What is your story Written by Bruckner, Menon and Sandell is a useful book that senior management in all companies should read, because in today’s age where investors are always looking for news about companies of interest, what is one project is very important. Here, the authors grab us and take us through the main elements of the plot.

First, we need to be clear about what the company is all about, and thus it is essential to convey the right message. This usually comes in the company’s mission or vision statement, or simply a slogan. Now when you hear “connections between people around the world,” what company might you think of? This is Hershey’s and seems out of place because these words could fit into any global company. It tells us nothing about chocolate and other confectionery products. Likewise, if a company tells you that it helps you save money to live better, learning that Walmart is going to be a payoff because you don’t really know if it’s living up to the second promise to live better. This is where businesses need to be careful because their customers and employees must understand what the company stands for.

With these kinds of examples, the authors take us through the fools to avoid, and one thing that will plague any reader is when companies manipulate terminology. Interestingly enough, this separation is also called death by specialized linguistic jargon. We need to keep things simple and not go into details that involve the reader understanding the meaning of the words. Hence, if one company is acquired by another, you should just say that this is a good thing because the profits will improve. Using words like synergy and ecosystem, which are favourites these days, means nothing to most readers and can make one skip the article.

A good tip is to keep all communication short and to the point and here they believe in the BBC’s approach, where things are straightforward and free from redundant words. In fact, keeping things simple is the biggest challenge for most writers who tend to go off to impress readers, which can be counterproductive companywide.

Likewise, presentations should carry images and graphics, and according to the authors, bullet points should be avoided. Now this will be a hit for most presentations that follow this format! Furthermore, if numbers are to be presented, they should be easy for the reader to understand and estimation should be used when using decimals or units so that there is no confusion. The basic idea is that if one wants to reach the audience, things should be easy to understand without the reader having to compute numbers.

Another area that the authors talk about is the medium of communication. Today, there are a variety of choices as we’ve moved from newspapers and television to social media. Here, the company needs to assess where the story should be heard. It can be universal for some products, in which case a balance has to be struck across all three, while sometimes one can be eclectic, especially when attracting millennials. Likewise, a B2B company that does not include a retail client could be better off using social media options depending on the product in question.

YouTube today is great for certain types of communication, especially dealing with knowledge, where everyone wants to hear what CEOs have to say. Podcasts are popular and they work very well as people may not have time to read something long and a minute or two of verbal comments makes things easier.

Even when dealing with newspapers one must know the recipient of the call. The newspaper editor does not consider news releases and a journalist who covers banking cannot send a statement regarding cars. If this is done, they may start ignoring all versions of the company.

There is also another reading for CEOs which falls under a separate section. Do we want to know the company or the person? Warren Buffett is better known than his company Berkshire Hathaway. The same goes for Richard Branson. Here the company should get a call, especially if it is professionally managed and not owner driven as the motivation will be different. If the CEO becomes more popular, the company will suffer once the person leaves.

The authors provide tips on how to present to the CEO, sponsor events, or create their own. They differentiate between advertisements, advertisements, opinion columns and unbiased viewpoints. Companies should be aware of these differences and plan accordingly their stories to communicate.

This book is very useful for all companies that are keen to enhance their communication with their stakeholders. The book may sound pedantic at times, but then when companies get carried away in their emotions there is a need to check some basic principles, What is your story It helps greatly to provide clues.

Madan Sabnavis, independent economist

What is your story?
Adri Bruckner, Anjana Menon, Maribeth Sandel
Random penguin house
p. 284, 599 rupees

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