Once upon a time, there was a brilliant businessman whose nose for a deal and head for figures led to him becoming the boss of the wealthiest company in the land. Word of his achievements spread far and wide until everyone knew of his economic acumen. But whilst the businessman had everyone’s respect, there was one thing that eluded him: their buy-in. They knew he was clever but apart from that they knew little more about him.
Because every time the business man spoke, he did so in a language that was foreign to all but the most learned minds; conversations littered with ‘paradigm shifts’, ‘yield curves’ and ‘strategic ratios’ were all he spoke – nothing that gave a clue to him as a person. And while people tried hard to understand what he was saying, his words ended up falling on deaf ears. Because for all his skills, he lacked one of the most important…the ability to tell a story, and more importantly, to tell his story.
Because when it comes to getting buy-in for your personal brand, story-telling is a great way to make yourself memorable.
I recently read Make It Stick by Chip & Dan Heath after a recommendation from a contact of mine (a recommendation I pass on to you) – a book looking at why some ideas take hold and why others come unstuck. It suggested six tenets to follow if you want to get your messages to hang around in people’s minds, one of which was to tell a story.
Because when we hear a story, our minds metaphorically move from room to room, creating a simulation of what we’re being told that helps us understand and (hopefully) motivates us to act. (Ask yourself how easy it was to get the gist of what I was saying in the opening paragraphs of this blog – that’s because I told a story.)
So it makes sense that stories should be at the heart of your personal brand messages.
This was entirely in evidence when I attended last week’s Women’s Business Forum to hear debate and discussion on getting more women to the top jobs in business. The speakers who told stories to get their messages across were the ones who stuck in my mind and, judging by the audience’s reaction, the ones who got buy-in most quickly to their personal brands.
So when Carla Stent, COO for Virgin Management said getting to the top could take its toll on your relationships, she also told us how she’d almost lost her marriage because of the incessant travelling her job entails, and how she and her husband had come to a deal to save it.
Or when Kirsty Bashforth spoke of being a mother whilst also being the Head of Organisational Effectiveness at BP, she brought the point home by telling how her son had asked what she did at work and she’d explained she was like the headmistress of his school who set the rules.
They held our attention with stories, not statistics, so their messages stuck in our brains. But not all the speakers’ stories were simply to illustrate a point. Some had the effect of helping the audience to - in only a few sentences – understand everything about the presenter’s personal brand.
Nancy Staisey, MD of Life Sciences at IBM told a tale of leaving an interview and ending up stuck in a pitch black room, feeling her way along the wall looking for the door. In itself, there was no real moral to the story…but it certainly had people laughing. And that ability (and wish) to amuse us spoke volumes about her personal brand.
So when you’re communicating with people, think about how you can use stories to help your messages be understood and – more importantly – to stick in people’s minds.
Do you someone know whose ability to tell a story helped you to buy into their personal brand? What are you doing to be like them?
If you’d like to read more about using language and messages to promote your personal brand, you can read some of my previous blogs here.