I've been a teller of stories all my life - in front of the camera, behind the camera, as an entrepreneur, executive, leader and professor at UCLA for close to four decades. The purposeful story - one that drives your listeners/audience to your goal and incites and excites them to heed your call to action and viral market it as their own - is one of the most potent resources any individual, brand, or company can tap into and have it be their game-changer.
Most of the time...
And sometimes, very often publically, there's the good story that's gone bad. Circumstances might have changed, decisions driven by greed or shortcuts are made, or Mother Nature might have taken control, creating the telling of a new story that is a fabrication of reality or resulting in the complete cessation of telling any story. Both of these scenarios have the power to repel an audience, alienating them from your brand and causing your enterprise to tank.
In my own life, I've experienced trying to remedy a good story gone bad first hand. Sometimes you can't hold fast, you just have to hold on - for dear life! Many years ago, I partnered with a major comedy brand, Woody Allen, a star and director. Just before the release of his new movie, news broke out about Woody's romance with Soon-Yi Previn who was none other than Woody's girlfriend, Mia Farrow's, adopted daughter! Imagine managing a $30 million dollar brand, called unbelievably, "Husbands and Wives" and having his horrible story being told? I couldn't pitch through it and that story struck us out. There was no story I could tell to salvage that brand.
My epiphany was, when brands are hooked up to people and their personal behavior, bad stuff can happen that pollutes the brand's story and becomes the brand's story. In my case, the best business decision was to cut my losses. While the "cutting loss" strategy be can the best last resort decision, many business folks don't have it as an option.
Sometimes you have to confront bad news head on. Recently, these folks and brands have been victims, many self-inflicted, of good stories gone bad.
The King of telling purposeful stories has temporarily left his throne without telling a story about the new leadership that gives confidence to the legions who have invested in his kingdom. As a result, many are abdicating his stock. Long before the news broke that Steve Jobs is taking time off, his gaunt frame told a story that was not congruent with his words. When there is a lack of authenticity or congruence with who you are, what people see, and the story you tell or don't tell, your brand, product, service or offering is bound to suffer.
What a story! Politicians decided to hijack the emotional event of the story and load into it another objective that was far from objective - their own. The truth is that the shooter, Jared Loughner, is mentally ill and his actions are largely unexplainable. But since this wasn't the story these folks wanted told and sold, they tapped into the power of telling stories to move their audiences to their self-serving goals. In telling purposeful stories, the best goals serve a higher purpose. In this case, just how low were these folks willing to go?
Here we go again. Toyota recently recalled nearly 1.7 million cars for fuel leaks. While the goal of most stories that are well told and received is for the story to be never-ending, in the case of Toyota, this is the story that won't quit. The facts continue to tell the same story and Toyota continues to fail to realize that they have to change the direction of their feet (improve the product and its performance) before they can change the direction of their tongue.
With former pitching star Roger Clemens asking a judge to dismiss his indictment on charges of obstructing a congressional investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the story of a fallen from grace superstar continues. This wild pitch won't find any fans. Sometimes the pain of honesty and forgiveness can yield a better result than denial and distraction.
A fine actor with a bad script - and, he's writing it! Instead, he should start living a better life and his true story will be a reality hit.
This once storied corporate name is in dire need of a new story. Did the management take a J&J manufactured "Stupid Pill" or what? Hundreds of millions of products have been recalled. Its reputation is damaged, and its business is losing shelf space because of its side effects. What should they do? Take a lesson from their own book and tell a story in which they own up to the truth. That will be their best medicine.
This post has been corrected from an earlier version.
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