LET'S TALK ABOUT...

The power of storytelling with Emma Thwaites

#btconversations #developingacareer #launchingabusiness

‘Let’s Talk About’ is our series of videos offering practical digital skills advice to help you grow. ​

Emma Thwaites, founder and CEO of Allegory Agency, share with us her tips on how to create an effective communication strategy for your business. 

Visualise your audience persona

Use simple words and avoid jargon

Test different messaging online

Start with your business goals

Seek out honest opinions

Grow a thick skin

Emma Thwaites:

I'm Emma Thwaites, and here's what I've learned about communicating in business.

Emma Thwaites:

I think you use stories for everything in life. Truthful stories, rather than "stories," lies. When you're meeting new people, you instinctively, we all instinctively tell stories about ourselves. The problem is that when people start businesses, or when they're in the professional setting, they think that that's not appropriate. That it's somehow too informal, but actually, that's the way that you make a connection. You use stories to help people to understand what it is that you're selling. Whether that's an idea, or a product, or a service, and so for business owners and entrepreneurs, it's really important for them to think about their own story, and telling their own story, and we can all do that innately as human beings. We're conditioned to tell stories. The story of how you got there, and why you're doing what you're doing, the purpose of your business. That's, for me, the critical component of a good story.

Emma Thwaites:

So, my very early career was in broadcasting. I trained as a broadcast journalist. One of the things that we were taught in our journalism training was that in radio it's really, really important to address an audience of one. So, you should always be thinking about the person who is sitting at home listening to you. I drew a little face on a piece of paper, and I stuck it on the fire extinguisher in the corner of the room, and I would talk to the fire extinguisher, and weirdly enough, that does give you a sense of speaking to one person, so you start to use individual language and address that person as an audience of one.

Emma Thwaites:

I think that the tip, for me, is always have one person in mind. Try and create in your mind's eye the persona of who your customer might be. Have that person in mind, be thinking about them.

Emma Thwaites:

When you're working, in any field actually, there's obviously a level of technical detail and expertise that you need to have that your customers don't need to know, and if you include that in your marketing, then it's just going to sound like word soup. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your customers have the same level of technical expertise that you do. So, keep your language really, really simple. Avoid jargon, if you can, at all costs, and think about the fact that the person who's receiving your message is not necessarily somebody who has English as a first language. Short words and short sentences.

Emma Thwaites:

When you're working with stories, when you're using stories to market your product, or service, the best thing to do is to experiment, and that's the wonderful thing about online marketing, you can try lots of different things, and see, you can track which ones are working in terms of creating sales, bringing customers to your door. So, you kind of know when you're successful when you spot a technique that works, and you do more of it.

Emma Thwaites:

In my opinion, you should never start out with the goal of inventing a communications strategy. Your approach to communications as a business should always start with your business objectives. So, whatever it is that you have in your business plan, or in your head as your ambition, your communication should follow those objectives, those goals. You might decide to hold events, where you can connect directly with your customers. You might choose to publish material on your website, or promote yourself across social media. You might choose to use media relations, so you might have an interesting story to tell a journalist, say, you're launching a product that's really new and innovative. So, there's a whole range of different techniques that you can use, but ultimately, whichever tool you choose from that toolbox, from that kit of parts will depend on what the business goal is that you're trying to fulfill.

Emma Thwaites:

When you start a business, you're living and breathing it twenty-four seven, and you’ve probably got a group of close family and friends that you're confiding in, and you're asking about your product, or service, or your business, and they're probably giving you lots of positive reinforcement, and saying how great it is, and how great you are, and patting you on the back, and you need that. But, actually, what that forms is a bit of an echo chamber. So, you never really get to hear what the genuine customers for your product, or service might think of it.

Emma Thwaites:

It's really useful to find some people who have no investment in you, don't really care whether you like them, or you don't. You show them your product, describe your service, put your words in front of them, and ask them to tell you if they understand them, and if they're interested in what it is that you're doing. There's nothing better than exposing yourself to the brutality of an honest opinion from people who aren't inside your echo chamber. It might hurt you in the short-term but, actually, it will make you a lot better in the long-term.

Emma Thwaites:

Nearly 10 years ago, when I set my business up, a communications agency, I didn't have any clients. So, I was out on the market looking for work to win, and quite early on I had an opportunity to pitch for a piece of work, and I spent days, and days, and days preparing for this pitch, and the day came, I delivered my pitch, I was very happy with what I did. I didn't win the work, and I was absolutely devastated, and what that experience taught me was that you really have to develop a thick skin. Every small business, no matter what you're doing, it's not just in communications, or advertising, or marketing, you're pitching almost constantly, and if you can't overcome the devastation of being rejected, if you can't, to a certain extent, get used to that, then that will become problematic. You have to be able to accept the rejection of your product, and service, and learn from that as separate to a rejection of you as a person.

Emma Thwaites:

Over the years, over the last 10 years particularly, I've met lots and lots of entrepreneurs, successful CEOs, people who run small businesses… and the one thing that I would say they all have in common is a degree of authenticity, and an ability to talk about their stories, and their journeys in a way that's very human, and connects with other people. I think that's so important in any sort of communication to allow yourself to come through. To not be afraid to tell your personal story. There's always something, as a human being, that you have in common with another human being. So, working to find that, I think is really important, and not being afraid to be yourself. Being the same person in your working life as you are in your private life with your friends and your family. I think that's really critical, really important.

