Only a few years ago, the mere suggestion of embracing “storytelling” in our online branding was frowned upon by anyone outside the entertainment industry. Some of us found the whole idea silly and frivolous, others thought it too time consuming, and most of us couldn’t even imagine HOW to apply storytelling to our online brand, much less WHY we should bother.
HOW…but not yet WHY
Since my clients have always been a mix of C-level & Senior Executives, Military Officers Transitioning to Civilian Roles, and Business Leaders, I found early on that the concept of using “color commentary” was a more natural approach to “storytelling” as we optimized their LinkedIn profiles. HOW to develop your unique story then became more comfortable for anyone creating an online brand for the first time.
But WHY we should bother with storytelling still needed explanation. I could confidently say from experience that the impact is powerful, that it opens doors to decision makers, recruiters and hiring managers, potential partners, and anyone looking for the talent and expertise that you offer. But that’s sometimes too subjective for people who want proof.
Scientific Studies Explain WHY
I remember how thrilled I was to learn about neural coupling. It was one of those “a-ha! moments when what we’ve always done instinctively is suddenly legitimized by scientific evidence. Visitors to your LinkedIn profile have already found you because your skill set aligns with their needs. Now that they’re meeting you virtually, they’re searching for a shared reality, a way to determine — since you aren’t there in person — whether you can solve the problem that led them to you in the first place.
And that’s where neural coupling comes in. It’s a process where you can engage and even persuade — whether it’s a single recruiter visiting your LinkedIn profile, a prospective customer who needs your latest product, or a live audience listening to your TED talk — by stimulating similar brain activity that puts them right in the story with you. When you look closely at the diagram above you’ll see that the brain wave patterns of both the Speaker and the Listener are exactly the same!
Equally interesting is the fact that when we communicate in fragments and bullets (aka “resume-speak”), neural coupling doesn’t happen. Have you ever noticed on job interviews how rarely the interviewer has really reviewed your resume and absorbed who you are and what you’re all about before you enter their office? That’s because digesting resume content is drudgery for the brain as interviewers try to piece fragments of information together to get a sense of the whole you. Instinctively they want and need to hear your stories — instead of reading pages of bullets — hoping to discover a shared reality that makes them comfortable and reveals that you would be the right fit. In other words, the standard convention for resumes to rely on fragments and bullets as the primary communication tactic hasn’t been serving either employers or candidates as well as we thought all these years.
Now let’s add silent communication into the mix. People will visit your online profile at any time that’s convenient for them, and rarely with advance notice. They are likely “meeting” you there for the first time, before you even know that you’re under consideration. Research results vary, but typically show that more than 50% of our in-person communication is non-verbal (a combination of body language and tonality/inflection in our speech). When people are visiting us online they don’t have the benefit of observing our nonverbal clues or hearing the changes in our voice that signal everything from enthusiasm to doubt. So you have to work that much harder to engage the online visitor.
Combining Art + Science to Create Your Competitive Edge
Last but not least, you’ll want to compensate for this lack of in-person communication by infusing the language in the Summary & Experience sections of your LinkedIn profile with words that will impart tonality, that will tactfully communicate enthusiasm and provide transparency. One of my first clients impressed me when he wrote a job description in his LinkedIn profile recapping a career opportunity that in hindsight he should never have taken. Without whining or complaining, he outlined the issues and reflected on lessons learned. His candor was both unexpected and quite refreshing. I’m sure neural coupling occurs for every visitor who reads his profile.
Although LinkedIn is my “tool of choice” for creating an online brand, these principles apply universally. Just remember that how you communicate can create a powerful engine that’s working for you 24/7 if you incorporate both art and an appreciation for the underlying science into your execution.
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