Chris Brogan | [Pivot Series] How to Tell Your Company Story to Build Culture

Chris Brogan is the President of Chris Brogan Media, where he offers business storytelling and marketing advisory help for mid to larger-sized companies. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and is a New York Times bestselling author of nine books and counting. 

Chris has spoken for or consulted with some big brands including Disney, Coke, Google, GM, Microsoft, Cisco, Sony USA, and many more. He has also appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and interviewed Richard Branson for a cover story for Success Magazine. He was even interviewed by Tony Robbins on his Internet Money Mastery series. Forbes listed Chris as one of the Must-Follow Marketing Minds of 2014 and listed his website as one of the 100 best websites for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Statsocial rated Chris as the #3 power influencer online.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Chris Brogan, President of Chris Brogan Media, about podcasting and how company leaders can tell their company’s stories. They also talk about doing Facebook Live shows, Chris’ StoryLeader system, and building a company’s culture.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What attracted Chris Brogan to podcasting and how the podcasting landscape has changed over the years 
  • What Chris has learned from being a podcast host and how it has helped his business
  • Chris explains why he currently does a video show as opposed to an audio podcast
  • Chris’ thoughts on the fear of making mistakes on Facebook Live and ruining one’s credibility
  • Chris shares stories from some of the amazing interviews he has done
  • The concept of the StoryLeader framework and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected company culture
  • How to uncover a company’s story when talking to its leaders 
  • How companies have had to pivot and tell their stories differently in light of the current global pandemic
  • The people Chris acknowledges for his success and accomplishments
  • Where to learn more about Chris Brogan

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you business podcast solution and content marketing. 

Along with my business partner Dr. Jeremy Weisz, we have over 18 years of experience with B2B podcasting, which is one of the best things you can do for your business and you personally. 

If you do it right, a podcast is like a “Swiss Army Knife” – it is a tool that accomplishes many things at once. It can and will lead to great ROI, great clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and more. It is networking and business development; and it is personal and professional development which doubles as content marketing

A podcast is the highest and best use of your time and will save you time by connecting you to higher caliber people to uplevel your network. 

To learn more, go to or email us at [email protected]

To learn more, book a call with us here

Check out Rise25 to learn more about our done-for-you lead generation and done-for-you podcast services. 

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we asked today’s most successful entrepreneur to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.

John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran. Here. I’m the host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast where I feel so privileged I get to talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies like YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable x software, and many more. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And I’m really excited today because I get to interview someone who had been falling for a long time. But I’ve never actually interviewed him for a podcast. Amazingly, I always felt like at some point to get around to it, you know, nothing like a global pandemic to make an excuse to interview someone. But Chris Brogan is the president of Chris Brogan Media. He offers business storytelling and marketing advisory help for mid to larger size companies. But that only describes a small part of all the things that he does. He’s a sought after keynote speaker, New York Times bestseller author, best selling author of nine books in counting. One of my favorites, by the way, was the Impact Equation, which I remember reading seven or eight years ago, this was not long after I’d become an entrepreneur. And it was one of the few books literally one of the few books I can remember in my lifetime. I couldn’t read it on a couch because I was writing so many notes. I had to read it sitting at my dining room table. So I read almost the entire thing sitting on my dining room table with a notepad next to me because it was taking so many notes. It was that good. I would highly recommend it to everyone. Chris has spoken or consulted with some of the biggest bands you may know. Disney, Coke, Google, you name it. He’s also appeared on the Dr. Phil showed and interviewed Richard Branson. All kinds of amazing luminaries turn to Chris for advice. And he was even interviewed by Tony Robbins on his internet Money Mastery series. We’re gonna get to him in a second. 

But first before we do this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media. Rise25 helps b2b businesses to get clients referrals. So huge partnerships are done for podcasts and content marketing, if you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking, you know what, I like podcasts and I do a podcast? Well, I’ve been saying yes, for 10 years, we really specialize in helping b2b businesses with a high client lifetime value. But even if that doesn’t describe you, I tell everyone you know you’d love doing it. So think about it. If you want to learn more, you can go to our website or email [email protected]

All right, Chris. So super excited to talk to you We even did a webinar A number of years ago, but never actually sat down and interviewed you, which I’m excited about. But let’s talk first about the topic of podcasting is you were an early adopter of podcasts or even earlier adopter of blogging back in I think 98. But podcasting, you started around 2005. Right? And what was the landscape like back then? And what brought you into it in the first place? Because you’ve, you’ve gone, you come in and out of podcasting over the years, so I want to touch on that as well.

