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Guidelines for Crafting Your Story

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Image: Unsplash

So who’s your Story about?

I generally feel a wee bit disoriented right after shaping a book proposal.

What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I don’t go quite that far.

Last time this happened, my six-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging readers. Read more

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Brand & Innovation Digest – February 2017

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Image: Unsplash

During the past month, Tracking Wonder’s research assistant Gianna Kaloyeros has curated some of what we deem the most relevant studies, stories, and news that will help you and your team excel at having the most impact and influence via brand building, storytelling, and innovation.

– Jeffrey, Chief Tracker at Tracking Wonder

Four Reasons Every Startup’s Brand Needs Attention

From Forbes.com
With a personal account and wealth of advice from an entrepreneur and investor, Kumar Arora nails down the four biggest priorities for startups building their business. Don’t wait to start building the brand culture, he says, even in the infancy of the business. Among the four priorities is making sure your brand has a carefully considered name, builds customer loyalty, remains a source of inspiration, and sets your business apart from the competition. Kumar Arora @karora007

Read more

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Four Truths of a Brand Story

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Courtesy Unsplash

People get confused about brands and branding. Some people think branding means pretty or sassy logos. Some people think branding means smarmy marketing. I have a different take. From my years of research, working with clients, and shaping Tracking Wonder’s own brand story, four truths have become evident.

1. Story bonds us.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” – author Phillip Pullman.

Story-based brands linger in people’s hearts and build stronger communities. We spend money on stories we want to be a part of.

2. Branding is personal growth.

Shaping a brand story can accelerate self-knowledge more quickly than a year of personal growth classes.

To shape the elements of a brand story requires deeper ways of exploring and problem-solving than simple writing exercises or “doing a website.” They require mounds of self-knowledge and confidence. And they typically require perspective from trusted colleagues or mentors or advisors.

The most valuable brands and businesses – including personal brands and personality brands – are not simply self-expressive. They are self-expansive. Read more

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Who Do You Take Your Biz Story-telling Cues From?

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Let’s assume that one thing you do for your business is you tell stories about your business. You or someone on your team tell stories about how your business originated and why, why it matters to your customers, and why it matters in the early-21st century. You tell stories about your customers and other related people who illustrate what your business does and about your business’s larger message.

Now let’s assume you want to excel at what you do, and one thing you do is tell stories.

Who are you going to take your cues from when you want to excel and how? Are you going to learn from your competition and from your peers? Or are you going to learn from examples way outside of your field and industry?

Your inclination may be to assume the former – the land of the familiar. That’s the assumption of a colleague of mine. A friend of mine offers marketing services to service providers – coaches, online teachers, consultants. He complained to me that much of the advice being given to this audience for content marketing drew from strategies that corporation-sized brand agencies and venture-backed start-ups use.

“Why is that a problem?” I asked.

“Because service providers don’t need those big concepts from those outsized companies,” he said. “They need to understand how to tell stories to their potential customers more intimately, more genuinely.”

Maybe. Maybe not. Read more

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Fabiola Medeiros)

How Persistent Sprints Build Businesses & Books

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Fabiola Medeiros)

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Fabiola Medeiros)

Are you time-strapped or focus-challenged, but you have a book to write or business to build?

It might seem counter-intuitive – even threatening to your cherished beliefs – to imagine writing a book or building your signature business Story 15, 30, 45 minutes at a time. But that’s how you can do it.  Read more

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Why DIY is a Lie for Entrepreneurs & Creatives

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Now perhaps more than ever we have access to more knowledge, more resources, more apps that empower us to take things into our own hands. We can create and manage our own websites. Write and publish our own books. Build our own businesses. You name it, there’s probably a way that you could find out how to do it yourself.

Here’s where we get trapped.

Just because you can download a logo design app doesn’t mean you are necessarily skilled to design your own logo.

Just because you can access WordPress or Foursquare and choose themes doesn’t mean you are necessarily skilled to design your own website.

You can write well enough to form coherent, clear, sometimes lyrical paragraphs, but does that equip you to write your best copy?

I can strum guitar chords good enough for sing-alongs with friends, but I would never produce and try to sell my covers of Bob Dylan.

I’m curious: Why do we settle for good enough not only for ourselves but, more, for the people whose lives we want to make better – our customers and communities?

Maybe we think that because we can kind of sort of figure things out on our own that we should do it on our own and that we are skilled “enough” to do so.

It will save us money, right? Maybe. But maybe not. Not if your doing so is consuming your finite time and effort. Not if what you produce actually does not bring back your best revenue.

DIY could waste you money and time.  Read more

Courtesy of Creative Commons

When to Update Your Website

Image: Sean MacEntee, Flickr, Rights reserved.

