When I was in college, a journalism professor etched a three-word phrase into my head, “every word tell.” That phrase ends a much longer string of clauses that I once committed to memory and have since forgotten, but those three words became writing mantra. Even as I write this piece, I’m gamifying the process – trying to deliver an actionable message with no fluff.
If I were to break down what I do to its essence, I would say that PR is storytelling. I tell stories about my clients’ work, the people who do the work and the people who are impacted by the work they do. And these stories travel through the ether and impact sentiment felt toward my clients. In a world with short attention spans and even shorter memories, I’m plagued by my “every word tell” mantra.
Does your business have a story? If you do, I imagine it’s housed on your website’s “about page,” and it ranges from 400-600 words. If I read it, I’d learn the sordid history of when you were founded, when you moved into your current building, how you evolved and where you are today. I’m sure it’s lovely. Can your team recite it? Have your clients read it? I say this with all due respect, but I guarantee the answer is no.
To fit into the digital landscape and etch your mantra into the minds of your future customers, you need to be clever and brief. The challenge seems easy – you might even think that crafting a shorter story is easier than crafting the prose you currently tout. But as you write, you’ll find it’s a nuanced process. You do so much and have so much to offer, and it’s tempting to put it all down. But telling your story clearly and simply is beautiful. When it’s done well, it’s memorable, repeatable, sharable and effective. It’s what you should strive to create for your business.
How do you achieve this? For my clients, I start by crafting three simple sentences: a mission statement, a vision statement and a value statement. These three sentences should shape who you are, how you hope your work will impact your community and why you’re the only option for your customers.
Your employees should commit these three statements, verbatim, to memory. You can put these in your business’s Twitter bio. They can live on the homepage of your website, flash across the screen in your storefront and be printed at the bottom of your receipts. They should become synonymous with your business.
Using three sentences, you’ve built a story that tells consumers everything they need to know while also creating a stable foundation to tell a broader story when appropriate. It answers the question, “what exactly do you do?” And it sets the stage for follow-up questions and expanded discussion. Most importantly, it makes you appear like YOU know what YOU do.
Draw inspiration from this famous six-word story from Hemingway, “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” An infinite universe is painted using a few simple words. You’re left with understanding and wanting to know more. This is what you should strive for.
So, how do you tell your story? You tell it simply and clearly. You tell it over and over again. And you ensure every word tells.
Taylor Jolley is an account executive at Obsidian Public Relations, a PR firm in Downtown Memphis. This blog post is part two of a three-part series on small business reputation management. Continue to follow the Greater Memphis Chamber’s blog for part three.