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Building a successful brand is all about understanding people. The most successful companies in the world are there because they strategize and think deeply about how people are going to connect with their brand.

Without human connection, your brand has nothing. There’s no one to read your content, buy your products, sign up for your membership, or employ you to solve their problem. Humans want to connect with other humans.

One of the most fundamental methods of connecting with people is through story. We tell stories all day long, and not just historical or fictional stories, but even relating to people about how our days went, or what our goals are for the future.

Special guest Jeff Urke joins the show to talk about the elements of storytelling, why story is important in human connection, and how designing stories can help push your brand even further.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Brand is second to people—everything you’re building should be about people.
  • To tell the best story, open up a new loop before you close the old one.
  • As a brand, you are not the hero of anyone else’s story.
  • Universalize your story by inviting people into something bigger than themselves.
  • Word of mouth referrals are more powerful than any other form of marketing.
  • People aren’t going to care about you until you prove that you care about them.
  • Keep asking yourself why, and you’ll find a story.
  • Take the next step in your brand’s story by asking what you can add without taking your eyes off of your goal.
  • Know who you’re trying to reach—if you’re trying to reach everyone, no one is going to get reached.
  • If you don’t know how your audience wants you to communicate with them, ask them what engages them in a good story.
  • Own your weaknesses and be authentic.
  • Elevate the person you’re trying to reach above yourself and do everything you can to help them succeed.
Show Notes
  • 01:35 Cory: Jeff, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, a 90 second synopsis of who you are.
  • 45:07 Jeff: My name is Jeff Urke, and Cory and I have been friends for about five years. I work at Atascadero Bible Church, and I’m a pastor there. Before that, I had the opportunity to be a technical director at a Christian camp out here in California. I worked for a Christian college doing music and production, and also for the Yamaha corporation of America, helping out with their marketing to churches, which was a really interesting journey.
  • 02:11 I’m really excited to be here. I love talking about stories, and that’s something Cory and I have been talking about this week—how to tell an engaging story. It turns out that Kyle Adams is way more intelligent when it comes to storytelling, and they’ve done a storytelling podcast. We’re going to talk about the fun part today, so we’ll see where we end up.
  • 02:55 Cory: Jeff, your time at Yamaha is very interesting, and I don’t know that part of you very well. I bring that up because today we’re talking about stories that bring people to you. We’ve talked about storytelling in the past, and we had a two-parter on storytelling (Related: e009 Part 1—Your Brand Story & e010 Part 2—Crafting a Narrative). Today, we want to talk about crafting stories that bring people to you. This isn’t just about wanting to explain what something is about; it has more purpose than just to try and get someone to buy your thing.

Why Tell Stories?

  • 03:41 Jeff, why do you think story is important? Not just in brands, but in organizations or people trying to make a living? Why is it important to tell stories?
  • 03:50 Jeff: The bottom line is that we all communicate with stories. A lot of us are not as effective at storytelling than others. We all know the guy that tells a horrible story. It goes something like this: “This morning, I was on my way to work, and I forgot my keys, so I went back into the house. When I got into the house, my seven year old daughter, who just got dismissed from her second grade class, was acting up, and the kid she was talking to… My daughter was already upset…”
  • 04:30 Cory: That’s terrible!
  • 04:31 Jeff: You get lost. I call that a laundry list. Don’t tell me your laundry list! Just tell me your story. We get lost in details so quickly. If we could all be better storytellers, we could communicate more effectively and, hopefully, be more engaging.
  • 04:55 Cory: When you look at the way that humans connect and communicate, it’s all story. I was writing down some notes for today’s show the other day, and I noticed that we’re constantly telling stories. If I were to ask my wife, Kristiana, “What did you do today?” Her relaying that information is not just a list of facts. It’s a story. “Well, this morning, I woke up. I loaded up the latest show from the seanwes network that I write the show notes for, and then Rylynn woke up.” It’s a progression of something that has happened.
  • 05:36 It doesn’t necessarily have to be historical. You can also tell a story by me asking, “What are your goals? What do you want to do?” You would say, “In the future, I would love to…” and then you start to talk. The way humans communicate is important to know as a brand. We talk about branding, because this is a show about brands.

