3 Reasons to Unleash Your Inner Storyteller for Your Personal Brand

Cave PaintingsStorytelling dates back to original cave painting days before the written form even existed. It’s a universal phenomenon common to humans in all cultures around the world and throughout the history of humanity. By taking advantage of our natural tendency to share stories, we learn new things, remember the past and connect with other people in our communities.

A successful brand story appeals to the emotions, such as the following commercial for Taiwan’s TC Bank asking “What do people live for?” It tells of five men in their eighties who start up their motorcycles again after one of their friends passes away:

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Here are three reasons storytelling skills are essential for your personal brand and career:

  1. Stories Set a Solid Foundation for Your Career
  2. The underlying question behind your career is your motivation. Crafting your personal brand story will encourage you to self-analyze and reflect on the following questions:

    • Why are you pursuing this career?
    • What motivates you to keep on keeping on?
    • Where does your passion for this career come from?
    • How do you want to be remembered?

    The finished story will eventually become a coherent expression of your purpose and passion, solidifying your goals and dreams for yourself before you attempt to share your message with others. Eventually, this story can be a reference for you through the ups and downs of your career to remind you why you’re on this path and to encourage you to stay on it.

  3. Stories Connect You to the Listener
  4. A compelling narrative prompts personal connection through emotion says Dr. Raymond Mar, researcher and assistant professor of psychology at York University. In his review of studies on stories and emotion, Dr. Mar has found that stories evoke and influence emotions, having an impact on the listener or reader both during and after the narrative experience. He identifies two main groups of emotions elicited during good storytelling: emotions that engage, such as empathy or identification with the story, and emotions that trigger memories by bringing you back to a moment in the past. In drawing out these emotions through your story, you can ensure a real connection with your listener.

  5. Stories Have a Lasting Effect
  6. Stories that establish a personal connection etch into the listener’s long-term memory more so than a list of facts, aptitudes or experiences. It’s your story that will set you apart from competitors because no one else will have a story quite like your own authentic life print.

    Dr. Jennifer Edson Escalas has also found that stories can persuade others to act. As an associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, Dr. Escalas discovered that narratives in ads are more persuasive than straight selling. This is especially the case when the narrative encourages self-referencing. A listener who self-references identifies with the story and imagines using the product or interacting with the character in the story.

  7. Stories Seep into All Areas of Your Career
  8. Your personal brand story will be used in various ways throughout your career, particularly during interviews and when networking. With the behavioral interviewing technique increasing in popularity, appropriate answers are now stories of past examples. Create a consistent image of yourself by making sure all of your stories are in line with your central personal brand story.

    Since stories are so important for establishing real connections, it’s no wonder that your personal brand story plays a role in networking. Utilize a piece of your personal brand story as your elevator pitch for a lasting impression and share your story widely to create a community of engaged clients and supporters. Consider the tale of Scott Harrison who garnered over $20 million for his NPO Charity: Water, focused on providing safe drinking water to developing countries. Scott succeeded in communicating his personal story that explains his motivation and vision behind the project.

How have you used storytelling for your personal brand or career?

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  1. Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    I love the idea of being a storyteller, Samantha! I have heard of the elevator speech, but I prefer thinking in the context of telling a story. A speech is not interactive, and let’s face it, often not very engaging. A story draws the listener in and engages the listener through emotion and character. What a great way to think of telling (not selling) my brand!

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Chrysta, it’s so true. When we reframe the elevator pitch as telling a story, it becomes more personal and somehow more real. Thanks so much for identifying with this! =)

    • Posted August 20, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Hi Chrysta:
      it’s the Elevator Meeting or Pitch. 30 secs to get your message out there. I learned this during my first year of working in Tweed/City Hall for the Dept of Ed’s Office of Arts and Special Projects. My then boss was a master of this. Not a story as much a laying out, in the shortest of terms, what he needed to broadcast. It was interesting, but again, goes to our world of not taking the time to really listen.
      Rush rush rush.

  2. Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    You know my feeling about stories!
    The key point is that the stories have to be true so that the authentic you shines on- and more importantly because it tells something about you, your company, and your brand that could not be communicated without using more verbiage or taking more time.

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Great point, Roy! Authenticity is key. When you’re stringing together a web of lies, your story can become unstructured, unconnected and drawn out.

      Thanks for underlining this point! =)

  3. Posted August 14, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Oh Samantha,

    You are a writer after my own heart. So true, performed storytelling at a festival yesterday and it was very moving. I remember holding a careers workshop once and telling a story to a client about a personal experience. The next day she went out and did the same she approached an employer in the same manor. She then left 5 messages on my voice-mail saying she wanted to talk to me. Eventually she came in and told me that she’d impress the manager so much that he gave her a lead to an internal vacancy and he called her back her few weeks later to tip her on how to pass the interview. It was mind blowing.

    • Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Mathy, I definitely thought about your storytelling event when I wrote this post! =) You’ve been a true inspiration — I love how you take charge of life and I love your energy and enthusiasm for all that you do!

      WOW! That little story you shared truly shows the power of storytelling! Thanks so much for sharing that! =)

  4. Posted August 19, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Thank you Samantha for this extremely interesting and relevant topic on storytelling. I must say it took a few moments to clear the ‘moisture’ from my eyes before continuing after reviewing the great video. I also appreciate the connection storytelling has to social interaction in every area of our lives, specifically as it applies to presenting our best ‘selves’in the job market and social networking. This has given me much to ponder in my own life.
    I appreciate all the wonderful comments posted here as well!
    Very best to you, look forward to reading further articles!

    • Posted August 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Barbara, I so know what you mean. That video really touched me too, especially because I have some uncles who look like them! =) I was so excited to share it and I’m glad it struck a chord with you too. Sometimes, I think, we need video clips like that to motivate us to keep on following our dreams. =)

      I’m no expert in storytelling, but I definitely am realizing the value in it. I really have to get down to solidifying my story as well. Let’s keep each other accountable! =)

      Thanks so much for all your support, friend! =)

  5. Posted August 19, 2011 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    Hey Sam,

    I completely agree about the power of story-telling. I am actually reading “Tell to Win” by Peter Guber , but I unfortunately haven’t finished it (you know how I love learning, that I promised myself to just read a few pages a day coz it’s really taking me away from building my business)… The reasons you listed down are all so powerful, and anything that can trigger and touch human emotions, is always a winner! (That’s why you always see this approach to marketing as well). What I wanted to add is what I learned from Les Brown when he said that, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your OWN story, telling stories of other people are equally powerful. The key is on how authentic you are when delivering the message , as Roy pointed out.

    Sam, I truly love reading your posts.. I simply love them! :-)

    – Rowena

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      I must check out that book you mentioned, Weng! It sounds like exactly what I’m talking about here! Thanks for identifying with me — it’s true that this is the approach many use in marketing because it’s oh so effective. =)

      Ooh! Great point that telling others’ stories can be equally powerful! In fact, I’ve had a new idea recently about compiling others’ stories in a new blog. It’s still in dream phase though. =P

      Thanks so much for your support always, Weng!

  6. Posted August 19, 2011 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Hey Sam, I posted my comment before watching the video.. It moved me to tears! Thanks so much for sharing this powerful video, as well as your wonderful post.


    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      YAY! I’m so glad you enjoyed the video, Weng! It meant a lot to me too! =) Thanks for sharing it around!

  7. Abe
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    I like to think of it as (I remember when) instead of Once upon a time. Being older and well honed in my carreer I am often looked to for advice and counciling. I too revert to story telling of my own experiances to solve certain problems. Just yesterday a youthfull co-worker repeatedly told me he couldn’t complete his task in the time given for productivity. Reaching deep within myself I pulled out my story but still falling disbeleaved by my young friend. I then presnted him with a question “How long is one minute?” Not long he said, so I handed him a LARGE bottle of bleach and had him hold it straight out to his side without letting it down till I told him. I could see him struggle at only fifteen seconds. At thirty seconds his face was red from the strain and at fortyfive seconds his physical strength was all but exahused. At the end of the minute I asked him again “How long is one minuted?” This time he said, “Forever” I then looked at him and said, “What you believe in your mind is the first step to achieving what you set out to do. Listen and learn from the experiances of others”
    Great post Samantha, I couldn’t agree more.

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      What a perfect beginning line, Abe! “I remember when…” <– makes me want to know more instantly! And I can imagine sitting by the fireplace and listening to your many stories, or even being one of your many employees asking for your advice and learning from your stories.

      WOW, Abe! That is one of the best examples of a story with a moral that I've heard yet! It's not only a great story, but also the perfect addition to this article. It's why *listening* is such a key skill in life. Thank you so much for sharing that!

  8. Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    If stories leave us with hope and strength then they make the best of their kinds. Story telling is an art and definitely a tough one I feel.
    I love the message you give here and the reasons are wonderful. Stories are a wonderful way to connect and even for children they help them learn, grow and gives them such wonderful messages to hold on to. And that holds true for adults too!

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      You bring up a really good point, Hajra! Storytelling is a skill. That’s why there are people like Stu who are experts in the trade! =) But all skills can be developed and I truly believe that this is one worth developing! =)

      Thanks so much for relating this! =)

  9. Posted August 20, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I think storytelling is very powerful. I worked as an elementary school librarian for many years and remember how the children loved storytime. I would often seek stories that could be used to teach life lessons. I think it is easier to remember a lesson when it is related to a good story. I also think your own personal life story is very effective in building a brand and a business.

