Online news publication VISTA Today sees the impact of their company story
So what do we do? VISTA Today is an online news publication founded by Ken Knickerbocker that celebrates Chester County, Pennsylvania’s quality of place and economic health. They publish positive, concise summaries of the county’s assets: its commerce, cultural, and community news and events. VISTA Today covers events shaping the county, driving economic development, and redefining what it means to live and work in Chester County.
Allison Snavely, VP of Sales, began her conversations with that informative, yet garden-variety spiel when meeting with local companies about being affiliate partners with the publication. She says, “I realized I had gotten stuck in the rut of “who we are and what we do”. It felt inauthentic. It felt like selling.” But that’s how most sales conversations go. We’re all familiar with the “what we do and why you should buy us” format. We’ve grown accustomed to this method of selling the product or service and gaining buy in.
Ken Knickerbocker knew there had to be a different, more compelling way to help people understand who VISTA Today is and what they can do for their affiliate partners. He engaged CI Squared’s story team and through the targeted story gathering and building process, the story of why-not just how-VISTA Today was created, was mapped for the staff to use as a tool to market, sell, and communicate the vision.
Allison changed the conversation by integrating the replicable story into her sales meetings. “I changed my approach. I began each conversation with VISTA Today’s company story: “Ken Knickerbocker fell in love with the news when at the age of 10 he started delivering, collecting and selling newspapers at the dump to earn some pocket money…etc” and saw the difference in my interactions and connections immediately. People connected to the “why” on a deeper level. This story and unique format for telling was the missing piece.”
By utilizing their story over the past year, VISTA Today has seen tremendous growth in their number of subscribers, affiliate partners and relationships. Not only did the amount Allison was able to ask for in each partnership double, but the number of new and renewing affiliate partnerships grew by a similar amount, effectively tripling sales over the same eight month period the previous year.
But differentiating VISTA Today with this story is not magic. Allison realized, “It takes practice. There’s an art to effective storytelling and the information you have to give. I modify what I emphasize in the story depending on who I talk to, making sure to engage them and form the right connection.” While everyone tells a story in a different way, an official company story aligns each teller with the correct information in a structured format that they can modify depending on the situation.
Allison even recalls a few meetings where potential partners connected to specific themes or parts of the story and talked about their own stories and why they do what they do. “They sit up in their seat and tell me about their first job delivering newspapers and how it established an entrepreneurial spirit in them too, just like Ken. There, an authentic connection is made, a value is shared and they’re more likely to partner with us.”
The building and utilization of a company’s story is an invaluable tool that establishes authentic relationships, controls and emphasizes your brand and differentiates your company in a compelling and memorable way.
VISTA Today’s company story connects the seller and the prospect and sets the stage for a foundational relationship, authentic trust and potential partnership that benefits both VISTA Today and the affiliate partner. Allison muses, “We’re all too close to our own story to tell it effectively. Everyone needs help telling it, even storytellers. What better way to talk about VISTA Today, a positive storytelling platform, than through story?”
What am I doing wrong?
Have you ever asked yourself why things aren’t changing for you, whether personally or professionally? You’ve done everything you can think of to change direction, but you always end up back at square one. But maybe it’s just that: changing how you think. Whether we know it or not, our subconscious is perpetually at work, feeding us biases and stories. Stories inform emotions, emotions inform actions.
Our conscious brain, what we are actively thinking about, opposes the subconscious brain, what’s going on beneath the surface. The conscious brain methodically deals in facts and figures and can process only up to 9 things at a time while our subconscious brain is a messy composite of deeply influential experiences and emotions, processing millions of ideas simultaneously. This is both fascinating and frightening as we realize that the subconscious could be a great enabler and deciding factor in our actions and thoughts. Story informs your actions 100% of the time, you’re simply not aware of it.
You’re always having a conversation with yourself which results in stories being formed. So stories surround us, but the five stories that are most likely to hold you back professionally or personally are:
- The self doubt story. People will know that I’m not good enough or smart enough. These negative stories pile on top of each other until we perceive it as the truth.
- The fear of failure story. A story of a past mistake repeats itself. You’re afraid to try something new because you can’t shake the notion that it will go wrong.
- The unknown story. Change is hard, so we fear the unknown and our possible inability to handle it. But you are more capable than you know.
- The assumptions story. We all assign meaning to people’s behaviors and interpret their actions. Our minds have a way of spiraling out on us. We can’t assume just because Bob didn’t wave to me at work today like he normally does that he is furiously angry at me.
