Words stir the imagination, spark emotion, and transport people into a different mindset. A great example of this transformation is seen in a video that went viral in 2011 called “The Power of Words.”
It depicts a blind, homeless man sitting on a city street collecting change. The sign initially in front of him read simply, “I’m blind, please help.” Until, a woman stops and rewrites his sign to say, “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.” The new words become impossible to ignore and the man’s collection container fills up.
The new words forged an emotional connection. They made passersbys relate in an entirely different way to a stranger in need.
Brands can also use words to dramatically change their message and connect with the people they want to reach. Here’s how:
DISCOVER YOUR “AHA!”
To tell an interesting story that sparks a connection, you have to know your reason for being in business and be able to articulate it clearly. What is your purpose? What is important to you? What makes your product different from the competition?
Answering fundamental questions about why you’re in business often reveals those vital nuggets of information about what makes you different, compelling, and interesting to others. Knowing where you’ve been will help you know where you’re going. Ask your team:
- What’s your history? From shampoo to chocolate or business logistics, people want to know the history of your products or services. Has anyone else owned your company? How did it come to be? Was there a creative, historical inspiration?
- Who are your main characters? Whether people, places, or things, every brand story has main characters that helped the story take its shape. Were you inspired by a book? Was there a chance meeting with someone on a subway? Did you have an aha moment while jogging? Did you discover an ingredient on a trip to India? Identify all of the people, real or fiction, and cast of characters that developed your story.
- What’s your mission? This is your ultimate reason d’etre. Why are you in business? What call are you responding to? What problems are you trying to solve? Method founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry set out to transform the consumer goods industry by creating products that “inspire a happy and healthy home revolution” with ingredients that “come from plants, not chemical plants” and be “role models in bottles.” Method’s annual revenue now exceeds $100 million.
- How have you failed? Failure often breeds success. Showing people how you failed along the way and embracing those pitfalls transparently shows people that you’re human, and will help them feel more connected to you on a personal level. Even Henry Ford failed in his early businesses and was broke five times before founding the Ford Motor Company.
- Where are the secrets? Pay attention to topics or subjects that you see people being hesitant to share. Don’t try to sugarcoat a slow year by blaming it on economic downturns or “transitions.” Be honest with yourself and acknowledge the good and the bad. What you’ll likely find is that during those times you normally wouldn’t highlight, the most interesting part of your story will emerge.
- What are you currently saying? Take a look at your current content assets (website, e-books, blog posts, videos, webinars, social media, etc.) to gain perspective on the story you are telling. Literally read each page of your website, click on every link, and make notes of what stays, what goes, and what is needed. The same goes for your marketing materials and sales sheets. If you’re not clearly explaining what you do, whom your products/services are for and how you can help improve their lives or business, make note of that too. This is the time to be true to yourself, so you can be authentic with your customers.
- Remember, words matter. The right words can help you carve out a unique space and make memorable connections with people. A good practice is to cover your logo and design elements on your website and just read the words. Do the words really speak to your brand… or could they be easily transferred to one of your competitor’s websites?
Take time to answer these questions to pull your story out of its box and begin a legacy of storytelling. Dig in and really figure out what factors will make an emotional connection with your audience — then go out and shout your story from the rooftops!
Learn more about using content to tell your authentic story in our book, Brands in Glass Houses: How to Embrace Transparency and Grow your Business through Content Marketing.