How to Communicate Your Vision Through Stories

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • The communication is emotional.

In other words, your communication should be telling stories.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Laws of Brand Storytelling by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio

We have been sharing stories from the beginning of human civilization―for good reason. Stories captivate our attention and build communities by bringing ideas, emotions, and experiences to life in a memorable way. This is proving to be an increasingly potent strategy in the era of the connected digital consumer. With consumers more empowered than ever before, your brand isn’t what you say it is anymore, it is what consumers say it is. As a result, capturing customers’ hearts and minds today requires businesses to prioritize emotional connections with customers, to be in the moment, having authentic conversations, to share relevant, inspiring stories that move and motivate people to take action. 

Packed with inspiring tips, strategies, and stories from two leading marketing innovators, The Laws of Brand Storytelling shows business leaders and marketing professionals the power storytelling has to positively impact and differentiate your business, attract new customers, and inspire new levels of brand advocacy. The authors lay down the law―literally―for readers through a compelling step-by-step process of defining who you are as a brand, setting a clear strategy, sourcing the best stories for your business, and crafting and delivering compelling narratives for maximum effect. Win your customers’ hearts and minds, and you win their business and their loyalty.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In SUMS Remix 109, “brand” was defined as the perception of your organization that lives in the minds of your audience.

The authors of Brand Storytelling remind us of that: “It’s not about you; it’s about them. Create stories that your audience can relate to. Make your customer the hero. Be human in everything you do.”

Brand storytelling isn’t just about the content you create. Brand storytelling is who you are. Every story adds to a person’s perception of your brand.

Brand storytelling is the art of shaping a company’s identity through the use of narratives and storytelling techniques that facilitate an emotional response and establish meaningful connections.

Brand storytelling done right is never self-absorbed; it is a dialog. It’s human and real and relatable. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or even funny, but it unites, sparks conversations, and puts people first.

Storytelling can take the form of a video, a tweet, a conversation, a surprise-and-delight act, great customer service, or a brand taking a stand on a specific issue. The list is long. A company’s every interaction with the world matters in shaping its story (both at the macro and micro level).

Macro stories are at the core of your organization’s DNA. They highlight your company’s story, its founding myth. They can do so through a logo, a brand identity guide, and the story of the founder(s). What drove the founder(s) to risk everything and start an enterprise? Why was it important? What challenges had to be overcome? How was the ultimate mission statement shaped? Macro stories are the why, the foundation of and the reason for everything the company does.

Micro stories are the lifeblood of your storytelling strategy. They are an “always-on” approach to continue building your macro story. They are the moments in time that allow us to keep our brand at the forefront of everyone’s mind in a relevant way.

Micro stories can come in any shape or form: websites updates, social content, blog posts, press releases, co-marketing and partner messaging, packaging, events , customer stories, employee stories, influencer stories, internal communications, newsletters, e-mail campaigns, product deliver, and so on.

Your micro stories cannot contradict your macro story. They are designed to support and extend it.

Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio, The Laws of Brand Storytelling

A NEXT STEP

According to authors of “The Laws of Brand Storytelling, “Great marketing isn’t just about grabbing attention with catchy taglines and click bait headlines anymore, but holding that attention and building lasting and meaningful connections. Brands can no longer rely on slogans and jingles but must learn to tell stories.”

Set aside some time in your next leadership team meeting to review the concepts of “macro” and “micro” stories as listed in the excerpt above. Write the words “macro” and “micro” on two chart tablets.

For no more than five minutes, list all stories in each of those two categories by name or a brief description. For example, “founding story,” “relocation,” “Sam Smith revival,” etc.

After listing the stories on the two chart tablets, go back and review each one as follows:

Macro stories – Talk through the stories listed, using the questions posed in the excerpt above to guide the discussion. Discuss how these stories need to be woven more into the tapestry of your church’s conversations.

Micro stories – Review the list of micro stories and discuss how each supports the macro stories you previously discussed. If they do not support the macro story, discuss how you will adapt them, or stop doing them.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 118-1, released May 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Join Me on a Trip in the Yellow Time Machine

Note: During the current “stay-at-home” mandates and other restrictions in place across the country, I am diving back into 12 years of posts, articles, and reviews across my different websites to bring back timely information for today.


