I remember going to my first fashion show – with my mum. It was less of a show and more of a shop in which the models seemed to glide in and around us. I was captivated.
There were only about 12 of us there but it was far North Queensland and life couldn’t get more glamorous in my almost-16-year-old mind.
Until I met her.
The woman that would change my life.
Her name was Heather. Brown. Two simple words I’ve never forgotten – almost 35 years on. With her bare feet, splayed on the carpet next to dusty RM Williams boots she’d kicked off, long blonde tussled hair and sitting cross-legged on the floor, she looked like fun; as though she didn’t belong and didn’t care a dot.
I asked her what she was doing there.
She told me she was a reporter for The Australian, covering regional Australia. She was not on assignment there but just playing dress ups – or down in her case – for the night. She had just jumped off a hay bale from a story and driven straight there. Stray bits of hay still clung to her clothing.
I asked her about the people she’d met, the yarns she heard and how she found them.
As a “stringer”, she could go where she wanted, talk to whom she liked and listen to their stories, share their lives. The bush was a magical place full of stories, she said.
She told me tales of hooligans and heroes, about the banter of the bushies she had met along the trail and farmers who had fallen hard due to drought. She told me stories of women whose determination to survive roared with a fierceness you could only ever find from those who’d done the hard yards on the land.
Her stories mesmerised me; the energy in her storytelling rippled through me. She was like a giant glass of sparkling water overflowing with big, boisterous bubbles that snapped, crackled and popped with life and living.
And it was in that very moment, I realised many years later, that I had learned the value of storytelling.
Stories make a difference. They change minds. They make you think. They question the status quo. They did mine. Inspired by her stories, I went from wanting to be a criminal lawyer to scoring a coveted newspaper cadetship not long after. As a journalist, I’ve spent the past 30 years telling people’s stories around the world – for newspapers, magazines, television, brands, companies – big and small, local and global – and international organisations doing good such as UNESCO and United Nations.
It’s nothing new. Since early civilization, through paintings, speech, books, then radio, television, newspapers and now more so than ever, in the digital era, storytelling has been our way of making sense of the world.
In an information-overloaded society, providing clients’ data on your successes will simply overwhelm.
It’s stories that people connect with, both in the head and the heart. Stories allow audiences to see – and feel – what you and your brand is all about. It’s critical to your success.
But it’s not enough just to tell a brand story. There are probably a lot of brands saying the same thing in the marketplace about the same – or similar – product or service.
Sharing the stories of people behind the brand is one way to stand out. It helps make an emotional connection and a trigger to selling your product or service.
Human beings are hard wired to hear stories. Let us tell yours.