Storytelling goes back to the very beginning of the human experience and for much of our history it was how we learned, in many cases we still learn this way. There is an expectation about storytelling in that people sense that what they are about to be told is important or highly entertaining. The point is that storytelling is special and if you tell a story people will listen and give it greater weight than the usual noise that is out there. There is so much information out there now and so many people trying to be heard that it takes special skills to break through and to have your voice clearly heard and to be listened to. Storytelling is a great way to do just that. When you tell your story you can build your personal brand and that leads to another important lesson. Your personal brand should be just that. Personal. By connecting with your digital audience in a very real and personal way, through the medium of storytelling you will reach more people and they will relate to you better.
Your business has its’ own unique story and telling that along with humanizing it by engaging staff that write in a personal manner will make your business feel more real to people and people tend to gravitate to that which is familiar and comfortable. Hopefully, that will be you and your business.
My secret wish for my business is that others will come to understand the importance of planning for retirement as much as I do. I have spent a significant amount of time doing research into this subject and I know that if I pass this information on to others then they will have a much better and happier retirement then they otherwise might. Unfortunately, my motivation came from witnessing a few very bad retirement experiences and I initially wanted to make own upcoming one successful. But it was so difficult to find all of the needed information that I now feel compelled to share these lessons with others.
I try to share my motivation with others so that they will know where I am coming from and how important it is to plan properly. I take great satisfaction from helping others and I think that that shows through. I really do have a story to tell and I think I have done a pretty good job of telling it but there is always room for improvement. The more people that I help, the more my story will become known and that is a very good thing. People can sense sincerity and they know when they are getting the straight story and I take pride in that.
I know that what I have is a business but I have been fortunate in that I have structured it in such a way that it is easy for people to support my work with a very reasonable purchase that helps them plan well. In a way, the dollars take care of themselves and all I have to do is tell my story and my business moves forward. Not a bad deal.
I have chosen a post retirement second career as a retirement lifestyle coach. There are very few people doing this type of much needed coaching but even then I think that I have a distinct advantage in that I am driven to do this, a calling if you will. The others may have good information and advice but I have seen the damage that can be done by not properly planning and preparing for retirement. My own parents had very successful careers and lives until they retired but they simply didn’t know how to transition and the results were not at all good. I promised myself that would not happen to me and my planning and research ultimately took on a life of its own. Yes, there is money to be made doing this but that is not the motivating factor. People talk about my passion for the subject and how well informed I am. I think this is the key to my personal brand. I don’t want anyone to make the mistakes that my parents, and a close friend did, and it shows.
I am most proud of when I offer advice to someone that is lost about what to do with their lives after they leave their careers. I have literally seen relief wash over peoples faces when you tell them how they can plan and make the transition to a new life. I guess the bottom line is that this is not something I do, it is who I am in many ways. I am good with that! 🙂
For this post I decided to check out a company that has a very close relationship to their customers or “members” and that is Costco. I am a member myself but I don’t recall a really robust social media presence. However, when I went on to their main website ( https://www.costco.ca/ ) I was absolutely shocked to find that they didn’t have any social media links! Near the bottom of the main web page is the Customer Service line complete with a Follow header but no links. Not impressive for a company that it is always talking about the benefits of membership.
I had to look up their Facebook account. When I got there I did see that their SM customer care team was responding to comments, particularly negative ones. However, I was not impressed by the content. It was just a bunch of product advertising. There is nothing wrong with that but as the lesson taught us to” focus on how peoples’ lives can be improved with your products and services”. Costco is missing a great opportunity to connect with their members and to build that all important relationship. I also noted that the responses to comments were highly specific to the complaint but never seemed to engage people beyond what was bothering them at the time. The Costco team had just established a direct contact with a member and should have asked if there was anything else they could do for them or to ask them about their other Costco experiences. They seem to treat social media as an online complaint department instead of the great marketing and research tool that it could be. Too bad for them.
I have learned many lessons over the past six months of social media training, but nothing has struck home as much as Gary Vanderchuk’s advice to “understand yourself, very, very well”. http://gary.tumblr.com/post/78887660/the-dna-game-exacute-on-being-you Gary suggests that we really need to get to know exactly who we are in an honest open way so that we can determine the best means to get through to people. There is a lot of noise out there so getting noticed is not easy. More importantly, when you are noticed you have to pass the “sniff test” to determine whether you have credibility or not.
