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Business Storytelling: Adventures First

 

Business Storytelling: Adventures First

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Business Storytelling: Adventures First“Adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

That was the storytelling advice of Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It’s good advice for when you step into your role as a business storyteller. Because the “dreadful time” it takes for explanations is when people get bored and tune you out.

So, don’t make the common mistake of getting bogged down in detail when telling your story.

Business storytelling usually is about persuading the rest of us to buy what you’re selling.

Want to persuade me? Give me a reason to believe you’ll solve a problem for me or create an opportunity for me.

Facts don’t persuade until you’ve given us a reason to believe you can help us. What do we get – or what problem do we avoid – by buying what you’re selling? That’s how to get our attention.

Once you’ve got us interested, then provide whatever facts we need to make a decision. How do you know which facts to include? Listen to the questions we ask. We’ll tell you what we want to know.

Don’t start with the explanation. Start with the adventure. Save the explanation for those of us interested enough to want more details.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The more you leave out

 

Storytelling Tip: The more you leave out

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The more you leave out“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”

I’d like to claim credit for that thought. But it’s a quote from an English novelist named Henry Green. I didn’t know who he was, either. You can Google him.

Many, perhaps most, of us have a tendency to say more than we need to. Those extra words don’t make your message stronger. They make it flabby. Like those extra inches around my waistline.

That’s why editing is an essential part of writing. Done properly, it turns so-so writing into good or even great writing.

Good editing is ruthless when it needs to be. And hands off when it needs to be. But it’s an essential step if you want to tell your story well.

Or, as Michelangelo once said: “Carving is easy. You just go down to the skin and stop.” It’s the same with telling your story. Say what’s essential and stop.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The 30-second story

 

Storytelling Tip: The 30-second story

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The 30-second storyIf I offered you 30 seconds on national television to tell your story, could you do it?

Or would you need more time?

Thousands of companies bet millions of dollars every day that they can earn a good return on their investments by telling their stories in 30 seconds on television and radio. It’s called advertising.

During last weekend’s Super Bowl, as you probably already know, dozens of companies spent an average of $4.5 million (plus productions costs) for 30 seconds of air time to tell their stories to an audience distracted by a football game, partying with friends and consuming food and alcohol.

It was a good investment for some of them. But not all. How many of those ads do you remember? Did any of them convince you to spend money on what the company was selling?

In business, most of the time we’re telling our stories to lure prospects into buying what we’re selling. Actually, most of the time we’re telling our stories to grab the attention of prospective customers interested enough to ask for more information.

So take 30 seconds – or less – to grab the attention of the folks who are actually interested in hearing what you have to say. Then take as much time as they want to tell them more.

If you can’t grab our attention in 30 seconds or less, most us have already switched our attention to something else.

Those 30-second commercials on TV either hit their mark with you or not. But when was the last time you said to yourself: “I wish that commercial had been longer. I wanted them to say more.” Okay, you may have wanted it to be longer if you needed a bathroom break or wanted to grab a snack or a drink. But you wanted more time to be away from the TV, not more time to listen to the sales pitch.

Your story is just one more of the thousands of marketing messages the rest of us will see or hear on any given day. Get to the point. Make it clear. And keep repeating it. Most of us missed it the first time you said it.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemisms

 

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemisms

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemismsPutting euphemisms in your writing is like dragging the cutting edge of a knife across a rough surface. Both dull the sharp edges.

A knife with a dull blade doesn’t cut as well as a sharp one. And writing full of euphemisms doesn’t have the impact of just saying what you mean.

I’m old. But you can’t call me that, apparently. I’m a senior citizen. Or “older.” Isn’t “older” older than “old” — as in old, older, oldest? Not in the world of euphemisms and political correctness. And it’s not even polite, apparently, to notice that someone’s old enough to be called a senior citizen. Or old enough to be eligible for a senior discount. Being old isn’t something to be ashamed of. Unless you’re also old, I got here by living longer than you have so far. I hope you make it to where I am now and beyond. You’ll be old, too, if you do.

I’m old. And I’ll be old until I die. Then I’ll be dead. There are no value judgments in any of those words.

In the world of euphemisms, people don’t die. They pass away. Or just pass. And they’re not dead. They’ve left us.

People who can’t see are blind. Calling them visually impaired doesn’t improve their eyesight. People who can’t hear are deaf. Calling them hearing impaired doesn’t improve their hearing.

Used cars are now previously owned vehicles. Why?

Some companies refer to employees as associates or partners or team members. And some of them consider the word “employee” to be an insult. Really? What’s insulting about being an employee?

You get the idea, I hope. Maybe I’ve offended some of you. I hope not. I haven’t used any foul or derogatory language.

I’m not suggesting you go around insulting people by using derogatory labels to describe them. But I am suggesting you skip the euphemisms and just say what you mean. You’re writing (or speaking) will have more impact.