Brand is second to people.

Everything you’re building should be about people.

  • 06:16 Look at the most successful companies in the world. They’re talking to people and solving problems for people. They’re about human beings. A lot of people get caught up in saying, “How do I sell this service so I can make a living so I can pay my rent and do whatever?” But that’s third, fourth, way down the list. Your brand needs to exist to connect with other people, and that’s what story is about.

What Makes a Good Story?

  • 06:48 Jeff: If you actually look at the things we learned in elementary school when you had to pick apart story, first there are characters. There’s character development. As you talk about a vision, dream, or what you want to do in five years, invite people into your character and who you are as a person. Show them that this is something you are created for, how you function well, or things that you’re gifted in. Those phrases and terminology invite people into your character and who you are, so as you tell a story and you’re developing characters, that’s one part.
  • 07:24 Then, there’s the setting. Where are you? That’s painting the scene. The most important thing in story, in my mind, is conflict. When you have a conflict that creates tension and you resolve the conflict, that’s where amazing things happen in communication. Frankly, we’re horrible at this. Don’t spoil the punch! Don’t rob yourself of the punchline. We do it all the time. Let me give you two examples of that. One example would be, “So I put bleach in my hair this morning.” If I start there, you get a little chuckle, but what does that mean?
  • 08:12 Let me give you another example. This morning, I got up at 5:30am because I was super excited about this podcast. I couldn’t sleep. I roll out of bed and it’s still dark outside. The power is out in my house, I’m not sure why. I hobble into the shower, stumble over a couple of things, and I think, “I’ll take a shower in the dark. Let’s see how this goes.” I’m in the shower getting cleaned up, and I reach down where the shampoo should be, and it isn’t there. I pull back the curtain just a bit, reach out to the shelf right outside our bathroom, and grab the shampoo bottle. I open it and put it in my hair, and I start to do my hair. I feel this burning sensation.
  • 09:02 What I didn’t tell you is that the day before, we were trying to figure out a way to get the dirt out of the grout in our bathroom. We were trying to scrub with all different kinds of stuff—peroxide, bleach, vinegar, everything. Let me stop the story there. At that point in the story, I’ve built some tension. Now, you’re frustrated that I didn’t finish the story, and I’ve got you. Before, when I said that I put bleach in my hair, you were thinking, “Let’s please move on. That’s odd.”
  • 09:37 There’s no punchline there. It doesn’t help you process. Now, if I develop the story around that, having already given you the punchline, I could still lead you to the same conclusion. The second time, I lead you to the conclusion without ever saying it.
  • 09:52 Cory: There’s a marketing term for that a lot of people in our field use. It’s what we call “open loops.” It’s this idea that you have this loop that you want to bring people around to, so you open up a loop, and that’s where the tension is created. At the end of every good Breaking Bad episode, for example, it leaves you thinking, “What’s going to happen next?” You sit there and you think, “Oh my gosh, the next episode doesn’t come out until next week,” unless you’re watching it on Netflix and you can binge watch it. You create this open loop where someone wants to get to the conclusion.

The best kind of storytelling is where you open up a new loop before you close the old one.

  • 10:59 Let’s say you get to the end of the show. We’ll create our own TV show now, and this show is called Breaking Good. You get to the end of the show, and his wife comes up to him and says, “I just got this phone call from your ex mob-boss,” and then the episode ends. You’re thinking, “What was the call? What was that all about?” You get to the next episode and you find that out, but before you find that out, usually, there’s another section beforehand that opens a new loop. The tension in story helps keep people interested.
  • 11:52 When it comes to telling your story with your brand, oftentimes, people think, “I can just write an About page,” or, “I can say, ‘Here’s my product and what it does,” and if you look at a lot of successful brands, you’ll see something different. Before they get to the place where you can actually buy their product or find out more about it, a good copywriter will come in and try to address the problem. At the very top, it will address the problem or offer the solution that you’re looking for. Write out what the thing is that the person coming to your site wants.
  • 12:34 Then they go, “Yes! I want to be that person or have that lifestyle.” As you go down the page and you’re reading, you’re putting these things together. You see testimonials, strategies, and so on. At the very end, you see what it is, so don’t spoil the punch.