The Real You
Taking the time to analyze your own “DNA” to see how you come across online is critical. You may not be using the best platform or you just not be using it as effectively as you could. Understanding yourself, your strengths and weaknesses can help you to come across as far more genuine and sincere which can translate into success. People are busy and it is difficult to get and keep their attention. Analyzing the best way for you to communicate with these people may be the most important thing you can do. Once you get their attention you really need to convince them that you are the genuine article, the real deal and spending some of their precious time with you would be an investment, not a waste, of time. Imagine yourself around a campfire with these people and that you only have a few minutes to get your message across. More importantly, image that you only have the first 30 seconds to convince them to give the rest of their limited time because that is what often happens in social media.
Light a Fire
Take those precious few seconds to let the real you shine through. Let them know that you have something important to say and that they need to hear it. Light a fire, bring them in and be real. People will listen if you really believe what you have to say. The other points in this course are also important such as grammar and spelling but people want to interact with real people so being real is the single most important thing you can do.
Feel free to disagree. Comments are very welcome indeed.
If you had a chance to read my introduction on the discussion board you would have learned that I am a Coast Guard officer. I have spent many years at sea both in the merchant fleet and the Coast Guard and all of my voyages have been with a specific purpose. In other words, I went where I was told to go and when I was told to go. My wife and I have had an agreement for years now that I would not get my own boat until I retired. I have spent half of my adult life at sea and it wouldn’t be fair to take off on my time at home. However, I am nearing retirement and working ashore now so we have collectively decided to dip our toes into the water. Fresh water. Calm waters (my wife’s demand). The answer for us was the Trent-Severn Waterway, a 386 kilometer series of rivers, lakes and canals from Trenton to Port Severn, Ontario.
This was not new territory for us. We had vacationed ashore on the Kawartha Lakes in the past but spending a week sailing the waterway was a dream come true. We could go when, where and how we wanted, entirely on our own schedule. We initially planned to go by power boat and stay at hotels and B&B’s along the way but they book up fast. Fortunately, we chose to houseboat and that is something that we have never regretted. While “sailing” in a houseboat is a much slower pace than I was used to, it was the perfect way to relax. We could tie up alongside a wall in one of many picturesque towns along the way or simply drop anchor in a lake for the night. We chose both. We spent most of our time in the Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon area (see map above) because you can travel through multiple lakes without having to lock in. “Locking in” is a process where your boat enters a lock and the water level is either raised or lowered to meet the next section of waterway. This picture shows a houseboat entering the lock. I can’t think of a more relaxing or ideal way to spend a week of vacation than sailing, or drifting, around one of the beautiful Kawartha Lakes, dining at fabulous little dockside restaurants or just unwinding. Yes, the fishing was just fine, too. If you are interested in learning more about the Trent-Severn waterway, “Wikipedia has a pretty informative listing for it at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trent%E2%80%93Severn_Waterway. If you are interested in house boating I would recommend Egan’s Houseboats: http://www.houseboat.on.ca/
Have you ever thought about spending some time on the water? This is an easy, fun and really relaxing way to do it. They can teach you everything that you need to know quickly and no license is required to operate a houseboat.
The other day I read an interesting article about the World Championship of Public Speaking. The winner, a young man named Darren Tay competed against 98 regional winners from around the world. This event has always been sponsored by Toastmasters and it seems that in spite of our electronic age, public speaking is having a major resurgence. Toastmasters now has roughly double the chapters they had 20 years ago. The popularity of TED talks and other public speaking forums have also blossomed.
From the beginning of mankind, humans have huddled around the campfires listening to elders provide wisdom or to share stories. Oral histories of cultures were passed down and the young learned lessons needed for survival. As we became civilized we gathered together to plan and to seek entertainment but it was always that all important human voice or voices that pulled us in. There is something primal about sitting attentively and listening to a good story or an important lesson. That is part of the allure of TED. Spoken stories stay with us far longer than a series of spoken facts. Unfortunately, public speaking doesn’t come easily, especially these days. Rhetoric used to be taught in schools but that is no more. Toastmasters help people overcome their fear of public speaking and help them polish their skills so that they can make corporate presentations, teach or just entertain.
