At the heart of all the storytelling work we do together is clarity in all the foundational business pillars — purpose, principles, people, product, positioning and profile. Without it you cannot tell impactful stories, worse they are random, or misleading. If you’d like to start your Storytelling journey in whatever capacity, and find out more about clarity in its immensity, book a Call to Clarity.
Compelling communication? Not really!
Late in the 60’s, the laconic Irish actor, Richard Harris, who played King Arthur in the film Camelot made a hit, McCarthur Park. He had to employ an army of sopranos to sing the closing chorus because there was no way he was going to meet the notes. Ever. The lyrics are crazy.
MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll neeeeeeeever have that recipe again. Oh nooooooooo.
It is a beautiful, melodic, and completely nonsensical song described in Wikipedia thus: ‘Although it was a commercially successful song multiple times after it was released, MacArthur Park used flowery lyrics and metaphors (most famously, lost love being likened to a cake left out in the rain) that were considered by media such as the Los Angeles Times to be ‘polarizing’ and ‘loopy.’
The composer, Jimmy Webb, said about writing the song, ‘back then I was kind of like an emotional machine. Whatever was going on inside me would bubble out from the piano onto paper’.
Just bubbling out
It’s a fitting analogy for much that passes as ‘compelling’ communication in business content today. It just sort of bubbles out. Like the cake, it’s stodgy, and a mess.
I’m hearing a lot about quite large businesses dissatisfied with their content marketing. They believe they need great writers and excellent social media people to write and disseminate it as the solution.
The problem runs much deeper.
Typically, there is no articulated purpose and there are no identified principles from which to form a rock solid foundation for their key messages. Without that, it’s virtually impossible for an organisation to source and tell meaningful and contextualised stories, so they miss out on the most powerful tool in their communication arsenal.
Why do purpose and principles matter in compelling communication?
A lived purpose breathes coherence into the culture of an organisation and sets the direction.
Principles are the marshals, ensuring there is no deviation, no hapless wandering, no lost way.
Principles are the operating framework and all the key positioning statements originate from them.
When an organisation has this solid foundation, then they are easily able to unearth contextual stories to support their key messages.
Contextual because when an organisation does the work to articulate their purpose and identify their principles, they know why they’re telling the stories, to whom, for what intention, and because the stories demonstrate their value as a service.
Because every pain point of each stakeholder is identified in the lack of these principles.
Which means you can write, talk, and tell stories with authenticity and empathy about the problems they have, and the mistakes they’re likely making.
As an example, a principle in everything I do in coaching and communication training is clarity — of purpose, principles, people, product and positioning.
MPD & MOS
Without clarity many suffer from Multiple Possibility Disorder (MPD). I can write, talk and tell endless stories about this condition and why when they are travelling in concentric circles, it impacts on their ability to move forward.
Suffering from MPD or MOS (Multiple Offer Syndrome) is debilitating. It is an affliction that creates turmoil and unrest. The cure is clarity.
The opposite of sweet green icing flowing down, bubbling-out communication.
Although, many will continue to communicate from this randomness, because clarity is confronting and hard.
With purpose and principles in place, every action and every communication builds toward achieving the purpose, from product development to partnering, speaking to telling contextualised stories.
This is a compelling communication eco-system and it results in far richer opportunity, well aligned to your business and its purpose. And far fewer soggy cakes.
* With thanks to Richard Harris and Jimmy Webb, for years of girlhood spent mooning over these lyrics to make them fit to with whatever teenage angst I was experiencing at the time. And apologies to my readers for continuing to contrive a meaning from them here. It just bubbled out!
If you want to work with me to develop compelling communication, let’s talk.
Curiosity, the key to clarity
To find your purpose you must pursue clarity. Curiosity is its best friend. Curiosity is the willingness to keep asking questions to get to the whole truth.
A good storyteller must be in pursuit of the truth, because then they can be impartial, make the right decisions and be willing to serve not sell.
Curiosity builds a personal university of everything you need to reach and connect with your people.
It’s profound research, and it’s at our fingertips.
I’m not a knitter, so when in 2009 I started the charity www.knit-a-square, I had to find out a lot more about what made the knitters tick.
Using keyword research, I discovered tens of thousands of people who were not only dippy about their craft, but desperate to make a difference with it.
