brand stories self-advocacy

When to fake it with your stories

It was l’esprit d’escalier all over again. Last night I gave a guest lecture to a public relations class for professionals where the students asked fantastic questions. Of course, a few questions kept rolling around my old noggin while going up the stairs to bed, especially those about authenticity versus fakin’ it.

When you tell your own story, be you. 
If you’re telling a story about something that happened to you, be yourself. If you’re funny, laugh at yourself or the situation. If you looked bad when it all went down, be vulnerable. If you’re nervous when you speak publicly, say so and that what you’re talking about feels important enough for you to speak up. Authenticity will make your audience connect to you.

When you represent your organization, be Them.
I mentioned doing a training with a client giving a presentation in a large auditorium. She brought me in to coach her on stage presence. She was not someone who spends much time in the spotlight so she bravely pushed herself out of her comfort zone. She was on stage to talk about her organization’s new initiative, not to tell a personal story.

She had to model anger at the current situation her team was trying to solve (though she is not an angry person) and then model audacious confidence in their strategies (though she is a humble person).  The tactic that ultimately worked was to channel someone else.
She thought of a former colleague who had a big, exciting personality and mimicked that energy. It worked. But remember, was representing her organization and not herself.

Sometimes you have to do both back to back.
Whenever I train board members in storytelling, we talk about being both. I encourage them to open conversations or speeches with a personal story, sharing a life event that made them the kind of person to join that kind of board. Then they practice switching gears to talk about the organization they represent. Their personal stories are their own words and their own personality. The rest of what they say is organizational messaging so their tone needs to reflect the brand personality.

Balancing your personality with your organization’s brand shouldn’t be a struggle.
Navigating between your own personality and a brand personality won’t be a big stretch if you join boards or companies that reflect your beliefs. If it is a big stretch, well…think about what that means on a deeper level. You might be wrestling more than a storytelling problem.

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