Tell Your Story – or Someone Else Will.

By Beacon Staff

A Cajun friend of mine noted a recent news story where Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff said New York needed to prepare for a big hurricane.

The story discussed the possible evacuation of the city, how well it has planned for things, and took the attitude that people in New Orleans were just too dumb to leave town and that New Yorkers are smarter. Obviously, this didn’t set well with my rather successful Cajun friend, whose wry response was, “You see, that’s why the levees fell.”

While he has a point, I suggested to him that part of the problem is that, generally speaking, this is how the media and Hollywood tend to portray Louisiana’s people and they are the only ones telling their story. When “The Waterboy” and Huey Long are the primary thoughts of Louisiana’s people, that’s a problem. Sure, there’s some fluffy tourist stuff about Louisiana on TV now and then, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has the brass to challenge the popular assertions out there about my friend’s home state and the Katrina mess in particular. But there should be.

Sadly, Montana is another example of this phenomenon. How many times in the last year has someone made a “Unabomber” remark to you? I still hear them. Has the state ever put forth any effort to negate or dissolve that image? If so, I’ve missed it. Thing is, I’m not here to fix the states. I’m here to help you deal with business problems. Many of you have the same problem noted above.

The only thing worse than having someone else telling your story is not having anyone tell your story.

This always reminds me of marketing great Claude Hopkins in his work with the Schlitz brewery back in the 1920s. At the time he was brought in to help, Schlitz was floundering in fifth place in the market. Homebrewers know that keeping everything clean is critical to brewing a good beer rather than a sour, infected batch that goes down the toilet. Hopkins first learned of the importance that brewers placed on cleanliness and purity during his tour, and it came to him that most beer drinkers were unaware of these efforts.

After touring the Schlitz plant and seeing the details of the painfully complex (and expensive) processes Schlitz used to make sure their beer was clean and pure, Hopkins asked why Schlitz didn’t tell their customers about their rigorous efforts and dedication to cleanliness, purity and quality.

Schlitz’s reply, “Every beer company does this.”

Hopkins’ reaction was, “But others have never told this story.”

No one else talked about the methods used to cool the beer after it is cooked – methods that eliminate impurities like bacteria. No one else mentioned the very expensive filters made from white pulpwood, or that every pump, pipe, tank, boiler and fixture was cleaned twice and that every bottle was sterilized four times before it was to be trusted. No one mentioned the almost-mile-deep artesian wells where the ultra-pure water used to make their beer came from – rather than using the water from nearby Lake Michigan.

With Hopkins driving the story-telling, Schlitz started talking about all the steps they took to make a clean, pure beer for their customers. Naturally, the other brewers had a “me too” response – but they were too late. “Me too” doesn’t cut it.

So what’s your story? Start telling it. Important stuff that you take for granted and do without a second thought, is the same stuff that your prospects and customers will respond to and that is exactly why I told my story in my first column. I did so primarily so you folks would know where I was coming from and what experiences qualify me to sit here and suggest ways to improve your business.

If you are responsible for marketing your business and you haven’t read Claude’s books – you are missing some critical info. Studying the guys and gals who were able to successfully market their goods and services before TV, radio and the Internet is time very well spent. Compared to them, you have it easy.

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