What Owners Need to Know About Storytelling – Chris Brogan

What Owners Need to Know About Storytelling - Chris Brogan

You’ve heard about the power of storytelling, but exactly what kind of stories should you be telling as a business owner? Are there different stories for your customers, employees, and stakeholders? Different stories depending on where you are with growth? And when is the best time to deliver these stories? Chris Brogan, the creator of StoryLeader™ system, shares how to tell the stories that make a difference.

Rich: Our guest today provides simple plans and projects for business success. He is the CEO of Owner Media Group, a sought after public speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of 8 books, and working on his nine.

He was also the first person to speak at our first ever Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference. So I’m glad that he’s our very first speaker/podcast guest for our first ever Fast Forward Maine Virtual Summit. We’re very excited to kick everything off with Chris Brogan. Chris, welcome to the Fast Forward Maine Podcast/Virtual Summit.

Chris: Thank you so much for having me. And it’s funny, I just realized you probably read that off of a bio for some time when you introduced me on stage and I was thinking, huh, I finished 9 books and now I’m on my 10th but that’s still good.

Rich: All good stuff.

Chris: It’s all the same.

Rich: Yeah, Lindsay, you’ll have to update the website.

Chris: It’s all fine. Any more than two books, and it’s like, come on. Who owns more than two cats?

Rich: So you’re a book person now. Okay. Crazy book person.

Chris: Crazy book person, that is, yeah.

Yury:  Rich, there were so many firsts for Chris. And I also wanted to share my story related to Chris Brogan. And I think it’s going to blow your mind. I was actually introduced to Chris’s work when I was a student at NASSCOM while I was working on my undergrad in marketing communications. And my professor, Kelly Cotio, she was a huge fan of Chris and she’s like, “If you guys want to learn anything about social media” – because at the time it was still a fad and nobody believed in it – she’s like, “You guys need to know him, go ahead, learn from him by his books,” the whole nine yards. So I went on Twitter, I started following Chris, I started learning from him.

And so fast forward my story from the moment when I learned about Chris to May 24th of I think it was 2012. I was sitting in a restaurant with my friends celebrating my birthday, and I took a photo. We were smiling, and I said, “You know, I’m so excited to celebrate my birthday with my friends. And out of nowhere, the very first celebrity in my mind truly is Chris Brogan, and he reached out on Twitter and said, “Congratulations, happy birthday. I hope you’re having a good one.” And I was like, “Oh my god, my first celebrity talking to me on social media channels!” And it was an incredible lesson in empathy that it doesn’t matter who the audiences are, what the people are, you can always join in and celebrate. And I appreciate you, Chris, joining us on this very first virtual digital summit. So thank you for coming on the show. And by the way, learning from your books I also wanted to greet you with this “sawubona”.

Chris: That’s beautiful. Sawubona is a Zulu word. And instead of saying hello or hi, and by the way, when you wave, hi, what you’re doing, when you put your hand up like this, the wave hi is to tell the other person, I don’t have a weapon, I don’t intend to kill you. Because in medieval times, that’s what that meant. No weapons.

And so sawubona is a Zulu expression, it means ‘I see you’. And the response to that is, ‘ngiyakubona’, which means, I am here. And it is used to basically say, I recognize your humanness, you’re here. So that’s what I’ve always used as my model when I used to… I’m not interested in social media. I think social media in general is stupid. I’m interested in people, and this is a tool that we used to reach people.

Rich and I love comics. Not necessarily because we like men in tights punching each other, but because we liked the expressive art and we like being outside of ourselves and we like stories we can tell that we couldn’t really live in, things like that. So that’s why I’ve loved these tools for so long. As for your meeting your first celebrity, aim higher, better ones are out there.

Yury: Well, I started with Rich Brooks, and then that was slowly progressing and now it’s coming full circle.

Chris: A good arc.

Yury: But speaking of the stories, as our listeners and the participants know, the major theme of this podcast is to talk about the storytelling for leadership and growing business and elevating ourselves through the power of storytelling. On your newest podcast show, The Story Leader, you talk about growing up in Maine and you share your personal story when you were six years old, when you ran your bike into the side of your house. Is there a particular reason you decided to launch this project and sharing that story?

