• ​Your BRAND is nothing more than the sum of the conversations being had about it
  • Companies no longer have EXCLUSIVE control over their brands
  • In a noisy and competitive social environment, COMPANIES need to cut through the noise to influence that conversation
Those three statements form the basis of why effective storytelling is not only useful for brands but why it must be considered a fundamental business decision for companies today.
As a songwriter for 25 years, I’ve always understood the power of story in conveying a message in under 5 minutes, but it wasn’t until “United Breaks Guitars” became a viral YouTube hit that it struck home how important good storytelling is for everyone: songwriters, individuals and, yes, even companies.
Sharing who you are, your journey to where you are today, and what motivates and inspires you is exponentially more important than conveying simply “what” you do.
We all have a story to tell that can capture the hearts and minds of others, and when it’s done well, you can elevate your brand to new levels. From this higher ground, you have the ability to do amazing things. Effective storytelling can get you there but, like anything, it’s a skill that requires attention and patience.
At a recent event in New Zealand, I shared the moving story of Terry Fox as a powerful example of how a great story can accomplish amazing things. A few people knew the facts of the story (that Terry Fox was a young man who tried to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research), but the facts, especially since they occurred in 1980, can seem underwhelming when delivered that way.
His "story" bears out a different reaction, however, I explained that Terry Fox was a teenage athlete who had lost his leg to cancer at 17, at a time when cancer research had elevated his survival rate to a mere 50%, up from 15% in the two years previous. I explained how this awareness of the effects that cancer research could have on the prognosis of others inspired him to take on a massive challenge.
When I described how Terry Fox dipped his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic Ocean, an archaic prosthesis by current standards, and filled two bottles of sea water (one for him to keep and the other to empty into the Pacific when he got home to British Columbia), participants began to take more interest.
When I told them how he ran across Eastern Canada and Quebec with limited success at raising awareness and money, yet averaging almost a marathon each day, and how the impact of each step was aggravating a painful bone bruise and other physical stresses, people in the room began to listen with more interest. When I explained how the momentum started to shift when he got to Ontario and thousands of people showed up to run beside Terry in his Marathon of Hope, interest rose even more.
And when I told them about how Terry broke down in tears to a media scrum on the 143rd day when he announced his run would be cut far short at that 3339 mile mark because his cancer had returned to his lungs, some people in the audience began crying.
The entire audience was moved when I told them that Terry died a year later and never did finish the run himself. But they were also inspired when I shared how Canadians rose up and helped Terry reach his goal of raising $1 for every Canadian within a year, and the audience was awed by the fact that $500 million has been raised since his death, and that Terry Fox is considered by myself and many others as the greatest Canadian who ever lived.
The story gave meaning to the facts, and meaning is what captures hearts and minds!
What Terry Fox accomplished is a glaring example of how a powerful story can give momentum to a big idea. I love traveling the world and sharing the fact that each of us has a story in us that is worth telling and worth hearing. I’ve become quite passionate about it and look forward to expanding on why storytelling should be top of mind for companies interested in growth.
When I come to Washington, D.C. for WPC, I look forward to sharing the elements of great storytelling and how you can be more effective in sharing your story to improve your brand and improve the world around us.​