A Story About The Power Of Story

“Don’t ever underestimate the power of a story. Even if the story has to do with bacterial infections and chickens,” Josh Muccio, host of The Pitch.

The Pitch from Gimlet Media showcases founders of start-ups as they sell the story of their business to a panel of investors. This podcast illustrates the real-world application of what a good story does for a business.

In this episode, a scientist Amado Guloy is trying to explain how his startup Rex Animal Health combines farm animals and big data. His explanation focused on data, science, and numbers. The investors interjected every few seconds struggling to understand what his business did until he told the following story.

“Rex can reduce the risk of disease, improve the treatment of health problems, and ultimately deliver more animals from farm to table. I’ll just give you a use case of something that we did. There were chickens with a high incidence of really bad bacterial infection. And unfortunately, a lot of the drugs weren’t working because it was an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So, we took a step back and looked at the data in total. We realised the ones that got an infection, got it through a skin lesion. Long story short, we found out it was genetic and the chickens that got it had that deficiency.”

The investors let out a collective “Ohhhh!” as the light switched on for them. That story explained why Rex exists, what it does, and now they’re ready to do what they do best. Start poking holes in the business.

We like to imagine that investors are only interested in numbers, plain and simple. But they need a short and simple story to give those numbers meaning. A concise story helps create the value of the business, especially if you are looking for investment.

Storytelling is really story-selling. Showing people with a clear story helps your customers, clients and coworkers will understand what you do and why they need it.

Don’t let storytelling be a struggle, join me at General Assembly in Melbourne on March 13th, 2018 to Discover Your Business Narrative.

Learn Storytelling: Set The World On Fire Like Elon Musk

 

With the launch of The Boring Company, Elon Musk shows us he is all about the underground, including his marketing. The Boring Company is developing high-speed travel tubes to help ease inter-city traffic. Also, you can buy a flamethrower on the site. Yep, a flamethrower with the Boring Company logo on the side. Is anyone struggling to make the cognitive leap between a flame-based toy and a high-speed car travel tube?

Want to learn to market like Elon? Sign up here for my free webinar on “Storytelling: How To Dream and Market Like Elon”.

What is this stunt with the flamethrowers all about? He is not looking for funding, the project is privately funded according to the FAQs. If a Flamethrower isn’t really your vibe, you could also purchase a hat with the Boring Company logo. I say could as in past tense, because everything has sold out.

Sold out. Yes, that is right, 50,000 hats gone. As far as the flamethrower is concerned it is $500 to place a pre-order. As to the total amount of pre-orders available, no one is totally sure.

There is a lot of speculation as to why a company that is ‘boring’ tunnels underground to solve growing problem of traffic is selling flamethrowers. At 500 dollars a pop, if they sell, 20,000 that is a solid $10,000,000. A fantastic way to crowdfund a project without giving anyone any actual ownership in the project.

So, assuming this all happens, what has Elon actually sold?

A story.

This is why Elon is an exceptional person. He wants to send us into outer space, underground and to Mars. None of these things have eventuated yet. But the fact that he is consistently able to sell the dream of what is possible and what is to come illustrates his powerful grasp of storytelling.

What does a good story do? It captures the audience’s hearts and minds. What is the story link between flamethrowers and tunnel-based travel? I cannot tell you. Maybe it will become apparent in time.

But the story he was slowly building with a series of tweets starting last year was all it took to get the ball rolling and launch the not so boring, Boring Company.

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He is giving people a narrative to go with the Flamethrower. A flamethrower on its own, confusing, a flamethrower with a hilarious ‘rumour’. Genius!

Elon is often described as enigmatic. A perfect character for a good story. A crafty tale that keeps you coming back for more, is one that is open to interpretation. If it is too straightforward with no mystery to solve, the next shiny story that comes along will steal our attention.

Will we ever know what the link is between Flamethrowers and high-speed travel via tunnels? Probably not and I am not sure I want to know.

In order to consistently sell the ‘dream’ of what something could be, or of what is to come, it is better to leave it open-ended.

This is the best way to sell dreams. Fire up the creativity and the imagination of the audience and then sell their own vision back to them. Even when the projects will take years and the combined belief of millions of people.

We must all dream together to make the future a place we want to live. Whether Elon’s version of the future is the right version or the best version doesn’t matter. What does matter is he is telling the stories of the future he wants to see.