Stories Solve Problems

  • 13:26 Jeff: You bring up an interesting point, Cory, as you talk about how this solves a problem. We so quickly say, “Here’s a list of all the ways that my product/brand/creation is ultimately going to solve a problem for you,” because the natural inclination is for us to want everyone to understand all of the features. We list them, and that’s when the laundry list thing comes in. Don’t give me a laundry list, give me a story. What’s interesting to me is this book idea.
  • 14:05 Cory’s got his book, Nice To Have. It’s not stuff that necessarily solves a problem, so how do we give that laundry list of features without creating the tension of the need? There isn’t necessarily a need. What you do is you create stories that relate to people, so they say, “I did have that need, but I didn’t know it.” For example, my mom has a business selling rubber stamps. You know these crafty little kits where you get stamps together and you make cards and stuff? If she were to sit here on this podcast and you said, “Janice Urke, tell me about your stamp business!” She would say, “Well, we have different shapes, different cards, different colored papers, embossing, and all these things that make a great kit for you to create any kind of card you might want to create.” That’s what she would tell you.
  • 15:05 If I was going to sit here and tell you about her company, I would say, “The other day, it was Pastor Tom’s birthday. He’s my boss at the church. I was running out of the house and realized it was his birthday on the way out, because I got the thing on my phone, and I didn’t have time to stop at the store and get a card. So, genius Jeff Urke says, ‘I will make a card.’ We have a construction paper drawer in our laundry room, so I grab a piece of construction paper and I stop for a moment. What’s this going to end up like? Am I going to draw a picture? Words?”
  • 15:56 I end up drawing a picture, of our church of course because it’s the pastor, but when it’s all done, I realize, “I can’t give this to anyone.” What did I do? I signed my five year old son’s name on it. I give it to Pastor Tom. I say, “My son made you a card.” Then the story stops. Where is the end? Introduce the amazing stamp collection. Ever been in a situation where you don’t have enough time for a card? Here’s a kit where, in 30 seconds or less, you could make a handmade card that’s amazing. Making cards isn’t solving a problem for me. It’s just nice to have. In that moment, that was a big problem, and obviously, I could have lost my job over it.
  • 16:50 Cory: Well, you lied to your boss.
  • 16:52 Jeff: That’s a fake story. I made it up.

This Is Their Story

  • 17:11 Cory: I talk to people about this all the time who are trying to figure out how to craft their brand, write their website copy, and figure all this stuff out. Earlier, Jeff talked about how every story has a character. It may not be a hero, but it’s either a protagonist or an antagonist. There is a character or a series of characters in every story, otherwise you can’t relate to it. Donald Miller has a company called StoryBrand. It’s a phenomenal organization, and they hold conferences and things like that. They’re really big on hero and who the hero is of the story.

As a brand, you are not the hero of anyone else’s story.

To your audience, they are their own main character.

  • 18:16 They have their own story, storyline, and narrative, and they are the main character. On the seanwes podcast, Sean likes to say, “You’re the only one who lives 100% of your life.” When I produce my website copy, I make my book, or I’m telling a story, I have to tell it in a context where I know that someone’s going to be reading it and caring more about themselves than they do about me.
  • 18:45 Jeff: They’re putting themselves in your story.
  • 18:46 Cory: Exactly. You have to look at that and think, “How do I leverage the fact that people are going to be thinking about themselves more on the onset than they’re going to be thinking about my brand?” I encourage people not to put, “Hi, my name is Cory, I’m a designer,” on their website. Everyone’s a designer. Don’t put that on your website. Make a promise. Write out what you’re going to do for that person, and then explain how you do that. Then, go and do that for that person. Going back to Jeff’s card story, ultimately, that story is about the people who are going to be buying those stamps. It’s not necessarily even about the brand.
  • 19:33 The laundry list is all about the brand. The story of the conflict, the tension, and solving that problem is ultimately about the end customer or user. As you’re trying to think through how you’re writing, delivering, or connecting with people, it’s about them—the people you’re trying to connect with—more than it is about you trying to make sure that your brand is known.
  • 20:02 Jeff: When you talk about that, Cory, the word “universal” comes to mind. You universalize your story so that it connects with them in a significant way. One of the universal traits of human nature is the fact that we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. When you invite people into something bigger, it gives them the opportunity to be part of your story. Really, you’re inviting people to be part of your story. You want them to find their place in your story.