And, if you’re a fan of George Carlin, here’s a funny monologue about euphemisms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuEQixrBKCc.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Getting Down to One Idea

 

Storytelling Tip: Getting Down to One Idea

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Getting Down to One IdeaWhat’s the one thing you want your audience to hear, understand and remember?

If you’re like me, getting down to a single message can be hard.  You’re not sure which one your audience will find most interesting. So, you want to throw in a few others for good measure.

The problem is that throwing too many messages at your audience is confusing. They don’t know what you’re trying to tell them. You’ll be helping them understand what you want them to hear if you choose just one. And one message is easier to understand and remember than several.

The NFL playoffs are in full swing. They offer a good model for choosing your one message.

As I write this, eight teams are entering the weekend as playoff contenders. Only four will be left when the weekend is over. Only two of the four will be left after next weekend. And only one will emerge as the Super Bowl champion.

You can do the same thing.

List all the messages you’d like to consider for your story.

Then eliminate half of them. Pick the ones you’re willing to let go of first. Then keep going.

Once you’ve cut the list in half, do it again. And keep doing it until you’re down to one.

That’s your winner. That’s your one message for your story.

That doesn’t mean the other messages are gone forever. It just means they didn’t make the cut for the story you’re telling today.

And if you’re rooting for a team in the playoffs, I hope it wins — unless, of course, you’re rooting against my team.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Six resolutions to improve your writing

 

Six resolutions to improve your writing

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com
Six resolutions to improve your writing

What’s the point of a new year without resolutions? So, here are six resolutions you can make to improve your writing:

  1. Know what you want to say. You need a clear message. If you don’t know what it is, the rest of us won’t know what it is. What’s the one thing you want us to hear, understand and remember? Make that clear as you put your story into writing.
  2. Know why you want to say it. People often tell their story with only a vague idea – or no idea – of why they’re telling it; i.e., what they want to happen because they told it. Have a clear objective before you start writing.
  3. Know who you want to say it to. You have a lot better chance of reaching your audience if you know who they are. Why are they interested in your story? What do you need to do to increase the chances of them seeing it, reading (or hearing) it and remembering it?
  4. Use shorter sentences. Shorter sentences mean better comprehension by your audience. Dramatically better in many cases. Look for opportunities to turn commas into periods. Or to turn long, complicated sentences into short, simple ones.
  5. Use shorter words. Skip the highfalutin words. Use short, simple words instead. Shorter words, like shorter sentences, increase the readability of what you write.
  6. Use fewer words. Getting rid of extra words, sentences and paragraphs will make your writing crisper. Give it more impact. And increase the chances the rest of us will find it interesting.

Happy New Year.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The Goldilocks Rule

Storytelling Tip: The Goldilocks Rule

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The Goldilocks RuleTwo common mistakes people make when telling their story: They say too much. Or they say too little. And sometimes they do both simultaneously. How can that be? Let me explain.

Saying too much

Tell us a story. You know how to do that. People are natural storytellers. In fact, scientists say narrative imagining – story – is the fundamental instrument of thought. We think in story form.

But many of us have a tendency to load our stories down with too many details. We believe making just one more point will provide the tipping point that makes everyone believe us and do what we want.

Most of the time, you’ll be better off making one less point.

If you’re like me, you’ve had the experience of staying up past your bedtime to finish a real page turner of a book. It’s too engrossing to put down and go to sleep. Chances are you’ve never done that with a phone book (remember phone books?). Or one of those fact-filled legal notices we’re told we should read and understand.

Stories are just a way of delivering a message you want us to hear, understand and remember. Too many facts get in the way of your message.

You need to include enough facts to be credible. But too many facts bog your story down. Your audience will lose interest and there’s a good chance they’ll miss your message.

Tell the truth. Don’t mislead us. But don’t let (too many) facts get in the way of your story.

Saying too little

Another common mistake is assuming we hear and remember what you say.

But you can’t tell your story once and quit. You have to keep repeating it. And repeating it. And repeating it. Until you’re tired of hearing yourself say it. That’s when the rest of us are beginning to notice. Telling your story once and assuming we heard you is a common mistake. You’ve probably said too little because you haven’t repeated yourself.

Or you may be one of those who say too little because they don’t say anything. They assume no one will care. So they don’t tell their story. If you don’t tell your story, no one will hear it. Because we can’t tell it for you.

Saying it just right

So how do you know when you’ve done it just right? It’s a judgment call.

Start by identifying your message. The one thing you want us to hear, understand and remember. Put it into a single sentence. And be able to say it in 15 seconds or less. Build your story around that single idea.

Once you’ve written your story, start editing. Delete everything that doesn’t help the rest of us understand your single 15-second message and persuade us to do what you want us to do.

When you’re done editing, ask yourself if there’s one less point you can make and still deliver your message. Once you get to a point where you can’t take anything else out and still tell a story that delivers your message effectively, then you’re done editing.

