#89 Do you do this one key thing to ensure your audience trusts you?
Don’t Just Talk About it, Be About it
Have you ever seen one of those ads on Instagram for a beautiful, life-changing something or other? A gorgeous jacket, a miraculous makeup solution, the perfect tool for you home. Have you seen them and been so impressed that you clicked over to their site, put in your credit card details and shipping address and hit buy? Only to have a cheap, sad version of the shiny thing you saw on Instagram show up at your door a few weeks or days later? Do you remember the disappointment? That is the feeling of a broken promise. And it’s one you want to avoid when it comes to sharing your story with the world at all costs. Because will you ever buy from or recommend or have anything to do with that company that disappointed you?
It’s easy to say something, it’s harder to embody and show up fully in that thing you said—to create experiences that reinforce that thing you said in a way that is believable and authentic. That is the challenge of brand storytelling especially, but storytelling in general.
It’s the idea of walking the walk of your story. As the subtitle of this note says: don’t just talk about it, be about it. When you put something out into the world, when you say something about yourself or your brand, you are making a promise and your actions after making that promise deliver on it. Or they should. Don’t say you’re an activist and then let harm slide because it’s too difficult to take on or cause harm yourself. Don’t say your hotel creates the best vacation experience then screw up the check-in process. Don’t say you’re the best person for the job and then show up late on the first day.
In other words, don’t make a promise in the story you tell that you can’t keep through your actions. A few months ago, facebook started sharing positive stories about itself on people’s timelines in an effort to boost people’s opinions of the controversial online platform. It had a name and everything: Project Amplify. Their promise was that they were good actors in society, their actions in this and other circumstances say otherwise. Because, I guess, the social network decided it’d be easier to manipulate people’s opinions of it through these stories (written by them and others) than it would be to show up in the world and act decently. And you know, what? They’re right. It is easier to pretend, to make a promise and not follow through, but when you’re found out, it erodes trust that is nearly impossible to build back. Also your story becomes a lie and that is an abuse of story that hurts my heart to hear about or experience. And also, importantly, oftentimes it’s better to do the hard thing and show up for your customers.
One of the reasons I prefer to work with founders, small business owners, and leaders in startups is that they are often more willing to do the hard work of making promises and delivering on them. There’s an integrity and commitment to serving their customers that sometimes gets lost in the long hallways and broken telephone of large corporations.
And it sucks. That feeling of disappointment sucks. It is hard, the bigger you get to keep a promise through the experiences you create, but that just makes those experiences so much more powerful. When I left the advertising industry and corporate life, it was partly because I gave up on trying to convince people within large organizations to care enough about their customers to do the hard things like make promises in their stories and deliver on them.
But I want you to think about the feeling you had the last time you really looked forward to an experience with a brand with a person with a thing and then you had the experience and it lived up to and surpassed your expectations. That’s the feeling you create when you tell a story and then through your actions prove it to be true. It’s what I try to do with my clients and what I try to convince my clients to do for their customers. It’s the best feeling ever and it creates meaningful connection between the teller and receiver of stories—it makes fans of people.
What I’m saying is there’s more to storytelling than just putting it out there. You need to make it true and real in the ways you show up after sharing it. Like many of the best things in life, it can be hard but is worth it.
I’d love for you to share in the comments, what are some of the ways you make your stories true through experiences and authentic engagement?
A Story Well Told
The Art Gallery of Ontario here in Toronto (where I currently live) has an exhibition on that is all about everyday storytelling. The things we as humans do to capture the small stories of our lives. When a friend of mine invited me to see the show and I read up about it, I was immediately thrilled about the chance to see it. THIS IS WHAT I TALK ABOUT EVERY WEEK my mind screamed. This is a description from the AGO about the exhibit: “From the earliest cave paintings to TikTok, humans have found creative ways to document their day-to-day lives. I AM HERE: Home Movies and Everyday Masterpieces… is a revealing look at our universal need to capture, share and cherish the everyday.” It juxtaposes lost and found home movies and images alongside works by renowned artists that focus on celebrating daily life and human creativity. There’s a room all about music collection and a Beatles White Album installation that took my breath away. If you happen to be in Toronto and struggling to understand the indelible power of your story, I’d encourage you to head to the AGO to check it out. It is everything I love about the story of our lives and capturing the little moments as it unfolds.
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