Ever wondered why some people at work get noticed while others don’t?
Or why some brands go viral while more deserving brands sink into obscurity?
It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with merit. You could be hardworking and contribute a lot of value to your company, but that other person gets the promotion while you stay stuck in the same role.
Getting recognition, getting fans, and getting customers all come down to the same key skill:
Successful brand storytelling.
And we’ve invited a master storyteller to explain the two ingredients that make up a successful brand story in this week’s YBTV interview.
Owen Ryan is the author behind the Detective Jane Phillips novels as well as a business coach and consultant who helps struggling brands transform themselves into market leaders. Building on two decades of experience in radio and entertainment, he knows the craft of storytelling inside and out.
He shares with us the strategy behind creating a successful brand story, the key elements that make a story work, and how you can use the art of storytelling to advance in your own personal career. He also shares a powerful tip to convince others to get behind the change you seek to make.
What You’ll Learn
Even if you don’t see yourself as a storyteller, you stick to the facts, and you only enjoy a good story if someone else is telling it…
You are still a story-creating machine.
Story is how you make sense of the world.
Story is how you convince other people to work with you.
Story is who you are.
The average person has tens of thousands of thoughts a day, says Owen Ryan. “Those thoughts are all stories.”
Unless you can live continuously in the present moment, “you are either reflecting on something that’s happened—or a memory you worry about—or you’re looking forward to what potentially might be coming. Looking back, looking forward, you are creating stories in your head.”
We pair emotions and images with bits of information to create a narrative about what happened and what’s to come. We don’t even have to speak those stories aloud or put them down on paper. “A story doesn’t have to be something that you share,” Owen says.
So wouldn’t it make sense to understand what our stories are doing for us and how we can harness their power?
The Business-Story Connection
“For me, a story is about making a connection,” Owen explains.
It’s about “tapping into someone’s emotions. It’s about tapping into fear, loss, excitement, anticipation.”
Those emotions drive us to take action. Powerful stories convince people to do something: change their mind, make a purchase, sign up for a cause.
Without that emotional connection, your ideal customers and clients walk on by. They can understand the benefits of working with you, but they don’t feel moved on a gut level to take that next step.
It’s what Owen calls the human connection. “You have to tap into something in them that makes them think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s me. I get that.'”
That connection is a crucial part of winning over new fans and clients.
If you can connect with a listener, if you can connect with a reader, if you can connect with a client … if you can do that, you’re going to get a great result. You’re going to get a much better result than if they’re not connected to you.”
So “that is what a story is all about,” Owen says. “Creating that human connection with another human being.”
The most successful brands know how to make that emotional connection.
“If you look at brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s,” Owen says, “the story they tell is the improvement to your life, your relationships, how you look, how you feel, based on enjoying their product.”
It’s not about the drink or the hamburger. “It’s all about the experience and the connection that you’re going have and the improvement your life is going to have by enjoying their products.”
There’s a second ingredient to a successful brand story.
Not only does it create an emotional connection, but it’s also consistent across every customer interaction point.
For example, some companies will boast that they’re the best at what they do, but their customer experience is weak, their website is out of date, and their visual design is poor. “The story they’re telling is, ‘We’re not really #1, and we’re not really taking this seriously.'”
So, Owen concludes, “successful brands, everywhere you look, their story is consistent, and it’s all about that connection.”
But how do you know if your story is working?
Optimizing Your Brand Story
If you’re not getting the response you want from clients and customers, “then the chances are, whatever you’re sharing with them is not connecting with them.” Someone else has a better story than you. It’s time to update your messaging.
Creating a successful brand story starts with knowing who you want to serve and asking the right questions.
What is our target? What is our market? Where is the space for us? Where do we sit in that? And how do we then convey the message of what we stand for compared to everyone else doing this?”
Once you have a brand story that connects emotionally with your target audience, your next job is to apply it consistently across all customer interaction points.
What does that look like on your website? What does that look like when someone answers the phone? What does that look like when someone’s on hold? What does that look like when someone goes to the app? Do you even have an app? What does that look like when your people turn up in front of the client? The message has to be consistent all the way through.”
Boosting Your Personal Brand
“There’s a great phrase that comes out the northeast of England where I live,” Owen says, “which is, ‘Shy bairns get nowt.’ It translates into, ‘Shy children get nothing.'”