Chris: A beautiful question. A worthwhile question. So the story really quick is, on my sixth birthday my parents bought me a brand new bicycle. And my parents didn’t have a lot of money. It was very much a scenario where they were stretching past their means to give me a new bicycle. I had only like a few before and it was the police station abandoned bicycle lot, basically. So my new bicycle, I’m trying to learn how to ride the bike, but I’m trying to learn on the lawn. And my parents didn’t want me to be out on the side of the road and they definitely didn’t want me in the road.

And so I’m trying to peddle on the lawn and if you know bicycles, that’s not really a great way to figure out gravity. And so I smashed into the side of the house and as I was sitting there crying, because I just broke the plastic fender off my brand new bicycle – which was a Huffy Thunder Road bike – which was right before BMX. So it looked like a BMX, but it had that kind of banana seat that you’d get beat up if you had these days. And I was crying and my mom said, “You know, what can I do?” And I said, “Move the house.” And I use that story as a way to explain what an entrepreneur thinks, because most people think, well, this is my life now. And in my head I thought, well, clearly the house is the problem. If I had moved the house, I would have been able to ride my bike better. And I think you need a little bit of insanity to be an entrepreneurial mind. Because you need to see something that’s not there, but believe that it’s there before other people get it or see it.

And I think to kick off Story Leader, what I like is that explaining my past, my upbringing, some of those little nuggets people are sucking into their head. This was Augusta, Maine, by the way, Sandhill Road. That’s where that all happened. People get into their head, these thoughts of, “Oh, I can relate to this”, or, “Oh, I had a different experience”, or, “Oh wow, you know, I know where Augusta is”. Whatever it is they’re thinking, but those little bits are a bit of glue that lets us connect as a business person. And connection is like the most underrated part of all business. But as we’re going through tough times, as we record this, it is an important time to learn how very important the entities around you are and whether or not they do or don’t care for you for real. And that’s what I learned.

Yury: Awesome, thank you.

Rich: So Chris, just continuing on this whole storytelling thing. You’ve been talking about storytelling for a while now, but you’ve really kind of honed your focus with Story Leader idea. Why do you feel that businesses should be telling stories, and what kind of problems are we looking to solve by storytelling that we can’t solve in some other way?

Chris: Stories are the ultimate measurement or the ultimate collection tool for memory. Stories are what allow us to… it’s the memory unit in our head. The things that we remember. We might remember some vague statistics that usually we kind of pretend we remember for most of our life. And then we tend to remember stories. What happened the first time a boss yelled at you, what are you going to say? Well, I learned not to do that thing again. No, you’re going to tell this story, “Oh man, I was so mad that day. I had all these problems going on. I was thinking about something else and we fought.”

I tell a story about I had a chief technology officer when I worked in wireless telecom. And in telecom you have all these requirements to how not to destroy the usage of the phones that your customers are using. And so I was telling him live during the day, we could reset this server and no one would know and it’s fine, please don’t make me go through all the process. He goes, fine, there’s A and B. And I said to him, “We can do this. We could totally turn this off”. And I said, A is running B is the one we have to turn off. Let’s turn off B. I’d say to the boy, turn off B. The boy says, okay, hang on, click, click, click. I just shut off A.

My boss who I just told I would never break anything, just broke in front of him, the traffic of all of greater Detroit. He’s squeezing one of those squeezy balls you have for stress, the kind that have sand in it. Here’s why they don’t have sand in them anymore, because it exploded and turned his entire keyboard into this cool little Zen garden with keys sticking out of it. You are going to super remember this after this podcast. Stories are that.

Now the problem is we tell business leaders all the time, you must tell us stories to help your people understand what has to happen and how to understand their requirements. But if you say to them, that’s why it’s important to greet every customer warmly. No one’s going to remember that story. You have to say. “This customer has only this moment with you at the front desk. Let’s talk about that”. And so I just basically, I wanted to come up with practical tools to help people figure out how to tell business stories better.

