First off, apologies for missing last week’s installment of XTC. Thank heavens we’ve got an amazing staff here with great things to say…
To put things into perspective, I was in a minor car crash last week and spent a few days recovering. I’m perfectly fine now, but I have to say … it is amazing what a crash will do for your perspective. Little problems that started to look like big problems suddenly look like little problems again. Things like hugging your significant other and/or your kids look like big priorities again. And people who text while they drive suddenly look like criminals instead of just mildly annoying. It can really change how you look at things.
And fittingly enough, that’s what Chapter 3 accomplishes in our Viral Storytelling model. It’s all about the power of perspective. Chapters 1 and 2 in our five-chapter model are all about change and challenge. But then in Chapter 3: A Shift in Thinking, we introduce a new way of looking at the problem. Perhaps we’re stuck in a false dilemma, like having to choose between saving money or getting a best-of-breed solution. Perhaps we’re looking at things from a panicked near-term perspective and need to shift our thinking to play longer-term. Or maybe there are amazing new technologies we don’t even know about that redefine what’s possible for us as individuals, businesses, and industries.
But this is what makes all stories interesting—a plot twist. Something that changes the direction of the story. To use a term from tech buzzword bingo, a “pivot.” This is also the essence of thought leadership—another overused buzzword, but one that in context has real meaning. And that meaning is to change the way people think about an existing and important challenge. Redefining a problem is also a critical component in the sales process, as it is the moment a company moves from being a “vendor” to being a partner, and a salesperson moves from being a “seller” to being a “trusted advisor,” to reference the truly useful David Maister model.
So in tech marketing and PR, one of the most critical components of the narrative is this “what if” statement mid-way through the narrative. Such as, “What if we stopped thinking of mobile application development as a single-channel exercise?” Or, “What if we stopped thinking of social media as a distribution channel and started looking at it as just one more facet of a single customer experience?” Or even, “What if we stopped turning to PR as storytelling and started looking at it as crowdsourced story co-creation.” (Spoiler alert … we’ll get to this last point in the final installment of this series.)
One of the most critical aspects of Chapter 3 is that it cannot be a sales pitch in disguise. “What if you bought my product to help you out?” is not a perspective-changing question. That’s pitching with an awkwardly thrown-in question mark, and it’s a clear sign you haven’t really suspended your agenda. No, what Chapter 3 is all about is opening up people’s mind to a new way forward.
And that’s what sets the stage for Chapter 4: Enter the Hero. Then, and only then, with context firmly in place and the scene set, will the audience lean into our value propositions, benefits and differentiators. And that’s what we’ll touch on next week.
XTC (Examining The Change) is a weekly column where B&O CEO Josh Reynolds explores the intersection of storytelling, leadership and technology.