What’s your story?
Why are you in business? How did you start? What drove you to do what you do? If you work in a larger corporation, what’s their story? Do you know?
Your story, and that of your company is a great way to attract and engage customers (as well as employees) – and yet most of us never take advantage of this incredibly powerful tool.
I once worked for a 92-year-old woman with a voice that sounded like 50-grit sandpaper. She was the founder of a small broadcasting empire. Here are a few highlights of Dorothy Bullitt’s story:
- She built her empire as a single woman when her husband suddenly died – and in an era when single women didn’t run businesses, much less build empires.
- She was, at one point, the richest person in the state of Washington (until some upstart named Gates surpassed her).
- She once cornered Walt Disney on a train, and wouldn’t leave until he, personally, drew the cartoon icon for her broadcasting company.
- She was absolutely committed to serving the public with her multiple radio and TV stations (and to making a healthy profit while doing so).
- She made the world’s strongest eggnog – and could drink more of it than anyone else at the company.
Pretty good story, right? And it’s all true. Now, here’s the sad part:
The only reason I know all of this is because I knew Dorothy Bullitt, and I worked at her flagship TV station – KING-TV in Seattle – while she was alive. When she died, that station, along with the rest of her empire got sold to an outside company, which then got sold to another company, which then got sold to another company. Along the way, the story was lost. You won’t find her story anywhere on KING-TV’s web site. Today’s new employees probably couldn’t tell you who Mrs. Bullitt was. Only the old-timers in Seattle still associate KING-TV with the woman who was committed to serving the public.
Now, KING-TV is a virtually generic local TV station. Better than some, certainly. But there’s nothing that really sets it apart.
I think that’s a mistake. I think it’s a mistake because, as humans, we are hard-wired to respond to stories. Star Wars. Harry Potter. Game of Thrones. All stories. All compelling. All engaging.
When Simon Sinek famously said, “Start with ‘Why,'” he was really saying, “Start with your story.” Your story is what makes you – and, by extension, your company – interesting. It’s what can make people want to find out more, want to support your causes, want to buy your products and services.
It’s particularly important to millennials, who are eager to support brands that stand for something other than just profit.
So what’s your story? Do you have one? (And the answer is almost always yes if you dig hard enough.) More importantly, are you sharing it, in a compelling way, with the people you serve?
If not, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to engage your customers.