Public relations can be boiled down to storytelling. A brand consists of multiple different stories being told in multiple different ways. That’s the truth of this field; you need to know how to tell a good story. Personal branding is really the way you choose to tell your story, and this is the time of the year everyone is talking about it. You might find yourself wondering if yours is up to par. There are a lot of aspects of personal branding such as websites, logos and your voice on social media. These aspects are not powerful without knowing your story behind them, just like any other brand. What is your story? How do you tell it?
Here are a few easy steps to get you started in creating a better personal story:
Keep it simple
I am a man that enjoys simplicity. I don’t have a logo or a website because I like to keep it simple and because it is not necessary for my current path. I am not a fan of the unnecessary, and neither are those who are experiencing stories.
If you want someone to listen to what you have to say then simplify what you are telling him or her. Every part of a good story has a purpose. There will be points you want to get across clearly but creatively. Each part of the story should be telling something new but that doesn’t mean it is not reiterating a main point.
I have always liked the idea of using three points to base around what you are trying to tell. Choose three points that you can back up with your past and reveal the values you need to get across.
- I’ve always had a passion for telling a story
- Those around me place me in leadership positions, whether pursued or not.
- I am determined, which can be proven by looking at key points in my past
These are the surface points that your story is based around. There are a series of events in your life that extrapolate these points and show why they are true. Saying all of this is one thing; showing it through what you have done is another. These points are revealed through the story of achieving your goal or, more accurately, your motivation. They are part of your story, and help you reveal your motivation but they don’t drive it forward. Let’s clarify what I mean by…
There are a lot of facets to a great story. There’s a rising action, a dramatic question, a resolution, a main conflict and so on and so forth.
As important as these aspects are, there is one thing that starts and defines a story as far as I am concerned: the main character’s motivation. Kurt Vonnegaut, author of “Slaughterhouse-Five” said, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”
In the traditional campaign, the hero and the protagonist of the story is the consumer; it’s the viewer. This is the time in your career where you are telling (and living) a story where you are the main character and you are the hero.
Key points in your life and why you chose the direction you did are the superficial starting point of understanding your motivation. There was a day you decided you wanted to go to the college you attend. At some point, you looked someone in the eye and said I want to be in public relations or the next president or the Foot Ho – I really hope other people watch “Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23”. Behind these decisions and aspirations was one reason that drove you forward.
A lot of great characters don’t realize they are pushing the kitchen chair out of the way to get to that glass of water. Perhaps they haven’t even realized they walked into the kitchen so they can get a glass of water. It’s okay for you to be that character. Most of us are. As you go on, your motivation will change or maybe you will see that you were really motivated by something deeper.
Deciding what motivates you right now enables you to tell a good story. You can then take your original three points and build them into a story that is driven by that motivation.
This process is simplifying a complex human being into something as simple as a story. As I said before, keeping it simple is the only way you are going to get your point across. A potential employer or gatekeeper to your next opportunity most likely doesn’t have the time to get to know you but they do have the time to hear a story.
As of now, I can trace back what my motivation is and where it started – all the way back to the age of 6. I waddled up to my mother, told her I wanted a marker set for my birthday so I could “write stories.” If anyone really asks me why I’m doing what I’m doing I would say, “I want to tell a good story.” Hence my obsession with stories. I love public relations for what it gives me: another outlet to tell a story. The truth is I’m not near as good of a storyteller, or even writer, I want to be. That’s why I’ll keep pursuing this. There will always be another kitchen chair in the way. Perhaps in two years I will decide my motivation is something else but for right now I am sure that’s what it is.
This is easy if you take a second to think about your reasons behind your actions. You need to have a reason. Employers want to see a passion. Passion is born from a desire. What is yours? What motivates you?
Then it is as simple as building your story around that, but always be sure to include…
Motivation is a brilliant part of the story, but there really isn’t a story without a conflict. What’s in your way? I already hinted at this with the glass of water analogy: the kitchen chair.
“He walked into the kitchen, poured a glass of water and then drank it.” is a boring anecdote and not much of a story.
“He walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water but realized the kitchen chair was in the way. He pushed the chair back under the table, poured a glass of water and then drank it.” is a story about a character that was competent enough to reach his goal when challenged.
People interested in your story don’t want to hear that you wanted something and then just got it. They need to hear what made it hard and what was in your way. There was always something holding you back, whether you realized it at the time or not.
Someone experiencing your story wants to know that you struggled with a year of hard classes so you almost didn’t get into your dream college, but you saddled up senior year of high school, got great grades and wrote a killer entrance essay. They want to know that you were thrust into an unfamiliar circumstance in your organization that made it harder, so you never thought you would be in a leadership position. The story is in the fact that you once again you proved you were worthy of what you wanted and got that position. There are many different conflicts you have gone through to get where you are right now and conflicts you are facing as you read this. Include what those are when telling your story.
Where is the conflict in your story? How was it stopping you from getting what you wanted? How did you overcome it?
When you decide on a motivation and the conflict that was stopping you, you have a story. Build it and tell it again and again. I would be very surprised if you didn’t start to blow away interviewers and professionals. That’s how you portray the best you.
After all, you are the hero of this story.
Daniel Mulvey is the Chief Executive Officer at ImPRessions. You can follow him on Twitter at @DanielDMulvey.