In the future, marketing will be less about how to capture attention. The future of marketing is capturing the imagination. This includes broadening your reach with the city you are planning on building the first tunnel in. Local Politicians in LA are now thinking about banning the toy flamethrower, see the statement from councillor Santiago below. And in the process, more people in LA might learn about the large-scale public transportation solution. Well played Elon, well played.

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That is what Elon Musk is good at. Capturing the imagination of the masses. Getting ordinary Joes thinking that traveling to outer space is something that is accessible to anyone, not just astronauts. Seeing the power of traveling in a car through a tube underground. Living on Mars.

This will not happen unless enough people believe that it is true. The future is like Tinkerbell, if enough people believe, clapping hands is probably optional, it will become reality. Or for the more pragmatic, Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way, you are right.”

Capturing the imaginations of your clients, customers and fans is the marketing of the future. And a good story doesn’t have to be clear-cut. In fact, the keys to a good story are tension, interpretation and a clear message.

How do you sell something no one can see or experience if you first don’t sell the dream.

Want to learn to market like Elon? Sign up here for my free webinar on “Storytelling: How To Dream and Market Like Elon”.

What are you waiting for? The future?

The future is made entirely of dreams.

Start. Yours. Now.

Future Proof Your Marketing

“Strong Opinions Weakly Held”

This phrase originated with Paul Saffro, Director of Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future. In a discussion about wisdom, Bob Johansen of the Institute allegedly explained to Bob Sutton that to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward, the Institute advises people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.”

Grab a compass and map. Plot your path, but be prepared to change your course when needed.

We are living times that can feel very fast-moving, volatile and uncertain. How do we prepare ourselves for this uncertain future? What skills will we need? What will the job market look like in 5, 10 or even 20 years? What new technologies are being developed that could create a threat to humanity? Where are the flying cars? Come on already I want one!

Ok, jokes aside, the world is changing. The old structures, silos, and routines that are part of most business’s day to day operations are becoming a hindrance to innovation. We are entering a new epoch that values agility, innovation, and creativity.

Welcome to the age of storytelling. We are standing on the precipice of a new world order, where visionaries will lead through their ability to tell stories. Storytellers are powerful. They create the world that we live in now and the one to come.

So Why Learn To Harness And Tell Your Own Story?

Your business’s organic story is unique. Unlike corporate colours, logos or taglines, it is not a conceptual piece of marketing. It is an organic narrative that unfolds with each passing day. It shifts with each decision, such as, new hires and evolving products and services. It cannot be replicated and it cannot be predicted. It must simply unfold. This is truly powerful when future proofing your brand or business. There can be similarities. But there are no two that are exactly the same. No other business has the exact unique blend of human capital and stories that you have.

Part of imagining where the future is going is understanding our current moment in time. To do this well we must understand our business’s story. It has a cast of characters, plot lines and twists and turns. An authentic and well-crafted story makes your business the main protagonist, as opposed to a secondary character. By focusing on your own story you let the narrative unfold and see how it moves you forward.

This unique story woven through content production, internal communications, presentations, and speeches creates memorable experiences. This attention leads to retention in your client or customer’s memory. This is the most precious real estate that you can own.

Storytelling is future proofing your brand. It is possible to copy a website’s look and feel. A competitor may develop a similar product or service. But no other business will have your experiences or diversity of skills of your unique story.

Let your story do the work. An organic story told slowly over time builds solid relationships and trust. A presentation featuring vision and dreams is always more inspiring than a bar graph. All the growth behind the spikes on the chart could not happen without the vision in the first place.

And the vision comes from the people. The empathy and connections formed via a strong story, allows a company to become agile, to reinvent itself as it changes. It works in partnership with the business and walks alongside it as it forges new paths into the future.

As a chronicler of business’s stories, I have seen this magic unfold again and again. And so I am calling all the brave and bold artists, corporates, business owners and change makers! The best way to predict our futures to create it. Let us all join together and tell the stories of the future we want to create. We have never had such an unprecedented ability to influence and affect our world.

And so I ask you, what story will you tell and where will it take you?

I recently ran an event at ACMI in November, The Evolution of Storytelling. I asked my presenters to explore the possibilities of storytelling in the future. Please have a look at the Hashtag on Twitter or on my Instagram.

A Story Bridges The Gap From Innovation To Implementation!

Working in an innovation space can feel lonely when only a small number of people outside of your team understand what you are trying to accomplish. Or you are proudly rolling out a new project that solves a client’s problem, but they don’t understand how they fit in the solution. The program may be badly needed, but if the people who need your service don’t understand how it helps them, it won’t succeed. It is impossible to sell a product or service if you cannot clearly define it to your ideal customer, clients or co-workers.

