In 2009, Simon Sinek practically broke the internet with his groundbreaking TED Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Others Into Action.” He encouraged us to start with why.
While most businesses start with “Hows” and “Whats,” immense value, meaning, and context can be provided when your clients and audience know why you do what you do.
This is where your signature story comes in.
On a surface-level, your signature story tells people –
- you know their struggles,
- you’ve been through it,
- you’ve made it to the other side,
- and this is why you do what you do
Other variations might include your origin story, what you’re passionate about, and what you’re here to create.
It’s similar to the adage, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
If we dig below the surface, this is an opportunity to share:
1. Your Mission, tapping into your audience’s desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves
This is why companies create or align themselves with causes – from Dawn dish soap to Tom’s shoes. They understand that people want to know that you’re doing this for more than just dollar-signs.
2. Your Core Values, in which you better believe your audience is watching and they expect you to ‘walk your talk’
This is why Ellen DeGeneres was recently being (unfairly) ‘raked over the coals’ in the media – because she built her brand on the promise of being nice. [When you violate others’ expectations of you, and start setting boundaries, it’s often perceived as betrayal.]
3. Your Identity, in which you can tap into something that already exists for your client (and they can see themselves in your shoes)
This is why consumers would buy insurance from a gecko or other fictional character, rather than a ‘faceless corporation.’
An Invitation to take action, by reinforcing an identity your audience wishes to have
For example, the ‘call to adventure’ or ‘desire to hit the open road’ often has the most suburban consumers buying Jeeps, Suburus, and Harley Davidsons. They are reinforcing their identity as Explorers.
1. The first signature story I remember hearing was from Tory Johnson, at a Spark & Hustle event (probably in the early 2000’s.)
After being called into the office and unexpectedly fired from her job at CNN News, she made the decision that she would never put her fate in the hands of another employer ever again. That inspired her to create Women For Hire and Spark & Hustle..
I’ll never forget how that story made me feel instantly connected to Tory Johnson. It also made her highly relatable, and made me a huge fan (right from the start.)
2. I received my first signature story from a copywriter (shout-out to Ling Wong at Business Soulwork) in 2016, which broke me of my addiction to scouring higheredjobs.com like a crack addict looking for my next fix.
I spent 20 years and 4 degrees pursuing the tenure-track position in higher education until I realized that being “Dr. Slawsky” was feeding my ego, but not my soul. I was feeling “the call” to something more.
As soon as I read the words, “out of alignment with my core values,” the spell was broken.
So, your signature story can not only motivate you to take action, but inspire you to create change as you ‘walk your talk’ when it comes to this new path.
3. My new signature story – I am literally the poster-child for burnout. I have enjoyed fulfilling work, but I literally hit a wall where ‘working harder’ and ‘learning more’ stopped working for me. That’s when I had to find other ways to add and communicate value.
While my story may only appeal to a few, it at least shares my motivation behind what I’m creating. And, it inspires me to ‘walk my talk,’ so I never burn out ever again in pursuit of my goals.
Here’s a hint when it comes to your signature story –
“It’s usually the very things that we’re hiding that we should be showcasing.”
The things we least like to share can often create the most impact when it comes to letting people know why you do what you do.
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