When I talk to CEOs from companies around the world, one constant I’ve noticed is the ability of successful companies and executives to tell an irresistible story. The ideas that really catch on with the public are wrapped in a compelling story.
In my work, I’ve spoken to Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran, “The Voice” producer Mark Burnett and many other leaders who credit much of their brands’ success to their ability to sell ideas in the form of a story. I’ve also studied TED talks and interviewed the speakers whose talks have gone viral. I’ve found that there is a formula to viral messages: story, data, story, data, story.
The credit union story can easily be engaging for the public to hear and absorb – but I think credit union leaders suffer from the same problem that affects leaders in many other industries: the cult of knowledge. They know too much.
They understand the advantages credit unions have over banks – but are they communicating those advantages in language that members and potential members understand?
They speak in a language that’s only understood by them – not the average consumer. Researchers who’ve studied the science of persuasion have found that consumers respond to messages that grab their attention – something funny, surprising or unexpected – and communicate something on an emotional level. In order for persuasion to occur, both attention and “emotional resonance” must be present.
Bryan Stevenson, a well-known TED speaker and a human rights attorney, has argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He knows persuasion. “Narrative is everything in effective communication,” he told me. Stevenson’s public presentations follow a template. He starts with a short personal story (something that everyone can find relatable and that supports his theme) and follows it with facts and data. He then tells another story that sets up a second set of facts, followed by a third story and more facts, etc. That’s the difference between a story – with just a beginning, middle and end – and a transformative message that moves hearts and minds.
But how can credit unions latch onto the power of that kind of transformative messaging and storytelling? How can they craft a compelling story that wins minds and moves hearts?
The secret to creativity, according to Steve Jobs, is to “bombard the brain with new experiences.” One such experience is NAFCU’s CEOs and Senior Executives Conference, set for April 12-14 in San Francisco – just two months from now. As one of the keynote speakers, I can assure you this conference will be full of new experiences and invaluable lessons about strategies and leadership tactics. It will also be an excellent networking opportunity through which credit union executives can learn from each other about how storytelling has helped their businesses.
Leaders cannot take their businesses to the next level if they’re doing the same thing year after year. Events such as this conference expose leaders to new ideas and experiences that will help them stand out in an increasingly competitive business environment.
How can you tell a compelling story? Get outside your normal routine, open your mind to new perspectives, and listen to the experiences of others – and see what happens.
Feb. 12 is the last day for conference attendees to save $100 with the promo code CEOSAVINGS. The NAFCU CEOs and Senior Executives Conference is scheduled for April 12-14 at the Fairmont San Francisco in California.