Take a squiz at the words you’re using in your business storytelling
By Naomi Gora
This is a quick yet solid exercise you can do to see whether your brand storytelling is standing out from your competitors. It takes, ooh, maybe an hour depending on how big your business is and can give you some real gems of branding super power insight.
First grab a pen and paper, then sit down and do a recon of the words you’re using in your business. Check your Facebook page, videos, your website and blog posts (and if you’re short of time, start with your primary mode of communicating with your people). If you haven’t started your business yet, do the same thing but go over your competitors websites and Facebook feeds instead. It will give you a solid place to start building your storytelling strategy.
Ok, so as you’re looking, start writing down the words that are used a lot and take note of:
a) Words you feel like you’ve heard a thousand times before. Mark them with a star; and
b) words that make you cringe a little on the inside when you read them because their not really words you’d use in general conversation (even if they are industry accepted/standard). Mark them with a big sad face.
Now let’s look a bit more into why we’re marking up these words….
e note of: a) If you’re seeing words you’ve already seen/read/heard a thousand times on Facebook/websites/emails in your industry, it’s a sign that they’re words that will make you sounds just like everyone else, not just like you. And sounding just like everyone else is not going to make you stand out in a crowd of people who offer similar services as you.
It’s sort of like standing in a pack of seagulls and watching them all yell ‘MINE, MINE, MINE’ at you while you throw them some bread and duck for cover under the closest park bench. (And yes, I’m happy to enter into the debate as to whether the Finding Nemo seagulls are yelling Mike or Mate or Mine, I’m actually a bit of a fence sitter on the subject).
A few examples of words I hear all over the place right now are words like ‘journey’, ‘manifest’, ‘resonate’, ‘synergy’, ‘tribe’, ‘on point’ and ‘authentic’ and they seriously make me switch off in a second.
I’m like ‘Please stop hurting my ears with the same words’.I don’t even understand what they mean anymore I’ve heard them so much.
There’s actually a psychological phenomenon called semantic satiation where repeated words lose their meaning to the listener. It’s a real thing. I kid you not. It’s real. And it takes so much away from your most excellent services and offerings.
If you’re words are the same as everyone else’s, people will start to think your offerings are the same too.
Now, I’m not saying you have to stay away from those ideas, sure, use the concepts, but put your own spin on them. So, once you’ve got your list of overly-used, star doodled words, look at each and see if there’s another word you can replace them with. Get a thesaurus out if you have to… BUT – insert important thesaurus warning – only use words you’d use in general speech and words you’ve actually heard before. We don’t want to read the same stuff over and over, but we don’t want to read a dictionary either.
And I get that some words are necessary industry words or words that explain what you do, for example, I use the words brand and design and storytelling a thousand times a day. It’s not those words we’re concerned about. Those are the words that explain WHAT you do, it’s the words that explain HOW you do what you do and WHY people should work with you that need to be unique.
b) Ok, so now to the words that make you cringe a little on the inside:
You might even vomit a little in your mouth or get a slight eye twitch when you read them.
Yeah, they’re industry standard, but they’re not really words you’d use in general conversation with your clients of business colleagues, and they make you feel a bit icky, try-hard or fake.
These are usually words you think you should use because other successful people use them. So you sort of think that if you use them you’ll be successful too (we’ve all been there!).
Big fat negatory. Banish the little gremlins, it’s the metaphorically wordy equivalent of taking off your bra and swinging it around your head yelling “I don’t care if you don’t like my floppy boobs, I love them! and they shall ne’er be oppressed again’. Ok, so maybe that’s a little extreme, but I guarantee you’ll feel instant relief when you hit the delete key and it’ll free you up space for your own unique voice to shine through.
It comes down to this: in every message you put out there, think, ‘Is this really me?’ Is this something I’d say in a real conversation with my closest business buds or clients?’. If not, toss the cliche away and do it your way.
Go to it, World Builders. And if you’d like to share your findings, I’d love to hear what words you’ve found are popping up as ‘Yawn, same-same’ or words you’ve promised yourself never to use again because they’re, you know, just NOT you. Tell me the good stuff here.