What's your story?
Posted: Mon 28th Nov 2011
Among the many interesting sessions at Go Global was an insightful panel discussion into the art of getting publicity. Both Lisa Sykes, features editor of Country Living magazine and Angie Moxham, founder of 3 Monkeys Communications, stressed the importance of having a good story to tell and telling the right story to the right audience. After the event I received an email from one of the attendees, Maria Allen, of Maria Allen Jewellery, asking me for advice on writing a press release. Maria has only recently started to concentrate fully on her business having finished her university studies and has been commissioned by the Tate Gallery shop to create a range of jewellery on an Alice in Wonderland theme. It's a lovely story and, I think, very sellable. But like so many people, Maria admitted she felt shy about selling herself. So she'd concentrated on her factual biography in her draft press release and the 'story' was buried down near the bottom. If I were a busy magazine features editor, I might have just glanced at the first one or two paragraphs and missed the 'hook' altogether. So I gave Maria some tips (including the terrible headline 'Maria in Wonderland', but you all know I love a corny headline, right?). Then I got thinking. Every business has a story. In fact, I'd say every business has at least three stories to tell: 1. There's the story of your business, which is really a story about you - where you came from, why you started your business, how you got it up and running. Emma Maudsley of the Sock Monkey Emporium is a good example of a business story with a strong theme: her decision, as the mother of a young child, to give up her job and pursue a business opportunity in order to restore her work-life balance really touched a chord with a lot of our readers. What's going to strike a chord with the audience you're aiming at? 2. There's the story of your product or service. Tony Curtis of Alago got thinking about creating heated sports gloves after seeing his son come off the rugby field with hands so cold they were almost blue. He's spent three years developing an entirely new product and technology that will make life much more comfortable for thousands of sportspeople (and school students). There's a strong human angle to what could otherwise be a dry product development story. What are you doing that's new or different? How are you going to make it relevant to your audience? 3. There's the story of your successes. This is the real killer story, I think. It's Maria Allen getting commissioned by the Tate; it's Emma Maudsley getting her business card into the gift bags given to major awards nominees in Hollywood (how cool is that?). These are the 'wow' stories that make people sit up and take notice of you. When you get one (and you will), shout about it. Journalists - and their readers - love these. But there's another story, too, that weaves its way through every tale you might have to tell. I call this the story of the telling detail. It's that small but significant aspect of what you do that creates a genuine sense of curiosity about what you do and how you do it. It's very easy to overlook because you may just take it for granted. I'll give you an example. While interviewing Victoria Castle of The Castle Cakery, she mentioned - almost in passing - that she exports cupcakes to France. This was completely normal to her, but I was bowled over. "You export cupcakes? To France, the home of patisserie?" I spluttered. "They don't have cupcakes in France," she replied matter-of-factly. "But you export cupcakes? How?" Every business has stories to tell, and they're all interesting - if you understand what's going to spark the interest of your audience and you tell the story with the right focus. So, what's your story? Simon Wicks is editor of Enterprise Nation Photo credit: Stewart Butterfield