ASKED & ANSWERED is Vistaprint’s small business advice column – each week, experts answer questions from small business owners like you. Today, brand strategist Olivia Christian tackles your questions about standing out and staying motivated.
Telling your story
“Reach any audience with a brand story that is both head and heart.”
Olivia Christian is a brand strategist and workshop lead – her ‘Own Your Story’ workshop has helped thousands of entrepreneurs share their small business stories.
As a Brand Partner at Vistaprint, we’ve asked her to share some of her best advice to recent brand questions.
You asked. Olivia answered.
I hate talking about myself. I know the personal side is so important for marketing but I feel like my story is boring. How do I make it interesting enough to share?
In my ‘Own Your Story’ workshop, I coach participants in a methodology for creating a concise and compelling personal brand story. I’ve been sharing this workshop around the world for years with corporate teams and entrepreneurs, as well as with seasoned professionals and those just entering the workforce. The comment I hear most often, no matter who’s in the room, is “I don’t have a story.” To which I respond, “Uhh, yeah you do.”
We all have a story to tell and there is value in every experience. It’s not important that your story be one filled with drama about your personal and professional journey. Stories of living in your car, or eating beans for a year, or showering with wet naps to save money to finance your start-up are thrilling to hear. But those journeys aren’t more important or more worthy of sharing than those that chronicle everyday opportunities and obstacles.
Your story is what differentiates you from your competitors. It’s what makes you and your product or service unique. Sharing it is an opportunity to connect with your audience on a human level. Constantly promoting your offerings in a “Hey, buy this thing!” kind of way is a turn off. Consumers today don’t want the hard sell. They want relatable…not robotic.
So where do you begin, you ask? Consider this structure:
When: Your inspiration
What: You did next
How: Your honest feeling throughout the journey
Now: Your call to action!
Ready to tell your brand story? Whether through an ‘About’ page or a promotional postcard, there are so many places to tell customers what makes you unique.
I’ve been in a number of pitch contests and my feedback is almost always the same: We didn’t hear enough about you. I understand why they want to hear more about me as a founder, but I don’t know how to incorporate it into my pitch. How can I incorporate my story into my pitch?
Often in my Own Your Story workshop, I use a particular example to illustrate the need and effectiveness of a brand story that is both head and heart…and it involves Sarah McLachlan.
Now, I’m not sure if these commercials run anymore, but back in the day (and often late at night or in the wee hours of the morning), the ASPCA would run tear-jerking TV commercials. Puppies with their big, sad eyes and kittens with their tiny, little noses would appear on the screen, and Sarah McLachlan’s voice would ring out: “In the arms of the angel fly away from here.” Instantly, your heart strings would be pulled. In just a matter of seconds, the desire to rescue these little animals would overwhelm you. That song and their eyes made you feel something. But the commercial didn’t just end there.
Sarah then told us what to do to solve the problem. A website address appeared, a request for a monthly donation was made, and the ways in which you’d be rewarded were announced (I think you’d get a picture or a t-shirt or something). She told viewers the way in which she wanted you to engage.
Because we don’t always know what will motivate a person into action, it’s important to create a personal brand story that is both head and heart.
Some people are driven by data, e.g. the ROI, the demographic breakdown, YOY stats. They need the numbers, so a sob story alone won’t work on them.
Others are motivated by emotion. Take them on an emotional ride and when it ends their wallets will open and their contacts become yours.
When you create a story that has both of these elements you’ve put yourself in the position to reach any audience.
If you don’t have an elevator pitch yet, don’t worry – use this guide to create a compelling pitch for you and your business.