Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The 7 Rules of Social Storytelling

Courtesy of Tom Fishburne

How do you create a good story - one that will attract and enchant your audience?

Well, first you need to ensure that you write or produce a compelling story. There are several ways to author such a story:
  1. Identify universal themes that resonate with people.
  2. Develop a plot with believable characters and messages;
  3. Incorporate heroic archetypes into your narrative;
  4. Focus on positive elements and outcomes; and
  5. Share your stories on multiple media platforms.
As the saying goes: "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?". Thus, you need to carefully consider how best to deliver your story once you've got it all worked out.

Getting people's attention isn't as simple as just splashing a huge advertisement, pushing out numerous blog posts, or spamming everybody you know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In this day and age, nobody likes to be rudely and unceremoniously interrupted by marketing messages.

How then should we tell our tale?

Enter the 7 "I"s of social storytelling. While these are not comprehensive and foolproof, they cover key characteristics that every business needs to know to roll out an effective story.

1. Infinite

Unlike Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, stories of this day and age do not have a neat beginning nor ending. Creators of the most successful franchises such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel Superheroes know that the only way to keep the money mill rolling is to leave the story unfinished.

Keep your customer enchanted for the long haul. Always end with a teaser and a clue to the next "episode". Make it easy for your fans to continue along the (hopefully) never-ending journey with you.

2. Interactive

Your business or brand story should never just be your own. The most successful social storytellers know that the only way to continually engage your audience is to involve them. Find ways to enlarge your story arc. Encompass your customer communities. Make it their story too.

A good way to make your story interactive is to incorporate game mechanics into your business. By doing so, your customers can can also contribute "chapters" to your corporate or brand chronicle.

3. Improv

Unlike epic tales from days yonder like The Illiad, stories these days are being spun on the fly. Just watch episodes of Lost or The Simpsons to understand what I mean. Extemporaneous storytelling is the order of the day. Often, plot lines, characters, and developments change as the story meanders towards an indeterminate end.

In a similar fashion, find ways to gauge your reader, viewer or listener's interest. Study how popular various chapters of your tale are. This could be anything from a blog post, video, photo, event or a product launch. If interest appears to be waning, find ways to identify why, quickly adapt, and introduce new twists to your plot.

4. Intrigue

The most fascinating and engaging stories are those that beguile and bewitch us. Enchantment happens when the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Such magic will happen under the hands of a master storyteller.

The greatest challenge in this digital age is capturing our customer's attention. With numerous channels and games to distract them on their mobile devices, the only way you can grab their eyeballs is to pique their curiosity.

Instead of selling and marketing your wares at every opportunity, use your platforms to ask questions that strike a chord with your audiences. Tease and tantalise them. Employ provocative images and thought provoking copy which triggers their brain juices every step of the way.

5. Immediate

In an "always-on" world connected 24/7 by the social mobile web, nobody is going to give you 10 minutes (or even 60 seconds) to slowly unfurl your boring tale. While you shouldn't give away your  punch line in the first few seconds of your YouTube video, you do need to "wow" them enough to want to continue their journey with you.

Some of the "shock and awe" techniques you could employ include using creative headlines, awe-inspiring photographs or catchy ditties that immediately differentiate your business from the rest.

6. Immersive

Here, it may be useful to emulate the tricks of Hollywood blockbusters. Using a mixture of teaser trailers, full length trailers, sneak interviews, photo gallery, sound bites, script peeks, games and so on, they are able to draw you deeper and deeper into their fantasy world.

Similarly, if you do run a physical outlet, find ways to weave your storyline into every facet of your business. This includes not just the copy on your website, blog or press release, but other items like decor, customer service scripts, menu, product catalogue and so on. Every touch point needs to immerse your audience in the same narrative.

7. Incentive

Last but certainly not least, a good story should yield psychological paybacks for its audiences. This can either take the shape of tangible benefits like special deals or exclusive invitations to events, or intangible rewards like knowing how the company's actions saves the planet.

A satisfactory outcome triggers the secretion of "feel good" hormones like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and endorphins into the system. Over time, this helps to make your brand or product more "addictive" to your customers.

Are there other "I"s which you can think of in social storytelling?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Book Review

Why are some folks blessed with riches while others struggle to make ends meet? What is the magic formula to wealth?

The answer, according to renowned millionaire guru T. Harv Eker, is found in one's money blueprint. In his bestselling book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, Eker urges us to change our personal money blueprint and reprogramme the way we think, feel and act in order to achieve mastery over our wealth, attain financial freedom, and lead more meaningful lives.

Sounds too good to be true?

Well, initially I was a little sceptical about his claims. However, having read through his book, I was surprised by how much the bulk of its contents connected with me.

Liberally laced with "wealth principles", enriching declarations and "Millionaire Mind" actions, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind is divided into two parts:

Part 1: Our Money Blueprint

Part 1 examines how our money blueprint is manifested by our "programming". This, in turn, leads to thoughts, feelings and actions that culminate in either positive or negative financial results, i.e.

