Dynamic. Powerful. Memorable. Brand stands test of time , impacts economy

 

To give a toast to the Immortal Memory of “Rabbie Burns” was an  honour, but also a tremendous growing experience, both personally and professionally.

Burns is renowned for writing Auld Lang Syne, as well as the impact he had on the Scottish economy .

An impact of about 200 million pounds, which is about $390 Million Canadian Dollars.

The Branding of the Bard is BIG Business!

In preparing to give the speech at the Scottish Club in Windsor, I  figured I would be talking to many people who knew a lot more about the great Robert Burns than I did. So, as a former journalist, I started my research.

Enter Professor Murray Pittock – a Scottish historian and  VP at the Burns Centre at the University of Glasgow and well, a Burns aficionado!

 

The power of branding is personified in this poet who lived a few centuries ago, but his legacy continues.

Professor Pittock is not only a Burns expert, but also the lead author of the Pittock Report, on the value of the Burns Brand to the Scottish Economy.

A brand that generates £200 million + for the Scottish economy each year; from festivals, tours, tourism and the Robbie Burns Cottage.

Growing up in a household with a mother who worked in a butcher job and a Scottish father, things like haggis, liver and cow tongue were all considered quite normal dinner fare.

‘The Grace’ at the Burns supper brought back memories!  While My father wasn’t a religious man, when we did say grace, it was ‘Some Hae Meat and canna eat’ and some … and more than a prayer, it was a performance!

Ironically, my father never attended a Robbie Burns Supper when I was growing up.  In the small town I grew up in, the Burns Suppers were held at the Presbyterian Church – so a dry event. My father said, “It’s nae a true Burns event if you canna have a wee dram!”

So, instead I went each year with my mom, an Englishwoman .

My father was a big Robbie Burns fan, though. He came to Canada from Motherwell, Scotland in the 1950’s.

He came with few belongings: less than a hundred dollars, the clothes on his back and his trusted Robbie Burns book of poems. Some carry a bible; for my father it was the Bard’s book.

I realize now how symbolic that book of poems was!

My father lived in a tenement apartment; one of five children, he worked on the docks at age 13, no formal education, but self-taught and well-read.

Symbolic in his connection to Burns; the working man.

So a few things about Robert Burns:

  • He was born in Alloway, Scotland, on January 25, 1759 and died at age 37
  • He had six siblings and lived on a tenant farm
  • He had little formal schooling, but was educated by his father and tutors
  • He started writing poetry and song lyrics at the age of fifteen
  • And He had 12 children by 4 women

Frankly I wonder how he had time to write over 700 poems and songs.

He was indeed a man for all that.

With a bar at the Scottish Club of Windsor Burns Dinner –  even my father would be happy.

There was another person I was most proud to have by my side that night; my son Aidan.   Aidan Robertson.

 

Yes, he will carry on my family name.

And the power that a name holds is likely something many people are aware of and keeps us connected to our heritage.

I work with companies and people on how to build and develop their brand.

Burns indeed has a brand that has stood the test of time!

Brands like Coca Cola, or Harley Davidson and personal brands, like Oprah or even Elvis – are household names.

Robert Burns has name recognition in Scotland and some parts of the world, but his name is lesser-known internationally.

However, he has poems that are widely celebrated; in particular Auld Lang Syne, or My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.

Robert Burns and his work is part of a  brilliant brand – dynamic, powerful and memorable!

A brand that has some well-known current day fans:

In 2004 Kofi Anan, Secretary General to the UN, called Burns a humanitarian.

Bob Dylan, the infamous American singer-songwriter said Burns was his greatest creative inspiration.

And renowned American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelo said Burns’ spirit was humanitarian. He was able to love human beings and his imagination was vast.  She even traveled to Scotland for his 250th birthday celebration.

Then, I became more curious!

How has the Burns brand stood the test of time – almost 300 years later?

  • First, he had amazing Content – and no one one has outpaced him.
    • He wrote 700 poems.
    • He wrote in English and Scottish dialect.
    • His writing was of a quality few can match.
    • He wrote satire like: Holy Willie’s Prayer.
    • He wrote humour and chaos like Tam O’Shanter.
    • And he wrote To a Mouse – a Scots language poem- from which John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ from a line from this poem.

English version:

But Mouse, you are not alone,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes of mice and men

Go often askew

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised Joy.

Second, He also was a consummate networker – a man after my own heart.