If you want to get recognized for what you do and the value you contribute, then staying silent isn’t going to work. People won’t notice you unless you help them notice you.
That’s where storytelling can help.
“People don’t see themselves as stories,” Owen says. But your C.V. or résumé tells a story. The way you dress and present yourself tells a story. Instead of leaving that story up to other people, it’s time to take control of your personal brand and make sure it tells the story you want it to.
“The first thing to start with is understanding your values,” Owen says. “There’s a quick template on my website where you can just go through and select what really matters to you.” You’ll end up with 3 to 5 values that you feel your personal brand should stand for.
“Then look at the job you’re doing and how those values interact with the business,” he recommends. You’ll also want to look at “how you’re projecting yourself. If they’re incompatible, then there’s a very obvious space there for you to change—or for you to develop, if they are compatible.”
Sometimes, it’s hard for us to see ourselves as other people see us. That’s where a coach or mentor comes in. They can help see whether your values are congruent with the way you show up in the workplace.
Steal a Tip from Storytellers
Writing tightly-crafted thrillers has taught Owen one thing:
It’s not efficient to start a book with no idea of what you want to accomplish.
You need to have a rough idea of where you want to take your audience. You may not know all the in’s and out’s, but you should know what you want your book to accomplish before you put pen to paper.
It’s the same in business.
If “you want to make a change in business, or you have a strategy that you want to implement, or there’s something that you feel strongly about, the best way to do it is to start at the end,” Owen says.
Start with the end goal that your change is going to create, then look back at where you are and plot a course to get there.
Change costs money. It might not work. You have to create a story that convinces management that the cost of doing things differently outweighs the cost of doing nothing.
That’s where emotions come in. Paint the risks. Paint the rewards. Connect with your audience on the level of what they want and what they need.
Start at the end. What’s your end goal? What do you want to achieve? What do you want the person in the room to feel? And then go back to the beginning and work through those steps. Guaranteed, it’ll knock them dead.”
OMJ Ryan, Author
If asked to choose between business coaching and writing, Owen would find it hard. “Each one is a passion of mine, and each one is something I wouldn’t want to live without.”
He’s been writing for about 12 years under the pen name OMJ Ryan. His first book was written mainly in airport lounges and on trains, while he was working in a senior role in the radio industry.
Today, he’s a full-time novelist with a coaching and consulting business on the side. “I get really grumpy if I don’t write,” he says. “It’s kind of like a cup of coffee for me in the morning.”
His latest book is Deadly Silence, the story of Detective Jane Phillips and her team. It’s the second in the series. The third is out next month, and the fourth will come out in the summer.
“In the last book, Detective Phillips got herself into a bit of bother, because she has this lust for justice,” he explains. “She’s a purist. She’s not bothered about climbing; she’s not bothered about politics. She just wants to get justice.
“In doing that, she took some risks. She steps outside of the law, and she gets herself severely injured in an incident that causes PTSD. It also causes her to be demoted. So things are pretty tough for her” when the second book in the series starts. “She then walks into the office, and she’s got a new boss … who hates her with a passion.” Plus, there’s a serial killer on the loose.
Want to find out what happens next? Get your copy of Deadly Silence.
You can also get a free Kindle copy of the first book in the series, Deadly Secrets, by emailing Owen at [email protected].
Don’t ever underestimate the power of storytelling. It is one of the most important skills that you could have. Don’t think it’s just down to novelists like me.”
Jump to Topics of Interest
1:55 Finding time to write and run a business
3:07 Everything in life comes down to storytelling
4:08 What is a story?
5:33 Examples of brand storytelling
7:37 How do you know if your story is working?
9:23 You’re a story, too
11:58 Improving your personal brand
14:13 Start at the end
16:31 Detective Jane Phillips in Deadly Silence
19:29 Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling
Owen Ryan is a storyteller extraordinaire. He’s an author and the founder of Owen Ryan Consulting and Coaching. Having worked his way from ASDA’s shop floor to Group Content Director for one of Europe’s largest radio networks, Owen has an innate understanding of people and what makes them tick. Building on two decades of experience working in radio and entertainment, he crafts tight-paced thrillers while helping struggling businesses transform themselves into market leaders.