Stories vs Storytelling

The concept of personal branding remains a convoluted, mysterious beast to many and in a previous post, I attempt to distill its meaning and importance. While I identify the trend and act of personal branding as identifying, positioning and promoting one’s self, a critical component to this practice is to pause and differentiate between one’s story and one’s storytelling.

Countless personal branding “gurus” merely attempt to better one’s story, and here is where I believe they’re off-base. Personal branding is not necessarily about crafting an effective story, but rather about crafting a more effective way to present one’s story.

Students and professionals alike prefer to beef up résumés bullets and develop social presences. But how valuable are these investments unless they are presented in an attractive, meaningful and compelling manner?

Think about how you would tell an exciting story to your friends. You don’t just cut to the chase. You set the scene, build it up, sprinkle in details, change pacing and hit it home with a dramatic climax and resolution. At the end of the day, it’s not about the story you tell. It’s about how you tell it.

The same concept can be applied to the stories we watch in theatres. Think about your favourite film. Often these Hollywood stories are quite basic with a standard, repeated storytelling arch. However, it's the characters, dialogue, action and music which brings them to life. It's their development and production which amazes us all.

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When we look to the most recognisable, prestigious and desirable brands today from Burberry, Johnny Walker and Mercedes, we realise too that it’s not their explicit stories or histories that we are attracted to. Instead, it is their presentation, which draws us in. We are simply not enticed by their messages, but rather by the delivery and display of their messages.

The same concept is applicable and should be employed to personal branding. Your education, job, qualifications, skills and interests are again, only as impressive as they’re conveyed. Consider your language and aesthetics in the presentation of your self. How do your résumé or Tweets read? Or how does your personal site and LinkedIn feel? It's not about what you say, but how you say it.

Read more: How to become a great storyteller

Granted, this is not just about appearance. Superficiality can only take an individual so far. There’s in fact a combination of content and display, but it’s the importance of presentation that is so often overlooked. When we discuss the trifecta of strategy, professionalism and creativity that’s put into one’s personal brand, it’s in regards to how one shapes and shares their story, not the story itself.

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As the trend of personal branding heightens, invaluable services are popping up around the world. My agency PRSNL Branding is the first creative digital agency for emerging professionals’ personal brands and specialises in just this. PRSNL works with high school and college students as well as recent grads of all backgrounds, professionally developing and creatively differentiating their online presences. With the increasing number of admissions and HR departments screening applicants online, the goal isn’t just to have the better story, but to showcase it in a jaw-dropping fashion... much like those stories you tell to your friends, those award-winning films, and those highly desirable brands.

Is your persona palpable? Is it irresistible? Is it remarkable? The idea of personal branding isn’t about sharing an almighty, exaggerated story, but about telling your story with differentiated style. Your brand isn’t just your story, but the style in which you tell it. So, what’s your style?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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