By Jennifer Lawhead
If you tuned into Joe Biden’s inauguration, it was impossible not to be talking about Amanda Gorman.
In a nation that has been fractured by division and unrest, Amanda bravely rose to the occasion with poetic words that comforted, inspired and reminded us of our values as a country. With each beautifully written verse, rhythmic hand gestures and confident voice, the crowd and viewers at home were captivated.
Which led me to ask: what about Amanda’s poem, “The Hill We Climb”, made it so extraordinary? As I tuned in to watch for a second, and then third/fourth/fifth time, I realized we can all take a page from Amanda’s playbook when it comes to sharing our own perspectives and telling our own narratives.
The way I see it, Amanda told a brilliant story about America. It wasn’t filled with facts and figures; instead, it showcased the emotion, acknowledged the challenges and instilled a feeling of hope.
As brand builders, we each have the opportunity to use our platforms to tell stories, create art and move people – just as Amanda did at the national stage on Inauguration Day. Here are the storytelling lessons I took away from this bright, wise talent:
- If You Find a Flow, You Take Others on a Journey. Every word of Amanda’s poem was written with intention, flowing together as fluidly as the ripples in a river. As a result, she created art. As a brand, the stories we tell can be pieces of art too, if only we take the time to give them the execution attention they need. How much time went into making your client happy and providing an excellent service? Shouldn’t you put in just as much care to telling that story? When you take the time to turn your story into art, like Amanda did, you bring others on a journey with you.
- Even the Littlest Details Matter. One of the hallmarks of a great story is incorporating details that paint a clear mental picture for listeners. One of my favorite lines from Amanda’s poem was:
“We, the successors of a country and a time, where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”
This passage blew me away. In just one sentence, she allowed us a glimpse inside of her point of view. Many brands make the mistake of being too generic in their storytelling and therefore miss the opportunity to fully paint the picture. The more specifics we can use in our stories, the more memorable and powerful they become.
- Always Ask Them to Do Something. Just as Amanda’s poem had purpose, brand stories should do the same. At the end of her performance, Amanda said:
“The new dawn blooms as we free it for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Her conclusion reminds us that it’s OK to ask the listener to do something when we tell stories. It doesn’t have to be pushy – Amanda asked us to be brave and see/be light – but the point of telling stories is to encourage someone to learn something new or take action. Amanda reminds us that a good story guides us to do something once the story is through.