Today, more than half a million marketing professionals on LinkedIn claim the storytelling skill on their profiles. It’s on mine, too, though I prefer to empower my clients tell their own stories. Bottom line: your brand lives or dies by the power of the stories you tell. This is true whether your brand represents a multinational conglomerate or just you.

So, where do you find the stories and how do you choose which ones to tell?

Let’s start with the easy part: stories are hiding everywhere. I mean literally everywhere. The four kinds of stories l like to help my clients tell are (1) stories about their company (people), stories about their offerings (the why behind their development), (3) stories about their successes and (most important, 4) stories that others tell about their success.

The problem is that many executives can’t see the stories hiding right in front of them. I have found three primary reasons for this. They are all forms of cognitive bias and they create blind spots that hide some of our best opportunities.

  1. We think everyone knows what we know. This is the most common excuse I hear. “Everyone reads the same trades as me, they attend the same conferences. Everyone knows this stuff. What could I possibly add?” That’s not really the right question to ask an old reporter. Believe me, I can find the story. Often, it’s nothing more than another look at the situation through the lens of the executive’s unique experience. But you’d be surprised how often I hear executives say things that I haven’t heard others say in 20 years of covering my industry.
  2. We are afraid of giving away our competitive advantage. Sometimes, I find executives who are worried that if they talk about their position on an issue it will inform their competitors and they will somehow beat them in the marketplace. My argument is that if a story in the press or on LinkedIn gives away enough of your secret sauce that another company can pick it up and run with it, you probably need to revisit your positioning. That generally doesn’t go over well and so we part company.
  3. We can’t see our customer’s real problem. In a previous post, I talked about how great stories exist at the intersection of our experience and our customer’s problem. So, it should stand to reason that if you don’t know enough about your customer’s problems, you’ll find it difficult to come up with stories that will resonate with them and make them want to do business with you. I don’t see this one as often, but when I do it’s because the management team is operating off of old assumptions about their customers.

Seeing around these blind spots will allow marketing to create an editorial calendar filled with great content ideas that will allow the company to tell the kinds of stories that will win more business.