When I was young, I set out to see the world – or more specifically California. I remember ending up in Venice Beach where I met a group of similar-aged travelers.
“So what’s your story,” one of them said to me and I knew immediately why she was asking. We were all too young to have careers or marriages and our hobby was obviously travelling. Her question was in search of the essence of how I would define myself.
I was able to tell her my story in very few words. I was a writer and a poet from Canada. She was an artist and a dancer from Sacramento. In our group, we also had a photographer, a philosopher and a perpetual law student. Each of us could set the scene for our own personal narrative in one or two lines.
None of us, by the way, were award-winning, world-class, leading edge or paradigm shifting.
Over the years, as experiences accumulate and expertise builds, it becomes tempting to keep adding lines to our answer. I could talk about my years as a journalist at CBC and CTV or the freelance writing I did in New York or the documentary awards that sit somewhere in a box in the basement. Those things might make good stories but they don’t speak to the essence of how I would define myself.
My story is not a list of things I’ve done; it is a promise of what I can do. My personal narrative may not include poet anymore but it does showcase my current talents. I work with people who speak in public or to the media. I focus their messages and coach their performance.
Too often businesses define themselves by a long list of services they provide or (even worse) with a jargon-heavy paragraph that ends with “solutions provider”. How can I buy your solutions if I don’t understand the problems?
The first step in successful communications is to develop concise key messages that very clearly define your company or organization. Think of a 20-year-old backpacker. The question she’s asking is very simple;
“What’s your story?”