  • Burns travelled from Alloway to Edinburgh – a city then, and now, known for its, shall we say, ’more highbrow lifestyle’.
  • He had poems published and was known for both the quality and quantity of his work.
  • He was a good-looking heartthrob, so women adored him and he adored them, and yet he didn’t alienate men.
  • He had the gift of the gab – he was charming – and most important he was relatable.
  • He travelled in all the right circles and attended parties with the who’s who of his day.  He attended parties held by a woman known as the “it” girl of the time; Allison Rutherford.
    • Her parties gathered together great minds over food, dance and debate and we all know that us Scots love a good debate!
  • Burns was often the centre of attention and he could work a crowd with his charm and his increasing popularity.

Third, he was brilliant at self-promotion and it didn’t happen by chance.

  • It was part of his own self-conscious development of it – something extremely unusual In the 18th century.
  • He is a pioneer in the art of self-promotion, according to Professor Pittock.
  • Here we had a man who became quite well-educated, very popular, left his farming days to wine and dine with some fairly well-known names of the time and was actually quite well off, relatively speaking. He could even afford to have not one portrait done, but quite a few. He was also a massive celebrity of his era!

And here is where we see the cleverness that is classic Burns.

  • At every party and in every portrait, he wore farmer’s boots and work clothes.
  • He reckoned he could sell himself as a penniless man of the soil – a man of the people; a working-class man of nature – and no one put 2 and 2 together.

And often we still don’t, according to Pittock.

And finally, Burns excelled at impact.

  • To quote Maya Angelou – people may forget what you did, forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Burns is the supreme poet of feeling.

Rather than bold ideas, he didn’t really say too much to offend, Pittock told me.  He conjured up feelings instead:

 

Auld Lang Syne:

Nostalgia for past

Lamenting friends lost

Hope for future

Tam O Shanter 

An epic poem with humour, pathos, horror and definitely just a very colourful tale of the drinking class in ayr

Red Red Rose 

A love poem

A poem comparing love to a rose

A story of love and separation

Even if we can’t recite his work, or even understand much of it, we know how we feel when we hear his work.

And people like Anan, Angelou, Dylan, celebrated him and certainly, people like my father did.

My brother, not one to show his romantic side publicly, recited ‘Red Red Rose’ at his wedding.

Oh my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

Though it were ten thousand mile.

It still gives my sister in law goosebumps!

Robbie Burns was prolific, connected, confident.  He was complex.  A mass of contradictions.

His life was messy.  He wrote poems that touched our hearts, and even our souls.

Burns is well-deserving of his place in history, his place today in many of our hearts,

and certainly for this annual Immortal Memory.

He lived. He loved and he was imperfect.

Maybe he was a boy who just liked “shagging” as one poet said, or maybe he wanted to do something remarkable, beautiful, special.

And maybe we love him because he didn’t present himself as all that precious and instead, was just like us.

Maybe that’s where magic happens.

And that indeed, he is more like us than we may even realize!

So now, please join me as I pay homage to my father, George Baillie Robertson.  My son Aidan James Robertson.

And to Robbie Burns:  to his Immortal Memory.

Check out speech on YouTube 

Listen to November 2021 interview with Murray Pittock on #ShowUP with GailNow LIVE 

 

 

 

Grow your business with simple and effective Networking Tips

Do you hate networking? 

It often has more to do with the types of people and groups you may be hanging out with.  

It really can be that simple!

Also, the tricky part is to realize you have to invest time and effort if you want to connect with amazing people.

And…. You have to SHOW UP! 

This is part of my three-step process:  Sign Up.  Suit Up. and Show UP!   

Whether it’s growing your business, losing weight, overcoming health issues:

  1. You first have to decide that you want to change (Sign Up)  
  2. Then, invest the time and effort (Suit Up)  
  3. Lastly, show up to connect with people who can help you (Show UP) 

As a guest on Manufacturing eCommerce Success with Curt Anderson and Damon Pistulka, I talked about why showing up can transform your business and as Curt says, “Stop Being the Best Kept Secret” and what Damon says, “You want to be the red M&M in the bowl of green M&Ms!”

  1. It’s ok to stumble and fall – ask the dumb questions; be wrong and try something new! 
  2. Attend virtual events and connect with people in the chat.
  3. If you need help – ask for it.
  4. Find people that you are interested in, follow them and connect with them.

Also, learn from people that know more than you!

As a recovering journalist, I have learned that I don’t have to have all the answers; I just need to find people who do! 