The twentieth century brought us mass communications but the microphone has always been closely guarded. That has all changed with the internet and social media. Today, the right message delivered well can fly around the world in literally seconds. That speaker might be anywhere in the world with internet access and using WebEx or another service and with an upload to YouTube the message is available to all. The speaker can go from obscurity to celebrity in minutes. YouTube is a tremendous resource for education and entertainment but there is much wisdom to be gained, as well. A few hundred years ago one person’s message never got past those gathered at the campfire. In more recent times there have been larger venues but you either attended in person or read about it. Today, the internet can take you there, “in person”, sometimes to witness history.
Chris Anderson, in his book TED Talks, says “the campfires of old have spawned a new kind of fire. A fire that spreads from mind to mind, screen to screen: the ignition of ideas whose time has come”. Social Media can be used for entertain and for business but we must not forget that there is much wisdom and experience out there. All we have to do is seek it out and gather around the social media campfire.
There is probably no faster way to prove that I am one of the older people on this course then to announce that when I was growing up we had a party line. A what? Rural telephone services did not have private lines in the 1960’s. While everyone had their own telephone number that actual line was shared by an average of 6-8 families. If you wanted to call out you had to make sure that no one else was on the line. If someone was using it you were expected to hang up immediately so as to give your neighbour privacy and they, in turn, should have felt obligated to wind up their call as soon as possible. In truth, people ease dropped and some people refused to be short winded on the phone. Sharing a telephone line with neighbours was a difficult process and there was no such thing as a private conversation.
Technology Finally Brought Private Service
The introduction of private service took a few years and initially it was offered as a premium service for those that were willing to pay more. However, before long the party line was dead and people could talk in privacy. I can remember that it took years for people to say anything remotely personal on a telephone line because they were still convinced that people listened in. It really took years for people to relax and feel confident that they were holding a private conversation, but once they did it was a whole new world. Privacy was king. People were happy that they could call the doctor’s office for an appointment and actually tell the receptionist what was wrong with them! People talked about personal issues and discussed intimate details with abandon. They were really happy that the idea of sharing personal information with others was gone forever. Or so they thought.
It wasn’t just telephone conversations that were private. Mail was considered sacred and some people protected their correspondence very carefully. There were many subjects that a person could not bring up in civil conversation and personal matters were just that, personal. I even remember receiving my school report cards in sealed manila envelopes so that others couldn’t see the details. The problem was that I couldn’t either, which was a bit nerve wracking. It was a very closed, private and really happy world. It remains in evidence today. Some of our older seniors still protect their privacy as best they can but even they seem to know that it is a losing battle. Even people my age, in their 50’s, are far more reluctant to let go of what little privacy remains.
The Return of the Party Line
Social media is the new party line, except that openness and sharing is celebrated. For the most part people really don’t have the privacy issues of my generation, provided they are the ones that do the sharing. People post photos, make videos and sometimes say some pretty gnarly things on the net. What may even seem extreme by today’s standards will be routine in 10 years. I can’t image where things will be in 20 years and I really don’t want to know. That would take the fun out of it!
Social media is a net positive for almost any entity with the possible exception of governments. There is nothing wrong with social media per se, however, governments at all levels have certain disadvantages not faced by most corporate interests or individuals such as:
- Government resources are usually high profile such as marked vehicles and uniformed personnel
- Their structure usually doesn’t allow for a quick response to negative publicity
- Governments get targeted more because of partisan politics
- Everyone has a vested interest due to their paying taxes, citizenship or residency, etc.
Governments Can be Highly Visible
Social media itself can be very good for government in that it allows for immediate feedback, a two- way discussion and an opportunity for citizens to have their say. But there can be a clear downside as well. Sometimes people will post a photo or report on a situation without putting it into context or they may not understand what they are seeing. A friend of mine was a Canada Border Services Agency employee and had stopped in at a grocery store to pick up diapers after completing a 12-hour shift. Two days later a Letter to the Editor appeared in the local newspaper criticizing a uniformed CBSA officer for shopping on taxpayer time. It was assumed that since it was mid-day that he should have been on the job.
