Happy New Year! So, what will be Your story in 2012? How about your business? Whether you are simply throwing 2012 wishes into your New Year’s fire, making resolutions, or putting the finishing touches on your 100 slide 2012 Go To Market Powerpoint – it’s all the same thing:
Crafting your story is knowing what you want – and then accepting the responsibility for making it happen.
If you simply state what you want without accepting the responsibility of realizing it/receiving it – you’re simply not authoring your own story. In short (to paraphrase Jagger and Richards) you’ll always get what you NEED, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to what you WANT.
Stories, at their heart, are the characters’ attempt to solve problems. Whether they are internal or external problems – our heroes must eventually work to solve them. In short – heroes WANT something. And what creates the emotional bond with an audience is how what they WANT aligns with what they NEED, and how they deal with the someone or something that stands in the way of them getting it.
So, what problems will you solve so that you craft a 2012 narrative that creates an emotional bond with your consumers, your constituencies, your audience – yourself? What kind of hero will you be?
Need Vs. Want In Storytelling
There’s a storytelling technique in building some stories (as we’ll see it’s not exclusive) where our hero must come to realize their ultimate internal struggle. It’s the point at which they finally realize that what they NEED is not aligned with what they WANTED – and it completely changes the reasons they’re fighting for what they’ve been fighting for up until this point.
Two quick examples from two favorite movies. So, Phil Connors in Groundhog Day starts out as a person who rejects almost everyone and everything in his life. In the beginning he simply WANTS to be done with doing something he hates (covering the Groundhog Day festivities). But through trying to solve that one problem – he comes to realize that he NEEDS to be more accepting. He goes from rejecting everyone to accepting everyone and his circumstances. In the end – he becomes a better person, finds love AND solves the problem of being stuck in the same day.
The second is, of course, our old friend Luke Skywalker. In the beginning Luke simply WANTS adventure, and thinks he can do everything on his own. In the end, through all that he deals with, he realizes he NEEDS to rely on others and trust in things larger than himself. In the very end, this trust and faith, is what enables him to destroy the Death Star and save the rebellion.
But of course this isn’t true for EVERY story. No. Think of heroes like Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, or William Wallace in Braveheart. These heroes don’t need to LEARN anything. Instead, they are what we might call “Teaching Heroes”. Instead of coming to a realization of an internal “problem” they must solve – they are driven to solve an EXTERNAL problem – and others come along for the ride (and may themselves be transformed). For William Wallace it’s saving Scotland; for Clarice Starling it’s finding a serial killer. For these heroes, each scene builds toward the justification of what they will eventually do when faced with the ultimate challenge at the climax of the story.
So it’s simply this: One set of heroes (our transformational heroes) learn through each challenge and are transformed by each of them – until they ultimately realize what they really need. Phil Connor doesn’t realize he’s a pompous ass – until… well… he does. Our other set of heroes (the Teaching Hero), on the other hand already realize what they WANT/NEED – and just need to overcome the ultimate challenges to achieve it. Both are doing the same thing: solving problems. The only difference is that one may be initially looking in the wrong place.
What Do You WANT In 2012
So – which hero will you or your brand be this year? If you immediately jumped to the “teaching hero” – you might just think twice. It’s not always that straightforward.
Inevitably this is the time of year of both reflection and forecasts. Our inboxes, feeds, televisions and radios are filled with “year in review” and “predictions for the one to come”. It’s also a time of year for us to plan for the one ahead. Whether it’s our strategy, marketing, sales, weight loss, romance, what have you – it’s the time we wipe the whiteboard and start anew. Time to craft a new story.
Maybe we really do know what we WANT/NEED – and we just have to map our road of challenges in order to get there. Or, (and this has been the case in at least two clients and one friend I’ve spoken with recently) – maybe we only THINK we know what we want? We’re not quite sure if it will come to pass. Maybe we’re unsure of our hiring capacity, the economy, the election, the competition or even our own capabilities. Maybe for us – our Brand Hero is young and impetuous. We know we want to win – but we know our hero may have to transform along the way.
Two quick examples. One client I know is crafting a 2012 story of the “teaching hero”. They’ve spent the last year building their company as a thought leader in their space. They’ve “transformed” their hero and people really believe it. This year it’s all about solving the problem of scaling. They are crafting a story that creates bigger and bigger challenges to build to an event at the end of the year that will be culmination of this brand “becoming a real player in their space”.
Another Brand Hero I know is working the exact opposite “problem”. She is in flux. It may be time for her to double down on what she’s known. Or, it may be time for her to tell a completely new story. It might be an incredible year of opportunity – or it might be risky as hell. She knows there’s big adventure there – and she WANTS it. But the story she’s crafting ALLOWS for her brand to LEARN – to have the NEED revealed to them over time.
So, which will you be? What story will you craft?
Again, it doesn’t matter whether you are simply lighting a wishing candle for 2012, listing out your 23 New Year’s resolutions or tapping “send” on that new content marketing strategy – it’s all the same thing. If you simply state what you want without accepting the responsibility of realizing it/receiving it – you’re simply not authoring your own story.
In the movie “The Matrix” Neo asks Morpheus, “What are you trying to say, I can dodge bullets?” Morpheus replies “No Neo, when your ready.. You won’t have to.”
So, let’s get ready for 2012. Let’s write our story.
That’s mine anyway…. And I’m sticking to it. Whatever yours is – make it remarkable.