Be that Red M & M and stand out in a crowd! 

Talking to these guys (Curt and Damon) and seeing them each Friday on Manufacturing eCommerce Success AND really ‘getting’ what Curt has talked and written about: Stop Being the Best Kept Secret; that really isn’t a badge of honour.

Damon has talked about being the red M&M in a bowl of green ones. He also knows of what he speaks when it comes to manufacturing and specifically in moldmaking, molding and plastic injection world. 

Get outside your comfort zone!   Just meet people.  

So, in my opinion, networking is all about opportunity: An opportunity to show up and be noticed; and to start building connections that can and will transform your world!

Going Solo: Skills to save the day

Curiosity has always been my go-to to build my skill-set and my business.

Recently, I  had the privilege of being interviewed by David Shriner-Cahn on his podcast Going Solo and we spoke about how to use curiosity to build your business. 

But curiosity isn’t the only utensil in my employment toolbox. Transferable skills are key, as well as advocating for balance – in work, in my personal life – and, importantly, in relationships. You have to make sure that the balance and chemistry in your working relationship is there, otherwise it probably won’t last.

There are many more secrets of success and tips for moving forward professionally that I reveal on this podcast and use in topics of my keynote speeches.

So pull up a chair and give a listen – hopefully some of my ideas will speak to your situation and inspire you to action!

During the episode, we discuss:

  • Getting ahead of the curve by planning your exit strategy [02:44]
  • Listen to the train in the distance [05:37]
  • Why having a schedule is key for entrepreneurs [07:11]
  • Embracing competition: the value of lifting other people up [09:14]
  • How to prequalify prospects that align with your values [12:40]
  • Be curious, not judgmental [18:11]
  • How to keep the doors open when going to networking events [19:46]
  • The tool that will help you move your sales in a virtual world [21:14]

Please listen in to learn more about how I did it and how you can, as well!

How to Use Curiosity to Build Your Business Featuring Gail Robertson – Smashing the Plateau

Be Curious – Not Judgmental: Powerful tool

Curiosity is a powerful tool

It’s  fuel behind the engine that has helped me in my professional life.

I’ve fulfilled many roles over the years: journalist, bed-and-breakfast owner, fundraiser, marketing manager, brand ambassador, social media experimenter, public relations and keynote motivational speaker.

Curiosity has enabled me to transfer my skills from one career to the next. That and a genuine love for people has helped me to network with – and learnfrom – the best.

When I attend a networking event, the feeling I experience is excitement because I will meet new people and hear their stories! I’m excited to attend a networking event because of my curiosity: I like to be in the know, ask questions and meet interesting people. 

Curiosity is powerful because it leads to a conversation, a connection, even a promising opportunity!

One of my favourite TV shows is Ted Lasso mostly because of a main theme throughout the show is curiosity and Ted often reminds us through this show to “Be curious, not judgemental” as originally said by Walt Whitman, an American poet, essayist, and journalist and humanist who lived during the 1800s.

 

Here is a monologue from Ted that impacted me as a lover of curiosity: 

“Guys underestimated me my entire life. And for years, I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw this quote by Walt Whitman and it was painted on the wall there. It said: ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ And I liked that. So I get back in my car and I’m driving to work, and all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas that used to belittle me; not a single one of them were curious. They thought they had everything all figured out. So they judged everything, and everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me…who I was had nothing to do with it. Cause if they were curious, they could’ve asked questions. You know? Questions like: ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted’ To which I would’ve answered: ‘Yes, sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father, from age ten til I was 16 when he passed away….Barbecue sauce.” 

                                                                                                Ted Lasso, “The Diamond Dogs-  Barbecue Sauce 

So I ask you, are you using curiosity instead of being judgmental?

It may make a BIG difference in the way you perceive someone else and help you to appreciate their story. 

 

 

 

When You’re Ready For Your Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

The classic cinematic quote “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille” – taken from the 1950 classic film Sunset Blvd. – can be contextually applied to today’s world of effective marketing.

How? Well, when it comes to marketing – especially when considering all the technological advances we’ve made in 70 years – the real truth is that video is the new black when it comes to getting your message across.

According to oberlo.ca, 87% of marketing professionals use video as one of their tools, and whether they pop up on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or any other social media platform that allows more than just posting a pic, it’s a key way to sell your product or service through your most valuable asset – you.