Universalize your story by inviting people into something bigger than themselves.

  • 20:33 If you look at a company like Facebook, it does a phenomenal job of this. They’re saying, “Introduce your story, your life, whoever you are, into our story, and be part of something bigger than yourself.” When you join Facebook, you feel like you’re part of this gigantic, huge thing. It has people all over the world. That’s the idea of universalism in a branding sense.

Word of Mouth Referrals

  • 21:11 Cory: This goes into our topic, stories that bring people to you. When people feel like they’re heard and you actually care about them as a brand or an organization, that’s going to be infectious. The kind of stories we want to tell are ones they will want to tell other people about. There’s this excellent website that just released a new update, unsplash.com. I love Unsplash. It’s like Flickr but free. It has high resolution images, and people can submit their pictures. There’s a main feed and list. I love this website, because they are crafting a story. In this one, single-line feed of high resolution pictures, they are telling me something. In their case, they’re telling me, “We want imagery to be beautiful and we want you to have access to it.” I love that.
  • 22:27 Because they’re connecting with me and they’re inviting me to tell my story through pictures, in a sense, I want to share that with other people. I tell my friend Andrew, I tell you, I tell my designer buddies. People want wallpapers? I say, “Go to unsplash.com!” There are some great pictures there. I have revolving wallpapers on my computer, and probably 90% are from that website. They’re so good. That’s where we want to get to. We want to get to the point where people are going out of their way to tell people about you. I wrote an article about word of mouth referrals on medium at medium.com/@corymiller.

Word of mouth referrals are more powerful than any other form of marketing.

  • 23:14 You can use content marketing, advertising, or commercials, but they are nowhere near as powerful as word of mouth referrals. If someone came to me and showed me an ad and said, “Hey, look at this thing,” me seeing that ad doesn’t do much for me. It would be different if Jeff were to come to me, because we have history, friendship, and he knows me, and he said, “Hey, I just bought this product and had this interaction with this company, and you should check them out.” There’s a brand Jeff and I both love called Sweetwater, an audio and visual distribution company. What I love about Sweetwater is that with every single order, Dan sends me this email and thanks me for my order. It’s not just a receipt.
  • 24:17 It’s Dan from Sweetwater saying, “Hey, you just bought this thing.” Then, when you get the box, you get candy! There’s candy in the box with every Sweetwater order.
  • 24:32 Jeff: At the office where I work, we get Sweetwater boxes and people get excited about it. They don’t care about microphones or cords, but they want the candy. Cory eluded to the idea of giving people a reason to sell your product for you, and I think there’s one key to allowing people to do that. Human nature is selfish, so everyone expects your company to be out for itself. That’s a given. “Obviously, they’re going to try and sell me their product and tell me why it’s better than the next one.” This is no news to anyone here, but there’s something so powerful, and that is the Kohls Effect from Miracle On 34th Street.
  • 25:24 In that movie, the Kohls sends people to other stores. Let me give you a Jeff Urke example. One of the things I’ve done for Yamaha Corporation is some training on piano keyboards. We go to these conferences and do training on keyboards, and inevitably, there’s always one, if not more than one, person in a keyboard class who will say, “I need a keyboard that can do this.” They’ll raise their hand and describe something that the Yamaha product cannot do. Yamaha has been so great at saying, “We’re not scared to have you show them another product so the end user gets the right solution to their problem.” Many times, I’ve sat there and said, “Yamaha keyboards can’t do that, but let me show you the Roland one that can.”
  • 26:19 That’s really going to be a better solution for them. What’s hilarious about that is that then they’ll buy the Yamaha one. They think, “These people believe in me, and they’re more concerned about me than about selling their product, so I’m going to get a product where I know I’m going to get good support for it. I know that I’m going to be able to get my questions answered. I know that they’re going to care about me and my experience with the product as opposed to just about selling it.” It speaks volumes.

