Customers generally don’t care about your story; they care about their own

‘Building a Storybrand’ – This is not a book about telling your company’s story. A book like that would be a waste of time. Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.

Such was the overarching message of the Lucidity Business Book Club’s book of choice for the June meeting.

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller teaches readers how to simplify a brand message so customers can understand and act on it, be that for websites, brochures or social media. Although it is clearly a book written for a corporate audience, do not assume this means its content is not relevant for other sectors. Whether you’re a charity, a business, public sector or even a global movement – no matter who you are or what you are trying to ‘sell’ there’s something useful for you within its 207 pages.

The book is packed full of useful insight and gives readers a seven-part framework to follow. There’s also a very helpful section at the back of the book that helps readers apply the principles to web design.

The Building a Story Brand seven-part framework:

  1. A character…
    The customer is the hero not your brand.
  2. .…has a problem…
    Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems but customers buy solutions to internal problems
  3. …and meets a guide…
    Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide
  4. …who gives them a plan…
    Customers trust a guide who has a plan
  5. …and calls them to action…
    Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action
  6. …that ends in a success…
    Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending
  7. …that helps them avoid failure.
    Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.

Making your customer the hero of the story is easier said than done. A couple of our book club members said they felt a little overwhelmed with the recommendations in the book. Plus there was some debate among the book club members who work for charities about who should be the hero – the donor or the beneficiary. It depends on the type of fundraising and level of gift, said one, who suggested that perhaps the beneficiary should be the hero in low level asks and the donor in legacy and major gift fundraising. Another suggested that perhaps both should take on a leading role within a charity’s story, creating a loop that starts with the beneficiary and ends with the donor.

Likewise, there was discussion about the challenges of simplifying brands, particularly when an organisation has many products and services that offer many things to many people. However, as one reader pointed out if you focus on one message and communicate that successfully to a customer, and you’ll get plenty of other opportunities to talk about the other aspects of your work with them in the future.

Another message that hit home for one book club member was the need to have a clear and strong call to action. ‘If we sell passively, we communicate a lack of belief in our product’, Miller reminded us, telling us that we shouldn’t be shy but to make direct asks.

All in all, Lucidity Business Book Club members felt it was a useful book that was easy to read and digest. As one reader said, ‘I read in the bath as it’s the only place where there are no other distractions, and it didn’t require too many baths to finish it.’

Overall, there were three key takeaways for readers of Building a Storybrand:

  1. Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Don’t be shy: make the ask.

Becky Slack
Becky is the lead for the Lucidity Network’s Business Book Club, a role she loves as it gives her an excuse to geek out on all the books she wants to read but would never normally get time to do so. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she can be found writing her own stories, starting conversations between interesting folk, or teaching people how to craft their own words that will inspire change and motivate action.

The Lucidity Network Business Book Club is one of the member benefits of the Lucidity Network. The Lucidity Network is a friendly professional community, that gives its members confidence to manage uncertainty, practical training, learning and development to improve everyday performance, as well as insight, inspiration and connection to help them stay resilient even on the toughest of days.

Building a Storybrand: Clarify your message so customers will listen by Donald Miller is published by Harper Collins Leadership.

Do you Dare to Lead?

Since I picked up this book, Brene Brown has started popping up everywhere and I am not ashamed to say I am a bit of a convert to her ideas – and I am not alone. Her Ted talk on vulnerability has been seen by over 40 million people. In her recent Netflix series about courage she jokes about intimidating people as she introduces herself as an ‘expert in shame.’

Brene is research professor at Houston University, where she and her team do lots of research about courage, shame, vulnerability and empathy. Her team works with top organisations helping them develop their leadership teams and improve organisational culture. These universal themes of courage, shame and vulnerability permeate all our lives, affecting how we feel, live and love. You can apply them to different parts of your life too from love to children.

She has written a number of bestsellers around these topics such as ‘Rising Strong’ and ‘Daring Greatly’. This new book, the one chosen for the Lucidity Book Club, ‘Dare to Lead’ was the result of feedback from different leaders who said they wanted a workbook, something that pulled all the different tools from her other books together to help them be better leaders.

One thing that stuck with me from the intro was how she explained that most people think of courage as an inherent trait. But she says it is not – fear is not a barrier to bravery, people in fear do brave things a lot, it’s more about how we respond to fear. This book is a toolkit to help you learn to get better at getting braver.

So what did the book group think?

This is not a quick read. During the book group, we talked about how dense the book is. It is packed with insight but it’s definitely the kind of book you are going to need to go back through a few times. It covers a lot of ground, in a lot of detail.

There are lots of moment in the book when you recognise something of yourself, your styles or someone else at work. In the first section called rumbling with vulnerability there’s a section on empathy misses and I know a few of us cringed at the realisation we had had massive empathy fails.

In the chapter about rumbling with vulnerability: she talks about the importance of learning how to rumble – this is about having difficult conversations. The book used unfamiliar terms. The language was a bit of a barrier for some, and I admit I had to go over things a few times to make sure I was really getting it.

Someone described it as very Americanised. They said they had flashbacks to Westside Story every time they read the word rumble. It nearly had them putting the book down permanently. The way they got around it was by changing the word rumble to ‘having an honest and open conversation’. You have to be committed to the book to get past this. It would definitely be a flag for any skeptics with reservations about casting aside their vulnerabilities at work and its value.

There was a bit of a discussion about how confident you would feel taking this into work and doing it with your team using the same language. We all agreed, there were things here and there that could make a difference straight away but getting buy-in from everyone would be tricky – unless it was led from the top.

It’s worth mentioning the workbook on her website that accompanies the book. It has all the personal and team exercises and the website has lots more information. There is a glossary too which really helped me while I was getting to grips with the new terms.

One of the other sections we talked about was the section on values. Brene spends a fair bit of time making sure you understand why your values and ‘leaning’ into them is important if you want to be a daring leader. Whittling down honestly to your two main values is not an easy task though. Some of the book group had managed it. If I am honest, I am still working on mine!

Amour is another of Brene term which she dedicates a whole section too. This is what we use to protect ourselves at work, and in our lives, it could be something like hiding behind cynicism or using your power over people to get what you want. The book talks a lot about how being curious and asking questions can help us understand our own armour. The book had helped one person recognise a lot of the different types of amour being lugged around her office. It also got her wondering why and thinking about how this is affecting the organisation she works for.

At the end, everyone gave one take away from the book. We had one person who was definitely going to have that difficult conversation with their CEO. Someone who would be embracing courage and speaking up, rather than letting it brew into something else. Another, working on doing empathy better, much more consciously. Someone else will be working on those difficult conversations and getting braver at saying no to clients and pushing back.

I had so much to take away from this book but the section which resonated with me the most was in the final section Rising Up. This focuses on our own resilience and how we can build it up. In it, she describes us as story making machines – wherein the absence of facts we fill it with our own story – most likely negative.

My husband has just got a senior leadership role and with that a new team, so we spent most of the last month passing the book back and forth, as I ooo’ed and ahh’ed as I came across things that I thought could help him and me.

Wanting more, I have been scouring her website. I took advantage of the free audio chapter on her website for her book Rising Up – which looks at how we can raise courageous children, and in case I was in any doubt, it confirmed I am definitely hooked on Brene.

Guest blog by Sarah Younger, Communications and Development Officer at St Michael’s Fellowship and a member of Lucidity’s Business Book Club.

Interested in joining our book club? Take a look at the Lucidity Network – a place for people pushing to make change happen, a place to learn, a place to share and a place to connect. Check it out and join us here.