This doesn’t mean don’t dream big. Create an ideal future state you want to inhabit after a new project or service has launched. Paint the grand vision of where innovation is taking us. But among the big dreams, there has to be small pinpoints of authentic emotion. Truthful connections are the glue that holds the grand vision together.

This is why narratives are so powerful. Stories are your day to day and the narrative is the future. The narrative is the future place that you want to inhabit together.

Good stories are a collection of small moments that add up to empathetic connection, to inspire, connect and build trust to bring your audience into your ideal future state.

Don’t be afraid of your own story and don’t be afraid of the small things. Even if the vision is grand, it’s the intimate emotions that build the empathetic connection you need to make your story something you can leverage to meet your business goals.

This is how culture is changed, built and created. This is how new products and services are launched. This is how innovation solves problems and propels solutions forward.

It’s through empathy. It’s the small moments. It’s the beautiful things.

Can Advertising Spend Buy You Love?

“Anyone can pay for something,” was a sage piece of dating advice I was given a long time ago.

Beatles might have said it best when they said –

“I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love”

This advice has served me well. So well in fact that I can see its relevance everywhere.

Let’s apply this advice to marketing. Anyone can spend money to get in front of prospective customers and clients with paid promotions. But no amount of paid advertising can buy love in the form of a loyal fan base.

Love is rare, it is hard to come by in any context in life. How do we facilitate it in the bottom line driven realities of the business world? By building trust and empathy by being human.

Digital marketing relies on data. That data is used to create content and content is used to create engaging ads.

Data is only half of the picture. The other half is empathy.

There are analytics and algorithms galore, but they cannot replace authentic human connection. Digital agencies tell their customers how much they need to spend to get in front of as many eyes as possible in their target market. This works for a while, but if you don’t pay attention to the other side of the equation, you will always have to pay for attention. And the cost of paying for this attention can eventually impact the profit from sales.

We use a different approach: we focus on organic growth fuelled by the stories of your business. Stories by their very nature build empathy, create connections and brand loyalty.

Let’s go back to the beloved Beatles classic –

“Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”

You may hear John singing these words in your mind now. It is a story about how true love is worth more than a diamond. A story where without the underlying love a diamond is just a rock.

The same is true for marketing. Creating content that puts human stories in front of other humans results in a connection that impact business growth. Authenticity draws your clients back again and again to a relationship built on trust and understanding.

Focus on the love, even though it takes longer to build. And yes, sometimes it needs a bit of a push to get things moving.

But ultimately, LOVE is created by a connection. Charting that connection through the shared stories of wins from your clients and customers creates momentum. As each story emerges to complete the larger picture, the tendrils of connection branch out into the world. The protagonists of each story have their own fan base. Taking control of the narrative as it unfolds means that all roads eventually lead back to you. Connection can only build more connection. We understand this and harness this power for organic marketing growth.

Marketing communication is a delicate balance of organic and paid. We believe in the power of listening to your fans and telling their stories. Explore the stories you have to tell and then show them to your community; they will love you for it.

Be Fearless : Your Message Is Your Eye In The Storm

“I feel like I have done it all, I have made all of the mistakes and now I am fearless.“

– Paraphrased from an interview with Barak Obama on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF.

 

It is not possible to be completely without fear, it is a natural part of being alive. Another way of looking at it is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This is how one day Obama decided he is going to run for president. He had to get used to putting himself in places that not feel comfortable, situations that were scary. The only way to move forward and pursue his goal is to decide feeling scared or uncomfortable is ok. He can sit with that feeling and get his message out into the world.

It is possible to be your own eye in a storm. The tempest may be swirling, but you can remain steady, secure and centred.

Fearlessness isn’t about ignoring feelings; it is about feeling that no matter what happens you will make the right choice.

Communicating with a community or audience works in the same way. The message should be the same, regardless of what is happening around it. The context and the delivery may change, but the values should be consistent.

Be fearless with your message. That means showing up and putting it out there. Sometimes there is negative feedback or low open rates for a newsletter. Does this mean change tack and go with a totally new approach? If it isn’t working make adjustments to the delivery, but leave the core message intact.

Do not let the situation or output change the core message, allow it to be the eye in the storm of marketing and promotion. Stay true to the message and the message will persevere.