You know, I’m not teaching you how to write your great American novel. How do you write a better business story, because there’s three kinds of ways that they apply? And I just wanted to show people that. And that’s kind of why I built what I built.  

Yury: So Chris what kind of problems should leaders try to solve with storytelling? Should they focus on something very specific or can it be very broad and global?  How should I approach that?

Chris: So the more specific the story, the better. And there’s always three as well. So let’s imagine when you go into a speech, you go into a stage and you tell some dumb joke that has nothing to do with the audience or you. No one remembers the joke. They laughed politely but they don’t remember the joke. If I tell you a joke that directly, every time. You might know this, you might not. Every time I see Rich Brooks, I always call him “handsome, Rich Brooks”. Great. Is it an amazing joke? No, the reason is he is handsome. And the reason is I envy Rich every time I see him.

And that’s possibly true by the way. So why I do that is because stories connect with people. So there’s three types of stories you can tell in business. One is a mission story. It is a story that helps kind of reinforce the mission of the people in the business and what we’re all setting out to do. And you can tell the organization mission story. You can tell the customer service mission story. You can tell Leona’s mission story by kind of helping her understand how she fits into the team and into the organization. That’s mission.

The second kind of story, my favorite types of stories, our belonging stories. When I say “handsome Rich Brooks”, when I talk about him, you know he’s handsome. We belong. Whenever I see him anywhere on the globe, I greet him that way. I make sure people know what an important person this is because he’s kind of, not shy, but Rich is humble and I like to kind of light him up a little.

So belonging stories matter. They tell us that we belong. The best advertisements right now are the ones that make us feel like I’m part of that brand. You know, Microsoft did so well at this last year with their gaming part of the business. They had the Super Bowl commercial. Those two Super Bowls ago were the kids with the different physical abilities, missing limbs, missing parts were showing their Microsoft adaptive controller, and the kids are all saying, “So I can play at my level with my other friends. And I can kick their butt now that I have a better controller.” Right. Yeah. That’s one angle.

The other angle they did was girls in development. The other one they did was diversity and inclusivity of multiple cultures in their development. And Microsoft has really pushed this, and that’s belonging stories.

Third story is growth. There are two types of growth stories. One is kind of like what motivational speakers do. You can do it kind of stories, right? The other part of growth stories are when someone’s messed up and done something wrong, you could tell a growth story that helps the person understand what kind of experience you’d rather see them do.

The Queen of England explaining the Covid-19 outbreak the other day in four minutes gave an incredible story of how she hoped her people operate and how she hopes her country gathers together to do this. She’s been through multiple wars, plagues and everything, and she said it in a perfect way that showed up ultimate leadership. She is a true story leader, and so I think that between learning how to tell good mission stories, good belonging stories, good growth stories, and when to tell them, there’s a lot to learn and a lot to build some strength out of.

Rich: I want to remind everybody that we are taking questions from the audience. We’re going to get to those towards the end. But you finish your line of questioning, Yury

Yury: It sounds like we’re interrogating Chris right now, but okay. So you’re talking about these turbulent times and that was a really great example with Queen Elizabeth. We as individuals or the leaders in our industries should we focus on the belonging stories right now, or the growth stories?  What will help our people to get through this?

Chris: When I make you dinner tonight, would you like to eat only the cabbage or would you like to eat the corned beef? Or maybe some potatoes? You have all of them all the time. All of them. So I think about children, think about your employees, think about the team that you work on. They always need all of it, right?

So when people are feeling kind of low energy, so some of us are owners of our only business, you know, we might be the only human in the business. We have to yell at our employee, we’re yelling at ourselves. B even in small to midsize businesses, this is a rough time. There’s layoffs happening. There are many small businesses having to close their doors. There are many that will not survive. Stimulus be damned. And so the ones who are trying to survive, they need some things. What do they need? They need great leadership. So they need mission stories to say, I don’t know how we’re going to make our way through this, but what I believe is that if we focused on this core element, it’s going to make everyone feel better.