P-->T-->F-->A=R  (where P = Programming, T = Thoughts, F = feelings, A = Actions, and R = Results)

Our programming is conditioned in three primary ways:
  1. Verbal programming. Phrases like "money is the root of all evil", "filthy rich", and "money doesn't grow on trees" could lead us to have a "scarcity" mentality; 
  2. Modeling, ie the behaviours that you see when you were young (especially by your primary caregivers like parents); and
  3. Specific incidents which influence how we view money and wealth.
To change our wealth, we need to attract the right vibes by changing how our minds are conditioned to think. This is where part 2 comes into play.

Part 2: The 17 Wealth Files

Comprising 17 "Wealth Files" which are kind of like money mantras for us to chew on and memorise, the second part of the book provides lots of takeaways. Some of these maxims were surprisingly practical. Let me list them down and highlight those that especially resonate with me:
  • Rich people believe “I create my life.” Poor people believe “Life happens to me.”
  • Rich people play the game of money to win. Poor people play the game of money not to lose.
  • Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich.
  • Rich people think big. Poor people think small.
  • Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus on obstacles.
The first 5 wealth files seem related to the "Law of Attraction" that is popularised by the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The key idea here is to visualise in your mind the wealth that you'd like to have, believe that its real, and work towards programming your mind to think in a different way.
  • Rich people admire other rich and successful people. Poor people resent rich and successful people.
  • Rich people associate with positive, successful people. Poor people associate with negative or unsuccessful people.
Personally, I'm not sure if this is a good idea since we should minister to the less fortunate. I suppose we should still reach out to the poor without being unduly influenced by the negativity of others.
  • Rich people are willing to promote themselves and their value. Poor people think negatively about selling and promotion.
  • Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor people are smaller than their problems.
  • Rich people are excellent receivers. Poor people are poor receivers.
  • Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor people choose to get paid based on time.
Isn't this totally true? I mean, who are the ones with the time to play golf, travel on luxurious holidays, or take sabbaticals from their work?
  • Rich people think “both.” Poor people think “either/or.”
  • Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income.
This is probably the most valuable "wealth file" to lodge into your cranium. To grow your net worth, Eker teaches us to increase our income (especially passive income), commit to savings, grow our funds through investments, and simplify our lifestyles.
  • Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well.
  • Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor people work hard for their money.
Another invaluable tip. This reminded me of the Parable of the Talents in the Bible, and is related to the habit of investing one's money.
  • Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear stop them.
  • Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people think they already know.
These last two maxims are related to one's attitude towards risk and life long learning. It is true that the wealthiest folks around are usually those who dare to take risks, and are also those who are constantly learning from both their successes and their mistakes.

More Motivational Than Prescriptive

A light, breezy and fast-paced read, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind provides lots of food for thought. Beyond the Wealth Files, the book is also packed with truckloads of rich sayings. Some of my favourite quotes include the following:

"If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy."

"Money will only make you more of what you already are."

"Every master was once a disaster."

While certain sections of the book came with useful, practical advice, much of what Eker espoused seem to be more common sense than profound. A born and bred salesman, Eker isn't shy with planting "sales pitches" throughout the book, asking readers to sign up for his various wealth creation workshops and programmes.

Once you get past the hustle, however, I do find that the book offers genuinely useful advice in paving one's path to prosperity. Then again, being willing to promote oneself is a part and parcel of thinking and acting like a millionaire.

Have you attended T. Harv Eker's workshops or read his book? I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Transforming Lives Through Culture - Project Intan 2014

Alvin Mark Yapp, Founder of The Intan; DPM Teo Chee Hean; Mr Koh Choon Hui (Chairman of Singapore Children's Society) and Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin at Project Intan 2014 (courtesy of The Fat Farmer)

Alvin Mark Yapp is a man on a mission. Boss of outdoor advertising specialist Bus Ads, the Peranakan entrepreneur opens up his beautiful Peranakan-themed home every year to raise funds for the needy. And boy are his tireless efforts making waves!

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

Started in 2008 with the intention of celebrating Peranakan culture and music with the joy of giving, Project Intan is Alvin's brainchild. Over the years, it has raised some S$350,000 and supported various charities like Assisi Hospice, Arc's Children Centre and Singapore Children's Society.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

In the past 6 years since it started, Project Intan has helped create a multi-sensory room for terminal ill children, upgraded inpatient care for cancer patients, built a therapeutic gymnasium for the elderly, and refurbished a day care centre for youths.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

Various distinguished guests and VIPs were involved in Project Intan. They include Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister Tan Chuan-jin and Mrs Goh Chok Tong. Project Intan is held at The Intan, an award winning private Peranakan home museum where Alvin resides among his exquisite collection of Peranakan artefacts and artworks collected over 30 years.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

This year, Alvin seeks to help kids from distressed and broken families of the Singapore Children’s Society through the OCBC-TODAY Children’s Fund. The Fund will help the children to rebuild their lives through counselling and therapy programmes as well as day care services. OCBC ​has generously agreed to top up an additional 50% for every dollar raised ​through Project ​Intan 2014​.