In the story of the  film, for instance, actress Norma Desmond, a silent film star, realizes she has to adjust to the times in order to continue making an impact in Hollywood and sustaining her own career…so the “Mr. DeMille” character in the film is actually referring to real-life film director Cecil B. DeMille as she tells him she’s ready to move forward.

While everyone else’s situation in marketing isn’t nearly as dire as Desmond’s, the message hammers home a point: life doesn’t stop – and if you snooze, you lose.

Today, in this era where the challenge of making compelling content that will engage and attract new customers, video is becoming more of a necessity than an embellishment.

Personally, I enjoy making videos, even though I started as a writer. One of the reasons I love to communicate via video is because it’s not only a powerful medium, but it gives me the opportunity to show my personality and convey a bit about who I am.” 

And let’s face it: we’re increasingly turning into a visually-stimulated society: The amount of video on all platforms has skyrocketed across the world in the last few years. 

Today, you can barely walk a few steps before your eyes are accosted by video: maybe you’re in the elevator of your apartment, eyes glued to a screen as you’re ascending a floor or two to get home. Or maybe you’re cruising along the highway and a video ad catches your attention just long enough to impart some interesting information. Make no mistake: videos on out-of-home platforms are there for a reason – a video ad is the most popular format these days to attract new clients to your business. Even a restaurant menu these days will give you video options!

Since producing your own videos has never been simpler, thanks to iPhones and TikTok, this “Selfie” generation has practically taken crash courses in capturing, editing and broadcasting videos in order to be hip and keep up socially with their friends.

And that goes the same for business, especially when it comes to creating and distributing data.

Here are a few things that make video content superior:

  1. It controls the online world

By 2016, YouTube – which today boasts 1.8 billion active users –  became the second most dominant and popular social media platform on the internet to employ video. Throw in other major outlets like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, and LinkedIn – which make it easy for videos to be uploaded and shared within the global community through the internet – and your bases are pretty much covered.

  1. It engages the audience in a superior way

When a video is merged with a sound and a visual, the audience is open to receiving a lot more information and engagement from them. Powerful, no?  If the video content and movements are succinct and accurate, viewers are prone to watch them till the end, resulting in better engagement. Organizations are able to use this power to promote their new brands with videos that enhance the image of the new product.

  1. It supplants text-only content

Nowadays, people are choosing videos rather than text-only content, because of the added visual and aural stimulation. Information sources like illustrations, infographics, and podcasts have also been measured against videos. Video may never supplant them, but the medium will keep flourishing as THE MOST powerful form of content in the future.

  1. It promotes shares

Online users today are more keen to share videos than any other content. Videos get more shares than pictures of text content because they are believed to be more socially relevant than images and text. Most people these days have a Snapchat or YouTube presence; through interactive videos, people are able to communicate their interests on a larger scale.

  1. It also conveys non-verbal communication

In delivering a message, body language and vocal tones play an influential role when it comes to perception! Word choice may be crucial when it comes to  text, but visual elements like emojis help to make an emotional connection with viewers. When they watch a video of someone speaking to them directly, they are conveyed a more all-encompassing message, which may hold greater appeal and serve more as a catalyst for them to respond to a call-to-action.

  1. It provides deep and rapid content

Conversely, podcasts usually lack visual aids. Audio combined with a video provides a rapid, sensory message. For example, if a person presents a graph in a  video, the viewer will comprehend the graph much more easily when viewing the visual example than if that graph were presented in a text-only or audio format.

And here’s the beautiful thing: you don’t need to have a huge budget to send out an effective, customized message. 

I recently had a conversation with Ingor van Rooi on my LinkedIn Live show, #ShowUP and we discussed the power of video. Many of us are intimidated by appearing on video because of the fear that our efforts may lack a polish or seem amateurish in comparison with those who may have budgets to provide a slick, professional presentation.

But Ingor pointed out that “as long as we’re authentic and show up as our real selves, we’ll be fine. Everyone is their own individual and everyone’s journey is different.”

If you believe in your message, your product and/or your service, your passion and authenticity will shine through the camera lens and mesmerize your viewers.

So….Mr. DeMille be damned: are you ready for your close-up?

A Guide to How Manufacturers Can Show UP in the Digital Space

I had the privilege to be a guest on Lori Highby’s podcast, Social Capital, recently. We spoke about “How Manufacturers Can Show Up In The Digital Space”.

Something I am known for is curiosity – which is the foundation for much of the work I do. When Lori asked me about why curiosity is so important to me, I explained that curiosity is a tool that has enabled me to learn and grow. I’m on my 5th career and curiosity has definitely served me well in developing new skills and exploring different fields!