Let’s just think about how they’re feeling. Our jobs are scaring us because we want our revenue, we need to make our money to live. But this person needs this right now and can we equip them? And if we can do that nicely, then we’re going to feel as best we can.

There’s really great examples of bad leadership, right? There are billionaires ordering their employees to work and stay open while they’re out on their yacht. That’s a terrible leadership story. The CEO of a very massive American bank said, all my call centers must stay open, but he’s not going to go hang out in the call center because he doesn’t want to have an ailment. You have to be in the trench with the troops or you are not going to earn their respect as a leader.  

Yury: But it could have been a great story if he would show up at the call centers.

Chris: If he said, “You guys show up. I will also show up. I will take calls right beside you”, union questions notwithstanding, that’s what he should be doing.

Jon Bon Jovi, as we all know, a statesman. Jon Bon Jovi has a whole bunch of soup kitchens that he launched with his wealth. You know, you make a lot of money as a rock star. Some people don’t only buy cocaine, so he bought a soup kitchens to help people who are less fortunate. I saw a picture the other day of him washing and scrubbing a pot. And someone put that up on social networks and it got very, very viral and he was so upset, he said, “I’m just working. Don’t take a picture of me. Show the other guy right beside me doing the same job I’m doing”. He goes,” I’m doing what you’re supposed to do”. That’s mission and belonging. We always tell all three stories.

Now it’s probably harder to tell improvement stories of growth while everyone’s feeling so bad. So you need to tell encouraging stories of growth. You need to say, I know that you’re showing up dented right now. I know you’re showing up with some pain and some backstory and some fear, and we all have a relative that has a compromised immune system. We all have a friend that just got sick and we don’t want to be. There’s so many words. What happens if I don’t have this? It was on everyone’s mind. And so let me tell you a story that I am using to guide me through this moment. That’s what we do. That’s how it works.

Rich: So I want to take a question from our audience, because it relates to kind of follow up almost what Yury just asked.

Nick Jensen wants to know, “Chris, how would you suggest using these three type of stories, just using discretion?” And I think you mentioned that maybe you’re telling one story that that does two things. But if you don’t have a lot of experience in storytelling, how do you know when it’s time to tell the right kind of story?

Chris: Great question, by the way. The question that comes before any kind of storytelling moment, by the way, there are some totally wrong times to tell stories. There were some times it’s just do the damn work, right? There’s just times when you have to just say, look, we are going to have a talk in three hours and I’m going to tell you everything that you need to know, and I want you to feel comfortable.

So one thing that happens in storytelling, one thing that’s changed in storytelling, we as consumers of story – let’s get the comic books again – the movie Into the Spiderverse, which is an animated film by Sony. It’s one of the best Spiderman movies ever told. It features five or six different Spiderman colliding in a different universe. What’s beautiful about the story is everyone knows the story of Spiderman. Basically he got bitten by a radioactive spider, everyone knows that. Some people know he didn’t save his uncle. He could have, and so he has all this guilt and responsibility that kind of drive him. That’s his “why”.

And what happens in Into the Spiderverse is it just starts, and even if they sort of tell the origin story, they’re doing it a little tongue in cheek to say there’s these different universes and the stories are just a little different. And what you can know about this is that there’s two things that are happening in reality right now.

One is, we want to get to the important part faster. And two, is so important to label the important part in ways that we never used to before. So in the old days, we would just say something and expect the other person to go, “Oh”, and then they’d walk away, but they didn’t necessarily get it. They just said, “Oh” because that’s what you’re supposed to say when someone says something that sound revelatory. So you now have to sort of explain, and I do this in all my videos and everything I do now, I talk a lot about here’s where I would get out the yellow highlighter and do this because this is the part I want you to take with you. You know when you’d read a book and you highlight it, you only ever go back to the highlights, if you go back at all. You never go reread the book. You reread your highlights.

So what Nick’s answer is, number one, if you don’t know how to tell stories, practice or steal other people’s stories. Good writers copy, great writers steal other people’s stories and go, you know, I saw this in the movie.

