Guest Post by Walter Akana
Perhaps the most important lesson of my life is this: there is a big difference between being alive and truly living … I started my career working my way up the corporate rungs … Yet, I was missing work and life balance. So, I transferred to Boulder… [and] joined the Colorado Mountain Club where I discovered my bliss! The moment I touched the rock I knew I would spend my life climbing.
I scaled 22,494 foot Ama Dablam, and then Everest as member of the Climb for Peace team in 2006.
… Life has also taught me everyone has their Everest, and can use the support of others to overcome challenges. So, … I founded Beyond Everest, to deliver inspiring programs to motivate individuals and teams to reach peak performance … [and] feel more fully alive! – Tonya (Riggs) Clement
There is no shortage of advice on how to create your personal brand statement, including templates to follow. Yet, there is probably little real differentiation in approach. Worse, most advice does little to help you uncover and share what truly connects you and your audience. For that connection, you need to know and share your story. If you’re not certain what a story is, and how to uncover and convey it in a captivating way, read on.
Five Keys to Get You Started on Developing Your Story
1. Make a meaningful emotional connection by knowing for whom you’re telling your story.
Whatever your business, you’re likely focused on specific niche audience for whom you need to be relevant. So, consider who makes up your brand community and what connects you to them. Take into account their interests, aspirations, and cultural connections, and even the oddities you share that are the basis for emotional bonds. Today, real opportunity, according to Seth Godin, in We Are All Weird, “…is to support the weird, to sell to the weird and, if you wish, to become weird.” Your story needs to show that you “get it.”
2. Don’t rely on communications tools that are not designed to convey story.
Bios and resumes, traditionally used to substantiate your value, are rarely compelling, or memorable. Aside from the barrier posed by reverse chronology, they generally convey only accomplishments, often using business jargon. Because they can seem abstract and even boring, they almost guarantee a sense of sameness that keeps you from standing out. In developing your story, think “one upon a time.” Start with formative experiences that made you who you are, and qualify you to serve your community. Make sure, in documenting your career/life journey, to include the missteps and transitions that formed you.
[Editor’s note: See these articles that discuss how to deploy storytelling a resume: Every Resume Tells a Story, Storytelling on a Resume: A Recruiter’s Perspective, and Polish Your Resume Like a Pro: 7 Tips Any Job-Seeker Can Use.]
3. Tell a real story that draws in your audience, while making you authentic – and human.
Because something is about you doesn’t mean it’s your story. As Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story, points out, “A story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result.” In your story, you are that someone, and where you are today is the result of having dealt with or overcome conflicts, doubts, turning points, and even flaws. So, your story needs to include examples of how you persevered in the face of uncertainty, adversity, or risk – and ideally examples that your audience will identify with. These make you human and authentic, and enhance your chances of establishing an emotional connection.
4. Make sure your story conveys a clear theme that shows what you stand for.
While events move your story forward, the true backbone of your story – what anchors the value that you bring to others – is your theme. Theme, according to Lisa Cron, “…defines what is possible and what isn’t in the world the story unfolds in.” So, dig beneath your experiences to uncover the values and beliefs that drive your vision for what is possible — and what you bring to your work. Your theme is your why, and it’s what fuels the difference you make for the people you serve.
5. Make your story something your audience owns.
Stories are not one-way self-promotion. So, keep “your” story focused on what’s essential to your audience. After all, cognitive research shows the reason people pay attention to stories is to learn vicariously through the experience of the people in them. If your audience learns from you, a real person, you become more memorable, and your audience becomes more interested in actually meeting, getting to know, and working with you!
Final Thoughts on Developing Your Brand Story
Your story is the ultimate differentiator — because it’s yours! Take the time to uncover and share it.
For more information, see also this section of Quintessential Careers:
This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.
Walter Akana is a career and life strategist, who brings a unique blend of training and experience in coaching, personal branding, and online identity to guide mid-career professionals and executives who want to stand out from the crowd. Walter is a trusted resource for clients of Reach Communications and Right Management. His career advice has been featured on marketwatch.com, cnnmoney.com, and online.wsj.com. A social media early adopter, he and his advice have been referenced in Smart Networking, I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?, Find a Job Through Social Networking, The Twitter Job Search Guide, and Social Networking for Career Success. Find Walter at his Website, Success Reimagined.