Your About Page

  • 27:23 Cory: Garrett asked, “Should I craft my website in such a way that I don’t need the About page, or should I have an About page? Both? Should I leave the About page off? What makes a good About page, if I should have one?”
  • 27:37 Jeff: There are two components to that. One is that people want to connect with your story. Not necessarily your products’s story, sometimes. If there’s an About page, it’s not so much about the details of the product. Connect people with your story as the designer, creator, builder, or entrepreneur that designed this product, and they can see themselves in that story. They’ll say, “That’s something I feel like I need, too.” If there’s an About page, I would just call it My Story or The Story of the Product. How many times have we seen that done in video really well? I’d love to replace About pages with My Story.
  • 28:30 The second thing is if you’re trying to describe features of a product, hopefully that’s done elsewhere. You can get really convoluted in mixing your story with the details of your product.
  • 28:41 Cory: If it’s a personal About page, I firmly believe that if people want to know more about you, they’re going to look for it. A lot of people like to put their About in the main navigation, saying, “Here’s about me!” First off, you need to prove to other people that you care about them.

People aren’t going to care about you until you prove that you care about them.

  • 29:02 That’s just how the cycle works. If they believe that you have their best interests at heart and you’re connecting with them through the front page, the product, or in your store front, because we have a few people here with physical businesses, they’re going to want to inquire about your history and what makes this thing tick. You don’t hand someone a clock that’s wide open with all of it’s gears showing, because that’s overwhelming. You show them this beautiful clock first, and you say, “This is what this clock is about.” When they ask, “What makes this clock go?” You can open it up and reveal a little bit more.
  • 29:49 I’m totally okay with people putting their About page in the footer of their website, because if people want to find it, they’re looking for it. It can be helpful. There’s a lot of power to having an About page or a My Story page, because it helps to make you a little bit more human. Humans want to connect with humans, so let them connect with you.

Uncovering Your Stories

  • 30:19 Steve asked, “How do you uncover the stories you have to tell? It seems so difficult to simply produce an interesting story.”
  • 30:34 Jeff: Sometimes, the stories are right in front of us and we can’t put our finger on it. Let me use something basic, like a t-shirt company, for example. You’re making and designing t-shirts, and you think, “I don’t have a story. I just make cool t-shirts.” Sometimes, as Steve says, the story is right in front of you but it’s hard to uncover. What are some steps to identify it? Start by asking the why. Why am I making a t-shirt to begin with? I did it because my buddy was going on a surf trip, and that’s why I started. That led to something else, and now they’re telling a story. I didn’t know that story, but I uncovered it by asking the why question.
  • 31:46 Cory: In one of our first episodes, we talked about mission, values, and purpose (Related: e002 Values, Mission, and Purpose). The mission is the what—what am I trying to accomplish? The purpose is the why. Why am I trying to accomplish it? And the values are the means by which you accomplish that mission. When you’re talking about uncovering the stories you have to tell and asking the question why, it’s the magic of three whys. I was listening to a podcast recently, and the guy said that if you’re trying to figure out if something is a good decision or not, ask yourself three whys.
  • 32:25 Maybe even five. Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I want to accomplish this. Why? I want to accomplish this because it’s part of my past, and I really want to make sure that other people who have this problem are able to overcome it. Why? It’s really important to me.

Keep asking yourself why, and if you get to at least five whys, there’s going to be a story,or you should stop doing that thing.

  • 33:02 You might even get to the point of saying, “I want to just make money from this.” That’s a why. It’s not very compelling, but at least you know why you’re doing this. Then, you can ask again. Why do you want to make money?