Number two, which story to tell? It’s a question, is this a mission moment? Does this person not feel comfortable at our mission? Is this a belonging moment? Does this person feel like they don’t know where, that they’re in the right place? That is a human thing. We feel all the time. We, quarantined in our home with our significant other, have a whole new view of that person and it’s hopefully favorable. I have a sense that is not always that way. Am I where I belong?

And then the third is growth. Is this the right time to tell this person something that might help them grow? That third one is the most delicate one. It is the most delicate one because you can give someone advice when they’re not ready for the advice, and you might as well be throwing food at someone’s back. They’re not eating. But that’s how I can answer that one.

Rich: Well, that’s definitely an excellent answer. I was kind of curious, just to follow up on the whole thing about if you’re just starting out, maybe steal from, swipe from other people if you are just getting started and you’ve never really purposefully told stories. I think we all tell stories. Some of us are better than others, but outside of maybe swiping a story from somebody else, how might a leader start from square one with his or her team right now?

Chris: As in when it is specific in learning how to tell the better stories and that sort of thing?

Rich: I think so. To know when to tell the story and to know what kind of story to pull from the deck, so to speak.

Chris: So I had a great conversation with this guy named Mike Bonhoeffer, and he’s a real story geek. I use everything the same way, everything in all parts of my life. Is this the tool? Is this something I can match to something else? Is this something that’s going to move us all forward? I’m a pirate. I want my gold. And my gold is basically my goals. You know, if I want to make someone happy, then I think of the way I’m going to get to that goal. Pirates don’t care what color the ship is, they just get to the rock, right?

So if I’m a leader and I’m thinking, do I want to learn to tell stories? Mike Bonhoeffer said this, he said, “The best storytellers are the ones who don’t come with a prefabricated story. They make a pickup game out of the story. They bring the story to life with the people there.”

And so one way to do that, ready for a huge name drop. Ready? Okay. Clear the deck. Big name drop coming. I interviewed Bob Iger, the former chairman of Disney on the Disney dreamboat. One time, Bob Iger, the chairman of Disney, and that Chris Brogan kid from Maine blogger – that’s who’s in the room – and he says as he’s shaking my hand –  he’s short by the way, I didn’t know. I’m 6’2”, he is not. He is diminutive. Lovely man. I shake his hand and he says, “Where are you from originally?” I said, “Maine”. Because one thing you know about people from Maine, it’s like CrossFit, vegans and atheists. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. So I said to him, “Hey, I’m originally from Maine”, and he goes, “Have you ever done any sailing?”

Bob Iger is a very rich gentlemen, I am not. Bob is a multimillionaire, I’m probably a multi $10,000-aire. So Bob says, “Have you ever done any sailing?” I said, “Yes, once ever. And I did it on an old cruising ship that was like basically a historic boat, it’s a schooner.” He goes, “The Sabine Appeal, I’ve sailed on that boat.” Next thing you know, Bob Iger and I have something in common and are smiling at each other like idiots before I get to interview him. That story of leadership, and it all came from the simplest story any human can tell. “Hey, where are you from?”

Yury, obviously not the same main accent as some of the other main accidents in this call. Yury I would say, if I went home wherever home used to be, and your mom or grandma or whoever made me a meal. But it’s not a meal for a visiting important person, it’s a meal for your friend from college, so he’s not that important. What would that meal be? And I would learn so much from Yury. Food and presence of place are the first two stories anyone should ever ask.

Rich: Interesting.

Yury: Well now I feel like it’s time to take a trip home. Well, you know, wherever home is.

Chris: Clearly from Cleveland, I know.

Yury: Chris, you argue that communication has changed. So how does storytelling speed into the new landscape?

Chris: Communication has changed. You would not know it from my answers, but communication has changed because brevity matters. We want things to be brief, compact, and succinct. People watching this live as opposed to listening to it, I keep doing this thing with my hands where I’m bracketing. I swear I’m not doing a bad imitation of the president. I am thinking in my head a lot of times about boxes. I’m thinking about little packages and I’m doing that hand gesture because subconsciously I’m making you see the package that I’m explaining.