 

There are times when pictures are worth more than a thousand words…

My wife travels to Baltimore, MD at least once a month on business. Because I work for a virtual company (Auxano) with no “office,” my primary role of Vision Room Curator requires only an Internet connection to “set up shop.” Occasionally, I accompany her and we spend the evening or weekends visiting in the area. Recently we found ourselves with a couple of hours to spare before leaving Washington DC to return home. We have a standing list of places to visit, and we agreed on the National Geographic Museum. Located in the heart of the city just a few blocks from the White House, the Museum had a surprise in store for me:

A literal wall of all the National Geographic magazine covers since the magazine’s launch in 1888.

NGwall1

A story I wrote a few years ago, and updated later, immediately came to mind:

The image below,  from the December 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, once again stirred memories.

Giant sequoia

The following is an updated repost from 2009:

NGM Oct 2009

Images are often powerful reminders of our past. One of my boyhood memories is that of eagerly anticipating the monthly delivery of “National Geographic” magazine.

The familiar yellow border outlining an amazing photo was my ticket for travel around the country and the world. It’s a pleasure I enjoy to this day, as my mother continues give the magazine as a gift each year. Until recently, I kept them all – now going on 36 years, plus dozens of other pre-1979 issues I have picked up at occasional yard sales (but that’s another story!).

The October 2009 issue has a striking image of a redwood tree on it. As soon as I saw the magazine in its shrink-wrapped shipping bag, I was transported back to first grade show and tell: my crude drawing of a redwood tree, taken from a July 1964 NG story.

I filed that thought away, and not long afterwards, had the occasion to visit my boyhood home in Tennessee. I asked my dadNGM July 1964 (who was still living at the time) about that magazine, and sure enough, he had kept the magazines too! I pulled the issue off the shelf and thumbed through it, gazing again at living giants thousands of years old, comparing them to the same family of trees 45 years later. While I enjoyed that trip down memory lane, there was still something tugging at my thoughts.

When I returned home, I searched my library and found the answer: Growing Spiritual Redwoods by William Easum and Thomas Bandy. Published in 1997, it was a striking call for church leaders to understand the new paradigm the church was entering. They likened the healthy church to a redwood tree. I remember reading the text when it first came out, and my copy bore highlighted sections, Post-It© Notes, and scribbles throughout.

Using the metaphor of the redwood tree, the authors described the growing and healthy church as follows:

  • They stand taller than any other tree, but their visibility is less a function of the numbers of their adherents, and more the magnitude of their ministries
  • They hold aloft an enormous umbrella of intertwined branches, which shelter a huge diversity of life in an atmosphere of peace and mutual respect
  • They are resistant to crisis from beyond and disease from within. Political winds do not break them, and ideological fires cannot burn them down
  • They put down strong, extensive root systems that intertwine with those of other Redwoods. They draw nutrition from unexpected sources, and reach out into unlikely places
  • They regenerate in abundance. Not only do seeds initiate new life across the forest floor, but they sprout vigorously even from the stumps of felled trees

What can your church learn from the redwood tree?

The Lesson of the Redwood Tree aside, I was again reminded of the power of the visual image in communicating. That visit gave me a sobering perspective on what it takes to deliver that image. Walking through the rest of the museum, I was struck by the lonely quest the NG photographers had embarked on: months of often-solitary work, shooting 50,000 to 90,000 images to get the few dozen that ultimately become a story.

That’s the price they willingly paid to bring their vision to fruition.

What price are you paying to bring your vision to reality?

 

The Influence of Your Brand Story

Your BRAND is the perception of your organization that lives in the minds of your audiences.

Every interaction your audience has with your church or organization forms thoughts, feelings, and perceptions in their minds. In this understanding of a BRAND, everything speaks—business cards, website, words and posture, interaction with volunteers and staff. All of these things contribute to your audience’s perception of you.

With a strong brand, you communicate effectively and consistently across all communication channels.

The branding process is one way to fully leverage the hard work of getting clear about your vision, seeing it come to life in all of your communication.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Brand Identity Breakthrough by Gregory V. Diehl

Does your business have a story to tell? It should! Every new product can be unique in its industry. Does yours stand out from the crowd?