Telling Your Story

  • 33:30 Allison asked, “Is it possible to over-use a story? Or is it good to hyper-focus on a story so it becomes part of your clear identity as a brand?”
  • 33:43 Jeff: One of my notes as Cory and I were talking about this podcast was, “Rinse and repeat.” The rinse side is distilling it. You take a story that can, at times, be complex, and you distill it down. Get it down to some core things, like rinsing. Then, repeat it. The more often you repeat it, it gets more focused and more distilled down, and you learn how to tell your story better. There can come a point where you’ve released all of the tension that your story has to the same audience, but hopefully, you’re introducing your story to a new audience all the time. You’re telling your story over and over and over again in a more unified, clear way, to a different set of listeners. I think there’s a lot of value in repetition.
  • 34:31 Cory: That actually kind of goes into Brent’s question. He asked, “Once you’ve crafted your brand’s story, how do you take it a step further? Where do you go from there?” Well, where is your brand going? If you’re all about, “I’m going to get to this place, and now here I am, and this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, this one exact thing that never grows, changes, or gets added to,” then you’re going to stagnate. If you feel like you’ve crafted your brand’s story and you’re there, ask yourself, “What’s next? How do I better engage with my audience? How do I better connect with my customers?” Take it a step further by asking what’s next.
  • 35:12 If I’ve got a foundation, what do I build on that? Let’s say that you have a brand, but you don’t have any content marketing going on. Start a blog. Start a YouTube channel. That’s how you can take it to the next level. Start a Vlog. There are people all over YouTube with billions of views every day who are literally sitting there saying, “Hi everyone. I’m just hanging out.” People do that and get millions of views because they’re telling a story, and people engage with that.

Take the next step in your brand’s story by asking what you can add without taking your eyes off of your goal.

  • 35:48 Jeff: What are the different mediums you could use to tell your story? You’ve got visual, auditory, and imagery. There are lots of different ways to tell your story. If you’ve crafted a story and told it as many different ways to as many different people as you can, then it’s time to get a new story. New stories come in changes in direction or new visions in your company. There’s the bell curve we’re all aware of in any company or organization. You’re on this incline for a while, and you maximize your story and your audience. You get to the top of the curve, and naturally, you start to descend.
  • 36:37 When you get to that point, it’s time to tell a new story. It may have to be a new product, a new vision for your company, or a new way of doing things. Tesla is a great example of this. I love Tesla.
  • 36:51 Cory: They recently acquired Tesla.com. They were Tesla Motors for a while, and some dude was sitting on Tesla.com. They haven’t released how much they bought it for.
  • 37:04 Jeff: Think about Tesla. They marketed and told their story to a very specific clientele, and they killed it. People that could buy $120,000 cars all bought Teslas, because that was a great story and a great solution to a problem. It was all the things we’ve been talking about, but they got to a point where they saw that that had maximized their potential in this field, so it was time to start telling a new story. Now, they’re talking to the people who can afford a $30,000 car. That’s a whole different solution to a whole different problem. They reinvented themselves, got a new audience, and started telling a new story.
  • 37:47 Cory: That’s just part of making sure that you’re not stagnating. There are very few bands that have released a set number of albums and have increased in popularity over the years. Oftentimes, with a lot of small bands or musicians, when they stop creating, they plateau. Some bands keep increasing in notoriety and getting bigger, even though they’ve passed away or their work was gone for a while and then it came back. Look at Van Gogh. He was never celebrated in his time, and then he died. Hundreds of years later, we are all saying, “He was a visionary! He was amazing! Look at his great paintings!”
  • 39:01 You have to determine whether or not you’re going to keep going up. You’re the one who determines whether your brand keeps going up, and part of that is introducing new story. That isn’t changing your current story, necessarily, but you can add to it. Harry Potter book eight is about to come out, which is going to be a play in London. There’s this set framework of Harry Potter, and by adding something to it, she’s keeping the momentum going forward.