Coming from broken homes, these kids often suffer from physical and sexual abuse. Some can be as young as 3 years of age. While the law may protect them from abusive parents and adult relatives, they still remain as their primary caregivers. I shudder to think of the emotional distress suffered by these poor children!

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

As I hear Alvin describe it, this year's event - An Evening of Peranakan Love for Children in Need - started with a beautiful violin performance of Di Tanjong Katong and Chan Mali Chan by young children from Mandeville Conservatory of Music. Together with special performances by his friends, the highlight of the evening was a Peranakan idol version of Rasa Sayang by Syazwan from Jurong Youth Centre. Guests were also treated to an "overflow" of home made mee siam and traditional nyonya desserts like kueh salat, ondeh ondeh and pulot inti.

Courtesy of The Fat Farmer

To find out more about Project Intan, I did an email interview with Alvin. Here are the highlights of our discussion.

1) You've been involved with Project Intan for quite a number of years. It must be a lot of work to do this, especially since you are also running your own business! How do you balance your time and manage so many different priorities?

​It's about making things work out. Sacrifices have to be made, for example, foregoing catching up with friends and personal time like gardening. Argh! How I miss my garden!

Having such a responsibility also makes me look at ways of being efficient. I try to double up during appointments by sharing about Project Intan when meeting business associates, reduce traveling time by meeting people in the same area at one go, talk faster, and have shorter lunches. I also minimise 'time wasters' like surfing on the Internet, or tapping out long drawn SMS messages when a phone call will do.

Being responsible motivates me to do what I set out to do. I am responsible to my company. I have also taken on the responsibility to help a group of kids. Hence I am 100% at BusAds, 100% at Project Intan and 100% committed to my family. I am also 100% committed to my volunteers and supporters.

(Wow, that makes it 400% Alvin!)

2) What inspires you to open up your home and to faithfully do this year after year?

​The knowledge that it makes a difference to the lives of the beneficiary (the kids), inspiration from the guests that come, and the partners, supporter and volunteers whom I work with . ​

3) Can you share some of the highlights for this year's event "An Evening of Peranakan Love for Children in Need"? What were some of the memorable moments which you encountered?

First, Syazwan's performance and DPM hugging him after that. Syazwan worked hard, persevered, took on constructive criticism and quickly matured over a period of 3 weeks. He learned that hard work pays off. His performance was immaculate and I couldn't be more proud of a young man like him.

Next, Mrs Yeo's attendance. Despite bring 84, she still supports Project Intan every year for the last 5 years. In full nyonya regalia, she never fails to joins us for the evening.

Finally, friends who made a stand to support Project Intan. Here I am not just talking about friends who donate. Instead, it includes friends who went out of their way to speak to others, found creative ways to match dollar for dollar donations by their own friends, or committed a certain amount on Facebook and asked friends to join in. Other friends have supported me with kind words of encouragement and acts of generosity like the following:

- A friend suggested that I call her mother for support, which I felt 'paiseh' (embarrassed about). She said it's a good cause and that I have nothing to feel 'paiseh' about. The entire family donated $16,000.

- A lawyer brought up Project Intan to his board of directors for support. Although no one supported, his efforts were truly inspiring.

- Finally, I am heartened to hear that an office cleaner who used to earn $600 per month as a part time cleaner donated $300.

4) You seem to have a deep connection and love for kids, judging by the charities which you've supported as part of Project Intan. Can you share with us what drove you to do so? I know that you're a bachelor, but any possibility of that changing anytime soon so that you can have kids of your own?

​My deep connection for kids came 6 years ago when I had my first nephew Ryan. I never knew what a world of difference a child could bring to the family. After visiting the various centres by Singapore Children's Society, I cannot come to terms with why some kids are so loved and supported while others, through no fault of theirs, have to endure immense pain and hurt.

I concluded that while it's easy to blame adults for the problems these children face, many of the adults that "caused" these problems are also a result of being hurt when they were a child. Thus, a chance to resolve some of the problems and issues which children face makes it possible for them to have a better future as adults.

​As for kids of my own, I certainly look forward to that, if I may be so lucky!​

5) What are the challenges involved in organising a charity event like Project Intan?

De-motivation. When one feels demotivated with words of discouragement, it's tough to continue. ​Thankfully, I didn't face many of such situations.

6) Where do you see the future of Project Intan to be like? Any plans to expand this further or to co-opt more partners?

Project Intan will continue to be professional with all the personal touches that The Intan is known for. If we are so blessed, we will be most happy to explore working with like minded caring partners. ​

7) If you have a wish for Singapore, what would that be and why?

​I wish that we as Singaporeans may take time to be grateful and appreciative of the many blessings we have here that we sometimes take for granted. 3 things in particular strike me: the peace we enjoy, freedom of religion, and the opportunities that lay before us.

How You Can Contribute to Project Intan 2014

Project Intan 2014 will officially close on 7 Oct. If you would like to make a donation, please do so online at this link here. All donations are tax exempted and OCBC will top up 50% for every dollar raised through Project Intan. 

Please remember to input PROJECT INTAN in the reference code box so that Alvin can personally acknowledge and thank you for the support.