I write for a living, so you’d think it would be easy to tackle this assignment: Tell your story in six words.
Just six words?! That was my immediate thought when we were tasked with this seemingly impossible exercise at last month’s Nashville American Marketing Association Power Lunch. Led by author and Nashville resident David Hutchens, the room full of marketers and communicators cautiously embarked on our attempt to capture our entire lives, our purpose for working and/or living, in a mere six words.
Storytelling is a powerful mode of communication. As David went on to explain in his presentation, more areas of our brain are engaged when telling and listening to a story because people can experience it intellectually as well as emotionally.That’s why the majority of the news, thoughts and ideas we remember are told to us through stories. News stories, bedtime stories, family stories – even that funny thing that happened to you at the coffee shop this morning is better told through a descriptive account. Stories drive how we communicate and connect with the world around us.
We learned that there are four core stories every organization, and every person, can tell:
Who We Are
These stories reveal your identity, and they introduce your company culture to the world. Where did you come from? What drives you to get where you’re going? How has your past shaped who you are today? Telling stories about who you are can be very powerful because the listener is brought into the inner workings of the organization and can see what makes you tick.
Paint a picture of where you see yourself or your company going in the future. Talk about what happened in the past, what was learned from it and the outcome of the situation. Tell people where you are headed, and take them along for the ride.
What matters to you and your company? What drives your actions and your business decisions? Rather than reciting words like transparency, honesty or dependability, tell stories about specific moments when these values were put into practice. Bring them to life to show the world how you are living your values.
Change & Learning
Stories that discuss what you learned from past mistakes or significant changes that have been made are not told very often because they can put people and businesses in that dreaded state of vulnerability. However, it’s these stories that best help us grow and continue to improve. According to David, these stories typically follow a certain format: They highlight the action that was taken, the poor outcome, why we experienced that outcome and how we will improve to get a better outcome the next time. Putting these stories out there can be humbling, but will lead to progress on many levels.
And now, your assignment:
- Consider the four core stories.
- Think about a cause or work that you advocate.
- Pinpoint a moment or experience that placed you on your current path.
- Write your six-word story.
What’s mine? Improve my community to improve myself.