The last few Soapbox speakers that we've had have all spoken in someway about how it's important to get your story straight. We often chat about story around ZURB. Mostly, it's about telling the ongoing story that we've built over the course of the past 15 years and how we can do that better. That is try to find stronger ways to explain who we are, where we come from and what we stand for.
Recently, we ran across a New York Times article that broke down how important storytelling is to the morale of a family. And what is a company but another kind of family? What really caught our eye was this little bit:
... if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family's positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones.
Think about it for a second. It's more than just retelling that story, it's about refining it. That's something not only for families, but for products as well. Mostly, it's for those building your products.
Story is Vision
Another way to think about story is vision. What's the vision you're trying to convey. What is it specifically that you're trying to achieve. YouSendIt CEO Brad Garlinghouse said at his Soapbox that having a good vision and telling it well requires knowing who you are. We add that you have to also articulate it well.
Brad knows all too well the consequences of not being able to do so. After all, he wrote the Peanut Butter Manifesto on why Yahoo had lost its way, trying to be too many things to too many people. Along the way the search engine forgot who it was. And, at that time, employees could no longer effectively rally behind the each other as family. They had nothing to fight for anymore.
Brad used YouSendIt as an example, saying the company "is going to empower you to share and control your content like a professional." We too can say who we are succinctly. We're a close-knit group of product designers who help companies design better products faster. We've known that for quite some time. We've also been able to articulate our vision for the world. And we work hard to continue to say it well, figuring out better ways to communicate it, whether its through words or pictures.
Tell Your Story Better
In order to tell you story better, you have to be able to do the following:
- Write it down. A story isn't good unless you put it into written words. Keep a doc — Google or otherwise — around so that others can refer to it. You can even write it as a Dreadful Mission Statement.
- Make it real. Writing down your story also makes it real. It becomes tangible, something others can touch. But more than writing it down, it has to also be actionable to be real. Is it something that can be accomplished?
- Speak from the heart. If you can't speak from the heart, if you don't believe in it, then others won't either.
Knowing who you are and what you stand for is half the battle. In order to keep telling that story well, you've got to refine it, make it better not only for your customers, but for your employees as well and gives them something to rally behind as a family.