You’ve Got an Elevator Pitch, but What’s your Sermon?

I am, as the great Dusty Springfield song goes, the son of a preacher man.

My father was primarily a teacher and headmaster, but also an ordained minister. During his summer break from school, he would officiate at the local Episcopal church in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania. I remember how, each week, 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 much attention to those sermons, passing the time instead by marvelling 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.

However, 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 rusty old filing cabinet. What struck me about those sermons is how my father never tried to condense his messages, his teachings down into as short a collection of words as possible. Rather, he took his time to tease an idea out, show it in action, and connect it to his audience.

I was also struck by how much my father’s sermons transcended concrete facts and information to share genuine insight. His sermons were always rooted in the church’s philosophies and linked to content from the bible, as one would expect. But he also infused his sermons with his own passions, perspective and stories, so that people got a real sense of what drove my father as a person and a preacher. Through his sermons, you got to know him, and in knowing him, you were more likely to relate to him, listen to him, trust him…and eventually follow his counsel.

Elevator Pitches versus Brand Storytelling

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 fully supportive of this exercise and certainly appreciate the situational need for a nice, concise articulation of your value proposition and operations. Still, as we work with clients on various manifestations of their organizational brand story, I always try to make certain they are balancing their pithy elevator pitch with a deeper, more meaningful sermon. And to be clear, I don’t mean sermon in a religious sense. I mean sermon in a more ideological sense.

One talks about what you do while the other conveys why you do it. One is usually more logical and speaks to the head; the other, more emotional, speaking to the heart. One is typically benign and right for just about any situation; the other is more profound, loftier, more philosophical 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 lectern with a congregation of employees, potential clients or partners in front of you, what would you preach? What would beliefs, values, and shared vision would you wax poetic on? How would you, could you engage your audience in a deeper, more meaningful and lasting way?

It might be uncomfortable to “go there” in your mind, but push yourself to do just that. Identify 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 all-hands meetings, new business pitches, recruiting efforts, fundraising…and blog posts.

Tagsbrandcorporate narrativeelevator pitchSermonstrategic storytelling

© 2022 BB&Co Strategic Storytelling All rights reserved.
Site by Sparkjoy Studios. | Log in