Authentic Storytelling—Creative Destruction and The Power of Being Real

Credit: Lin Kristensen
Credit: Lin Kristensen

Let me share a secret about myself: I’m a trouble-maker. I like shaking these up. I thrive on change. And I like daring people to do new things.

Over the course of my career, I’ve expended a fair amount of energy fighting this tendency. Sometimes being a trouble-maker is a pain, and it’s not always popular.

But over time, I’ve found that I’m happiest—and most effective in my job—when I am true to my nature and play the role of a disruptor. To be clear, I get no joy from destructive disruption. But I do thrive on creative destruction—challenging old assumptions and switching things up to clear the path for a better way forward. I particularly enjoy helping friends and clients burn away unhelpful patterns so they can discover their own authentic identities.

That’s what exercises like authentic storytelling can help accomplish—clearing away the debris that interferes with your corporate identity. Debris like buzzwords, unsubstantiated superlatives, hype and over-promise, chest-thumping about financial results, jumping on the latest bandwagon, creating yet another insider acronym, or over-rotating on speeds and feeds. In tech storytelling, the process of creative destruction begins with getting rid of all this white noise to make room for messages that are real, compelling and differentiated.

That’s what we at Blanc & Otus love most about our messaging work. A successful narrative brings out the most authentic aspects of what you, your solution and your people are really all about.

It’s striking how often authenticity arises as an issue. Over time many in our profession fall prey to the “say anything” syndrome. This is not to say that folks are dishonest or misleading, but it is often tempting to contort a corporate identity or brand to whatever will sell best to customers, investors or employees. This is particularly an issue at the start-up phase, when product direction and business models are still fairly pliable.

And yet, at some point you just have to decide who you are and what you stand for. After all, brands are meant to mean something. They’re meant to last. We seem to forget that the original use of the word “brand” signified a red-hot piece of metal twisted into a particular shape that seared designs into living flesh. For early humans, branding often took the form of tribal tattoos that held deep spiritual meaning. Brand was a commitment. It said something about who you really are and what you believed. And in some cases, these brands even conveyed special skills and powers—what today we might even call “benefit statements.”

This sort of empowering transformation is also possible in the world of technology branding and messaging. When a company is crystal clear about its purpose and its value, it resonates with people. It helps close deals. It attracts talent. It drives corporate valuation. And when stories are built around the company’s purpose and vision, those stories become powerful, persuasive and pervasive.

Ultimately, this is what I find most exciting about authenticity in marketing and communications: the ability to bring out what’s real and potent in your company. Not only does authentic storytelling help you communicate your brand, your differentiation and your value proposition more convincingly (because it’s actually true), that same authenticity often inspires others in our industry to do the same.

If you’re interested in hearing more about authentic storytelling, register to come hear me speak at LinkedIn TechConnect next Tuesday, September 23.