Stories need brevity. Clarity. Stories need to be front-loaded, especially business stories. You know, a business story versus a mystery story. A mystery story wasted the last few pages to tell you what’s what, and you feel so excited that you get to the last few pages and figure it out. A business story starts with, ‘the butler did it’. That’s how the business story starts. You have to start at the button.

By the way, I’m French, which is a lot like Italian. Someone said in comments, “No, you’re just Italian”. No, I’m Irish, Scottish, French, and I think my 25% French is all hands.

The other thing that’s changed in storytelling and in what we need to know for business storytelling, is that beyond brevity people seek a lot more entertainment than they ever did. Look at what everyone’s talking about during quarantine. Oh, what are you bingeing on Netflix. Tiger King, right? All story, all the time. This is how the world has changed. We want entertainment and it’s going to keep going further.

Let’s talk business for a moment. Self-driving cars are more and more of a thing. Passenger services, Uber and Lyft and all that are more of a thing. It’s hard to see right now, but we will have fewer we’re driving them cars on the road as the years keep going. And we can keep saying no, but there aren’t that many horse drawn carriages on the road anymore it turns out.

So if everyone is passively in their vehicle, what are they going to do? They’re going to consume something. Are they going to consume audio content if their hands can be off the wheel and so can their eyes? Nope. Video content. So the other thing that’s changed is video. If you are not already working your way towards video, you are behind by about 11 years, but the second best time to plant the tree is today.

Rich: Hey, I’d like to take a couple of questions from our audience. We’re getting some good questions here. Bill Altenburg says,” Chris, what story does a VC want to hear today?

Chris: Today, today? Don’t worry, you don’t need people. Don’t worry, no one has to walk anywhere to buy my thing. You know, I sell a product that you could buy off the web easily. That’s what a VC wants to hear today. And you know what a VC always wants to hear? They want to hear that you have an incredible product that no one has, and that you have a team that’s going to deliver this and a team that is eager not to die on the first hill that they came up on.

The number one thing I see people falter when they talk to a venture capitalist is that they have such an opinion that they are the only person who could change the world. And that’s because that’s the stories – let’s go back to that – that we see often in a venture and business. We watched The Social Network and we see Mark Zuckerberg had one thought in his head the whole time. He really didn’t. He worked on what we could argue would be petty arguments of fighting between boys. He argued that he just wanted to get laid. There’s a lot of reasons Facebook exists, but they’re rarely because he had a massive vision that no one else could yet see. That is not a real story in venture. That is a real story in Hollywood because Hollywood had to invent something that was interesting story-wise, and someone’s saying, I’m just greedy and I want millions. Doesn’t sound as good on a movie screen.

Rich: And by the way, a couple of people had asked about, what is a VC? A VC is a venture capitalist. Somebody you go to who’s going to invest in your company very often to get a quick payout and then they’re going to sell their part of the business.

So another question here. Tamra asks, this is a specific question, but I think it applies to many folks right now, “So I work for a Maine IT company. We are very fortunate to be mostly working from home. We also are supporting many, many clients in being able to also work efficiently and safely from home. We offer a service that can be truly helpful at this time, but it also feels like a very fine line between getting that word out and being perceived as taking advantage.” I totally feel that. That was my little aside.  “I think we’re doing okay and I’m sure Yury is in a similar boat with Machias where he’s helping a lot of people, but you don’t want to come off as being like you’re taking advantage of the situation. I think we’re doing okay with that line right now, but I’d love to hear your take on how to best approach that and with less timidity helping our business and other businesses survive and thrive during this time when so many others are not.”

And Chris I think that’s definitely something for anybody who is working right now and also in the B2B space, we’re in the B2C space, is feeling that kind of anguish about, I want to let people know that we can help them, but I also don’t want to present myself as being like my life is so good and everything is great while you’re struggling to get toilet paper.

