You are the hero of your own story.
If you’re telling a brand story, the brand is the hero. If it’s a business story (because brands and businesses are not always the same thing), the business is the hero. The same is true of a social media profile, or a job application. Let’s focus on brand storytelling for this example, but know it applies to stories of all kinds.
Impactful storytelling begins with identifying the hero. And understanding them.
The first step in my process as a strategist when building out a brand and crafting its story is to fully immerse myself in the company and people behind the brand. Specifically, what makes them unique. By unique, I mean the one or two things that helps them stand out in a crowd—their special sauce. It could be its people, its approach, the product itself, or a way of viewing the world. There’s always something. We are all snowflakes (not just the Millennials) or at least our heroes are.
So the first step for you, dear storyteller, is to identify that unique thing that makes the hero of your story special. That’s the heart of the hero. From there you need to bring your hero (the brand in our case today) to life. What’s their personality? What do they value? What else makes them different? Interrogate your subject, it is essential if you want to truly tell a story with depth and longevity. Remember you can apply this to yourself if you’re developing a personal brand or just updating your LinkedIn.
I spent most of the holiday re-writing a character in my novel after getting some really great feedback from an agent. (!) All the other characters were living and breathing, yet the main character’s best friend, Lisa, needed more. So I started at the beginning. Dove into who she was before the story even began and what happened in her life. Then I thought a little bit about what would happen after the story for her. I got to know her and she came alive for me. Next, I wrote a character study, I sketched out her life up until the beginning of the novel and identified what made her unique. Finally, I went back to all the scenes she was in and made sure that core thing was shining through in what she said, how she said it, and in the ways in which she showed up. I also wrote a few additional scenes for her to ensure that by the end, the reader knows her as well as I do even if they don’t have all the background. Defining your hero is hard work, but worthwhile.
You need to know your hero as well as that. As well as you know your best friend. BUT. That’s not the end. Because in storytelling, especially brand storytelling, you also need to justify why your hero is the right person/product/company to solve the problems you’ve set out to solve (don’t worry, we’ll definitely talk about the power of problem identification this year). It’s not just because your product works better or you’re smarter. You need to frame why your hero is the solution through the lens of the good they do in the world. What value are they adding in the lives of your audience?
I didn’t really crack Lisa’s character until I understood how she was the hero of her own story and brought that insight into understanding what she was adding to Melanie’s life in context of the story.
Let me summarize all of this because it was a lot. The three steps you need to take to ensure the hero of your story stands out:
Identify what makes them unique (interrogate, ask questions, write down the answers and summarize it in a single sentence)—An exercise I use and a great place to start is by choosing four words you’d use to describe the brand. Go from your gut, the first four words that pop into you head are often telling and will point you in the direction of what makes your hero (brand, business, creation) unique.
Second, bring your hero to life: what’s in their head (what do they think about), heart (what do they care about and/or value), and hands (what do they do and carry with them)—this is a fun exercise to do with a big sheet of craft paper and the outline of a person’s body.
Finally, articulate what good they do in the world. What benefit do they bring? One way I bring this out is to ask clients how the world would be different if they’re product or company were no longer in it? What would we lose?
One more time for those in the make understand: What makes them unique? Who are they? What good are they?
For my story share this week, I want to give you a resource. It’s a guide I made for new folks who sign up for this newsletter. But since you’ve already done that (thank you), I wanted to make sure you still got the benefit of it. It’s a Brand Storytelling Starter Guide. I hope it helps you as you begin to craft your own stories, because one of my goals this year is to get you telling your own stories (not just reading about how to do it from me). Please download your own copy and feel free to share it, though I’d love for you to also encourage folks you share it with to sign up too. I hope you find this helpful and apply it to your storytelling this year. Also, please let me know what you think.
Also, if you’re enjoying this or if there’s something you’d like me to cover in a future letter—an element of your storytelling you may be struggling with, please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’m here to help.
Thanks for reading and I’ll “see” you next week. Whatever the world may bring, there will always be important stories that need you to tell them. I’ll be here to help.