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  • Writer's pictureStu Lloyd

The cardinal sins of business storytelling.

So, Cardinal George Pell -- one of the highest ranking officers in the Vatican and the Catholic Church -- has been convicted of pedophilia. Many believe it's just the tip of the iceberg in an institution that has covered up this sort of behaviour for decades.

I'm not here to judge. But I am here to leverage it as a prime example of when is a story not a story, and what happens when you don't live and breathe your brand values.

Because religion is one of the best examples of the power of storytelling.

It aligns millions, sometimes billions, of people to think and behave a certain way. Rationally or otherwise. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction. That is the power of storytelling.

Once again, I'm not here to judge, and each to their own.

(Full disclosure: I attended Christian private schools for most of my schooling life.)

But here's the additional damage done to the Catholic Church ...

A story is only as strong as the overlap between What You Say and What You Do. Your company's culture lives or dies by your people living and breathing those things consistently. Every day.

You can have all the buzzwords in the world in your slogan. You can have all the canteen posters you like. Talk is cheap. I know, I visit an awful lot of Fortune 500's canteens around Asia Pacific.

But unless your team DOES those things accordingly, then it's just green-washing and wish-listing.

Your story (and stories) come from those values in action.

Don't just say 'We stand for integrity.' Tell me about the time when your sales guy operated with integrity and sold the client a cheaper option because those product specs suited their purpose best, even though the sales guy made a lower commission. But then that relationship grew, the client company grew, and finally they adopted your premium solution enterprise-wide.

Don't just say 'We are innovative.' Tell me about the time the executive from your bank invented the ATM and changed the game of automatic banking convenience forever.

So to get back to the Catholic Church, all this time they've been preaching from the pulpit (SAYING) about their values. Meanwhile many of their executives and representatives have been acting in a totally contrary manner, and then compounding that with a culture of cover-up (DOING).

Questions for you:

Are you living and breathing your corporate values every day?

Is there a SAYING-DOING GAP in your company?

What is it, and how are you going to close that gap?

Otherwise, you don't really have a story to tell -- internally or externally. And your brand will lose your believers, your tribe.

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