Seeing your concept with an unbiased point of view is sometimes called ‘The Curse of Knowledge”.  While you may understand the value that you deliver if you cannot concisely explain why someone needs your offering getting a ‘yes’ can be very difficult. This applies to work colleagues as well to clients. If you cannot convey why a new process is important or what the changes to a program mean it is very difficult to get people to comply.

We can solve this problem with a strategic narrative.

A narrative strategy distils a complex concept into a simple story to create clarity around a project, product or service. This shareable story assists in forming a culture of understanding around your innovative solution to motivate people to get on board.

Let’s explain this in further detail with a simple story.

Your ‘Story’ needs to cross the bridge that divides a ‘New Project’ from the land of ‘Implementation’. Once the ‘Story’ journeys across this bridge it explains where it is going to people in the land of ‘Implementation’. ‘Story’ is successful on its journey because people in ‘Implementation’ understand how they can help it on its way.

This is how a story can work to bridge the gap between a new product or service and being embraced by clients, colleagues or the community.

True innovation relies on a clear vision for the future. This is where understanding your unique story becomes truly powerful.

Stories are not born spontaneously in a magical puff of smoke; they are shepherded into the world by a guide and supported by a flock. This shepherd is a strategic narrative advisor who creates clarity around the story of your work so it can move into the future.

Creating the world that we will live in tomorrow requires a bridge to connect your vision to a community. Let your story do the work for you.

Let’s chat! Schedule your 15-minute strategy call now!

Psst, Hey Wanna Get High? On Stories?

Stories make us feel good. Yup, that good.

According to novelist and neurologist, Robert Burton, when we hear something with a beginning, middle, and an end, we get a hit of dopamine. Dopamine is our natural feel-good, high chemical. This is why we love and are addicted to stories. From childhood fairytales to novels, to TV shows and movies, stories have us hooked.

From an evolutionary standpoint getting high on stories makes sense. Stories serve many purposes in society. A few of the primary functions are to educate, inspire, motivate or entertain. A story that creates a shared point of view allows us to see from the same place of understanding. This is key to creating a culture of agreement and shared values.

The following is a story my mother told me about road safety when I was a little girl.

When my mother was a girl she lived next door to a boy who liked to play basketball in his front yard. One day, when he was playing ball, it bounced out into the street. He ran after it, without looking both ways. A car swerved to miss him, but it was too late. He was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg and needed a cast. Even worse than that he needed bed rest and his birthday was a few days away. He had to miss his own birthday party. And that’s why you always look both ways before crossing the road.

When you are a kid death is a big concept to grasp. Even as an adult, it is difficult to come to terms with. But missing your own birthday party? That is terrible, we all know that!

I am now an adult, but I will never forget that story. It has taught me to remember to look before crossing the street and become a useful storytelling tool. Thanks, Mum!

It is a simple story, but the message is clear, ‘Always look both ways before crossing the road.’

Are there any challenges you are facing within your business or organisation? A simple story maybe just the thing you need. Imagine a story that explains how a product or service works, or a narrative that inspires your customers to follow you on a social media storytelling journey.

A narrative strategy could be just the ticket. A narrative strategy uses the power of stories within your personal or professional realm to create a strategic way to inspire, education or motivate your employees, co-workers or clients.

I used the story of the little boy who missed his own birthday to explain how attaching a story to a message is effective. It conveys a message in a memorable and efficient way. The right stories addressing the right pain points within your business or organisation will create the same results.

If you want a hit of story, get in touch about my mini-narrative strategy sessions. I come to your location and run a short session to create a story for a problem that you need to solve.

Feed your story addition with me, it will feel good, I promise!

Who Is The Mysterious Lady?

There was nothing unusual about the small wooden pipe except for a tiny glass rectangle protruding from the bottom of its bowl. This piece of glass is so small it could be easily missed. For those who don’t miss it will see a black and white image if they press their eye against it at just the right angle. A magnified image of a woman wearing a peasant style dress with loose dark waves of hair around her face sits within a gold frame.

The woman in the image has a slight smile on her relaxed lips, not unlike that of another mysterious famous lady, The Mona Lisa.

How can one compare the Mona Lisa to a miniature photo of a peasant woman magnified on the bottom of a pipe? The similarity lies not in what it is, but what it represents.

