Sometimes, it starts out great. There’s a good, heart-warming story that might even involve a rescued cat. But somewhere along the line, people get nervous. They want to play it safe.
As documents move through approvals, cautious leaders change easy, fun expressions into three-syllable words, like enterprise, executive, and implement.
Most of us are uncomfortable being honest and direct. While we prefer to read touching, believable stories, when it comes to telling our own, we back away.
Most of us leave out the interesting parts and pretend we’ve never experienced upsets and challenges. What makes people and organizations interesting, however, isn’t the easy stuff. It’s the difficulties we overcame and the energy we found to turn things around.
Human beings are social. We like to share.
When Gini Dietrich wrote Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age in 2014, social media was already online everywhere. Users were telling stories and generating content for Facebook and Twitter. Instead of penning abstract dissertations about strategies, values, and philosophies, they were sharing photos of birthday parties and reunions and helping their neighbours find their lost dogs.
Social media showed us how to connect with a lot of people about ordinary things, and to engage with friends, grandmothers and children about trips, gardens, and dinner parties. It reminded us that we’re hardwired to tell stories. Abstract ideas are interesting when they float about as memes and metaphors. But don’t bother posting reams of empty, meaningless words that sound important. We’ll scroll right by.
Stories humanize your company and build relationships with audiences.
While social was changing how we communicate, human beings were losing trust in organizations. How many times have you heard the word “fake” lately? This means organizations must work harder than ever to win trust. One way to do that is to avoid big, boring, meaningless words and tell true stories that reveal something about you.
“People buy from people they like and trust,” says Gini.
“If done well,” she adds, “it also has another effect that is so desperately needed in today’s world: It creates trust.”
When creating the new Focus Communications website, we took some of Gina’s advice. Instead of just listing our credentials, we took a risk and shared our stories, complete with some of the challenges and mishaps that taught us what we know.
Is your company ready to open up?