Getting good advice about storytelling from Lynda Resnick

Getting good advice about storytelling from Lynda Resnick
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Hey, nerds need help getting more effective helping the causes they believe in, and Lynda gives really good advice from a lot of real-life experience. (I also appreciate her philanthropic networking; she helped me be the Bob Newhart of the Aspen Ideas thing... And yes, I'm one of those nerds, gotta expand my comfort zone by diving in, and I got a lot of help doing this.)

(from a short bio provided by Lynda)

Lynda Resnick began her career at the age of nineteen, when she founded a full-service advertising agency. In 1979, the Lynda and her husband Stewart purchased a fledgling floral wire service called Teleflora. Lyndaâs idea of pairing fresh flowers with a well-designed keepsake container turned ordinary flowers into a reminder of something more lasting, earning her a Gold Effie Award. Teleflora is the now the worldâs largest floral service and floral products company. Lynda is Vice Chairman of Los Angeles County Museum of Artâs Board of Trustees. She is on the Executive Board of The Aspen Institute, UCLA Medical Sciences, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Milken Family Foundation, and is also a trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lynda reveals her secrets for creating memorable brands and pioneering fresh approaches to launch and promote them in her bestselling book, Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in your Business.

1) How did you connect with Peter Guber for his upcoming book Tell to Win?

When I was a little girl, I was on a children's television program where a story was started and each child had to add something to that story. Being on live television really made me have to think on my feet very quickly. But more importantly, my father is a filmmaker and I think I must have inherited the storytelling genes from him. Growing up, I would hang on his every word as he made up stories of all the famous people he said he knew and the adventures he had with them. His stories taught me the nuts and bolts of storytelling, namely developing your characters and building emotion.

2) What's your favorite story that made a difference for you?

I have always tried to use the power of story to be a successful marketer. One of the stories I discuss in my book, Rubies in the Orchard, is the story of Jackie Kennedy's pearls. When I was at the Franklin Mint, we paid $211,500 for three strands of fake pearls at the Jackie O auction in 1996 that she originally paid $35 for. These pearls were the icon of the icon -- she wore them everywhere. I felt that owning the original pearls gave us credibility, not to mention a powerful story to sell the copies. By wearing those iconic pearls, women everywhere could own a symbol of American royalty. We ended up selling more than 130,000 copies at $200 a strand -- for a gross of $26 million. Today, Jackie's original pearls are in the Smithsonian for all to enjoy.

3) What don't people get about story telling in a business context?

I believe the single biggest mistake that marketers make is to forget that consumers are people just like them. Successful companies build an emotional connection to their customers through a strong narrative -- something they can personally relate to. We have so much competition in the marketplace that if you don't have a real, truthful story behind your product or service, it simply won't be sustainable.

4) Has all this changed since you started an ad agency at the age of 19? If so, how?

Absolutely. It has become even more important today. Brands that are transparent, authentic and honest rise above their competition. How you convey your unique selling proposition is an important part of the narrative. FIJI Water fell as rain over one hundred years ago and collects in an underground aquifer free from any outside contaminants. Because of our state-of-the-art bottling facility, where a sealed delivery system draws water up from the aquifer and places it directly into our iconic square bottles, FIJI Water is untouched by man until you unscrew the cap.

Building brands is also about value and people. When you have faith in the value of your brand, you can communicate that belief and extend it to consumers in a genuine way. Our narrative for Teleflora is simple: We support more than 16,000 small businesses throughout America because our flowers are always hand-arranged, then hand-delivered in a beautiful keepsake container by a local Teleflora florist. No other floral service can make this claim.

Consumers want to feel good about the products and services they are buying and using. The power of story, done simply, honestly, and directly, is one of the best ways to establish a sense of trust with your consumers that they instinctively know is sincere. But remember you can't make it up, it has to be real.

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