“It was a full 10 seconds before I realized how loud I’d been talking, and that everyone within 50 yards was staring at me,” Baris, 55, said into the microphone, looking sheepishly at the gathering of familiar faces in the cafe–including Liliana, a 28-year-old brand strategist, who was nodding her head while laughing.
It was the office complex’s monthly Storytelling Night (see this recent post), and an increasing amount of the various professionals whom Baris chatted with in the elevator, inside the shared resource center, or during lunchtime at this same cafe were turning out to watch or participate. Business and business casual daytime attire were replaced by jeans and t-shirts. Food, drinks, and laughter abounded.
“Thankfully, my ex-wife hung up before I could continue my tirade,” Baris continued. “I walked as quickly as I could to my car and drove off. All I could think about on the way home was that I’m a person who’s increasingly out in the public eye, trying to help people, and that I was potentially shooting my reputation in the foot by not controlling my emotions.”
He paused and made eye contact with Tyler, a 35-year-old financial advisor. “And damn it,” Baris said, “I’m a psychologist.”
Hearty laughter filled the cafe, intermixed with applause. “Analyze that!” yelled Catori, a 45-year-old freelance writer.
“I know, right? It was one of those pivotal moments for me,” Baris said. “A painful reminder that who you are in private will, inevitably, squeeze its way out into the public.”
Baris’s story was a reminder of a key tenet of storytelling itself: Your brand matters a lot, and it’s important to be “brand conscious” in everything you do.
A brand is simply what a person, company, or institution is “known for.” Since everyone and everything is known for something–to exist is to be known–we’re always communicating a “message” that people around us are interpreting, whether consciously or subconsciously, and responding to in some manner.
Sometimes that response is purchasing our services or giving us feedback. Other times the response is silence or even indifference.
Storytelling is the art and science of influencing others through skillful communication and personal brand; not just telling great stories, but being a great story. And everyone loves a great story.
In other words, each of us needs to “live our brand.”
How are you living your professional or personal brand? Do your words and actions align with what you intend to communicate?
Bounce that second question off of a few people whom you know will give you honest feedback, and you’ll probably capture a couple of valuable takeaways so you can make whatever brand adjustments are needed. Survey your customers on a regular basis as well, to stay on top of how they’re interpreting the intent and impact of your products and services.