What’s your brand story?

Positioning yourself or your company as a thought leader takes more than elbow grease. It all starts with having a thought to share – a brand story with a big idea; something to say. And that something has to be relevant, it has to resonate, it has to be new and interesting, and it has to matter.

But what if you want to be a thought leader, yet aren’t sure you have anything to share? Or you have a seed of an idea, but feel ill-equipped to make it come alive, or maybe you’re unsure whether people will care?

Think like a journalist

If there is one thing I learned from my early years as a journalist, it’s that everyone has a story. And most are fascinating and enlightening and compelling. It’s there; you just have to probe and uncover it. Try thinking of yourself as a journalist conducting an interview.

Everyone has a story. And most are fascinating and enlightening and compelling. It’s there; you just have to probe and uncover it.Click To Tweet

You know your industry and the current landscape well. That’s what makes you an expert in your field. But to take it to the next level and be a true thought leader, tap into what you believe is newsworthy or  under-reported. Pursue one or more of these four interview paths to discover your or your organization’s standout story:

  • What’s missing? What industry headlines make you say: “But wait, you’re forgetting…” or even: “Oh no, you’re wrong!”? Consider topics and opinions that are counter-intuitive and relevant. Think about what you have to say that can bring new insight to the issues, or help audience make sense of things.
  • What’s hurting or blocking? What are your customers or others in your field frustrated with? What do they repeatedly find is holding them back? Do you have a way to fix it? A new lens through which to think through the problem?
  • What’s hot? What topic can’t you get off your mind? What would your colleagues say you’re always talking about (e.g., one of mind can’t stop bringing artificial intelligence into every conversation)? Just make sure you have something new to say about the topic. If it’s hot, chances are the dialogue is crowded. You need to stand out to be heard.
  • What’s changing? Take a step back for a moment and see the bigger picture. What’s different in your industry than a year ago, two years ago? How will it continue to impact things in the future? Is something at a breaking point, or do you sense that point is coming?

Meander down the path

In each of these four paths, keep your mind open to any and all ideas. Go slow and thoughtfully, without too much structure. A good journalist goes into an interview with just a few questions, then listens to the answers, and probes and follows up to pursue new lines of thinking and ideas that arise along the way.

While listening to responses, pay attention not only to the words but also to the energy and the body language to pinpoint an idea or story that gets people really excited. That’s the energy and emotion you want to follow to find your “aha” moment. Once you tap into that, your story will start writing itself!

Still unsure where to start to discover or vet your big idea, or make your story a stand out? Consider engaging outside experts who can provide objectivity and perspective.

Strategy Workshops with Stern Strategy Group

With a keen ability to take vision and translate it into tactical action, Nicole has been helping the firm's clients realize their dreams for more than 18 years. As senior advisor, she is relied upon for her direct counsel, out-of-the-box thinking and creative programming. Her greatest joy is seeing others – clients, colleagues and peers alike – get to that aha moment, and she isn't afraid to take risks, ask the tough questions (maybe it comes from her years as a journalist) and experiment to get them there. Outside of the office she likes to keep it simple: relaxing by the beach with a good book and then cooking dinner for friends.