Image: Sean MacEntee, Flickr, Rights reserved.

To revise a website is an opportunity to dig in, check in, and get perspective. 

You get to dig into whom you’ve become. You check in on whom you’re engaging and elevating at your highest level. You get perspective on why what you do matters in our times.

Tracking Wonder’s Story constantly evolves as those elements – the founder, our community, our times – shift. 

So, too, for you one or more shifts might signal you to look again at the Story you or your business is living and how you are owning that Story through the way you communicate and engage your community, clients, and customers. Read more

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Branding Accelerates Personal Expansion

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Rob Howard)

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Rob Howard)

You know something about your business and brand has to change. And maybe that something is you – how you regard branding, how you see yourself, how you hold back your business’s best potential.

Make you squirm?

You can attend a meditation retreat and get clarity on how jumbled your mind is. You can travel to a renowned center to explore your calling. You can take yoga classes to sweat your way to a calmer sympathetic nervous system.

Shaping a brand story can accelerate self-knowledge more quickly than a year of personal growth classes. (Tweet this if it resonates. Thanks.)

If you’ve experienced it, you know what I mean. Otherwise, you’re scratching your head.

Let me unpack what I mean. And there’s something else a little astonishing I’ve noticed, too. Read more

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Daniel Agostini)

How Your Brand Story is Your Business Axis

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Daniel Agostini)

Courtesy of Creative Commons (Daniel Agostini)

If your business or brand grows quickly, your content and offers can start to sprawl like Dallas or LA suburbs.

If you’ve been a creative juggler for years, you eventually can get distracted, fatigued, and confused about where to focus your finite energy, talent, and effort.

Whether sprawling or juggling, I’ve found it helps to have an axis.

Just One Thing

Her eyes looked tired. A musician, coach, sound healer, big event planner and maker, b & b retreat owner, and single mom of 3 girls sat across from me.

We were starting her VIP Day at the Mohonk Mountain House. For years she had told herself a lie about freedom.

That lie of freedom goes something like this: “I don’t want to be pinned down. I want to be free to create and do whatever I want whenever I want.”

That idea of freedom is simply a reaction to perceived rigidity and constriction. It’s not freedom. True freedom comes from liberating yourself from old patterns so you can advance your best work with the greatest impact.

Being pinned down? That’s often an unconscious form of resistance not to stand up and commit to our best work for the moment.

David Bowie, David Byrne, David Lynch, Elvis Costello. Are those guys pinned down? No. But at every creative and business artist iteration, they owned who they were and what they had to offer.

I didn’t say all of this to my client. I didn’t need to. Her tired yet beautiful eyes told me she already knew it.

Me: ”By the end of the day, what do you most want?”
She: [Sigh] “I just want one thing. I want all that I do to make sense. I want to stop spinning my wheels.”

Me: “And you want a return you deserve?”

She: “Yes. I can admit that now. Yes!”

Me: “Good. Your owning your one thing is connected to your earning the return you deserve. Let’s get to work. Let’s make possibility happen.”

And we did. We had been working together for several months, and I came prepped with a 35-page one-year playbook not of prescriptions but of actionable possibilities.

We uncovered her axis. Really, her Brand Story and the integral strategy to unfold over the course of a year was her axis. It is what at last drew together all she does and helped her filter out what no longer to do. And more.

Finding the Story you and your business or brand stands for doesn’t happen overnight or even after reading this piece. Every thriving founder or innovator knows himself or herself profoundly. And they keep examining their core values, their key strengths & personality traits, how they captivate and elevate. And more.

And it requires profound empathy. It requires getting out of your way and listening, really listening to the people you desire to engage and make their lives better.

But there’s something more. And it’s this something more that many professionals, creatives, and business owners don’t get.

But lawyer-turned-Love-Story-maker Jonathan Fields gets it. Read more

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Thoreau & Why You Should (or not) Care About Branding

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When the World of Buzz grows loud with exclamations telling you to try out the latest marketing gizmo (Periscope, anyone?) so you can get big and famous, I take a MindWanderness Break in my WEN Pond canoe.

I wanted a way to bring you with me. So, come along. Let’s get perspective on:

  • the brand you already have
  • your responsibility to own your brand with your valuable cup of coffee
  • and why the 3-part why of your brand story matters.

 

 

This video marks the first of the Brand Story Boat Ride series.

And, one thing to note: At the video’s end, I give you a special invitation to continue the ride.

Beyond the distracting buzz, maybe there’s something worth listening to.

Since we’re in the boat together, share what brand challenge you’re working and wondering through.

Jeffrey