Most of my career within government has been spent in search and rescue (SAR). One of the very first things that SAR teams are often taught to do when arriving at a crisis scene is to stop and evaluate the situation. This is done to prioritize actions and to assess potential safety hazards. However, one quick photograph of a rescue team not moving with a caption such as “they arrived and just stood there” can be very harmful to the actual team as well as the government in general. When the Royal Canadian Air Force flys over a sinking boat they will make several passes so that they understand the wind and sea conditions before dropping a liferaft or other rescue equipment. A short video of this could look really bad on the national news but these aircrews have to understand exactly when and where to kick out the liferaft in order for it to land within reach of people in distress.
A minor oil spill can look catastrophic if the photo is taken from a particular angle and those opposed to fossil fuels may find it in their best interests to send out the most harmful looking photo. Paramedics could be shown standing around when injured people are nearby but there could be very valid reasons for it. Perhaps there are live downed power lines or they are awaiting police as there is an armed suspect inside. A picture may be worth a thousand words but just a few words to put things in context would be really helpful.
Why Big Government Needs a Media “War Room”
If you follow federal elections, you will note that the major political parties have communications staff standing by around the clock to respond to negative publicity. While municipal and many provincial governments may not be able to afford to do this but the larger provinces and the federal government could have a small team of communications professionals and social media experts on duty at all times to combat bad PR. They would be able to call the government personnel involved or other subject matter experts to get the information they need and get it out there quickly. Currently, most employees are not authorized to take unilateral action and getting permission to do anything media related can take hours or even days. This can have a heavy impact on the public trust in government, the moral of the employees involved and could even lead to unnecessary and expensive lawsuits. Governments at all levels need to embrace social media as it can bring a lot of good and can make it easier, better and less expensive to provide certain services to the public. But it has a downside as well. Most major corporations have a strategy to quickly respond to negative publicity. It is high time that governments did the same.
Do you have any examples of harmful social media posts due to a lack of context? If so, please share them with us.
October is finally here and it seems that the heat wave that has enveloped us for some many months is finally abating. The crisp coolness of early morning is a sign that that colder weather will follow but it also reminds us that this is the season where we reap the rewards of our labours, usually with a bountiful harvest, feasts and celebration. Those brilliant fall colours on our trees, the crops ready for harvest and the spooky traditions of Halloween all await us. There are literally hundreds of things to do in the fall but i thought that I would share mine in hopes that you will be encouraged to set your own and to enjoy the best that fall has to offer. So here goes:
For me, nothing epitomizes fall more than the spectacular colours of autumn. You can walk, hike, bike, drive or kayak to see them but they should never be missed. I would encourage you to bring a camera as every year I swear I find the perfect autumn tree!
Baking & Cooking
You bet, it is pumpkin season again. The autumn seems to be the season for all things pumpkin, although apple seems to be a suitable substitute. The cooler weather makes for great baking conditions and just when you think that you have run out of ideas just sit back and have a pumpkin infused beer or a glass of apple cider. don’t forget that getting there is half the fun which means that if you can start with a trip to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard then so much the better. Which leads us to….
Even if you live in downtown Toronto or Vancouver you can still enjoy a harvesting experience within a reasonable drive. What a great experience for your children to learn where their meals come from, This is the time of year where you can often get a hayride thrown in on the deal and if that doesn’t get the little ones on board then consider a haunted maze as well. If you can arrange for a harvest from an organic farm then there is a great lesson to be learned for your family. There are few lessons more important for families than understanding the food chain and the importance of food security.
I know that it is October but this one is a personal favorite. The cool night and morning air will help you sleep better and you can get much better camping sites this time of year, with better prices to go along. For me, it is a great way to end the camping season and has become a great tradition for me. Algonquin Park anyone?
We all get two shots at decorating this season. Thanksgiving gives us a chance to be particularly artistic and with Halloween it is just plain fun. But don’t forget that the scarecrow can do double duty! Personally, I find that less is more when it comes to Thanksgiving but my style is the exact opposite for Spooky Night. For years my family had a very large front yard that we divided into three zones. The first was bright and harmless for the littlest ones. The middle zone accommodated the majority of trick or treaters and then we had the Dead Zone for the more adventurous. I usually hung out there in costume in the earliest years until my teenage son and friends took over. In the end even I was scared to wander in!
Okay, so those are my top five but I am sure that you have your own. Please share them with the class. What are your preferences? Tell us about your best Halloween display. Happy October everyone!