- The overconfidence story. You say “I got this. I have it all figured out”. We tell ourselves what we want to happen and hear versus what is happening in reality. Our confidence and judgments sometimes cloud our ability to make the right decisions.
80% of what you said to yourself yesterday, you say to yourself today. You have to engage your conscious brain to first realize that these stories are being told before you can identify what stories are being told. Story creates bias, that bias instructs our behaviors. Start digging deep and figure out the stories you are telling yourself that are holding you back.
Nudge: Tell yourself a new story of positive change!
Other points of view:
A song in the new film La La Land (Chazelle, 2016) contains the lyrics: “Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know”, describing the fortuitous serendipity which evolves into a meaningful meeting or interaction with someone. Do just a few people have magnificent stories or do only the tenacious find them? Actually, everyone has a story that is meaningful in its own way, including your boss, coworkers, family members and friends. For example, CI Squared’s President John Geraci and his colleague Bill, who have shared a 20 year friendship, discovered that Bill had no idea about a significant event shaping John’s life until Bill watched John’s “Why” video recently. The sharing of life stories have the ability to bond people in an unprecedented way.
We’ve heard it before: technology impedes human interaction and connection. When you’re not connecting or bonding with your colleagues, the work suffers greatly. People know this. What they don’t know is that life stories are a solution to the problem.
Life stories are a composition of noteworthy events like the best scenes of a movie edited together. People could argue the workplace is not a cozy camp fire, therefore compelling anecdotes have no place; but they do. As people start to open up, you understand them in a beneficial way, finally understanding why the person is the way they are and therefore able to Nudge them to a higher performance. A more empathetic culture develops from understanding. Businesses with a more empathetic culture and people who easily work, communicate and collaborate together can only thrive. Truly Understanding others’ stories is a way to construct this culture.
Events in life stories do not have to be particularly formidable, as the simple act of sharing and understanding is monumental. A vulnerable moment holds the potential to change relationships and even business outcomes. CI Squared’s Chief Architect Christine remembers the story of a workshop/Storytelling breakout session where best failure stories were being shared. Out of the 6 people, one man shared a story of his son’s extraordinarily rare learning disability and feelings of failure and remorse as he struggled to help his son. Suddenly, someone else in the group spoke up. They went on to explain that their son too had the exact same learning disability. Two people who had never spoken were now irrevocably bonded through shared life stories. They went on to deliver the largest revenue deal for their unit that year.
Ask yourself: What would it mean to you if someone knew your story? Empathized with you in a different way? Would you be inspired to help the team achieve and succeed and they, you? How do your stories influence people? What’s the most fascinating thing you know about your neighbor at work? If you’re not telling, asking and gathering, you’re missing people, both colleagues and customers. Making a conscious effort to tell your story and gather the stories of others has unparalleled business benefits. Ask, then listen and you won’t need fortuitous serendipity to meaningfully connect with your colleagues. Find in someone an opportunity to learn something new and connect with a life story.
Nudge: at your next team meeting tell your colleagues a story about yourself that will bond you with them and to you in a unique way. The result is an extraordinary impact just waiting to be experienced in work process, relationships and Revenue, Profit/Cost, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Engagement and Shareholder Value.
“…stories…that make a point, cause us to feel something, and lead us to take action, a NUDGE.” (The Art of the Nudge Pg. 85)
Other Points of View:
TATN: The Art of The Nudge augments existing Leadership and Sales Training Programs
Wyomissing, PA: CI Squared announces two new training programs based on their innovative Communications Framework, TATN, to help change the conversation for leaders and sales teams. John Geraci, Co-founder and President said, “The pace of change has accelerated in our digital/mobile world creating miscommunication, misalignment and sapping productivity. We are helping leaders change the conversation to unleash more of the untapped human potential, inspiring action. We tested a behaviorallearning model, applied to our Framework, for leaders and sales teams. The goal was to build workshops to accelerate learning and skill building. The training is applied to specific work projects so there is immediate value for participants. The exercises, pictures, and work documents are all designed to elevate performance and collaboration in a fun learning environment”.
What will you Nudge this year?
How will you inspire others to action in 2016?
As you reflect upon this past year and the new year to come, take the time to create 3 specific Nudges – both personal and professional – that will inspire yourself and others to action. Make a resolution to gather, build, and tell Your Stories: Company, Vision, Lessons Learned, Why I Do What I Do…to help you and others slow down to speed up in this “Age of Digital Disruption.”