In today’s harried, fast-paced world of business, brevity is king and headlines and bullet points seem to have become the communications currency of the day. Few people have the time or inclination to really read anymore, and most of us would rather have something verbally explained to us with the aid of PowerPoint or in a video than have to absorb complex ideas in writing.
I get this. Like most working people, time has become my most precious commodity. I therefore appreciate it when people synthesize content for me, serving it up in a headlined or bullet-pointed way that enables me to absorb the greatest amount of information in the least amount of time. This information distillation works well for a lot of different things and situations, but it runs into trouble when trying to bring to life for an audience the full meaning of a core brand’s story.
You see, brands, like people, are multi-faceted and layered; and it’s difficult if not impossible for someone to fully convey what a brand is all about by using a couple of headlines or bullet points alone. Indeed, when uncovering a brand’s core story, some galvanizing ideas and key phrases typically float to the surface, and they can be used to structure and summarize that story in the same way that book or chapter titles do. But they are never enough to bring a core brand story fully to life for an audience. That’s why when senior brand leaders tell their core brand story in person they instinctively dive deeper. Yes, they will convey and reaffirm the key phrases of the brand story, but they also go further and will naturally communicate the richer, more nuanced levels of meaning behind those phrases, showcasing and leveraging their more in-depth and intimate knowledge of their brand.
For a core brand story to fully engage hearts and minds, those richer levels of meaning that are effectively and naturally communicated in person have to also be articulated somewhere in writing: preserved in print. This will result in a written document that is sometimes considered “long” by today’s standards: as in more than a page. But having that thorough, comprehensive articulation of the core brand story is essential to its preservation and to the ability of organizational leaders to evangelize and institutionalize it. Here’s why:
ONE: We don’t naturally speak in headlines and bullet points alone. We might start with a headline or bullet point to introduce ideas, but as hard-wired storytellers, we naturally delve deeper, verbally giving an idea more meaning because we know instinctively that only by conveying that richer meaning can we get that idea to truly resonate with our audience. Senior brand leaders who truly know their brands inside and out will instinctively know what to say when going deeper beyond the headlines; but others may not. So having the richer layers of meaning articulated in writing equips any and all brand evangelists with the means to go deeper and thus helps them ensure an idea truly takes hold with an audience. In other words, it gives them the verbal glue to make core brand ideas stick.
TWO: Having only the idea headlines articulated in writing leaves too much interpretation to chance. Having the richer levels of meaning of your core brand story articulated in writing not only enables people to exercise their natural proclivity to delve deeper, it also ensures the path they take is consistent with those their colleagues are taking, reinforcing core themes. This is important because consistency and cohesion are essential in ensuring a brand story truly takes hold within an organization and, more importantly, in the hearts and minds of its employees. If only the idea headlines are articulated in writing, there is too much latitude for people to interpret those headlines in their own way and, with that, too much opportunity for inconsistency and, ultimately, confusion.
THREE: The longer, written articulation of a brand story serves as the ultimate storytelling resource, doing justice to the passion and conviction of its most effective tellers. When strong brand leaders present the core story of their brand in person, they do so with a passion for their brand that is infectious and a level of understanding that is both enlightening and inspirational. Weeks later, succinct bullet points or headlines might serve well to remind audiences of the core ideas inherent in a brand story, but on their own, they will fall short in reigniting their passion for it. In turn, a thorough, richer written articulation of all layers of the core brand story will not only re-enlighten audiences to the more nuanced aspects of it, but also inspire them to bring that story to life day-by-day in their respective jobs. In this regard, the complete written articulation of a brand story can serve as the ultimate leave-behind or briefing document: a valuable touchstone that people can refer back to again and again.
When you start uncovering the core threads of your brand story, let the headlines or bullet point phrases float to the surface. Capture them in writing, but then do right by your brand story and by diving back down below that surface to also capture the richer meaning behind those phrases. It will certainly make for a longer document than a slide full of bullet points; but it will be well worth the read.