Their problem was not having enough outlets for their work. Did I have a solution for their busy hands and compassionate spirits? Hell yes!
I could ask them to knit a square, send it to South Africa to my co-founder and aunt so she and her volunteers could make blankets to warm orphaned and vulnerable children.
This knowledge dictated the stories I shared with them. To date, she has received over 2 million squares. The power of story.
Let me inspire your curiosity so you can tell the right stories to help you build your community? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2011, I wrote a guide – Build Your Own WordPress Site and Blog Brilliantly.
It was exactly the product I’d needed when I built Knit-a-square.com in 2008, which kick-started a worldwide community. They have since sent over 2 million knitted squares for blankets to warm orphaned children in South Africa.
Isn’t this how many of us create products? Replicating exactly what we needed before we put in years of sweat equity to work it out for ourselves?
I’ve asked others, ‘Do you believe in what you know and that it can change people’s lives for the better?’ A coach once asked me, ‘Aren’t you doing a disservice then by not selling your knowledge?’
I sat on this guide, unable to convince myself that it could be of service. I asked the question too often, ‘who am I to write about this? — even though at the time, people were clamouring to know how to do both.
By the time, I came to think differently about my value and how I could tell the stories about it that would make a difference, you could build a site with a click of a button, long form posting (as in blogging) had been surpassed by updates and videos, and no amount of organic Search Engine Optimisation would bring hoards of interested folk to your site. It felt like the product was redundant.
It may be, but the principles remain —clarity of purpose and principles, deep curiosity about those you aim to serve, clear intentions and knowing how to pass on your value. These are the essential ingredients for purpose-driven contextualized storytelling.
Today, I’m delighted to promote this message.
If you’d like to get clarity of purpose and principles, and explore your people, product, platform and positioning so you can tell the right stories about your value, contact me: http://sandymcdonald.com/clarity-works/
Finding a good teacher is not always easy.
Back in the early wave of ‘internet marketers’, there were the ‘hype type’ who made a lot of money quickly. Apparently, they had a communal epiphany, which resulted in them speaking in the same tongue.
‘I was poor, I slept in my car. Look here I am in front of my mansion/Disney Land with my kids/the Eiffel Tower. Here’s my bank statement showing my monthly six digit earnings . . . buy me, and my teaching and you too can make millions.
After a few rather heartbreaking and expensive encounters, I started a quest to find the ‘real deal’ — a real teacher. The first person I found was David Jenyns. He taught me enough in one short three-hour video about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to leverage that knowledge into what I was doing back then.
If you’ve been blessed to have a good teacher you’ll have told stories about them because they changed your life.
They have deep but clear knowledge and the desire to share it. They listen and over-deliver in their answers. They’re happy to hold your hand over the tricky bits. They’re excited by their field of expertise and articulate their insights clearly. They want your success and will work toward it.
They have a purpose, and they tell great stories that illustrate, illuminate and excite.
Go the good teachers.
Finding clarity is often about finding a good teacher. What do you need clarity in? visit sandymcdonald.com/clarity-works and contact me for a ‘Let’s Talk’ session.
There is nothing better than seeing clarity at work, because it’s the little things you get clear on changing that can make a significant impact.
Waiting for a meeting in a small coffee shop – you know the sort, small, crowded, and noisy with people in animated discussion, it’s clear I’ve been stood up.
I’d let people down inadvertently. Too busy to write the details in my phone calendar or in a diary, mistakenly believing I’d remember. So I’m not in anyway irritable with my would-be meeting partner. In any case, she has phoned with sincere apologies.
Instead I pen this update to see if it will cement another of life’s small but irreducible lessons.
I’m wedded to my paper diary, which has made using a digital calendar problematic. That doesn’t preclude sending a 30 second message the day before to confirm, or as often happens I’m contacted in advance anyway. Either way it’s a win!
Small changes in life like these are clarity at work, in this case, that nobody should have to waste time waiting, or rescheduling.
This was in 2010. I’ve only been left at the table alone once since then so this small evidence of clarity at work has saved hundreds of hours. I wonder what price one could put on that.
Clarity at work is all about the big stuff you most need to get clear on to move forward — purpose, principles, people, product, positioning, and philanthropy. And sometimes the small stuff. Like saving time.