‘Let’s Talk About’ is our series of videos offering practical digital skills advice to help you grow. ​

Emma Thwaites, founder and CEO of Allegory Agency, share with us her tips on how to create an effective communication strategy for your business. 

Emma has 30 years’ strategic communication experience, gained in roles at the BBC and UK Cabinet Office. Former journalist and editor, she is now the CEO of a communication agency and has offered to share with us some of her key learnings.

Visualise your audience persona

Use simple words and avoid jargon

Test different messaging online

Start with your business goals

Seek out honest opinions

Grow a thick skin

Emma Thwaites:

I'm Emma Thwaites, and here's what I've learned about communicating in business.

Emma Thwaites:

I think you use stories for everything in life. Truthful stories, rather than "stories," lies. When you're meeting new people, you instinctively, we all instinctively tell stories about ourselves. The problem is that when people start businesses, or when they're in the professional setting, they think that that's not appropriate. That it's somehow too informal, but actually, that's the way that you make a connection. You use stories to help people to understand what it is that you're selling. Whether that's an idea, or a product, or a service, and so for business owners and entrepreneurs, it's really important for them to think about their own story, and telling their own story, and we can all do that innately as human beings. We're conditioned to tell stories. The story of how you got there, and why you're doing what you're doing, the purpose of your business. That's, for me, the critical component of a good story.

Emma Thwaites:

So, my very early career was in broadcasting. I trained as a broadcast journalist. One of the things that we were taught in our journalism training was that in radio it's really, really important to address an audience of one. So, you should always be thinking about the person who is sitting at home listening to you. I drew a little face on a piece of paper, and I stuck it on the fire extinguisher in the corner of the room, and I would talk to the fire extinguisher, and weirdly enough, that does give you a sense of speaking to one person, so you start to use individual language and address that person as an audience of one.

Emma Thwaites:

I think that the tip, for me, is always have one person in mind. Try and create in your mind's eye the persona of who your customer might be. Have that person in mind, be thinking about them.

Emma Thwaites:

When you're working, in any field actually, there's obviously a level of technical detail and expertise that you need to have that your customers don't need to know, and if you include that in your marketing, then it's just going to sound like word soup. Don't make the mistake of thinking that your customers have the same level of technical expertise that you do. So, keep your language really, really simple. Avoid jargon, if you can, at all costs, and think about the fact that the person who's receiving your message is not necessarily somebody who has English as a first language. Short words and short sentences.

Emma Thwaites:

When you're working with stories, when you're using stories to market your product, or service, the best thing to do is to experiment, and that's the wonderful thing about online marketing, you can try lots of different things, and see, you can track which ones are working in terms of creating sales, bringing customers to your door. So, you kind of know when you're successful when you spot a technique that works, and you do more of it.

Emma Thwaites:

In my opinion, you should never start out with the goal of inventing a communications strategy. Your approach to communications as a business should always start with your business objectives. So, whatever it is that you have in your business plan, or in your head as your ambition, your communication should follow those objectives, those goals. You might decide to hold events, where you can connect directly with your customers. You might choose to publish material on your website, or promote yourself across social media. You might choose to use media relations, so you might have an interesting story to tell a journalist, say, you're launching a product that's really new and innovative. So, there's a whole range of different techniques that you can use, but ultimately, whichever tool you choose from that toolbox, from that kit of parts will depend on what the business goal is that you're trying to fulfill.

Emma Thwaites:

When you start a business, you're living and breathing it twenty-four seven, and you’ve probably got a group of close family and friends that you're confiding in, and you're asking about your product, or service, or your business, and they're probably giving you lots of positive reinforcement, and saying how great it is, and how great you are, and patting you on the back, and you need that. But, actually, what that forms is a bit of an echo chamber. So, you never really get to hear what the genuine customers for your product, or service might think of it.

Emma Thwaites:

It's really useful to find some people who have no investment in you, don't really care whether you like them, or you don't. You show them your product, describe your service, put your words in front of them, and ask them to tell you if they understand them, and if they're interested in what it is that you're doing. There's nothing better than exposing yourself to the brutality of an honest opinion from people who aren't inside your echo chamber. It might hurt you in the short-term but, actually, it will make you a lot better in the long-term.

Emma Thwaites:

Nearly 10 years ago, when I set my business up, a communications agency, I didn't have any clients. So, I was out on the market looking for work to win, and quite early on I had an opportunity to pitch for a piece of work, and I spent days, and days, and days preparing for this pitch, and the day came, I delivered my pitch, I was very happy with what I did. I didn't win the work, and I was absolutely devastated, and what that experience taught me was that you really have to develop a thick skin. Every small business, no matter what you're doing, it's not just in communications, or advertising, or marketing, you're pitching almost constantly, and if you can't overcome the devastation of being rejected, if you can't, to a certain extent, get used to that, then that will become problematic. You have to be able to accept the rejection of your product, and service, and learn from that as separate to a rejection of you as a person.

Emma Thwaites:

Over the years, over the last 10 years particularly, I've met lots and lots of entrepreneurs, successful CEOs, people who run small businesses… and the one thing that I would say they all have in common is a degree of authenticity, and an ability to talk about their stories, and their journeys in a way that's very human, and connects with other people. I think that's so important in any sort of communication to allow yourself to come through. To not be afraid to tell your personal story. There's always something, as a human being, that you have in common with another human being. So, working to find that, I think is really important, and not being afraid to be yourself. Being the same person in your working life as you are in your private life with your friends and your family. I think that's really critical, really important.