n the same way that a good story relies on a strong character, a business needs a strong personality to engage with its audience. Employees and customers want to feel connected to something they can relate to – something human and authentic. The things that make your business who you are; that make you different from your competitors; that reflect their own values and beliefs.
The ability to communicate with a distinct personality is crucial… but it’s not easy. And the stakes are high. If you fail, you’re likely to disengage rather than connect. Inauthentic characters are the worst kind of characters – they literally make our brains switch off.
So, how do you get it right?
During our story shaping workshops, we ask a lot of questions about character – helping leaders explore what’s authentic and different about their business. Not corporate words. Not generic terms. Something unique and extraordinary. It’s a complex and dynamic process that’s full of plot twists and ‘aha!’ moments. But to start with, we often warm up with two questions:
Which existing character best reflects your brand? Why?
If I were to ask your employees or customers to choose an existing character, who would they choose and why?
Take a moment to think about it for your business (or your team or yourself).
If the answers to the two questions are similar, you’re doing something right. But if the two are vastly different (spoiler alert: 99% of the time they’re completely different), it’s highlighting an issue with the character of your business that needs to be solved. Urgently. It’s what we call the ‘Robin Hood syndrome’.
Let me explain: if your answer to #1 is Robin Hood (the noble hero that helps people) but your answer to #2 is Sheriff of Nottingham (the not-so-nice-villain that takes people’s money), then you have a personality problem between who you think you are and who everyone else thinks you are. And the more you communicate in the character of Robin Hood, the worse you’re making it.
So, what’s the solution?
Firstly, there’s a fundamental truth to address – who are you? Why should people care about you as a character? If you really are a wolf trying to dress in sheep’s clothing, then no amount of storytelling is going to help you. But if you are genuinely Robin Hood and the issue lies in who people think you are, the answer to your problem is to articulate your character through the context of your business’s story.
Define the character of your business and then develop the long-running story that takes them on a journey to the future. Allow people to connect with something authentic and extraordinary, so they themselves can become part of an authentic and extraordinary story.
Need a hand?