So you’re an entrepreneur. I bet you have an ever-growing to-do list that grows larger every day, in pursuit of your adventurous multi-level strategic plan. Exciting times, filled with big goals and even bigger dreams. But take heed: if you’re like many others out there, that list has one glaring omission, a lapse that might prove to be a major missed opportunity – leading to many more challenges ahead.
I’m referring to that nebulous, niggly thing called storytelling, an item often strewn to the bottom of the overwhelming pile. Storytelling takes all forms, both online and offline. It’s your website, mission statement, news release, interview sound bite, social media presence, YouTube channel, your blurb, your blog and that trusty elevator pitch. Each one is as important as the next, no matter if it’s a 200-page book, a 1500-word editorial or a 140-character tweet.
Here’s the thing: amidst the abundance of media messaging and the clutter of entrepreneurial ventures—some possibly similar to yours—the ability to tell your story effectively and with impact can be your company’s greatest asset, helping you rise above and stake your claim in that chaotic, muddied landscape. Effectively, storytelling done right can significantly affect your ability to be profitable. Yes, it’s true.
After all, storytelling is integral to your brand. In many ways, it IS your brand. If you cannot communicate who you are, what you do and why you do it, you’re just another invisible entrepreneur, another cog in the clogged wheel of entrepreneurial misadventures. Your capacity to tell your story – and tell it well – puts you in the driving seat of your brand, what it means, why it’s important, how it looks, how it feels and how it makes others feel.
And establishing an emotional connection between your customers and your service or product is integral to your success. Alternatively, by omitting that task, you risk people not understanding why you’re relevant. For something that important, why risk leaving it for others to define?
What’s more, if you can’t communicate your corporate narrative, what default message are you telling your prospective customers about your own uncertainty? Better yet, what message are you telling yourself? The message you communicate outward is consistent with what you’re saying –or not saying inwardly. Everyone has a narrative that matters. You need to own up to yours if you want others to do the same.
Here’s the other thing that makes defining your narrative so important: you may wake up one day, a few years or more into running your business, and realize that the story you’ve been telling is no longer consistent with your goals, with where your venture is heading. That’s okay. It happens all the time. But customers pick up on that inconsistency, subtle as it may be. Staying on top of that story will allow you to tweak and massage it as your business evolves, instead of letting a discrepancy take you down a road from which you’ll have a much harder time emerging.
So now that we know why it’s important, how do you do it and do it right?
- Be authentic. Sure, having a personal narrative that pulls emotional heartstrings is a valuable asset. But only if it’s true. And believe me, you can smell dishonesty miles away.
- Be clear. Make sure your story—and the words you use to tell it— is coherent, concise and powerful. The wording you choose, and don’t choose, can make all the difference.
- Be consistent. Make sure all your communication materials tell the same story, speak with the same tone and voice and use words that generate similar feelings and emotional connection.
- Avoid complacency. If you’ve been running your business a long time, don’t assume everyone knows who you are and what you’re about. The “clutter” has probably only increased since you started out and your story may need a refresher. From a strategic perspective, it’s always a good idea to give your narrative a new look every few years so ensure it’s still in line with who you are. Things change. And that’s fine. But don’t move forward without storytelling following your every step.
- Don’t know where to start? Start with the basics. Step one is writing down your thoughts—all of them – about who you are and why you started this business, what gap you’re trying to fill, what you’re trying to do better than others out there. What makes you unique?
- Get help if you need it. Whether you turn to a friend or a family member asking an objective person to read your story to ensure your tone and wording is reflective of you and that you’re being clear and direct, can be very helpful.
Of course, if you’re still overwhelmed, the good news is help is out there. Communications professionals can be your project manager, researcher, writer and editor all rolled up into one. They help you define your business, suss out your ideas and goals and ensure you’re using your own unique voice in every material you communicate. Most importantly, they will make you the storyteller you always wished you were – establishing a personal brand worthy of the successful business it will generate.