Metanarrative

  • 39:33 Jeff: That introduces a really interesting point that we could do a whole other podcast on, and that’s metanarrative—the bigger story that overarches all of the little stories. You bring up bands, and I love Coldplay. Chris Martin comes out five or six years ago and he says, “I’m done with music. It’s run it’s course. I’ve had the success I’ve had. Peace out.” He builds an enormous amount of tension for Coldplay fans, but that’s a micro-story that plays into his metanarrative. Suddenly, when he does decide to come out with another album, this conflict is resolved for all of the fans.
  • 40:21 He sells more records than ever before. It’s part of his metanarrative. It’s almost like he master planned it and said, “At this point in my career, I’m going to peace out, and then I’m going to come back with a vengeance.” Now, he’s playing at the Superbowl because people engaged with his story.
  • 40:37 Cory: Look at Adele. She’s amazing. There were four years between the albums, and people were wondering, “What happened to Adele?” She made a song for a James Bond movie, Skyfall, but then she shows up and says, “I’m not doing streaming. You can buy the album.” It breaks every record that has ever been made. She added another part to her story.

Can You Be Anecdotal?

  • 41:21 Ayah asked this question, “Is there a limit to how anecdotal your brand story should be, and does that affect the brand image?”
  • 41:36 Jeff: I’m probably not the right person to answer this question, and I’ll tell you why. I’m a rabbit trail guy. I’ll tell a number of stories surrounding the actual thing I’m trying to get towards, and hopefully they make sense at the end. There are a lot of other guys who would probably say, “Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct. I don’t want to hear what you had for breakfast this morning. I just want to know why you threw up.” I’ll hesitate in getting to the point, a lot of times, because I want to build a little bit more tension. This is a great question, because I have a tendency to be too anecdotal with story and not focus right in on the brand.
  • 42:47 Anyone who knows my history or background knows that I don’t have a product and I’ve never created a company, and maybe that’s why. I end up coming around things sideways, the bottom, the top, inside, and through, instead of going straight for it.

Know Your Audience

  • 43:21 Cory: Eric asked, “Story is vital to people who care about and connect with you. How do you figure out what story people will care about and what they won’t?” This goes back to understanding who your audience is (Related: e003 Defining Your Target Audience). We talk about it all throughout the podcast, but you have to know who you’re trying to reach. Know the kind of person you’re trying to sell to, connect with, or invite along. Who is that? You have to know if you want to craft a successful brand story. If you’re firing in the dark hoping you’ll hit something, it’s not going to work. People won’t connect with that. Then the people you’re trying to connect with won’t feel like you’re speaking to them.

You’ll find the story people are going to care about when you know who you’re trying to reach.

If you’re trying to reach everyone, no one is going to get reached.

  • 44:37 Jeff: Hopefully you know your target audience, and you start with your story there. Some people are asking this question in the context of wanting to broaden their target audience, but start with the one you know you already have. Then you can start to reach a new target audience, which will bring a different way of looking at your story. Start with what you know.
  • 45:07 Cory: Cory McCabe, my good friend, is a filmmaker and does videos, and he asks, “What kind of stories are best when it comes to attracting people to more of your content? Can we just tell any good story, or are there different storytelling methods that work better than others?” This goes back to knowing who you’re talking to. You’re going to tell a different story to an executive or a CEO than you’re going to tell to middle class, working class stay at home dads. That’s going to be a different kind of story, because you’re reaching different kinds of people.
  • 45:43 Jeff: He used the word “methods” in there, which is interesting. Generationally, Cory and I would probably say, “Let’s tell a story through a video, a website, something narrative, visual, or graphic.” It brings up the question of what method you should use to tell a story to a 50 or 60 year old, and how you should communicate to them. The answer is probably that we don’t know until we ask them. Know your audience and how they want to be communicated to. That’s a question I’ve asked a lot in our organization. I’m trying to figure out how people want to be communicated to, and I don’t know the answer to that.

If you don’t know how your audience wants you to communicate with them, ask them what engages them in a good story.

