The power of story

How your story is your secret weapon when it comes to fighting bigger brands.

Large brands have a story and a history. However, many of them have changed management teams many times, which waters down the authenticity of their history. Does a story really feel real when it is told by the 17th CEO? Can the CEO really share small details? It is hard to relate to a founder who existed 20, 30, 40 or more years ago.

Think of the world’s largest brands. Walt Disney was a founder, but his story does not feel as real as it would have if it was spoken by Walt Disney himself today. Steve Jobs from Apple may have sadly passed away, but we still remember him and we relate to his story. It is still recent enough for us, but will it be for Generation Z or Generation Alpha?

American businessman Asa Griggs Candler founded The Coca-Cola Company in 1892. He purchased the recipe for $US1750 from a chemist in Atlanta. The story is still interesting but how many of you have actually heard it before? It would have been diluted over the years and most of us would have not heard it.

Why tell your story?

As a start-up or SME owner, your story is the very essence of your business. It is in fact your why. Your story is the why you started your business, the how, what, when, where and who…

Simon Sinek created The Golden Circle and has been teaching the power of why to business owners and founders since 2009. He started a movement to help people become more inspired at work through his circular framework, which teaches businesses to look at their why before anything else.

Simon’s philosophy teaches us to start with the why before we go to how or even what.

“Your story is one of the most powerful assets you have when it comes to fighting the larger brands.”

The why at the core of the circle is the reason you started the business. It is the reason you still run the business and the reason you get up for work each and every day.

According to Simon’s theory, the why is your business’s core belief.

Simon found that when it came to marketing, many businesses start with the what and the how before they even think of the why.

Your why is what sets you apart from the big brands. Your why is how you can get media coverage, customers and connection. Your why can build brand awareness, brand loyalty, increase your SEO organically, boost your social media followers, increase your credibility and position you as an industry expert.

Your why is your story that starts at the very beginning. It can include both personal and professional facets that led you to your business idea.

Your story will include when you came up with the big idea, why you came up with the business idea, what you did to implement it, when you officially started the business, how you started the business, how you grew the business, what lessons you learnt, what mistakes you made, what challenges you overcame, and tips for others.

When you share your story it will lead your customers, the media, your employees and colleagues on a journey they will feel they relate to and have a part in somehow.

I work with start-ups and SME owners on a daily basis. I get them a lot of media and that is because of their unique and fascinating stories.

The media loves stories and I feed them interesting stories of real people who have started their own businesses as well as a behind-the-scenes look at their story – I also include the ups and downs.

People are always intrigued by entrepreneurs. They want to know how they got to where they are today. They want to know their secrets, their failures, their achievements, how they came up with their business idea and how they implemented it.

There are a few ways you can go about divulging your story to the media and to your target market.

Crafting your story

The first step is to set up a quiet area where you will not be disturbed and get writing.

Start from the very beginning, explaining to your reader what events, whether personal or professional (and they are often both), led you to start your business.

Explain to your reader how you came up with the idea and take them through the journey from conception to where you are today. If you have qualifications that are relevant, add them to boost credibility.

When writing, stick to the first person rather than the third person. Aim for 600–800 words in length. Think of your reader and any questions they might want answered. Add tips, challenges, mistakes and successes.

Include an introduction, body and conclusion, and a catchy heading and subheadings.

Once you have written out your story, look for photos that illustrate the story to your reader. Perhaps you have an old photo of you working somewhere when you first started? Or photos of your products or service at the very beginning?

If you can source three to six photos to illustrate the story, it will make it more authentic and memorable.

Once you have your photos and story ready to go, you can add it to the About Us or Our Story section on your website. You can also send it to your database in an email. You can add it to your blog if you have one as well as use it for PR and marketing.

Every start-up and SME has a great story to share. This story sets them apart from multinationals who have large resources and budgets. Your story can give you more media coverage than you ever imagined possible as long as you pitch it correctly.

When pitching your story to the media ensure you are targeting the media that your target audience consumes. Think of your ideal client or customer avatar and allow yourself to flesh out what media they consume. This includes TV, print, online, radio and podcasts.

Once you’ve worked out what media they consume and when, start researching media outlets and make a media list of their contact details.

Pitch perfect

The next step is to develop a sharp, concise pitch. The media are extremely busy, and they are inundated with pitches and press releases every day. Your pitch needs to entice them to contact you to interview you or to feature your story.

When I was in primary school back in South Africa in the 1990s, my English teacher used to pedantically ask us to write exactly 100 words. I would count each word and add the word count in brackets at the end. This thorough process has proved very useful now, when I have to create and craft pitches for my clients.

To create the best elevator pitch, go back to your story and summarise it into no longer than two paragraphs. It needs to be concise yet intriguing.

If you plan to email your pitch, don’t forget to work on a striking headline and subject for the email, too.

After seven years of working with start-ups and SMEs, I can confidently say that your story is one of the most powerful assets you have when it comes to fighting the larger brands who have greater resources and budgets.

So, look at your calendar, clear out some time and sit down to write out your story, and set yourself apart from your competitors, especially the big guns.

Candice Meisels, Founder, Candice Meisels PR

This story first appeared in issue 30 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine

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