I encourage others to use it, especially my current clients who are mainly in the manufacturing world. I want them to be curious about marketing, outreach and how they can make a change from the traditional trade shows. The pandemic has changed the way we do things, but we must view it as a disruption, not an interruption. 

We’re not going to go back to the way it was; our world has changed!  Even if we go back to live or in-person events, there’s still going to be a digital component. 

Curiosity is like a muscle, if you’re not using it, it just won’t grow! It’s all about growing, learning, and exploring the virtual world which may seem overwhelming to some, even a bit scary. That’s why I say that if you’re curious, you can learn so many new things, and become more adept at how to use all these virtual technologies!

Here are two tips to help salespeople in manufacturing industry  – although it really can apply to other businesses, fundraising, recruiting and well, life in general! 

  1. Ask those questions and do your research: learn about who your clients are and what they’re looking for before trying to sell to them. What’s happening is those same clients are doing that with you. Know that they’re doing research about your company; looking at your social media and websites because they want to know who you are before they’re even going to think about buying from you. As a salesperson, you need to do the same thing. Dig in, find out who they are as much as possible. There’s a lot of information you can find online about someone. I’ve had some salespeople  feel uncomfortable with this, but I say, “In this world, if someone posts something publicly, like on a social media platform, it is done because they want to share something.” 

      2. Instead of selling, be generous with your information, share your knowledge, try to be a guide to who you’re trying to sell to. So if you’re in an engineering role, as a salesperson, you want to share all the intricacies of what goes into solving problems for your prospects. Give your prospective client (the person looking at your profile) some insights. 

 

One of the big stop-gaps for a lot of the people in manufacturing sales is they assume that people already know things. My response to that is, “You’d be surprised at what people may want to learn about, and the people that may be doing the research aren’t always the people that know about how that tool works, or what machine is on that tool. 

 

So be that guide, share information, and also share a bit of information about yourself. For instance, I may post something related to cycling because that is something I do. So you need to focus on what are some of the interests you have that might relate to your industry role. We know when it comes to connecting with people, if you have a common interest it can be beneficial to building a rapport. 

I make the correlation back to trade shows –  when they would have those casual conversations. It’s about taking those casual conversations in real life and bringing them over to the virtual world.

 Something else Lori and I spoke about is the resistance that exists to virtual networking, especially in the manufacturing space.

This is something I’ve  been studying in the manufacturing sector. 

And here are some observations: 

  • A lack of understanding of how social media works. So,we need to do better in how we’re explaining this brave new world!  
  • Fear of the unknown also contributes to this and most people naturally don’t like change. It’s like those comfortable shoes, right? You get into this comfortable lifestyle and then if someone comes along and says “Let’s change,” sometimes we resist. 

Solutions aren’t easy.  Not everyone embraces change so this is where curiosity is that muscle that needs to be exercised.  The more you’re learning, the more you’re asking questions. Without fail, you will overcome some of those fears! 

We fear things we don’t know or understand.

We often need to get to where we can show up and trust in the process.  Mindset is a  big part of overcoming those fears.  Without an  open mind, you’re probably going to have some difficulties. 

We all do some things we don’t want to do because there is a reward at the end. 

The reward in embracing digital is that there are opportunities to make connections and get leads that one day could lead to a sale. 

Sometimes you’ve GOT to do things you don’t want to do to achieve a longer term goal. 

 

To hear the live interview, follow this link: 

https://poddtoppen.se/podcast/1190946225/social-capital/311-how-manufacturers-can-show-up-in-the-digital-space-with-gail-robertson

Where the Magic Happens

Just. Show. Up.

It is a term I heard during an online session with the amazing Maiko Saiko.    She talked about the power of showing up:  if you do that,  you are already making progress.

When we show up, sometimes we can meet and connect to amazing people.  We can learn new things.  We can build a network.

It also takes an open mindset and the willingness to ask what we think are “dumb” questions and frankly, to appear vulnerable.

To me,  “Just Show Up” – like the Nike catchphrase “Just Do It” – holds great power.

There is an oft-quoted phrase that says 80% of success in life is just showing up…that it can lead to success and become a powerful habit.

Many articles have been written on this topic, but here is how “showing up” has made a difference to me:

  • Met incredibly interesting people
  • Learned something new
  • Rewarded by helping others when I’ve least expected it
  • Improved my physical and mental health

Curiosity has been a tool that I use as a catalyst to show up!

