The First Step to Shape Your Brand or Book Story

Courtesy of Markus Spike (Creative Commons)

How do you take the first step to start shaping and telling your signature Story be it in book, brand, business, programs?

Beyond my screen are tables of people – a woman with her toddler boy, two 20-something women, a dude wearing a hoodie holed up in a corner with his computer.

I’ve come to Lekker, a cafe I prefer in the Hudson Valley in part because of my experience here. 

First, they make the best cup of Americano around. 

The husband-wife founders have a heritage of creating contemporary Euro-inspired cuisine experiences in the valley. They love excellence, beauty, art as do I. 

“Lekker” is Dutch for delicious – which is one of the owner’s cultural heritage and is the cafe’s inherent promise that they deliver on. 

And the manager Brianna and everyone else on staff knows me and knows what I want.

You know what I’m doing? I’m telling their Story for them to you. Why? Because I am not a Lekker customer. I am part of the Lekker audience, and now I am an ambassador, a howling fan. I’m rooting for them.

I’ve just reviewed 5 core elements of a powerful Story. 

First, what’s your cup of Americano? In this post-Starbucks era, have you noticed how many independent cafes and coffee shops are opening? I have. And they are each distinct. 

I dropped in at Brewed on Magnolia Street in Fort Worth in March on my way to Austin. Why? Because their website told a Story that they brewed excellent espresso-based coffee + they served special loose-leaf teas + they live out a really cool and true mission to serve the city. The four owners – none of them with a history of entrepreneurship – set up an NPO to channel proceeds that help the city’s homeless and counter sex trafficking. 

I met one of the owners and struck up a conversation. They’ve been open for 2.5 years. I congratulated her and said, “2-3 years in business is a big milestone for a start-up.” She said, “Yes it is. Especially since I had no idea what I was doing!” But she did have a dream she has been devoted to – to serve the community and to give back.

That’s a Story worth sharing.

What do you actually make or do that your fans and audience want and will pay the right price for? 

It doesn’t matter how creative, artistic, sensitive, and anti-mercenary you are (because I am right there with you, brother and sister). 

You must get clear on what you, your book, your art, your business, your personality brand offers that your audience perceives is valuable.

Refrain from waxing lyrical about this. Get clear. If you offer music, say it and show that your music is your signature music. If you offer coaching services, say it and say how your coaching services are distinct. If your business sells yachts or health products, say it and show how your products or experience is distinct. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, why do people need it and why this one?

Next, know yourself. What parts of your distinct heritage as founder or owner are you bringing forward? What distinct skill set have you acquired over the years that you are bringing forward? If you’re writing a nonfiction book, why you? Why not you, right?

What do you stand for? What are your core values and the key ideal to which you aspire that also lights up your fans and audience?

Then deliver something more than your actual product or service or book. Deliver an experience. Engage your peeps. Give of yourself. If you have a team, be sure every one of them is generous and giving and gets what your greater mission is about.

Do that consistently and, yes, doggedly (not with “overnight” expectations) over time – over a year, two years, three years – and you will have built a Story.

If all of this intimidates you, then take this first step: Look at what you are doing right now instead of fantasizing about what you want to do in the future. How are you delivering value right now? To whom? Ask them how you deliver distinct value. Ask them to describe your best self with three adjectives. Ask them what distinct skills they see that you possess.

And listen.

That will give you good data, and it will give you practice in one of the most important facets of shaping a captivating and elevating Story: Collaborate with your audience.

As one stellar literary agent recently noted in an interview: Don’t write a book to get published. Write a book to get read.

Don’t shape a Story to get noticed. Shape a Story to captivate and elevate your audience. Build them up.

Operate from that mindset and heart set every day, and the Story will start to take shape with them.

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