  • 46:45 With my family, for instance, I can call my mother in law, and before I can even get one sentence out, she’s off on a story. She will tell a story for 15 minutes. There’s a very narrative sense of storytelling for that generation. They want to just talk, to interact face to face. They want you to sit down and tell your story. They don’t want to see it in a video. There’s a personal connection that comes with that.
  • 47:32 Cory: Taking stock of where we’re at currently, there is a rise in different kinds of methods and a decrease in other methods. It very much depends on who you’re trying to reach. If you’re walking by my neighbor, Doris, and she’s sitting out on her porch, you better know that if she starts talking to you, you’re going to be there for 20 minutes. She has this wealth of history, and she wants to communicate that to me. To be honest, I’m not the best target audience for Doris. She’s great, but different methods come when you’re considering who you want to reach.
  • 48:33 I read an article this morning where this woman was arguing that “blog casting,” as she was calling it, was on the rise, where you write a blog, record it, and put an audio player at the top so people can listen while they’re doing their things. It’s similar to podcasting and blogging, but you kind of mesh it. People consume differently. Some people go sit in a movie theater and watch a movie, and other people want to wait until it’s on Netflix or will just read the synopsis online. People connect differently. There isn’t one size fits all. Everyone and every culture is different.
  • 49:21 The way you reach people in France is different than how you reach people in Madagascar, which is different than how you reach people in Sydney, Australia, which is different than how you reach people in Northern California. Even from Northern California to Southern California, it’s different. Understand context and do a little bit of research, and that’s how you push ahead.
  • 49:50 Jeff: Find the medium that you’re gifted at in telling your story first. Start there. Nobody likes a bad story teller. If you sit down with Doris and you try to explain to her all the reasons why your brand is awesome, but you’re not giving her all the history and backstory, she’s not going to care. If you’re not good at telling your story that way, don’t tell it that way. Make a video. Start where you’re gifted and refine that first.

Be Authentic About Your Mistakes

  • 50:26 Cory: Ian asks, “Can telling parts of your story that tell your audience how you got to where you are today hurt or help your brand? For example, the mistakes you made along the way.”
  • 50:43 Jeff: Have you ever heard of Charity: Water and the Failure On Our Birthday blog? Charity: Water is an organization that digs wells and tries to provide clean water and sanitation for developing countries, and it was celebrating an anniversary. It was the birthday of their company, and they were going to livestream the digging of this well in Africa. They built it up and had a bunch of people logged in online for the livestream, which was maybe 10 or 12 hours. They never could hit water. They built this entire campaign up to get people attracted to Charity: Water, and everyone’s watching online at them fail.
  • 51:40 Here’s what’s brilliant. The CEO of the company came back online the next day and released a blog post that’s a staple for nonprofits now for learning fundraising, which was brutally honest and transparent. He said, “Here’s the bottom line. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. Especially for a nonprofit in developing countries, we blew it. We failed. It didn’t work out the way we thought it would, but that’s why we’ll be even more tenacious the next time. That’s why we’re going to keep working at our vision and our mission, what we feel called and lead to do.” Their donor base exploded because there was authenticity.

Own your weaknesses and be authentic.

  • 52:35 People want to relate to you. They want to know that you’ve got issues, too. We all have issues.
  • 52:40 Cory: The word “authenticity” is one of the biggest drivers of the modern-day brand. Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been duped. One of my favorite brands is Everlane, and they’re all about transparency. They talk about their factories and show you pictures of the factories that they work with all over the world. They say, “This is the actual cost of the product, and this is why it costs this much,” and it’s very open and transparent. With something like this, they’re telling the truth about their failure. There’s a genuine spirit to that, and that’s humans connecting with humans.
  • 53:26 If you’re going to tell these stories, the most effective way to tell that story isn’t just, “Here’s what I did wrong and here’s what I learned.” Make it applicable to the people reading it. Give them a takeaway, something that’s going to better their story. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. Is your brand’s story going to make someone else’s story better? Are you bringing life to someone else’s story? Are you making their life better because they’ve interacted with you, read your blog, watched your videos, or bought your product? Will that make them better, or is it only to benefit you?
  • 54:06 If you’re just in it to benefit yourself, you’re not going to win. Being successful comes from elevating the person you’re trying to reach above yourself and doing everything you can to help them succeed. If you receive something back from that, financial or otherwise, it’s worth it.