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How the story of what you do becomes epic

You know that feeling. You read your organization’s website and something just feels off. Maybe it’s obvious that the message is a murky mess. More often than not, it’s not that bad. It’s serviceable. But it just leaves you feeling flat. Or just not feeling anything at all.

Our story is one of the greatest assets we have. It holds the potential to engage, delight, inspire, and more. Those are incredible experiences that we have the potential to create. They are experiences that all us humans crave. In fact, we’ll go out of our way to find those organizations that can engage, delight, and inspire us. And we will reward them for helping us be part of something that satisfies these desires to feel extraordinary things.

When we consider that, it’s downright baffling that we will settle for a serviceable story.

I don’t know about you, but I want to feel the goosebumps from an exciting idea racing through my brain. I want to be inspired by a surprising idea. I want to feel that warmth that washes over me when I sense that these people really get me. Are you with me? Then let’s talk about how we bring that into our world.

The first step is to believe that what you do has the potential to make a difference in a life, a community, or even the world.

If you don’t believe this, stop here. Because anything you create is just going to seem uninspiring. And goodness knows we don’t need any more bland crap to slog through in the murky bog that is the world of corporate websites out there.

You may protest, “But we’re just a manufacturer.”

Well, what if you believed that what you manufactured could have bigger ramifications. For example, what if you made soap but believed your impact was larger than just leaving skin clean, soft, and smooth? What if your social mission was to help all women raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.

Preposterous? Tell that to Dove who adopted this idea and saw the impact it could have (both financially and socially) because they believed in something bigger than their product’s attributes. And by the way, Dove could have hung their appeal on the fact that they are “…the #1 Dermatologist Recommended brand in the US, Canada and France and strongly endorsed by Dermatologists across the world.” It’s an important fact. But they believed that their story was something bigger.

Dove isn’t some anomaly. This is working for organizations across the business spectrum. I have seen it work for what would seem like the most mundane businesses — a bank, a salt mine, and an insurance company, just to name a few. Heck, I’ve seen it transform a medical bill collections company. So don’t think that your business, industry, segment, niche, or whatever is an exception.

The first step is to believe that you have the potential to make a difference.

What is the difference you will make? If you have made it this far, then obviously you believe you have the potential.

The next step is to clarify your purpose. This will become the core of your story.

Your purpose is not something you invent. It comes from who you are, or even who you have become. It may even be reflected in who you hope to be. It is in your roots. It is present in all those moments when you feel the organization is at its best.

Here is a key point. It doesn’t have to have global ramifications. Yes, it would be great to change the world. But sometimes it is equally as powerful to focus on making a difference in one life at a time. Look at this example:

To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

That purpose belongs to Starbucks. The thought of doing that begins to raise those goose bumps I talked about earlier.

As you can see, this isn’t an explanation of your attributes. It’s not even the description of the benefit of those attributes. It is something bigger. It is that thing that brings the exhilaration when you imagine working every day for something that can have a profound, positive impact for those around you.

Clarify that meaning. Put words to it. Give it a voice.

We do it at our firm by creating an anthem that embodies the purpose. We do it by making a movie that amplifies it. It’s these types of things that make everyone feel like there is a movement afoot. That there is something monumental happening.

It’s time to tell the story. To show how this purpose is relevant in the lives of everyone you hope to serve.

It should come as no surprise that when we start with that profound difference we will make, the storytelling becomes inspired. We create fertile ground because we are connecting with people’s longing to be part of something meaningful.

Imagine being one of those you hope to serve. Imagine visiting the transformed website and reading an incredibly compelling tale that springs from that profound purpose. Imagine being that person reading this and being swept up by the realization that you, too, can be part of this idea. Part of this story.

Think of the excitement that creates. The rich engagements that follow. Think of the loyalty that it nurtures. And the advocates and evangelists it fosters who want to let the rest of the world know about this awesome thing that they are part of.

That’s how the story of what you do becomes epic.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life. He regularly shares his insight here, on Linkedin, and at

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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