After a life of exploring the way people exchange value in over 35 countries, Diehl teaches business owners how to have conversations about brand strategy. In Brand Identity Breakthrough, you will learn how to develop a strong business identity by combining your personality and values with the functionality of your products to become irreplaceable to your audience.

Whether you lead a growing company, or are just starting a business, Brand Identity Breakthrough will give you a smarter way to think about new product development and business model generation. With undeniable, well-organized logic, it will show you how anyone can sell more, and at higher prices, so long as they give customers exactly what they want.

* Learn how to build a unique selling proposition for your product
* Learn the best methods for how to sell a product to customers, no matter what you offer.
* Overcome the sales learning curve, and sell products in both physical and online marketplaces.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

We live in a world where we are sold to hundreds, maybe thousands, of times a day and have become ridiculously blind to those trying to sell us something.

But we’re always up for a good story. Stories are the most powerful form of inspiration and persuasion in the world.

Great stories are ones that others want to retell. Think about folklore, urban legends, or other stories you have heard. Most of those stories are not from your own experiences or ones that you have created. They are often stories that have been passed along to you by somebody else, who has also gotten it from another person.

Now place the power of stories in terms of your organization and its mission. When you have a mission that is much larger than yourself, you are able to attract the attention of people. People don’t want to be a part of an organization; they want to be a part of a mission. The story you tell should be inspirational and give people a purpose.

Organizations who learn to use stories have a feeling of authenticity and humanity about them, almost a magnetic quality.

If you learn to tell an engaging story about what you do, you will capture the interest of more people, and they will automatically qualify themselves for what you offer as they learn and retain the most important elements.

A good narrative is designed to tap into the natural curiosity and emotional engagement that everybody has within them. It is the exact same way that a truly captivating movie, book, or even a song can draw us in from complete indifference to being fully invested in whatever is going on.

Characters in our head become just as real as the people we know, even though they exist only as information in our memories. It is a universal tendency for all of us to want to give our minds interesting new ideas to play with and engage our emotions.

Your narrative is business is the story that you should be telling the world about why your business exists and how it can change lives. Think about gradually moving away from “what we do” conversations, and weave an engaging story about the motivation, purpose, personality, methodology, and results you offer.

With a strong narrative, you will incite curiosity in strangers who would otherwise ignore you. You will have a stronger personal investment in the actions of your organization because you will believe in what it stands for and what it does. Your actions will make sense within a larger framework of purpose,, which will build upon cumulative progress.

Gregory V. Diehl, Brand Identity Breakthrough

A NEXT STEP

Narratives are mental structures you use to organize information about the world.

Author Gregory Diehl suggests the following questions as a starting point in building a narrative for your brand.

Gather your team together, and write the following four questions at the top of four chart tablets.

  • Define your idea – “Why should this exist?”
  • Define your target – “Who needs this specifically?”
  • Define their needs – “Why should they care?”
  • Define yourself – “Why should they come to us?”

Discuss each of the questions with your team, making notes of the comments for each question.

How can you use the comments to help craft a narrative for your brand?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 109-2, released January 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Make the Leap to Using Visuals Evoking Emotion

Does your team seem to be using more and more words, yet communicating less and less?

Today more than ever, we live in a visual society. Especially in the online world, everyone relies on the power of photos and engagement of video.

While researching a project recently, I was struck by three surprising data points from visual communicator Dan Roam:

  • Research from IBM found that 90% of all data collected in history has been generated in the last two years.
  • Research from Cisco found that 90% of all data transmitted online today is visual.
  • Roam’s experience indicates that 90% of leaders have no idea how to effectively use visuals in their business.

90%-90%-90%. We’re generating more data than ever, that data is overwhelmingly visual, and most of us don’t know how to use images. No matter what business you’re in, the future of your business is visual.

As a church leader, it is incumbent that you get better at using visual images in your communication.

Whether drawing them, looking at them, or talking about them, visual communication adds enormously to your listener’s ability to think, to remember, and to do.