I love to meet new people and learn new things, so curiosity helps push me into… showing up.

Asking questions and being willing to admit that you don’t have the answers is so powerful, especially since it reveals a willingness and an openness to learn.

I have been a journalist, a Bed and Breakfast owner, a fundraiser and a marketing manager in the insurance and tech spaces. Today, I’m Chief Curiosity Officer at GailNow – with a focus in manufacturing and marketing and an additional niche in moldmaking and cutting tools.

Talk about a learning curve!  I had no idea what a moldmaker did. I was also totally confused for about a year about the difference between a moldmaker and a molder.

So, I asked a lot of questions…read industry magazines… watched YouTube videos… spent  time on shop floors and…I did that by showing up.

I have a long list of examples of showing up, from covering Jr. B Hockey in high school when I knew nothing about hockey; to meeting author Bryce Courtenay in Australia by cold-calling his office to get a book signed; to landing jobs and clients without going the typical routes of applying for a position or advertising.

The lesson: when we show up,  we’ve already conquered half the battle.

Showing up does not mean “pitch slapping” –  where you send a connection to someone on LinkedIn and then pitch them without ever bothering to first build a relationship.  It also doesn’t mean creating a social media profile and having a one-way conversation.  Yes, you need to post – but you also need to engage, connect, be an active listener and participate.

As a beta tester in TwitterSpaces, I first arrived on the platform as a listener.  Then, once I surveyed the lay of the land,  I started speaking.  By showing up and observing, soon I was meeting people, connecting with them and best of all, learning.

Twitter is my main platform because I have found that it is the perfect place for me – for my business and for my personality.

When I showed up, the magic happened.

And the magic is your reward when you Just Show Up.

 

 

 

Storytelling: secret to business success

Once upon a time … 

A start to a story.  A beginning. Often involving a reflection back in time. 

We know fairytales and fables are often the basis of stories we continue to tell among friends, co-workers, peers and now in blogs, on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok and a multitude of other social media platforms. 

Aesop lived in the 500s B.C., but his stories were remembered for thousands of years without a single shred of paper or other printed material.

Now THAT is the power of storytelling. 

Oral storytelling was and is powerful.  Aesop’s tales are so well remembered, that even 300 years after his death the stories became part of a mass production of storybooks. 

According to blogger, entrepreneur and publisher Tom Corson-Knowles, stories are central to human cognition and communication. “We engage with others through stories, and storytelling is a lot more than just a recitation of facts and events.

As human beings, we are automatically drawn to stories because we see ourselves reflected in them.

We inevitably interpret the meaning in stories and understand ourselves better.

But we now live in the fast-paced information age, where information, concepts, and ideas continuously bombard us from every direction. Do stories really matter to us anymore?”

Well, as a matter of fact… Yes, they do. 

 There’s something about a story – the compelling scenarios, the vivid descriptions – that fire up and fuel our imaginations.

We probably don’t understand how impactful the art of storytelling is, but to put into context, we carried that concept with us even when we played with our toys. 

I remember playing with my Barbies when I was a little girl, and making up all sorts of situations of the mostly female community – Barbie  and Midge – Barbie’s best friend – were the leaders and then Ken was also showing up and causing a bit of a stir!  I still have my Barbies – and oh, if they could talk, I am sure some fascinating stories of young Gail’s vision of the world would be entertaining. They definitely shaped a great part of my younger years  and certainly played a part in my love of storytelling to this day.  

Maybe you found  stories in  early Marvel and D.C. Comic books with Superman, Batman and Spiderman and ran through brave, protectionist fantasies where they were the defender of good vs. evil, where they walked in the shoes of their heroes, albeit temporarily.

Sure, it was fiction…but what good idea hasn’t started with someone’s imagination and evolved from the intangible to the tangible?

Just as stories serve as great connectors, giving you the tools to make friends, they can make  life intriguing, interesting and even magical. 

Great storytelling allows us to relate to others – and depending on the circumstance, triggers our emotions for good or bad.

According to Harvard Business,  researchers have found that stimulating the mind with great tales creates a chemical reaction within the brain, releasing such memory stimulants as cortisol (which allows us to recall and recollect); dopamine (which is linked to our passion and keeps us focused)   and oxytocin, which is a sympathy catalyst – and a significant component in building, developing and retaining connections.

Telling the right story can be instrumental to your business’s success.

