Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leaping Off Points

It isn’t information that strongly engages and motivates people: it’s stories, ones with energy, thought, texture, longevity – and meaningful messages.

Giving audiences anything less than a real narrative puts you at risk of being boring, lifeless, uninspiring; and wasting effort.

You can’t appreciate the full sweep of a landscape when you’re sitting in the center of it. Assume a higher and wider perspective: see how the company’s entire story will appear; will contrast with other stories out there; will fit into the overall business environment and social climate.

Personal outlooks and instincts have their place, but not here. It’s not about you: it’s all about the company and the purest possible embodiment and expression of its attitude, beliefs and voice.

Ideas can become hermetically sealed, or held captive to one person’s thinking, and suffocate. Fling open the story-shaping to input from the strategists, writers, designers and others involved in the effort and the basis of your messages. Openly airing and hearing thoughts around the table is invaluable.

What the company’s outside world truly cares about – and doesn’t care about, are essential things to find out and factor in. Things you can’t assume or presume to know. Go and talk candidly with a cross-section of them, on their turf, about what matters. Everyone will benefit.

Most companies tell their stories one way externally and another way internally. When you remove the difference, dramatic things happen. Conventional thinking moves to the back seat, and opportunities for new clarity, language and breakthroughs come forward.

The best stories reverberate in the mind’s ear. Big Ben-like; Steinway Grand-like, between the lines. Find ways to strike deep chords with your audiences, ones that will echo long after their reading.

People want their imaginations to be inspired; their spirits to be stirred. Use animated, illuminated language, anecdotes and metaphors to ignite, intrigue and excite them.

A company’s story is a living thing. Allow it to be supple; to evolve with changing times and needs -- and keep it from becoming static, inflexible or stagnant.

Stories that succeed strike the right balance on every level. As you develop yours, and before the ink dries, make sure it’s completely 1) clear, 2) relevant, 3) engaging, 4) believable and 5) compelling.

Freely interacting with diverse creative and business people to bring a story to life is a great pleasure in and of itself. It also leads to a richer process and a better outcome.
strategic content development

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Going from Black-and-White to Color

When The Wizard of Oz goes from black-and-white to color, the story springs to life all the more vividly; extraordinarily.

In the eyes of today’s audiences, many companies’ stories, images and messages are missing a richly individual character: a truly distinctive color, contrast, aura; personality.

Looking and sounding monochrome or mundane; or running with the herd is not only inadvisable but strategically suicidal, when people are fleeing sameness and clamoring for uniqueness.

Fortunately, otherwise lost or plain-vanilla identities can be brought to real life and living color. Partly by communicating with…

A One-of-a-Kind Voice. Anywhere, anytime you hear Sinatra or Elvis singing, or JFK talking, it can only be them. Each company can and should sound like no other when it “speaks.” Cultivate a singular voice.

A Decisive POV. Anyone with a strong point-of-view is more sharply defined in people’s minds and memories. Project personality by showing how intently the company thinks and feels about the world.

A Definitive Energy. Dynamic personas rivet attention; excite; engage. All content great and small should both embody and emanate a strong spirit, and a deep sense of passion and purpose.

And remember, it’s not about adding character, like varnish or veneer. It’s about finding and revealing the unique character that’s already there; that exists within. And infusing those qualities into the molecules of every communication, every message.

Building character takes boldness and brainpower, including the ingenuity of storytellers steeped in business and strategic thinking.

The rewards can be dramatic. Even cinematic.
strategic content development

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Authenticity Matters

How authentic is the company’s story?

Because the world is different. There's sky-high demand for businesses that say and do genuinely meaningful things…and low-to-no tolerance for those that pay little more than lip service.

Being true to the core, and to clients, customers, stakeholders and others is fundamental to companies’ success. Which makes authenticity a powerful engine, anchor, and beacon.

Inauthentic stories and messages are simply risky business. Pretending to be authentic is just as perilous. People sense what’s sincere; are sick and tired of spin; and have the power to ruin or revitalize even the largest reputation.

How to communicate authentically? It means marketing and selling from a true-blue place, a place of top-to-bottom integrity:

Creating a perception based on an actual -- not a virtual – reality. Audiences should be able to see and feel what makes the company tick, its ethic, outlook, intrinsic qualities.

Showing the genuine value the business is bringing to its marketplace. Qualify and quantify wherever possible the most relevant and competitive benefits.

Being open-handed. Candor is king, and transparency is a prized currency, so companies need to be as up front as possible in every communication.

Speaking to audiences’ vital concerns. Help them see and believe the company is on the exact same page, and pro-actively on top of their big issues.

Not claiming authenticity but proving it; reflecting it. Let it resonate and be revealed through the company’s actions and activities; illuminated by good, real-world examples.

With so much opportunity and risk riding on the faithfulness of your story, make sure you bring all the right thinking and skill to telling it.
strategic content development