I am, as the song goes, the son of a preacher man.
When I was young, my dad would sit at his desk on Saturday afternoons and write out his sermons: always in longhand, always on a yellow legal pad. Truth be told, when Sunday service rolled around, I didn’t really pay attention to those sermons, passing the time instead by marveling at the tapestry of women’s hats in attendance, counting the number of window panes in French or praying that my mom would make BLT’s for lunch. I was a kid, after all. But as an adult, I have had the opportunity to go back and read the sermons of my now-deceased father, preserved in the steely confines of his filing cabinet. What struck me about those sermons is how my father infused his own passions and perspective into them, blending them with the lessons of the church so that people got a real sense of what drove him as a person. Through his sermons, you got to know him, and in knowing him, you were more likely to relate to him and follow his counsel.
As a strategic storyteller, I find that clients often want to boil down the layered richness of their brand story or corporate narrative into a succinct “elevator pitch.” I am not against this exercise and certainly appreciate the situational need for it. Still, as we work with clients on various manifestations of their brand story, I always try to make certain they are balancing their pithy elevator pitch with a deeper, more meaningful sermon.
One talks about what you do while the other conveys why you do it. One is usually more logical; the other, more philosophical. One is typically benign and right for just about any situation; the other is more profound, a little riskier and, therefore, only right for certain occasions. One is a quick response to a discussion between business people; the other is a more meaningful exchange between thinking, feeling human beings.
When you’re thinking about how to communicate what you do, don’t just think about the information you want to convey; think as well about the higher sense of purpose you want to evangelize. In other words, if you were standing at a bully pulpit with a congregation of employees, potential clients or partners in front of you, what would you preach? It might be uncomfortable to “go there” in your mind, but push yourself to do just that. Mine and uncover the passions that inspire your work. Explore and articulate what you and your brand is fighting for, or fighting against. Consider the difference your brand is looking to make in the lives of the people you serve.
Think about your sermon. Discuss it with others. Write it down. It’s an important part of your brand story that will enable consumers, employees and partners to connect with you; and you’ll not only be glad you have it, but surprised at how much you use it. As said before, it’s not right for every occasion; but it is right for many of them, like speeches, pitches…and blog posts.
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