In last week's blog the concept of telling the story of what makes you unique was covered. Everyone has a unique story as it is the details that stand out despite a theme that has probably been told before.
But what if you are someone who has difficulty talking about yourself? And what if you've led such an interesting life based on a number of different themes that are packed with an abundance of details and you do not know which story to pitch to your audience?
Most people are not comfortable marketing themselves. Many people in our society have been conditioned to believe that it is obnoxious behavior
to call attention to our achievements. However, in a business setting where there are many organizations to choose from that are offering the same or similar services as yours, audiences and customers need to know who you are, what you bring to the table and what sets your organization apart from the others. When given the opportunity to relay this information you want to be likeable. By being transparent you are apt to being more likeable. This means you need to know who you really are. Not the envisioned version, but the reality of who you are at this precise moment in time by taking an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. You can then convey your list of strengths to your potential customer in an honest and compelling way.
By the same token, you can also communicate your weaknesses in a compelling way as areas that you have had to work hard at overcoming. Society loves stories about those who champion struggle. In all of this it requires an analysis of knowing the archetypal plot for you as a leader of your organization.
Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, established the theory of the human psyche as a model of archetypes. The theory suggests that patterns collectively inhabit the psyche of people since the evolution of the human race, thus creating deeply ingrained human reactions. In the art of storytelling, stories typically follow one of the established archetypal plots. These plots are: Overcoming an Obstacle, The Quest, Rags to Riches, Journey and Return, and Tragedy.
Overcoming an Obstacle is the kind of story we love about someone carving their way out of a difficult situation. The single mother of three kids who works two jobs and attends school in her limited spare time in order to become a successful professional is the star of this archetypal plot. This plot gives us hope that no matter how dire our situation is, we can overcome it.
The Quest is a favorite for many audiences as it involves a journey in order to accomplish a goal or acquire a learning experience to perfect oneself or a product. Motivational speakers have made a bundle on this archetypal plot as people are naturally inclined toward craving self actualization and can seek it once their other needs are either fulfilled or eliminated as a need.
For most people, childhood activities were filled with reading fairy tales involving the archetypal plot of rags to riches. People can generally identify with hard work and the joy of seeing a payoff at the end of the tunnel. This is why Cinderella is still being recited to children centuries later.
Journey and Return is a theme that starts out as the quest but once the learning experience is achieved, the subject returns to their original space in order to implement the lesson and improve the space. It can be material or it can be emotional, such as a story of two people who take a break from one another to work on themselves and learn lessons and then reunite at some later date in time when they are better versions of themselves. They embark on separate journeys to evolve while knowing that a reunion is inevitable once their work has been accomplished. This archetypal plot is perhaps more romantic than any other when applied properly to a love story.
I like to think of the tragic themes as archetypal plots that exist to remind us that no matter how badly we have it, someone else has it worse.
The beauty of these archetypal plots is that you can use any of these while communicating your story to audiences and potential customers. If you have trouble talking about yourself because you are afraid of sounding obnoxious or arrogant, then expand on your archetypal plot and articulate it as if you were telling someone about a movie you saw or a book that you read. You just have to relay the story to the listener in the first person narrative. In this sense you are focused on the archetypal plot that the entire world shares a connection to, rather than becoming self conscious that you are dominating the audience with your own monologue. It is a self deprecating tactic without calling attention to the fact that you are doing so.
The other advice I offer readers is to strongly consider hiring a public relations agency if you have trouble identifying what archetypal plot is best suited for you or your company, or if you are uncomfortable promoting yourself. A public relations professional is trained to identify what plot is best to be propelled for a market driven narrative and will have no qualms about bragging about how efficient and great you are. The fact that public relations agencies will write press releases and articles on your behalf, is another great incentive to hire a professional to promote you or your company. Realistically, everyone relies on publicity in our competitive and media driven world. As the late Irish dramatist, Brendan Behan once said, "There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary."