Different ways to tell the same story

AST speaking

Driving home recently I was listening to Jonathan Ross on BBC Radio 2 talking about space exploration. Someone happened to mention Neil Armstrong and Ross recalled a time when the famous astronaut came into the studio to be interviewed by fellow DJ Steve Wright. Apparently, one of Armstrong’s assistants took Wright to one side before the interview and said, “Oh, and would you mind not bringing up the moon thing?”

This is a dilemma facing people who are well known for one thing; in this case we all want to know what it was like being the first man on the moon. But after a while it must have been a bit tedious for Armstrong to be asked the same question.

Businesses face a similar challenge. There’s a school of thought which says your 60 second elevator pitch should always be the same, but after trotting off the same old stuff for months on end you’re going to get a little bored of hearing yourself. Complacency creeps in and this can come across in your tone and demeanour.

Equally, when companies have a stab at content marketing and start producing blogs, they can get rather one-dimensional if they stay within the narrow technical confines of their product or service. I recall meeting someone who ran a chain of dry cleaning stores and he asked me, “How do I make dry cleaning interesting?” I suggested that rather than talking about the cleaning process it might be better to talk about the clients he served. After all, every garment that’s brought into a store has a story behind it. There’s a reason why it was bought and cherished, why it got dirty or damaged and, crucially, why it desperately needs to be fixed and cleaned by midday tomorrow.

The trick is to talk less about yourself and switch the story to your customers. If you can show how your product or service made a real difference to THEM, you’ve got a number of potential scenarios to talk or blog about. Specsavers have done this with their TV commercials – the “should have gone to Specsavers” theme creates the potential for numerous customer stories, all humorous but highly effective as a way of promoting the brand.

By promoting yourself through the stories of your customers, you’re doing what American storytelling expert Michael Margolis suggests – don’t be the hero yourself, be the quiet one BEHIND the hero. In other words, you’re the enabler or facilitator of positive change. As Margolis puts it, you’re more Yoda than Luke Skywalker!

If you’re famous for one thing, be it winning a gold medal, appearing on The Apprentice or surviving a terrorist attack, it’s really helpful to have different ways of telling the same story. Talking about the way your story has touched (and helped) others is a great way to do that – because it’s being continually refreshed.

As with the business examples, you retain the integrity of your unique brand but you enhance it by bringing others into the same story.

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