Recently I heard a talk by Sharon Pinkenson the Philadelphia Film Office. They’re the folks who bring film production companies and their money to Philadelphia. It’s no accident that the movie Philadelphia was filmed here and not called, say, Pittsburgh.
When I passed her on the way out, I told her, “I heard you speak twenty years ago. You talked about your background in Hollywood as a costume designer and how you’ve seen all the stars without their clothes on.” She laughed and said, “I haven’t used that line for a long time. I’ll have to bring it out again.”
Now, Sharon is a delightful speaker. I loved that line, which was completely appropriate to her talk, especially back when she was just getting started. It was important for people to realize she had roots in “the business,” as they say.
But I was reminded that we’re often surprised by what people take away from our public appearances. When I was a college professor, I was frequently astounded when students would say, “Remember when you told us that story during our class.” I’d have completely forgotten the story, or the fact that I’d told the story, or both. Inevitably it was one of those comments I’d tossed in as an aside, not some point I’d labored over, related to the course content that would be on their exam.
The biggest advantage of telling stories is, “They’re memorable.”
One of the biggest downsides of telling stories is, “They’re memorable.”
Your audience remembers your story – or even one line in a story – long after you forgot what you said. Some lines I remember include…
…the coach who told a story about living on the streets in her teen years
…the business consultant who maxed out her credit cards on her way to success
…the marketing pro who grew up in a slum on welfare and now gets $400 haircuts
What’s sad is I don’t remember the promise and message of these very talented business owners. I just remember their stories, which they told often.
On the other hand, I also remember stories about…
… how Connie Ragen Green taught her retired friends to make money on the Internet (so they got so busy they didn’t have time to visit her anymore)
… how Alicia Forest designed her business around her family so she could take off each summer to be with her children
… how Tara McMullin’s partner (now husband) rearranged his routine so he could finish his novel in thirty days
What’s the difference between stories that win and stories that lose?
The winning stories…
… add to the business owner’s credibility by showing how they accomplished something meaningful through their own efforts
… reinforce the business owner’s message and brand (so you remember what they do and why they deserve to be respected as experts)
… create an “aha” moment so you come to a new realization that’s meaningful to you, your business or your life.
Clients often begin working with me when they’re frustrated with hearing the “loser” stories from well-known business owners. They say, “I never felt comfortable sharing those stories.”
Inevitably they realize there’s a good reason why they don’t want to tell these stories. Sometimes they work in fields (such as finance or business consulting) where these kinds of stories would be highly inappropriate. Or these stories don’t fit the story archetype that contains their brand and supports their message.
Next week I’ll be talking about these topics when Sue Dunlevie and I talk about using stories to build your blog and increase revenue from content. Stories have the power to boost your business — but their power can be used to achieve the opposite results as well. We’ll explain the difference in more detail. Sign up at http://cathygoodwin.com/blogstory