Chris: Sure. Tamra, what always is the driving way to explain anything like that and what’s always the more useful way to help people is to say, “I’m here if you need me, and I’ve got a service I think could help, I don’t know if you’re in that mode that you want to hear about it.” You know, there’s nothing wrong with instead of advertising, asking an ask is an advertisement, right? “Hey, I’ve got this thing that I think could really benefit you. I just know it’s a weird time.” If I could tell you that I could do X, what’s the benefit? I can tell you that I could save you 20% off something. If I could tell you that my biggest worry while you’re working from home is that coffee on a laptop is going to destroy your life. I’ve got a fix for that.  

You know, no one doesn’t want to hear that story. The stories people don’t want to hear is. I’ve got five new effective ways to treat Covid and get you ahead of the curve, right? Like there’s so many people who are profiteering and there are so many people who are kind of looking or they’re doing what really lazy advertisers and marketers do. I’ll give you 20% off. A percentage off is not the message in a time of crisis. I’m here to help is what’s the message.

One of the best ads I’ve seen in a long time, I don’t watch a lot of ads, I don’t have TV. But I’m watching a CBS all access and Lincoln had an ad. And Lincoln had an ad saying you can just go on the web, pick out the one you want, we’ll drive it to your doorway. We’ll just hand you the folder. That’s it, done, you sold the thing. And it said something about a sanctuary is everything, or something like that. Basically Lincoln saying, we’ll just drop the car off at your door. Now I’ve wanted that forever. I bought my car that way from a virtual car dealership because I couldn’t stand the notion of going in for a stupid test drive when I had already – name drop #2 – gone to GM headquarters and driven the Camaro with the people who made the Camaro. What’s the guy in some stupid dealership in upper Northern Massachusetts going to tell me that the Camaro guy who made the car didn’t tell me?

Rich: Right.

Chris: So this is what we do in these times, Tamra. We say that we’ve got something we can help.

Yury:  Chris, I want to jump in real quick and maybe a little bit of a flashback. When you wrote the book The Impact Equation, you had a really good formula where you had contrast as a multiplier in the formula. Then you had reach, exposure, articulation, trust, and echo. And I feel when we’re talking about storytelling, contrast and articulation, where contrast is about being seen and articulation is about being understood, are very important elements in the storytelling.

Can you talk a little bit about contrast and articulation and what do we need to focus on when applying it to the storytelling?

Chris: Sure. So for people who might have heard that go really fast, if you just write the word create, that’s what the letters spell out. The contrast, reach, exposure, articulation, trust, and echo.

Contrast and articulation was what you were asking about. The contrast is what makes us different from others, what makes us stand out. And at this moment in these times, what needs to happen is the way you stand out is you are the most human.

So I don’t live in Maine right now. I know it’s a penalty. I’m sorry but I live an hour away from Portland, so I’ve just betrayed my feelings. But the contrast in my little town of less than two and a half miles across, there are five pizza places in two and a half miles, which seems like far too many until everyone’s stuck in their house and sick of making their own food.

Now, one of these pizza places is called Naples. Naples decided, we know that a lot of kids were getting their only meal of the day at school. Now school’s out. We know there are some people who really don’t have exactly enough money to get all the meals handled. What you have to do is just swing by Naples, walk in and say, “Hey, I was wondering if you have one of those extra slices”, and they’re going to give you pizza, no questions asked. They don’t take any money, they just hand it to you. They go, “Oh, so happy. Thanks for coming in.” You look like every customer who paid and you come out with a pizza. Who am I going to buy my pizza from? That’s contrast. I can look out my window and see the pizza place I’ve used for 11 years. But they didn’t make that offer. They’re the dominant pizza company right here that I’ve worked with only for 11 years. If my kids want pizza, that’s the pizza. But I’m going to go with the other guy because they stood out in this time. So that’s contrast.

Articulation is, I think, how clear that was. If you need pizza, no questions asked. Ask for a special slice, done. If you can’t write on a small index card or even half of an index card what your offer is, you have failed to articulate your offer.

Yury: Awesome. Great. Thank you. That was very helpful.

Rich: We do have a few more questions. I want to save time for our favorite question, but Scott Woodard asks, “What’s the story people need to hear about the future of the economy and their role? That is, will they have a job?”

