Author:  David Reeve, Unleash Culture

One of the best illustrations of the concept of telling your story through character can be found at any funeral. The stories told at funerals are 100 per cent based on the person’s character, not their skills.  We make the dearly departed the hero. Not just any hero, but our hero, and we talk about how their life greatly enhanced and positively affected ours. We get emotional. This is powerful, lasting and proper. Just the way you should tell the story of your brand.

You tell your brand’s story to the world, through character, for two reasons:

  1. To become an attractive brand to do business with, and
  2. To become an attractive brand to work for.

Have you ever been asked to describe what you do for a living and gotten that smile, that nod, that glazed-over look in the eyes, and a mumbled “that sounds interesting” response to your answer?

It might be because you do not truly understand how to articulate the character elements of your business enough to hook your audience.

Consider the difference in these two answers when someone asks me about my business.

Answer one: “I own a consulting brand and I help businesses by building culture in their brands through mentoring, workshops, speeches, facilitation etc. and I work with some of the biggest brands out there”.

Answer two: “I help brands discover greatness within and inspire everyone, everywhere”.

Of course, I use answer two, and people always follow up with, “How do you do that?” To which I say, “Let me tell you a story….

Within every brand story, there are two parts.

  • The skill side of the story, typically what you do and how you do it, and
  • The character side of the story, which is the why you exist. This is the emotional side of your story.

Unfortunately, 90 per cent of people building their brand only focus on what they do and how they do it when telling their story. In other words, only the skill side of their story, leaving the character side out.

This is a mistake.

The story you tell becomes the story others tell.  Remember that. What story do you want them to tell?

When others tell our story for us, we call them brand ambassadors.  Think about the number of times you have met someone, and five minutes later you cannot remember what they do, let alone try to tell their story in a meaningful fashion. Unfortunately for them, you are their brand ambassador, but they have not given you an emotional hook to remember what will help you tell their story.

The real key to telling your story, and to getting people emotionally hooked so they tell your story to others, is to focus on the character side of your story. Culture is the foundation of your brand’s character, thus having a great culture is the key to telling your story.

Telling the character side of your story requires three ingredients, and a combination of these ingredients should always be present in every telling of your story.

Focus on Your Why

You must talk about why you exist, otherwise known as your purpose. Take my example from the second answer, above:

“I help brands discover greatness within.” 

Discover greatness within is my brand’s why, my brand’s purpose. It is why I started my brand and is the foundation for the culture within my brand.

Mention a core value

You should always mention a core value in your story. Core values are the fabric of your character, acting as a lighthouse, and are one of the key foundations for building culture.  One of my core values is “inspire everyone everywhere.” In my answer above, I include a core value to get people emotionally hooked.

You Need a Hero

You must always have a hero in your story. Someone that you shine the spotlight on in a great way.

Stories love heroes.  Good vs. evil where good always triumphs, or the hero vs. a challenge and the hero always triumphs.  We always want to root for the hero and we are emotionally drawn to the hero’s journey. In your stories, always feature a hero, either a great team member or an amazing client.

Finally, it is critical that the story you tell to the outside is a true measure of your culture on the inside. It is hard to go through life wearing a mask, outwardly displaying one thing while feeling another way altogether on the inside. It is emotionally draining and easy to spot as fraudulent by others.

The same applies to building culture. Your culture should never display an image outside that does not match what is happening on the inside.  So how do we make sure the story we are telling the world aligns with who we are and what we are feeling on the inside?

It takes everyone doing their part. Everyone, and I mean everyone has a role to play. It simply cannot come down to a handful of people to make sure the story stays alive on the inside.  It starts with developing an authentic purpose and core values and then living them every day. Then it is about engagement, contribution, and a belief that you are truly building something very special.

Soak all this wonderful energy in, let it fill your soul with happiness, realize that you can make a difference in any outcome and you will never, ever, have to worry about the inside and outside measuring up, it will just naturally occur.

By developing the character side of your brand, you are building an amazing culture within your brand and a brand within your culture.

Character is the foundation for generating an emotional attachment to your story. When others connect with your stories you gain their trust. This lasting connection builds brand loyalty, cultivates strong partnerships and lasting relationships, wins over referrals, and attracts engaged team members.

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