Then tell your story. And keep repeating it.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@ JerryBrownPR.com.

Writing Tip: Design your words

 

Writing Tip: Design your words

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Writing Tip: Design your worYou probably recognize good graphic design when you see it – even if you can’t explain it. Good design isn’t limited to images. It applies to writing, too. The way you arrange the words you write is important.

Good design is about aesthetics. It’s also about communication. Good graphic design helps tell a story. If it doesn’t do that, it hasn’t done its job – even if it’s aesthetically pleasing.

Words tell stories, too. And the way you arrange them on the page matters because good text layout helps your words tell your story more effectively.

The rules of typography are detailed and complex for those interested in exploring them in depth. But there are a few simple things you can do to help your words tell your story. Here are some of them:

  • White space is important. It keeps the text on the page from feeling too dense or heavy. Cramming too many words on a page makes your writing less readable. How much white space do you need? There are too many variables to cover here. But on a standard page, I like to leave margins of at least an inch on all sides. And leave a blank line between single-spaced paragraphs (bulleted lists are an exception).
  • Limit the fonts you use. Avoid the temptation to use all those fancy and unusual fonts available on your computer. Properly used, they can add zip to a document. Most of the time they just get in the way. A good rule of thumb: Limit yourself to one or two common fonts per document. If using two fonts, be consistent in how you use them: Sans serif font (like Arial) for headings, serif font (like Times New Roman) for body type, for example. If you want to use one of those unusual fonts, pick one that fits the message or mood you’re trying to convey.
  • Be consistent. Headings, subheads and other type elements should be consistent. They should help your readers understand what’s important, what goes together, how your story flows. Don’t use 14-point italics for one subhead and 12-point bold for another, for example.
  •  Limit the use of underlined, bold and italicized text. Underliningbold and italics are useful ways to emphasize certain words or phrases. They can’t do their job if you overuse them. Ditto for using different colors of type for emphasis.
  • Eliminate widows and orphans. In the world of typography, widows and orphans are lines and words stranded by themselves at the top or bottom of a page or a line at the end of a paragraph. Whenever possible, avoid leaving a single word by itself on a line at the end of a paragraph. And avoid stranding the first or last line of a paragraph by itself at the top or bottom of a page. Not always possible in electronic documents because line lengths and page breaks often aren’t under your control.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Break it up

 

Storytelling Tip: Break it up

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Breaking up can help your storyBreaking up is hard to do. But it can make your story stronger.

I’m not suggesting you break up with your spouse or lover. I am suggesting you break your story up — especially if it’s packed with a lot of information.

Don’t overwhelm your audience by trying to say too much all at once.

If you do many PowerPoint presentations, you’ve probably heard the suggestion that breaking one information-loaded slide into two or three slides can make your presentation stronger — and easier for your audience to understand.

It’s no different when telling your story in writing. Or with videos.

I’m working on a video project for a client. The original plan was to produce a single video.

We could have put all his messages into one video. But it would have been too long. We’ll end up instead with four one-minute videos, each making a single point. The four parts are much stronger broken apart than they would have been lumped together.

When you’re getting to know someone, you generally share information back and forth in increments — not in one overwhelming data dump.

You’re telling your story to help your audience get to know you or something about your business. Doing that in bite-sized pieces usually is more effective than trying to say it all at once.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: No Sales Pitch

 

Storytelling Tip: No Sales Pitch

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: No Sales PitchSometimes the best sales pitch is no sales pitch.

We’ve all been subjected to the pressure tactics of a hard sales pitch at some time or another. Most of us have given in at least a time or two and bought what the arm twister was selling. And then regretted our decision.

But most of us are pretty good at turning away high-pressure salespeople. We turn them away because they turn us off.

As someone in the business world, you usually tell your story in hopes the rest of us will buy what you’re selling. Nothing wrong with that. If I’m in the market for what you sell, I want to hear what you have to say — as long as you don’t try too hard to “sell” me.

Several years ago, I was in the market for a new car. I started shopping early, several months before I planned to buy. And I made that clear right up front to all the salespeople I met with.

All but one of them heard me. They told me about the cars they had to offer. Let me test drive them. And said they’d love to hear from me when I was ready to buy. No arm twisting. No pressure. No “sales” pitch. But one guy wouldn’t let go. He made it sound like there wouldn’t be any cars left if I didn’t buy one today. And today’s deal wouldn’t be around if I didn’t drive home today in one of the cars on his lot. I had to make a decision today. Sell. Sell. Sell.

He did get me to make a decision that day: To eliminate him and his dealership from further consideration.

Tell your story. Make it relevant to your audience by telling us what you can do for us, why you have something interesting to say to us.

You want us to buy what you’re selling. That’s okay. Perfectly normal. Sometimes the best way to get us to do that is to skip the sales pitch.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

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