As a strategic storyteller, author and blogger, I always get a thrill when I find creative people who get the power of storytelling.
So, when I had the opportunity to connect with brand therapist, podcaster and blogger David Cohen, a former technology entrepreneur with a math mind and a talent for doodling, I knew I was in for a treat. I was already a fan of David’s after viewing his website, Equation Arts, and particularly his “Story Tuning” page, which reads:
Stories matter because people love stories.
Stories matter because stories demonstrate instead of declare.
Stories matter because stories provide context, and context is what gives meaning to all the marvelously unique things about your work, your approach, about you.
People connect through stories. People remember through stories. People find purpose and drive in their own personal narratives.
Stories matter because people tell stories.
David and I talked about our businesses and possible synergies. He challenged me to try out podcasting, which I think would be a great extension of this blog, which frequently features expert interviews (more on that later!). Below, David shares more about his unique calling to help people tell their own story.
Q. You describe yourself as a “brand therapist.” What is that exactly? Who needs brand therapy?
David: Brand therapy is the process of uncovering the core components that form the foundation of your brand behavior. These are often expressed as patterns and motifs that occur and reoccur throughout a person’s life and career. Interests, motivations, values, communication styles, these are all components that we tend to carry within ourselves, but they impact not only the choices we make, but also the situations we find ourselves drawn to and influence the degree of satisfaction and fulfillment we get from our activity.
Understanding the brand behavior helps to create a vocabulary for telling a person’s brand story and in doing so allows you to intentional position the brand to maximize the trust connection between personal fulfillment and customer loyalty. I find that people are ready for brand therapy when they have reached a plateau in their business growth or have come to a crossroads where they are faced with divergent opportunities and are worried that they may lose some element of themselves or what they care about if they make the wrong choice. In such cases brand therapy can reveal their personal compass and clarify that decision making process so they can resume moving forward with a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Q. What is the concept behind “story tuning” — which you talk about on your website?
David: As business people we are always trying to build connections, confidence and trust among our clients and partners. Yet surprisingly, we often focus our communication on the items we produce, or the laundry list of services we offer. Instead of telling a story which helps people to see you in a positive context and gives continuity to your brand, we substitute a menu of things we sell or offer – thus inviting comparison instead of establishing meaning. Story tuning is about helping find the genuine elements, behaviors, values, altitudes, and skills that come together to create a purposeful narrative. In this way you are enabled to position your brand as a relationship of both difference and context. This helps you connect faster with the right audience and set expectations that you are well-positioned to not just meet, but exceed, and do so with consistency.
Q. Can you share an example of someone you’ve worked with who really got the concept and was able to take their story to a new level?
David: I recently worked with a photographer who found himself at a crossroads – his business was successful, but taking him in directions that were moving him further away from the creative activities he found fulfilling. His story was cluttered with success. That may sound odd, but it was that way because he was allowing the happenstance of opportunities govern his brand rather than setting intentional direction. He shot corporate events, weddings and fine art photography, and as his reputation grew he outgrew his one-size-fits-all brand. To appeal to higher-end clientele and to reinvigorate his creative opportunities he needed to establish the principles behind his approach and clarify and separate the messages being presented to each of his markets. In the end he made a closer association of his personal brand to his fine art photography and is treating his wedding work and corporate work as subsidiary operations with unique branding. These subsidiaries are thriving and providing the income to allow him to enjoy the creative freedom under his personal brand.
Q. You also are a podcaster. What sparked the launch of your podcast, “The Be a Beacon Show?”
Well, I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking in my career and so ever since I first heard the term podcast I’ve been curious to give it a try. I chose the name “The Be A Beacon Show”
based on a concept I present in my lectures: the Beacon Principles of branding. I use the metaphor of a lighthouse to introduce the concepts of embracing differentiation, establishing context and creating & communicating focus. I also like to encourage people to think of themselves as beacons – applying these principles to shine brightly, with clarity and focus. One of the best things about having the podcast is being able to invite guests on the show who I feel have carved their own path to business success and are really exemplifying the power of shining forth in this way.
Q. What have you learned about yourself doing this podcast every week?
David: I learned that I like to talk and to listen. I now do many solo shows which gives me a chance to explore and share my own ideas, but I also still do interviews because It’s great to shine a light on others and learn from their experiences and insights. I also learned that live is a better format for me than pre-recorded. I use BlogTalkRadio.com which makes it easy to live stream the show. This prevents me from getting too precious about any single episode, once you’re on the air you just have to roll with whatever comes – spontaneous, unedited. I don’t think I would have stuck with it any other way. I certainly wouldn’t have produced a show every week for over two years.
Q. When should someone consider podcasting? Any tips for helping them get started?
David: I say if you have an itch to podcast, scratch it. There are lots of different platforms, and lots of different approaches. As I said I like the live format, some people might find that intimidating, I found it liberating. But there is nothing wrong with using something like GarageBand and producing a tightly edited, polished show. Some people enjoy talking more than writing a blog, some people like being on camera – they should try a video blog. Rather than speculate, jump in and make a couple of episodes and see if you enjoy it. Don’t even tell anyone you’re doing it- just do it for yourself. You’ll know if it was fun, and if so then you can always work on your own version of polishing the experience. If not, then find another means of communicating that suits you better – that’s the beauty of the age we live in, there are more options than ever before for telling your story and building your tribe.