And Now a Word from…: Nurture Your Narrative

And Now a Word from…
By Jeff Rock

A monthly column featuring a new guest author from around the world!

Nurture Your Narrative

One of the most important steps in personal branding is taking accountability for the life of your narrative. I view personal branding as being the thoughts, emotions, experiences, expectations and beliefs about you. All of these are highly subjective.

As anyone who has run a political campaign will tell you, narratives, whether they are about people or issues, tend to be accepted as truth. Controlling your narrative, managing the message in your communities, is critical to effectively communicating your personal brand.

In nature, different species of birds have evolved different strategies for survival. At the time of their hatching, birds are either precocial, relatively mature and mobile from birth, or altricial, requiring extensive care and nurturing. Precocial birds emerge ready to deal with threats to their existence. Altricial birds do not and are utterly defenseless early on.

Your narrative is altricial. It needs to be developed, nurtured, and protected until such time as it can survive on its own. Sometimes we treat our narrative as if it were precocial. We put it out there and let it fend for itself. It takes on a life of its own or just perishes. We discount its importance and believe our work will speak for itself. It doesn’t.

If you do not choose to manage the narrative about who you are, your value proposition, accomplishments, and what is important to you, someone else may fill the void. You are neglecting a powerful tool for placing yourself in the context of other people’s lives.

When I am speaking to a group and want them to fully appreciate the importance of setting context, I use an example from Robert Ornstein’s book, The Right Mind – Making Sense of the Hemispheres. I read a paragraph out loud containing ambiguous language that describes a journey, and then ask the audience what they remember.

They remember very little and are visibly annoyed.

Then I give them the title, Columbus’s Voyage to America, and read it again in the same tone, tempo and pitch. I have been practicing this.

The look of annoyance falls away and is replaced by understanding. They consistently report that after the second reading, they remember almost everything, they heard me more clearly, and the images in their head were in full, vibrant color. They are sure that during the first reading, I was mumbling and speaking softly. Context provides clarity and, evidently, improves your hearing.

Our brains don’t do well with remembering or understanding a lot of disconnected pieces of information. We want to know where things fit and crave a taxonomy. We naturally seek an order and context. Your narrative can provide both of these and become a powerful tool to strengthen your brand in your communities.

Those who speak for you will have something of substance that they can relate to others. One of the key roles of a personal brand is to establish and maintain a connection with those in your brand community. Strong brands build trust that leads to loyalty. Your brand becomes more potent as your narrative proliferates.

But it has to be right.

We live in a time of opportunity and turmoil as the work place transforms from conformity to diversity at the level of the individual. The strongest brands with clearly articulated narratives will thrive. Your narrative becomes the driver of who you are and who you will become.

Your narrative may be the most durable aspect of your personal brand. It persists long after your accomplishments are forgotten. Take accountability for it. Nurture it and protect it until it’s ready to fly on its own.

Jeff Rock is the founder of Swift River Coaching, a consulting practice that integrates coaching, project management, energy leadership, emotional intelligence, and story telling.


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