Telling stories that sell the sausage. And sizzle.


We sat in the back of a small city fringe café buried in a conversation about telling stories.

Swee Mak, Innovation Professor at Melbourne’s RMIT University, relayed a dilemma faced by leaders too often focused on a narrative selling an idea rather than reality. He pondered if storytelling had dissolved into marketing.

‘We live in two separate worlds’, he said, ‘one in which you must mean what you say and the other where you put ideas out without bringing them to life. {Some] consultants and philosophers, do a lot of communicating without being accountable.’

Leaders sell the sizzle without the sausage

As a professional engaged in helping people tell their stories for the right purpose and best intention, I find it challenging to reflect on how story is used this way. When I consider the current spate of world leaders selling the sizzle with no sausage in sight, Professor Mak’s observation multiplies in impact.

He emphasised the primacy of marketing when supporting a credible product or service offering, but queried its legitimacy when it promoted a narrative without substance.

‘This is the problem for thought leaders’ he said. ‘They must straddle the spectrum, to excite people, but then deliver on that excitement.’

In a world of research, Swee is constantly exposed to stories of new ideas selling people on what is possible. However, he argues such innovations must only be based on sound principles and an established track record.

‘There is no point going into the nuts and bolts if people are not inspired and energised to move. But a lot of leaders cannot span that spectrum. They are either nuts and bolts leaders or dreamers whose ideas come and go.’

Two forms of communication

Swee explained that these two types of leaders offer two forms of communication: one disseminates instructional information, and the other influences and excites.

In an operational world, the instructions (how) often come without the reason (why), and in an ideas world the reason (why) often has no instructions (how).

Instructional communication is often top down, stifling innovation, and influential narrative is too often lacking in mechanics.

Either way, one part is missing or incomplete and as Swee said, the stories people tell around either are rarely well crafted.

Therein lies the real opportunity.  Leaders need to learn to tell purpose-fit stories for maximum effect on their audience.

If you would like to find out how to polish your stories – the sausage, not the sizzle – join me at the next PowerPacked Stories workshop. You can find out the details here.

Micro stories with macro potential


It’s a funny thing. A person can be consumed with the passion about what they do, resolved about the niche in which they work and invested in their brand.

While they can talk up a storm about the gems in their offer, their human story disappears, the micro stories, all gems too, left untold.

A passionate environmentalist, determined to educate people in understanding the impact of their footprint, discovered micro-fiber cleaning systems. After a great deal of research, she put together a plan to create a chemical-free cleaning company.

As a person she sparkled. She carried with her all the freshness of the dappled forests she wished to save. In her hands, micro fibres gleamed with saintly goodness.

She launched her business with enough knowledge, and dedication to her cause to fill a book.

But when it came to communicating it, she couldn’t tell the many hundreds of micro stories that would bring the magic of her enthusiasm – so much greater than a cleaning company –to life.  She was stuck at the features and benefits of her offer. It was as if the mere thought of being in front of an audience, on and offline, suffocated her creativity.

The power of micro stories

There was no end to the micro stories she could tell about saving our environment starting with the story of the heros in her saga—her, the planet, and the brilliant technology behind micro-fibers, and the villain, the dangers of chemical cleaners.

She could tell dozens of them about how chemicals in the house affect us all and what we should know about their residual effects; how they affect people with allergies or conditions such as asthma and eczema.

What about the stories of the people for whom her chemical-free cleaning services were making a difference?

This constant flow of stories told authentically in her voice, would reach, connect and engage with householders keen to make a difference in their footprint, and for those who were dealing with health issues that would literally change lives.

With consistent storytelling, she had all the right attributes to launch a community, excited by her and her dedication – keen to join in her cause to reduce humanity’s footprint while living in a chemically-free home.

What micro stories are you not telling about you, your passion, knowledge and expertise that could build your business and community and change your part of the world?

To find out how to unearth your micro stories and learn how to tell them to build business, join me in an intimate Why Your Stories Matter Workshop on Monday May 28 in Melbourne.  You can book here.

 You can also contact me by email, or on 0408 935 905.