Sam Ford on the Wrong Story, Right Story and Right ROI

by Mark J. Carter

Sam Ford on the Wrong Story, Right Story and Right ROI

INNOVATION STARTS WITH YOU: Why Telling the RIGHT Story is Important

Most companies strive to be “innovative” and want to be known for innovation these days. They set up programs and hire PR firms to talk about their innovative corporate culture.  Unfortunately they start at the wrong place: Company-wide change and initiatives. They forgot one vital element that can make or break their plans:  People.

During the Innovation Excellence 2014 Innovation Cities Tour I caught up with Sam Ford, Director of Audience Engagement at Peppercomm Communications to discuss this topic; learn why storytelling is so important to companies and why the stories have to be about their people; not just their products or services.

Innovation starts with individual people, not entire companies. Before your company can embrace innovation as a whole, you have to let leadership be examples through their actions. When you jump into innovation in the business world the first question you have to ask is…

ARE YOU TELLING THE WRONG STORY?

Many people write up a resume or write a bio and assume that’s what the world thinks of them. Sam says one of the most interesting things you can do is to ask that person to look themselves up online. HOW they look at the results make all the difference. They have to ask themselves:

If a journalist that hadn’t met you yet or a potential client, investor or recruiter looked you up – what would they see?  What story would you be telling them?

The story you want to tell needs to match the story the public actually sees. If you don’t control your story someone else will write it for you. That being said…

WHAT IS THE RIGHT STORY?

Your story isn’t your sales pitch or elevator speech. Sam says an example of what NOT to do is the good old corporate bio. This usually tells you something along the lines of “John has 20 years’ experience in the field and look at all the awesome things John has done.” Most people then go on to describe their offerings in hopes of getting new clients. But just talking about your service or product isn’t enough. You need to talk about the issues your audience cares about – this creates a genuine connection with them and gives you guidelines for what to say online.

The right story is the one your audience relates to; the one they want to hear and will share with their friends.  Discussing the issues they care about and offering advice SHOWS them that you’re an expert and innovative leader rather than just trying to TELL them that you are. Walking the walk is much more important than talking the talk.

SUCCESS ISN’T ABOUT THE NUMBERS: MEASURE THE RIGHT ROI

You can’t be everything to everyone. You don’t need to worry about reaching ridiculous numbers of people; you focus on reaching a specific community that will help you grow your career and build your business. Let them tell people how innovative you are and what your company is focusing on.

In his book Spreadable Media Sam warns against using the term “viral media” because that assumes that success is only achieved by spreading your messages very far to a lot of people. In many cases this becomes a waste of time because regardless of the numbers, you’re not even reaching people that care.

Know who you want to stay in front of and who will care about your story.

If you truly want to be innovative and get results then success could be results such as:

  • Becoming a regular part of the conversations within your community.
  • Having your clients and your prospects following you and engaging with you online.
  • Having the journalists in your industry connecting with you and seeing you as a trusted resource.

The people that care about your story are the people you need to focus on and care about.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION LESSON TODAY?

You have to constantly be going through a process of pattern recognition; this goes far beyond just “noticing the latest trends”.  You have to see things that are happening in culture. This means paying attention to your audience, your actions and checking in on your ROI. This means getting to know a community, rolling up your sleeves and really researching something in depth. You have to constantly be going through a process of pattern recognition; this goes far beyond just noticing the latest trends. You have to see things that are happening in culture. This means paying attention to your audience, your actions and checking in on your ROI.

This means getting to know a community, rolling up your sleeves and really researching something in depth. For example if you need to connect with millennials and that’s the focus of your marketing activities: Where are they talking online? Which platforms are the best – will Facebook work? Once you start conversations – track them! Keep notes about who you reach, how they can help you and how you can help them. Then reach out personally. That will help track your ROI.

How can you do this each day?

  • Find inspiration in unusual places.
  • Focus on the culture OUTSIDE the company and not just the products or services within your own organization.
  • Be aware of and embrace serendipity: Be acutely aware of your surroundings so you can pick up on things related to your story that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Take the situations you notice from the above three bullet points and make them key points in your story. What story will YOU tell your audiences today?

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    Mark J. Carter is the founder of ONE80, LLC: Bringing Conversations & Storytelling Back To Business. Through Idea Climbing™ Events, Marketing and Mentoring, Mark has built networking organizations for young professionals, and conducted expert interviews, from New York Times Bestselling Authors to the Founder of the TED Conferences. His mentoring programs are created to “demystify” the mentoring process for everyone involved.  Say hello to him on Twitter  @mjcarter