Chris: Okay. My best answer to that, a job is a unit of measurement. A job is something an employer provides to you. I am someone who helps people create business and work. You don’t need to worry if you have a job, you need to worry if you have work. You might not have a job. So many businesses are going to fold, falter and bend in this time.

However, the history of the world shows us that that will be temporary. Time will go on, it will suck, and then you will have jobs and work and things and prosperity. The world does not end on a virus. It really doesn’t. The world ends at the hands of even dumber people. And so it’s going to be okay, it’s just going to be stinky. History looks so much better on a page than it does in your face. And so it’s kind of be a little rough, but don’t worry about jobs. Just worry about work. Work is what gets things done.  

Rich: Awesome. Yury, do you want to ask your favorite question now?

Yury: Are you sure that you want me to do it? All right, let’s do it. So Chris, the question of this show – and one of my most favorite ones – if you could change one thing to improve the business ecosystem in the state of Maine or in the country, in the world, what would it be?

Chris: I feel like this is the shot across the bow. So I think about Maine all the time because of being from Maine, that’s one thing I do. The other thing is, a lot of my colleagues and brethren think in terms of places like New York and Los Angeles. Which is not the real world. Or San Francisco, which is an absolute spaceship floating above the real world.

I think of places like Maine because I was born of two very blue collar parents, who then became lower white collar parents. And then who, one was a manager and my dad was an employee slave his whole life until he retired. So my belief in systems comes from working people. My grandparents worked in paper mills, my grandfather was a candy salesman who drove a route and delivered candy and comic books and awesome fun things, which is why my love of comics.

So what do we do to improve Maine? What we do to improve Maine is the easiest thing in the world. It is the same thing all over the planet at this point. What this virus taught us was that we are in no way, we’ve nodded politely about having to know how to do digital business. We’ve nodded politely about building out a strong, useful digital channel. You are all lying, all of you. There are crappy websites everywhere. Horrible execution, terrible attempts to building a marketplace. Marketing is creating a market place that allows people to purchase the product or service that you have. And to sometimes commune with other people who have other products and services that may be complimentary.

Marketplace does not exist for most businesses. What did everyone do when they got locked in? They went to Amazon. The same people buying from Amazon are the people who hate Amazon and who’ve spent 10 years wondering how to beat them. You know how to beat them? Be them. All of the dominating forces in the entire business enterprise took over the business that they were most afraid of.

In early 2000, 2001, 2002, all the way through 2007, voiceover IP was threatening the telecom industry because it was cheap or free, and you could do it over the internet. Meaning, we could all make our phone calls on the internet. The telcos said, “Oh, we are strong.” And then the telcos went, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to die”. And then, then telcos said, “Oh, we can just do that too”. If you can’t beat them, be them.

You need to evolve and make your business digital, fast, useful, virtual and something that people can buy at a distance. Even if you cut hair for dogs, you need to make it easier. You need all of the different types of payment platforms. You need all of the different ways that you can integrate and move your money. Why is Machias on this call? Because they know they have to be fast forward and future thinking, right? There are only a few smart people doing that. There are several institutions thinking that you should keep your stuff under a mattress.

This is not that time. This is the future and the future requires you to work on how do I get my slice of George Jetson’s world. And I think we start with Cogswell Cogs. We have to make sure we’re not living in the factory world, we are living in the world where we can do great storytelling like this to understand what the look and feel of that future is, and then build it so that we can all connect to it. That’s what we do.

Rich: Chris, this has been fantastic. In fact, I kind of want to do this like every week for the rest of my life. But we can’t. And before we wrap up here, I just want people to know where can they find you online?

Chris: I think flyte new media.

Rich: That is not true. Although if you want, we’ll put you on the front page of our website.

Chris: Yeah, you can go to chrisbrogan.com. You can search for any of the variations of my head that exists out there. Very long hair, medium hair, lots of facial hair. Or chrisbrogan.com is fine. Drop me an email anytime, [email protected].

Rich: This has been fantastic. I really appreciate your time.