Which Comes First: Content or Container?

It’s like the timeless debate between the chicken or the egg. When it comes to developing a new story, people often aren’t sure where to start. Should you begin with the content of your story, or is it better to determine the container and structure first?

In the mad rush to craft a new website, or sexify those marketing materials, or develop a new bio, people forget to focus on the fundamentals. I’m of the following strong opinion: it’s less important HOW you tell a story, and more important to have a story WORTH telling. This is the most overlooked part of the equation. You need to have a solid foundation to stand on. When you have the bigger story, everything else follows. People want to be a part of what you’re doing. The vehicle for how you tell the story is really secondary.  By focusing on the inherent value and energy of your story (it’s worthiness factor), you’ll find more freedom in how you craft an engaging and memorable narrative.

Here’s a series of 20 questions that can support you in your Story Positioning. They form the basis of my curriculum for the upcoming 4-week course that starts Thursday.

PERSONAL MOTIVATIONS
– What motivates you?
– What has shaped and defined you?
– What is your point of view?
– What do you care about?
– Why trust and believe you?

AUDIENCE EMPATHY
– Who defines your market?
– What do they care about?
– How do people perceive your issue?
– What needs do you serve?

DIFFERENTIATING VALUE
– What value do you provide?
– What’s memorable about you?
– What’s ignored, overlooked, or not said?
– What’s your bigger truth?
– What’s your thought leadership?

MARKETING YOUR TRUTH
– How do you reach people?
– Why do people want what you offer?
– What do you gift and give away?
– How prove what you care about?
– What do you want to be known for?
– How do you make yourself approachable?

If you go about answering these questions yourself, you’ll begin to stake out a bigger story really worth telling. If you want guided support and feedback, consider enrolling in my 4-week Telecourse on Story Positioning. The course is filling up fast. It’s a hands-on and interactive way to go to the heart of your business story. Learn how to be seen, recognized, and understood for the right reasons. We’re up to 20 registrants and there’s only 5 spaces still left as of tonight. It starts Thursday at 1pm EST. Telecourse Info and Registration

14 thoughts on “Which Comes First: Content or Container?”

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  2. I agree with Mike's point in general (that the fundamental story has to come first), but often knowing the “container” is helpful in figuring out what the fundamentals of your story are. If you know you are writing a 400-word newsletter piece, it focuses your mind to really get at the essence and engaging ideas that you are trying to get across. In this way, the container is a vehicle for thinking about your story.

    I think Mike's point is to remind us not to spend too much time brainstorming cool ways of telling our story before we really know what we're trying to convey (or who we're talking to!). But going through the exercise of crafting a story for a particular container is a very useful way of focusing the mind and pulling out the most engaging part of your tale.

  3. Thanks for adding your comment. You’re absolutely right that when it comes writing a specific piece, the context of size, form, function, etc…is instrumental in guiding the direction of the story, and often informs the shape it chooses to take.

    What I notice is that most businesses or personal brand don’t spend enough time on the positioning process, and getting clear how the essence of their story, and why people would even want to see, care, or believe in the same thing.

  4. Thanks for adding your comment. You're absolutely right that when it comes writing a specific piece, the context of size, form, function, etc…is instrumental in guiding the direction of the story, and often informs the shape it chooses to take.

    What I notice is that most businesses or personal brand don't spend enough time on the positioning process, and getting clear how the essence of their story, and why people would even want to see, care, or believe in the same thing.

  5. It seems like there are at least two problems in business today: the managers who do not want to tell a story and just focus on making better widgets, and the leaders who have a story they want to tell and a broader point they want to make that may not reflect the work of their actual company.

    The underlying problem with both of these scenarios is a lack of interest or attention to the audience out there.

  6. Thanks Again!

    I am using your story ideas while building up Perma Corps Int. a permaculture oriented disaster relief, recovery, and redevelopment organization! Your advice and methods are spot on!

  7. Michael, this is just brilliant. Truth is the ultimate spin, and when your readers consider your insight and apply it to their personal truth, their stories will take on a life of their own, an energy so unique, that each intended audience will want to hear more. When those you inspire realize they can change the world by telling their stories, your tips and thought-points will become even more valuable. Bravo, and write-on!

  8. That's awesome Evan! I've never heard of permaculture combined with disaster relief and redevelopment. What an inspired idea. Thanks for sharing your comment, and do send in any questions and updates on your progress.

  9. Robbie, thanks so much for posting your wonderful reflection.

    That's exactly what I'm encouraging people to play with. To find that place within that is so genuine that it reflects back the deepest sense of authority, that as you say is rooted in truth. I'm discovering that this kind of energy is contagious and what we're all desperately seeking from others in this new age of communications. People have stopped believing. They want to experience something and somebody that's for real.

  10. yes, there's a real disconnect with leaders and managers wanting to stay in denial. We all have to look in the mirror more, because there's less places to hide in today's new environment. Self awareness becomes the path of genuine communications.

  11. That's awesome Evan! I've never heard of permaculture combined with disaster relief and redevelopment. What an inspired idea. Thanks for sharing your comment, and do send in any questions and updates on your progress.

  12. Robbie, thanks so much for posting your wonderful reflection.

    That's exactly what I'm encouraging people to play with. To find that place within that is so genuine that it reflects back the deepest sense of authority, that as you say is rooted in truth. I'm discovering that this kind of energy is contagious and what we're all desperately seeking from others in this new age of communications. People have stopped believing. They want to experience something and somebody that's for real.

  13. yes, there's a real disconnect with leaders and managers wanting to stay in denial. We all have to look in the mirror more, because there's less places to hide in today's new environment. Self awareness becomes the path of genuine communications.

  14. Pingback: Ces Questions Peuvent Vous aider à Placer Votre Histoire | Une Carrière Légendaire

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