In this year of COVID, 2021, where direct and intimate social interaction is frowned upon – at least until all the vaccinations have been distributed and administered – the idea of sharing stories over a coffee, a beer or on a convention floor is being replaced by the newest group of tools – social media.

And there is more power there than you might realize, whether it’s being texted, tweeted, posted or communicated by video. 

The beauty of the internet is that – quite literally – the world is your oyster. There are few barriers stopping someone from Germany or Ireland stumbling across your message – and the ripple effect can be powerful.. If you don’t end up with a larger audience that you intended, you’ve at least been given the access to reach one – and what you do with it is up to you, in terms of the impact you’d like to make. 

On Virtual Speech blog, writer Sophje Thompson (https://virtualspeech.com/blog/importance-storytelling-business ) gives examples of how telling stories helps sell a brand.   Think Apple, Spanx and Microsoft.« Using storytelling in this way helps the audience to connect with you so they trust you, the human, and therefore they trust the brand. This is especially the case when the story is very relatable, which also has the added benefit of being easier to understand and more memorable as it’s personally relevant – the audience can see themselves as the character in the story. »

Stories matter.   They have the power to go far beyond charts,stats and data.  

“Tell a good story so you show your company’s personality and humanity – don’t just become a faceless company that consumers feel unconnected from and uninspired to interact with and buy from,”writes Thompson

And sometimes a story can take on a life of its own. A really recent example happened during the U.S. election.  As we all know, U.S. President Donald Trump lost the recent election to now U.S President Joe Biden. There was some real concern that the Jan 20 inauguration ceremony might be a repeat of the January 6 attack on the Capitol in Washington, but luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

And what was the most lasting impression taken from that peaceful swearing-in of Joe Biden? You might say 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman’s inspiring poem – and to be sure, she certainly got her fair share of attention.

But even bigger was the unlikely photo of Democratic Senator – and one-time Presidential hopeful – Bernie Sanders, sitting in a chair with legs crossed, masked up and wearing a pair of mittens. 

Now, chances are that if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik-Tok, Reddit or any other platform, you’ve seen one of the endless variety of memes that have depicted Sanders in every situation imaginable – and a few probably unimaginable – as good-natured affection has made him the most popular person on the planet – at least for a few days following the inauguration.

That, my friends, is the power of social media – and if you can capture that type of lightning in a bottle, which is difficult – but not impossible to do – you can command similar attention to your product and business.

And the best tool to achieve this? 

Storytelling.

Because it is so personal, because it is so relatable, because it is so resonant, storytelling is your secret sauce for success.

It’s more meaningful to put a face or a name to a narrative or an anecdote than just rattle off statistics. A good story is memorable and retainable, plucking the heartstrings and encouraging people to react and participate, appealing to the human within.

As much as logic may dictate action, it’s often emotion that persuades people to act. People  can personalize and adapt the story to their own needs and interpretations, and perhaps rekindle an emotion that they had forgotten.

The audience feels the story – and are more likely to remember the message because they feel it. The best story persuades the rational brain but resonates with the emotional.

Take for example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – do you remember that one? It began back in 2014 in an effort to raise awareness and funds for those inflicted with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. 

The challenge was simple – dump a bucket of ice-cold water over your head, challenge three more people to do it and make a donation to the ALS Association.

If you recall, this campaign caught fire on Facebook, Twitter  and YouTube as celebrities ranging from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey to Rihanna and Tom Cruise all took the challenge.

You want some harder figures?  According to Semrush.com, 1.2 million videos of people dousing themselves with ice water  were posted on Facebook, with 15 million more people reacting with a like or a comment or a post. Also, there were 2.2 million mentions of it on Twitter.

But how truly effective was it? 

In just eight weeks, 17 million people rose to the challenge and raised $115 million dollars U.S. for the ALS Association. 

Eight weeks!

Why was it so effective? 

It was a fun challenge and for a good cause, requiring very little effort or time.

If you want a practical application to a piece of merchandise, look no further than Roman Originals. You may not be aware of the name, but remember the blue dress vs. yellow dress debate from a few years ago?

It grew from a wedding photo posted online, where people had trouble telling the colour of a dress that a woman was wearing as she stood beside the bride.  According to Hubspot, the U.K.-based retail was hoping to sell 200 dresses a week based on the campaign.

Instead, they sold 3,000 dresses in 10 days!

Everyone became intrigued by the debate of dress colour and engaged through social media to the point where the campaign became an astronomical success.

