When I got to the NFL, my agent told me, “F**k your ‘brand’. Your brand will come from what you do ON the field, not off it.”
I despise the word ‘brand’. To me, it is an effort beyond your authentic self, and a projection turned solicitation. That’s what I thought, anyway. Then I met Michael Ehrlich. He builds college sports brands and has an epic podcast called Brand Food.
Ehrlich told me the one word he said made me see the authenticity we all have within our story and what we can do to highlight it.
That word? Narrative.
Your narrative is the story of YOUR experience, which means there’s no other narrative like it in the 7+ billion stories in the world.
So what is your narrative? What narrative does your company embody? How do you want your story to be told when you are not there?
Ehrlich laid out the three things in our conversation that matter most for successful athletes and brands (agghh!) in deciding and building their narrative.
The stories that move people are the ones that come from a place of authenticity. Ehrlich says authenticity is KEY to communicating your narrative.
Take the time to figure out what makes you unique on your team, in your sport and across the entire landscape. Create a brand or editorial map that is your North Star for any marketing you do.
The year we won Super Bowl 50, EVERYTHING I did was an editorial map to win a championship. Extra lifts, studying, time away from family, sacrificing recreation time, turning off the TV — all done through the prism of my North Star to win a championship.
Brutal, but worth it.
Once you have your positioning and differentiation, Michael’s second tip is to hammer it home consistently through a medium you are most comfortable with. This could be anything. Standing on a soapbox, in front of a camera, on a blog, podcasts, etc.
Dive right in. You will master your craft as you go.
R&B Artist James Brown was called the hardest working man in show business. Did anyone ever check the stats? How do we know this? Consistency. That’s how he referred to himself in every interview and every concert.
NBA star Charles Barkley says he signs every autograph and takes every picture. He’s considered one of the most accessible guys in the NBA because of his consistent approach to connecting with every one of his fans.
Consistency has been one of the toughest challenges for me in building my narrative. Repeating my narrative felt selfish, egotistical and rude.
Then I went to a broadcasting seminar in Silicon Valley. Want to know the number-one point of emphasis? CONSISTENCY.
Do you know what time and where to find your favorite show? Is “60 Minutes” on Wednesdays or Sundays?
Heck, even Thanksgiving Day parades are consistent.
Whatever your consistency, newsletter, blog, video, be consistent about the WAY you put out your content. And tell your story from there.
“You can’t just do it and be done with it. You have to do it on a consistent basis.”
Ehrlich’s last point is pretty straightforward. Go beyond your consistency and create frequency. Frequency all comes down to how often you provide your consistent message.
In emceeing an event, I met Casey Neistat, vlogger and worldwide inspiration. He talked about how he put out a video for 365 days straight at one point.
Like I said, frequency.
If you struggle to find consistency, think of it this way: How often do you want to have a conversation with the people who support you the most?
Conversations come through content. Consumers view 90% of content on a mobile device, so go where your community members are and post frequently. Media training I have been a part of recommends posting daily.
Also, go for a higher frequency than you are initially comfortable with. Don’t get hung up on it being perfect. Just put it out there!
UNCOVER AND CREATE YOUR NARRATIVE
As a former NFL player, I have been there, done that and have seen way too many players struggle in their transition to life off the field.
The best way to live your future comes from creating it. Tell your story — we want to hear it.