Is Your Story Working? Take the Assessment

 Photo from Flickr by Virtual Eyesee

Photo from Flickr by Virtual Eyesee

All too often people throw some language together to describe their organization. Then they build a website and call it a day.

How's that language workin' for ya?

Your brand story is more than just words on a page. It's more than a collection of thoughts you want to convey.

To really work some magic, your story needs to be told in the simplest, snappiest, most compelling way possible. Most crucially, it needs to be told from the perspective of your audience.

Let me pose 5 questions. Be brutally honest with yourself.

1) Are your execs singing from the same song sheet? (Or do people get a different story depending who they talk to?)

2) Does your website story clearly, boldly differentiate you from others in the market?

3) Can you verbalize (right now, without thinking) the most crucial thing every potential donor, client or customer needs to know? Bonus point if you believe your entire exec team would agree with you.

4) At networking events, are people intrigued when you tell them what you do?

5) With your previous responses in mind, are you supremely confident your story is exciting to people outside your organization?

If you answered 'no' to any of these questions, it's probably time to take a new crack at your brand story.

Rediscovering Humanity

Here's an article I wrote about the most exciting session I attended at the Dalai Lama Center's Heart-Mind conference. The speaker was Linda Lantieri, an expert in mindfulness for kids and a woman on a mission to revolutionize the education system.

The full article is below. It was originally published here

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Linda Lantieri

Holy smokes, Linda Lantieri is a ball of fire. Hearing her speak made me want to back my bags and move to New York to support her work.

Among her many riveting tales, an anecdote about 1992 stood out for me. 1992 was the year of the first U.S. school shooting - the first time a student shot and killed another kid. 

It happened in New York, Linda’s hometown, and she immediately received a call asking for her help on-site to support the kids and teachers. When that call arrived, she was shocked not only to learn about the shooting, but also to discover it had happened at her alma mater.

The year rings in my head: 1992.

In the grand scheme of things, 1992 was a millisecond ago. How did we go from having no school shootings to several school massacres in just over 20 years? What happened in those 20 years that changed schools so drastically?

From the perspective of mindfulness in daily life (or lack thereof) a lot changed in those 20 years. The mid-nineties marked the explosion of real-time news coverage, kick-started by CNN’s relentless coverage of Nicole Simpson’s murder and OJ Simpson’s trial. 

We used to be a society that read a paper once a day and maybe caught the nightly news. Quickly we became a society where news was constant and urgent – information being hurled at us moment by moment, until we shut off the TV.

Then the Internet happened. And by happened, I mean exploded into our lives and minds like an atom bomb. The ‘immediacy’ of TV now seemed laughable. We no longer needed to rely on journalists for information – we could check Google, Facebook or Twitter. We could consult a gazillion blogs. A hungry or bored mind could spend hours and hours a day consuming content.

Add to this the full blossoming of video games as immersive and intensive experiences, stimulating young minds in a totally new way.

I’m definitely not attempting to draw a causal relationship between this media revolution and the emergence of fatal violence in schools. I’m simply saying, a lot has happened. People have busier minds, including kids. And it seems to me that busy minds create stressed people who may be less capable of dealing with some of the raw stuff life throws at us.

We’re making big strides in giving kids tools to cope with all of the new stimuli that are hitting them, but those strides haven’t kept pace with the speed of media.

Mindfulness may not be a solution to ending school violence, but it can likely help. Kids that have tools for coping with media stimuli, emotions and interpersonal conflict are more prepared to cope with life.

They’re more likely to see the humanity in others by discovering it in themselves. And at the very least, that’s a great start.

 

Refresh Your Brain

I had the huge honour of attending the Dalai Lama Center's Heart-Mind conference and I wrote two articles for their blog about my experience.

Below is a piece I wrote in response to a presentation by the renown Dr. Cliff Saron, an expert on how mindfulness affects the brain. It was originally published here.

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Dr. Cliff Saron

In a world where we are bombarded with texts, tweets and up-to-the-nanosecond news, why aren’t we totally alarmed at our decreasing ability and opportunity to focus peacefully on one thing at a time?

All of this incessant communication and stimuli is tricking us into thinking we’re highly productive. But here’s what I think. Our minds are busy, yes. But productive? Not nearly as much as we think.

Dr. Clifford Saron’s presentation cited research that shows people perform better at tasks after interacting with nature. Quieting the mind refreshes the brain. Not a shocker really, but what do we do about it? How do we make sure kids (and teachers, parents – and all adults) can regularly hit the refresh button on their brains?

I’ve been practicing meditation daily for several years, and I’m mid-way through an intensive two-year meditation teachers’ program in Vancouver. I’m a focus group of one, and I certainly don’t claim that my views are scientifically proven. But I’ll share my experience.

When it comes to refreshing the brain, meditation is like nature (Clifford’s research supports this).

You know that calm, still state that you experience when you really settle into a view of vast, open ocean? Or that feeling of oneness and openness that you get standing on top of a mountain peak or staring up at a rural, starlit sky? Yeah, meditation’s like that.

Not all the time, mind you. Sometimes it’s simply an exercise in letting the frantic mind simmer down. But that’s ok too because it still refreshes the brain, even when you don’t think it’s happening.

Frequently saying ‘no’ to stimuli and turning inward brings clarity. Ease. A bigger perspective.

I’ve been a news junkie, an iPhone addict, a social media strategist and a PR maven. I know a busy brain. It’s my hope that we create a world where the next set of adults at the helm have calm, clear, compassionate minds. I think we’ll all be better for it.

 

Recent Work: VitalityLink

 
Transient

This summer I had the distinct pleasure of working on a brand strategy for a lovely team of people at a start-up venture called VitalityLink.

Katryn Harris is the CEO and I could listen to her talk all day about her vision for giving people easy access to alternative healthcare.

Now I should start by saying I’m a huge fan of alternative healing.  I believe there’s a lot more to the human body than traditional medicine alone addresses. Because of this, the VitalityLink story is right up my alley.

Katryn and her team have zeroed in on a significant problem: tons of people want to try alternative healing but they don’t know where to begin. They don’t know a Reiki master from a naturopath and they don’t have the time to figure it out.

VitalityLink aims to be a one-stop shop for learning about your options and finding practitioners right in your neighborhood. It’s in inception phase right now and as I write this Katryn is in the Silicon Valley devising the next stage of her strategy.

I collaborated with the amazing Katrina Carroll-Foster on the brand strategy and hopefully in the coming months you will start to see it coming to life online.

 

Recent Work: Seventh Generation

 
Transient

I've been buying Seventh Generation products for years so I was pretty darn excited when I got the call (thank you Katrina and Brian!) to write some social media content for two of their Facebook campaigns.

You know Seventh Generation, right? Maybe you’ve bought their toilet paper, laundry detergent or baby wipes. It’s a Vermont-based company that makes earth-friendly products.

What you may not know is how they got their name. It comes from an ancient Iroquois law that says, “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” 

Considering many companies tend to think quarter to quarter, it’s both astonishing and courageous that the team at Seventh Generation is considering their impact hundreds of years into the future. HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

Now that’s what corporate responsibility looks like. {Hat tip}.