The image in the tiny glass window the size of a hole in a large knitting needle is fascinating. Who was this woman? Was she the wife, daughter or lover of the pipe’s owner? And who was the skilled crafts person who created such a small and perfect magnified glass image on the bottom of this pipe?

This is something that I am not ever likely to find out. That is what makes this story great. It is a mystery with more questions than answers. This pipe and its hidden treasure are very old and the woman, the pipe’s creator and the original owner are all long gone.

A good story does not have all of the answers. A good story leaves something for the imagination of the reader to insert his or her own interpretation into. A story that asks questions allows the audience to create their own meaning in the story.

Who is the lady in the pipe? Who do you think she is? Tell me in a comment below!

Free Storytelling Workshop!

Save the Date!

 My Interactive Storytelling Workshop Date Is April 8th 2016, 4:30 – 6 pm!
This workshop is going to be fun. I can’t wait for you to join me at NAB Village room 5. If you don’t know which room that is don’t worry, there will be a sign. After the game stay for a drink or two. What a great way to finish off a week.

This workshop will be a live interactive board game experience. If you would like to play and bring a friend to play along, let me know. They are more than welcome, just hit the button below to register yourself and your friends!

If you can’t make this date, I am very sad to hear it! Hopefully you can play a game with me some other time. If you can make it and would like to attend please send me an email at megan @ spendloveandlamb.com

When you register I will send you an update each week in the lead up to the event and give you a clue towards a problem we will be solving together. This week’s clue is –

What should each and every story have? Think about this, I want you to remember to bring a representation of this to our workshop. This could be anything. The actual object, a photo of it or something that reminds you of it. We will need these objects to play with in the workshop.

I can’t wait….

Life Is Lived In The Little Moments

Life is not about the big stuff. Everything that is important is quite small.

We tend to think of a person’s life as a long and complex story. A biography shouldn’t be a short easy read right? It should be a complex narrative that examines a person’s loves, struggles, accomplishments and failures.

What if I said while life is complex, it is the little moments that count. Each life journey is made of millions of micro stories. All of these tales collected together create a much larger narrative. But the tiny moments carry the most meaning.

For example, the story of a wedding could start with a chance brushing of hands on a train during a morning commute to work. If that chance encounter on the train didn’t occur this couple’s life may have turned out differently. Our couple would not be tying the knot all of these months later. The moment they first touched is when this love story began.

What moments have you experienced today that you would like to share with your audience? Your ability to recognise and explain the relevance of seemingly insignificant events are the way to create the story of your life or business.

Pay attention to the little things, the small details. This is where your greater story comes together and the meaning of your life unfurls.

The next step is to tell them to the right person to move your personal and business goals forward.

Why Should I Care About Your Content?

Attention and time are at a premium. If you find you are experiencing information overload, so is your prospective audience.

And yet things do manage to grab our attention, how does that happen?

If matters to you, it will matter to someone else. Viral content is something people connect with so much they want to share it.

How do we tap into this power of caring and sharing?

Does this sound familiar? “Write about what you know” or “You can’t sell something you don’t believe in.”

Personal experience wrapped in a story creates a message that sticks. Where do these stories come from?

Imagine two rings, one ring is your personal story and one is your audience’s needs or interests. The goal is to find the sweet spot, that place that overlaps. That is the place where you harvest your stories from.

This is key to telling a story that gets noticed. People only pay attention to something that directly relates to their lives. This is out of necessity, there is so much content out there.

Connecting with and harvesting your own stories is a skill that can be learned. It is process of uncovering why you think something is important. Then fleshing out this ‘why’ into stories that illustrate your connection to what you do.

The next step is thinking about your customer base, what are their needs? What stories would appeal to them? You need to tell the right stories to the right people to grab someone’s attention. Creating a story that stands out is imperative to creating the traction you want with your audience. Focusing on universal themes like health, love, success or loss are powerful because we have all experienced these situations.

How can you tell if you story is worth telling? Make sure the story resonates with you first. First ask yourself, what do I love about this story? Tell your story to other people, what did they find interesting about the story? Take that feedback away and start crafting a narrative that sticks. Make the theme is universal enough to speak resonate with a large audience and small enough to include your unique point of view. It is your life that gives the story it’s meaning.

I will be facilitating a workshop at Pausefest on February 13, exploring the world of Explainer Videos. I will teach the fundamentals of creating a narrative for your video and my co-facilitator will focus on DIY techniques for producing your video. For more tickets and information visit the Pausefest website.

 

 

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.