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What’s in a word? Telling your story with the right voice

By Kim Palagyi

Putting your story into words can sometimes take more than a great catchphrase or a snappy product name. The core of a brand’s story comes down to a few key words that resound with the compelling essence of who you are. These key words should be sensational — they must accurately encapsulate your company’s mission and reflect its passion. To craft your story, you’ll likely find that the best words are right under your nose — your company lives them out each day. The trick is to become conscious of the things you already do and harness them for your brand.

Channel Your Emotions

Emotions are what make us human. Emotions make life interesting, and are the reason we get out of bed in the morning. That’s why within emotions is the first place you should look to find your story. Once you uncover what makes your company come to life, you’ll be able to connect with others. Not only with businesses, customers, and industry leaders, but with the purpose of your business.

People don’t care about “transparency” or “market verticals”, they care that you understand their pain, and have a product or service to fix it. This is reflected in all aspects of how people respond to your brand’s message. For instance, according to research by the University of Pennsylvania, the most viral brand content is positive, awe-inspiring, emotional, or surprising. When your brand makes an effort to speak, the words of your story should carry the very weight of your existence, and stop at nothing to illicit an emotional reaction.

Be Original

Making your voice heard above the noise is difficult. That’s why in creating modern messaging there’s no better approach than to be authentically yourself. This doesn’t mean abandoning tact. Fran Docx (yes, Docx is really her last name) of London based ad agency 18 Feet and Rising, provides her humorous opinion on avoiding vapid terms like “cool” in sales collateral. Docx’s ruminations explain that relying on words like “cool” to describe what your company does or wants to achieve is meaningless. This is because “cool” is so saturated within our culture, that it doesn’t offer any value to explaining who you are.

Her anecdotal explanation takes us through the history of how cool has become worthless as a point of cultural reference, as cool has become consumed by a post-cool society, where to be cool is to be not cool…

“Is it cool if I take a dump on your step?”

“Cool, whatever”

“[Cool] is a vacuous word used in contradictory ways that pollutes marketing and stunts creativity. Where did this useless and ubiquitous word begin its insidious journey into Western culture? It began with the sturdy folk of the Middle Ages; whilst they may have been uncertain of the spelling, they knew the meaning — ‘cool’ referred to moderate temperature, no questions. Skip on a bit to Shakespeare and he did what he did best — metaphorised it; ‘cool’, for the 16th Century, meant calmness, rationality and composure.

“Today, cool has become the central ideology of consumer capitalism, particularly for youth brands. With Sisyphean effort, every youth brand is chasing the spectrum of cool. There’s even a ‘cool brands’ list even though cool is now the least counterculture word that exists, and has basically come to mean ‘consensus.’ We have absorbed the word ‘cool’ into a monoculture that is draining it of its currency. If we are to use our creativity to appeal we need cynicism to be alive and well.”

Docx’s criticism tells us to be specific. Don’t generalize your brand to appeal to a greater audience, instead be anecdotally and genuinely yourself. Be smart and use actionable words that truly describe yourself. Using culturally redundant and dull words, like cool, will make your brand seem inauthentic.

That’s it.

Embracing your authentic self is truly the story that should shine through in your business. Don’t pull a Mast Brother, the Brooklynites who sell melted down chocolate repackaged as their own artisanal product. People are smart — they completely see through fake and convoluted brand presence. Stick to your passions and the emotional core of who you are.

A study from Foster School of Business at the University of Washington showed that those with higher emotional intelligence make $29,000 more annually than those with lower emotional intelligence. Being more genuine will enable you to tell the right story; just be as authentic and emotionally minded as possible.

Kim Palagyi is an Associate at Woden. Whatever your storytelling needs may be, let Woden help. Download our free StoryGuide, or send us an email at to discuss how we can help tell your story.