Visual imagery is, in itself, another whole language. Being fluent in that language gives us mind-boggling power to articulate thoughts, communicate those thoughts, and solve problems in ways we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It’s time to make the leap and use visuals to evoke emotion.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visual Hammer, by Laura Ries

The best way into a mind is not with words at all. The best way into a mind is with visuals.

But not any visual. You need a “visual hammer” that hammers a verbal nail. The Marlboro cowboy. Coca-Cola’s contour bottle. Corona’s lime.

The cowboy hammers “masculinity.” The contour bottle hammers “authenticity.” The lime hammers “genuine Mexican beer.”

A trademark is not a visual hammer. Almost every brand has a trademark, but fewer than one out of a hundred brands have a visual hammer. A trademark is a rebus which communicates nothing except the name of the brand.

A visual hammer, on the other hand, communicates the essence of the brand.

Visual Hammer is the first book to document the superiority of the “hammer and nail” approach to branding. Some examples.

  • The pink ribbon that made Susan G. Komen for the Cure the largest nonprofit foundation to fight breast cancer.
  • The Aflac duck that increased Aflac’s name recognition from 12 percent to 94 percent.
  • The green jacket which made the Masters the most-prestigious golf tournament.
  • The watchband which made Rolex the largest-selling luxury watch.
  • Colonel Sanders who made KFC the world’s largest chicken chain.

Why are marketing plans usually nothing but words when the best way into a mind is with the emotional power of a visual?

After reading Visual Hammer, you might want to tear up your current marketing plan and start fresh.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In a typical organization – and that includes churches – there is a whole gang of smart people so overwhelmed by verbal data that they’re hard pressed to know what to pay attention to.

That’s where pictures come in.

The basics of visual thinking have nothing to do with being an artist, or creating impressive designs using the latest computer application. Visual thinking is learning to think with your eyes.

Everyone already has good visual thinking skills, even if they don’t acknowledge it. Visual thinking is a very powerful way to communicate information that will help solve problems. It may appear to be something new, but the fact is, we already know how to do it.

Visual thinking starts with understanding the power of the image.

When you live in a world of word, you tend to see the visual world as secondary to verbal reality. Yet nature is visual, not verbal.

Take a walk in the park. Scuba dive in the ocean. Climb a mountain. This is reality and there are no words in nature. Words are useful devices to communicate the reality of nature.

Photographs, illustrations and drawing are artificial, but they too are a more direct representation of nature than are words.

The Coca-Cola bottle is not just a bottle. It is a visual hammer that nails in the idea that Coke is the original cola, the authentic cola, the real thing. In a Coca-Cola commercial, the visuals speak louder than the words. That’s the work of a visual hammer.

That’s the difference between designing a trademark and designing a visual hammer. Almost every brand has a trademark, but few brands have visual hammers.

A visual hammer doesn’t just repeat your brand name; it hammers a specific word into the mind. For brands that can create and dominate a new category, that word is “leadership.”

When you live in a world of words, you tend to see the visual world as secondary to verbal reality. Yet nature is visual, not verbal.

A visual hammer makes an emotional impact on the right side of the consumer’s brain which motivates the left side of the brain to verbalize the idea and then store it.

Your right brain doesn’t think in the normal sense of what we mean by “thinking.” It reacts emotionally and involuntarily.

To develop a hammer you need a narrow focus you can visualize in a dramatic way.

Don’t fret about narrow concepts not appealing to as many people as broader ones. Better to use a narrow concept to motivate a segment of the market rather than a broad concept that motivates no one.

Laura Ries, Visual Hammer

A NEXT STEP

Explore the power of visual images in solving problems with the following exercise.

Write down a list of at least four questions about a ministry situation or problem you team has recently faced.

Cluster the questions in four groups, giving each set a title.

Bring your team together around a table, and give them a large sheet of paper. Ask you team to create a quadrant by drawing two lines on their paper.

Place magazines, newspapers, precut pictures, fabrics, thread, color pencils, and glue sticks in the sender of the table. Provide plenty of materials in order for all participants to use simultaneously.

Each team member will use the materials on the table to visually answer their question. Designate a time limit for the exercise.

When completed, ask each team member to present and explain their collages. As a group, determine the single best image that represents the best answer for each question.

This exercise demonstrates the power of visual images in answering questions or problems you are encountering.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.