Hardly a week goes by in financial planning land, where there isn’t someone bemoaning the lack of positive stories being told about the profession in the general media. In fact, I've been one of them.
But in an environment where traditional media turned digital, is more often than not driven by clicks, page views and tight deadlines; easily manipulated; and paid for by advertisers, it's hardly a surprise.
But “news”, particularly in the digital space, is no longer controlled by the mass media.
The common folk - yes, you and I - can now, more easily than ever before, tell stories that matter too.
You don't need a bunch of money.
You can actually do it for free.
You don't need an audience of tens or hundreds of thousands.
You just need the right people to see it and resonate with it.
And what you do need, is not just a desire to change the stories being told about financial planners, but the willingness to step up and tell them yourself.
Sometimes loudly. Sometimes just a whisper.
And with all the humility you can muster.
Imagine the impact
Imagine if every single financial planner in Australia told just one client story once a year.
In a way that’s discoverable in the future. In a way that builds an asset of “good news”.
An investment in 22,000 positive stories every year.
Each one won't be seen by football stadiums full of people.
But collectively, they will.
The golden rule of client story telling
So here’s the most important thing you need to remember about telling client stories. And for some, it’s going to seem counter intuitive.
But it’s vital.
If you don't do this, don't bother.
It’s never, ever, ever about you.
You aren’t the hero. Your client is.
If your story was a movie, you’d be the “money nerd in blue shirt at coffee shop” in the credits.
It’s your clients whose names should be up in lights.
They are the ones on the journey. (Yes I know that sounds like something out of the Bachelorette.)
They are the ones who are taking the risks, making the sacrifices and choices every day.
They are the ones who will struggle. They are the ones who will celebrate.
Yes you will be by their side, guiding, supporting and coaching.
But take the opportunity to put your clients in the spotlight, in the kindest, most confidence-building way.
Make them feel proud of what they've acheived.
What kind of story?
There are many different types of stories you can tell.
Perhaps it’s a before and after transformation.
Perhaps it's about overcoming a big problem.
Perhaps it digs into a strategy.
Perhaps it's about what advice has enabled your client to do. Holidays. A business venture. More time for community work.
It depends on your audience. What do they want to hear? What's important to them? What will resonate with them?
Stories aren't just books and movies. Big, grand, time-consuming productions.
They're conversations with friends.
They're a powerful image.
They're music that pulls at your heartstrings.
They're limited only by your imagination.
Do what makes sense for you and your audience. And preferably do something that lasts. Create an asset.
- Like talking? Record audio using the voice memo app on your phone, and upload it to Soundcloud.
- Like pictures? Take a sequence of photos that tell a story, and fill the gaps with short snippets of text.
- Like video? Record your client telling their own story, in an environment and with people that make them feel comfortable, strong and happy. Or create a slideshow in PowerPoint and turn it into a movie.
- Like words? Write a blog post, and support it with photos, audio or video.
- Like books? Self-publish a client story book using a tool like Blurb, and give a copy to people in your professional network to leave in their reception area (and yours).
- Like print? Create some mini stories, as simple as a photo and a quote, and put them on the back of your business card using an online printer like Moo.com.
- Like social media? Periscope or Snapchat a story. Tell a short story on Facebook. Share something a bit longer on LinkedIn.
It's not the media's responsibility to tell the good stories.
It's (arguably) not your professional association's responsibility to tell the good stories.
If you want to change the story being heard, then create and tell a different story.
Here's to 22,000 positive stories this year.
P.S. A wee footnote. As much as I believe in the power of stories, I'm not suggesting it as a propaganda tactic. Let's face it, more change is needed in this industry, and stories won't fix it. Having the guts to challenge the status quo and step outside "the way it's always been done", will.