If you can engage your audience properly, hopefully the results are organic.

Those are just a few examples of stories that benefited their marketers, because it involved and engaged them.

And if you do it right, similar results can be the happily-ever-after for your product.

So….

What is your story?

What’s Your Biscuit? The Power of Story

“What’s your biscuit?”

This may seem like an unusual question when talking about social media, but please take a moment to read about my tale and the connection between biscuit and the power of a good story will all become clear before too long.

For most people, the concept of “home” is one of comfort.  If you were lucky enough to have a decent childhood and a caring parent,  it is an easy memory to conjure up.  But even if you didn’t there is something about  safety and security that can be translated in the form of something home-cooked.

If we were really fortunate, our parents would pass down certain things to us, including recipes that might possess a little of that heartwarming magic and allow us to fondly remember them as we grew through the years.

For me, one of my most treasured memories is my mom’s homemade biscuits, which I refer to in my recipe file as Grandma Joyce’s Biscuits.  I only came to realize their additional importance and value as an adult. 

Those biscuits were made with great love by my mom. In turn, I have very happy memories of her making them and myself , family and my friends eating them! 

They soon proved to be an unforgettable calling card. 

For a few years, earlier in my life, I ran a bed and breakfast and my “Gail’s Famous Homemade Biscuits” were a star attraction.

Although I’ve moved on professionally from my B&B days, that biscuit story is a staple of some of my workshops when training groups, individuals and clients.  

You see, those biscuits were more than flour, shortening and buttermilk – they elicited memories, emotions and many stories of a bygone era.   

Those biscuits were part of my lifelong narrative and in turn they became an integral part of my brand identity when I ran  my Pelee Island bed and breakfast during my post journalism days. 

With great passion and confidence, I branded them as Gail’s Famous Homemade Biscuits.

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They were a talking point – a conversation piece- and a part of my story as a proprietor of a century-old rustic home in the middle of Lake Erie.   People would return annually and often ask if the famous biscuits would be served.

That was a given: You see – they were now a part of my B and B brand, both as my Twin Oaks Bed and Breakfast and as Gail, the proprietor who greeted guests and welcomed them to homemade breakfasts featuring my biscuits.  Every morning.  

Today, I bring biscuits to client meetings as they not only make an impression but I can show – not just tell – how the power of a good story makes a difference to a business and a brand.  

And let me tell you, due to this small gesture on my part, I’m not easily forgotten. People who have sampled them not only enjoy them – but leave with a story to tell.  A personal story that no one else can replicate because it is indeed unique to me, yet relatable to them. 

To quote Dr. Seuss: 

“Today you are you,

 That is truer than true.

 There is no one alive

 Who is Youer than You.”

But there is more to this story beyond my self promotion of biscuits.  

The point is all the warm and fuzzies generated by this action of mine is something that can be extended to social media when you make a connection.

When we’re reaching out to potential contacts, people that will hopefully become future allies in your professional network, how you approach them is just as important as why you approach them. 

If you just reach out to them out of the blue, without a proper introduction – or if you want to sell or exploit them for something without investing time in nurturing the relationship – it can have a disastrous result. 

So this is where the concept of the “warm biscuit” comes in handy. 

Unlike the many cookies you tend to receive from websites you visit – individual trackers that contains no nutritional value except for those merchants interested in learning your buying habits – the “warm biscuit” you should employ comes in the form of a story,  a comment and eventually a post where you share something about yourself that displays your humanity and evokes an emotional response from your target audience. It’s something that usually doesn’t include any hint of a sales pitch whatsoever.

When you first reach out to someone, don’t try to “sell” them on anything.  Send them a compliment. Ask if you can follow them.  Learn about their interests and what they have to offer.  Maybe send them an occasional email about something you think they’re interested in.

In other words, get to know them prior to pitching them.  And in fact, maybe  just leave the pitch aside until they ask you for information.  

By telling the right story and creating organic interest, you’re providing more than just information: you’re offering an experience that reveals your philosophy and culture.

And authenticity is the key. According to Oberlo.com, 86% say that authenticity is an integral factor in deciding and supporting a particular brand.

So, think about your own biscuit story – what is it that you are passionate about, that is distinctly natural and something that will draw people to you – something you can celebrate without selling and give rather than take.

The thing that makes you “youer than you.”  

There is no substitute for warmth…so, I ask you again – “What’s your biscuit story ?”

Come up with the right one and who knows…you may even earn a lifelong friend out of the deal.