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:26 am | Permalink

      I can just imagine you as my librarian, Janette! =) Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience — personally, I love stories with life lessons as well!

  10. Posted August 20, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Stories? Important? Nah. Playing video games that destroy, kill, maim, murder and more are important, then take that out on the Sports field, where the crowd cheers men still in Gladiator form smash into each other. Now, that’s important.


    We all have stories, we just often let them get obscured. Glad you and I “met” Sam.

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Well, you’re the expert, Stu! Hehe! =)

      True, true — what an unhappy thought to think that stories can be obscured. =( I so hope that you and I may continue to bring out the stories in others! I’m super glad we’ve met as well. =)

  11. Posted August 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    The art of storytelling. When I was younger, I loved the Greek mythology. Such stories really shaped my world! As for now, I would love to write stories!

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:30 am | Permalink

      Ooh! You bring up memories of my past too, Muriel! =) It’s so easy to remember the stories of the past, especially because they’re so poignant! And hey, you are already a storyteller through your blog! =)

  12. Posted August 21, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Samantha, I look at what is happened in this blog and to you since you started using the Yellow Brick road and I am in awe of your growth and energy. Your blogs are stronger and tell even better stories often about other people but touching stories that are full of promise and wonder.

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

      Wow! That is a compliment that I will really treasure, Roberta! Thank you so much for being on this journey with me and for your endless encouragement!

  13. Posted August 21, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Very inspiring article today Samantha! The video you shared was sent to me many months ago. It is so inspiring and love the ‘story’. Life is precious, the people we meet along the way the impressions we leave are so purposeful and therefore allow us to share those stories.

    I know I’m getting off base as to your tips on storytelling, but I also saw it from a different direction. That we make our stories through our day to day lives, that we can bring into our business which helps to inspire others.

    Once again Samantha, always enjoy your writing!

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

      You understand it so well, Lynn — “Life is precious” is the message I garnered from the video as well. =) It’s so true that every day contributes to our story, which can thereby be translated into our businesses! Love the way you put it, friend! Thanks as always for adding to the conversation!

  14. Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    It is through story that we understand ourselves and connect to others. I often remind my clients that they are the authors of their story. Sharing our story isn’t just about sharing who we were in the past that has become our “why” of why we do what we do. I became a coach to cancer survivors & caregivers because of losing my husband to this devastating disease. For a long time, I lived the story of a widow without any real desire to go on ~ it was a story based in the past and in my loss.

    Proactively writing our next chapter makes us the author and puts us in a place of being able to consciously choose instead of living by default. When I finally created tools to be able to rewrite my what’s next to be about helping others out of my experience instead of allowing the pain of loss to hold me in the past everything changed.

    What a rich and articulate post, Samantha on how our stories can help us find those to whom we can be of service, communicate how we can help and give us the power to consciously design our life.

    • Posted August 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      That’s one of the most important things I learned from researching this article, Tambre — that working on our story really helps with self-knowledge and understanding as well! =) It encourages us to “proactively write our next chapter” as you say. And I absolutely love this line: “we are the authors of our own story.” It’s so empowering!

      The “Why” that brings the story together is truly the most important part! And you are one of the best examples of this! Thank you so much for sharing *your* story and wisdom here, friend!

  15. Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Hi Sam,

    In my blog, I do best by story telling and sharing my experiences on life in Italy. It’s giving family, friends and whoever interested, a glimpse into what’s going on in my day to day life (as Lynn has mentioned). It also show others who you are and allows you to connect with others on a personal and professional basis.

    I think most personal blogs are mostly related to story-telling :)

    • Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Ooh! It’s so true! You’ve made me realize that I do the same with my time here in Peru. =) How true! The blogs that *do* use storytelling rather than lists, for example, are probably able to connect with their readers more!

  16. Posted August 29, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    What an inspiring video. Shivers ran down my spine. Tells a wonderful story with a wonderful message: If they can do it at 81, overcome physical and emotional problems and recover at least part of their youth, why can’t others?

    I can imagine my cave men ancestors, and yours, telling stories around campfires or later on, telling stories as a way of living. I have also found that storytelling can make some kinds of work more compelling. For example, when I write research reports, I tend to tell a story. A couple of times when I straight out wrote a summary, I was asked to rewrite “as a story”. Seemed to be my strong point. Definitely, when giving speeches, storytelling is a must. I don’t know if it’s something that comes naturally to everyone but people can learn to find a story in almost anything.

    • Posted September 1, 2011 at 12:25 am | Permalink

      I’m so glad you liked the video, Pennie! I thought it was a gem of a find and love how you were able to specifically relate to its message. =) Truly, we all can!

      What a great example! Research reports and business plans are the perfect places for stories because that’s how we reach out to others with our findings and purpose. And you sure are an expert storyteller! =) I had no idea that you gave speeches too! Hope to catch one of your talks one day! =)

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