I want to continue on with the thought leadership theme as we’ve been talking about over the last few blog posts. Today, I want to discuss the question, how can you influence an audience better, through opinions or story? Now, it may seem simple, and it also may be controversial. Some people are very strong in their opinions while other people are just reluctant to tell their story. We’re going to explore that a little bit today. Let’s talk a little bit about the difference between opinions and stories.

I want to start out with some definitions. This is coming from the dictionary. An opinion is a view or judgment formed about something not necessarily based in fact or knowledge. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not true; it just means it’s based on somebody’s feelings and their gut feelings, which has its place in business. There’s no question about that. On the other hand, a story is an account of an imaginary or real person or event told for entertainment. Or an account of past events in somebody’s life or in the evolution of something.That’s one way of looking at it. Yes, there are opinions that have some basis in fact, and some that are made up, and then there are stories that have some made up stuff or some solid basis in fact.

Thought Leadership

The question comes about when you’re trying to get across what it is that you do in business, when you’re trying to become a thought leader: what’s the difference between opinion and story? Now, this my take on it. You may have differing opinions and I would love to hear your opinions and your stories in the comments. When we talk about opinions, we talk about something also known as popular opinion. What’s the popular opinion? Well, that gets people elected. It changes products overnight. It can do a whole bunch of different things. But basically, it’s getting a crowd of people that agree to something and getting them to share their opinion as well. Stories are more like a case study.

As an example, let’s talk about an imaginary product. Let’s talk about a fidget spinner. The opinion is that this thing is really awesome. It keeps me entertained and I really like it and I think it’s helpful to my world. That’s one potential opinion. A story would be that I have an autistic child that happens to use this fidget spinner. When they use the fidget spinner, they have the ability to focus more on the task at hand. An opinion is more about what it means to people but the story is more about how it affects people.

Opinion

Opinions often challenge the norm. It challenges people to critical thinking and you could bring up a political person. You could bring up religion. You could bring up just about anything, and you can produce an opinion that will garner responses. I see this all the time in headlines. The one thing that’s going to change your world forever. Do you see that kind of thing? That’s an opinion. That’s not a story unless they say something along the lines of, “The one thing that I have changed in myself that has made a difference in my client.” A story is more about you. An opinion challenges the norm. A story educates people as to what it does or what the new norm is. How do you create that new normal?

A lot of the time, an opinion has a left and right, a right and wrong, a high and a low. There are usually polar opposites with opinions. When you’re telling your opinion to people, you’re going to get some people that are going to love it and some people that are going to hate it. Sometimes the haters and the people that love it go head to head.

 

Have you ever seen a political post on Facebook? There was one that I saw the other day from somebody and it was a picture of all of these religious people walking in front of the president. One person happened to be of darker skin color and it was like, “He didn’t shake hands.” But what nobody noticed in that video was that the gentlemen who the president did not shake hands with actually had a staff, a rod, and he took it from his left hand and put it in his right hand so his right hand was occupied and that was the hand that the president was shaking with everybody else.

Now, do I necessarily agree with everything that everybody says about any political topic? No. But, somebody was out there spreading an opinion that this person dislikes people of color based on that one fact. There are maybe other ones that maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But based on that one, I said, “If you really watch what’s happening, if you look at the true story, the story ends up being that the gentleman took his staff from his left hand and put it in his right hand obstructing the ability to shake hands and move on by.” Then people created an opinion around that, rather than understanding the true story behind that, which is: who is that person? Why did they do what they did? Where was this? What were the circumstances? When did this happen? There’s so much more detail to it.

Story

A story tells us what’s possible. Maybe the story is that the person wasn’t paying attention. Maybe it was that they did it purpose. Maybe it was a protest. It’s hard to say. The difference between opinion and story is opinion tends to polarize and tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. A story is there to tell people what is possible. An example of this would be it’s my opinion that if you use content marketing, you can get rich. Now, a story on that is I worked with a particular business, especially somebody who didn’t feel like they knew how to tell stories in their business. What I taught them how to do was how to take what they do in their daily lives, basically plug a USB cord in the back of their head, pull that out, put it down in blogs and then share it across social media so that people could see the knowledge and experience that she had. By doing that, she ended up reaching more people and ended up growing her business by over 30% because she personalized the story.

That, my friends, is a longer explanation of the last one which was an opinion. But the bottom line is by using stories, by using case studies, by telling people the experience rather than telling them your opinion give a much better opportunity of creating conversations. Those conversations are the things that lead to relationships and, if you know me, I always say that relationships are the currency of business.

Final Thoughts

Stories are powerful. They enlighten audiences and spark imagination in what is possible. Crafting a business story is not just verbal vomit… It’s about aligning your message with your audience to generate positive outcomes. These outcomes can be a mindset shift, financial gains, or something else that propels you and your business from just being another also-ran, to the clear industry thought leader!

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on your challenges with communicating about your business in this new online environment. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about showing the concepts presented. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?