Chris Brogan  3:30  

So I was the year after the bleeding edge. So the very bleeding edge was pretty much 2004 that’s when people were like, you know, calling each other on the phone because they would have formatting issues and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, came 2005 and felt like you could almost teach someone how to get a podcast onto a device. Now two things were not true back then. 2005 is right before smartphone ubiquity. Like the iPhone wasn’t out yet. Is before ubiquitous broadband. So it was at a time when you could say something as simple as Oh, you have broadband, that would mean something in and of itself, like, categories of it was just. And obviously those things are different. Now. The other thing that was true back then was that the people who produce shows, there just weren’t any of these kinds of things done for your kind of shops, right? You know, you had to do the work. And so I liked that because I’m a bit of a nerd. So I liked the idea that I could make my audio trim the audio, take out as many arms as I could.

John Corcoran  4:30  

I like tinkering with things,

Chris Brogan  4:32  

pocket it up in a nice little bit. Take out, you know, one thing I learned as an interviewer, and you probably when you listen back to yourself, if you know you’re good, right, I mean, you’re being quiet. as a host, when I’m interviewing people. I’ll preamble so much. And I just had the simplest question and I just want to delete four minutes of me and just have the one sentence question and have the person and the guests that everyone came to get there. So what I liked in the old days was that now I’ve had a show since podcasting started, but I just sort of like, let him drop whenever I want. And I’m never fussy about it. And there’s all these shows that are like, so excited about their 4,000th episode. But I’m just so like, you know, the first show is called fat guy gets fit. I figured if I just never lost all the weight, I could just have the show in perpetuity. I launched a little network of shows back when that was a stupid idea.

John Corcoran  5:24  

I said he did events around it to conferences as well.

Chris Brogan  5:26  

Yeah, we launched a bit of an odd camp in oh six, where Christopher pen and I decided that we’d have an unconference style event. And that was super successful. I mean, that went everywhere. But it’s a not for profit type event. So it was successful insofar as we get thousands and thousands of attendees all over the world. But my own shows, I mean, I started a little podcasting network where I convinced a whole bunch of people who had never done podcasting before to go out and buy things like rivers. And you know, there’s pens that you could record into and all that back when there just weren’t the devices now, everyone’s phone has a full podcasting setup on it. Everyone’s laptop has everything in it. You know, it’s just it’s just all there ready for you. 

John Corcoran  6:08  

And so if you had to explain to people what a podcast was, they didn’t know what a podcast was. So you know, asking someone to do an interview for what I don’t understand.

Chris Brogan  6:15  

Well, we would lie. We just like you want to do our internet radio show? Yeah, sure. I’ll create a podcast and really what? And then for a minute, Apple tried to sue everyone who called it a podcast. It was very brief. They change their mind. They said, nevermind, we get it. It’s a word. But they were because they had iPods. And we were sort of stealing podcasts, right? Because you know, it was a cast that went to people’s iPod back when that was cool. Now shows up with an iPod to the playground. They’re gonna get beat up.

John Corcoran  6:44  

Yeah, no, now it’s now but it’s so much easier now to get a podcast. I mean, you just go straight to your phone. You don’t know downloading back then I was like, you had to download this file to your computer and then transfer over to find the cord transferred over to the iPod. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t have time. It doesn’t Play, you know? Yeah. So what did you learn in those early days? Like, in terms of, you know, how did it help your business?

Chris Brogan  7:07  

what I felt was and believed so much sooner than it was actually vaguely true. It’s only now pretty much vaguely true. What I believed was this is a great delivery tool for information that will hit a very specific audience. So I thought b2b people would love this thing. I thought, you know, any kind of a niche experience where, you know, you really only have to get a few hundred people to hear something, or a few thousand people to hear something. I thought this is the best delivery system in the world. What do we have, we have people commuting everywhere, we have people walking their animal, we have people pushing their kid around in a stroller, or you know, crouched in front of the TV or burning drones on and all you have to do is stick one little earbud in one ear, you know, and then you’ve got them. And there’s so many spots where non reading, consumption of content makes a lot more sense. And so I thought that if I could take everyone’s jog every day, and if I could take everyone’s commute time, I was a guy I was commuting, I lived in, worked in Massachusetts at the time I started podcasting, my commute was almost an hour each way. Near the end, it takes almost two hours each way. I was going all the way to the southern part of the state from the very northern part of the state. And you have to kind of like drive through Boston traffic to get there, which is never good. And so I had almost four hours a day in my car. And so where was I the guy? And I think that’s still true. I mean, obviously, we’re in the land according to when you and I are recording this. So however evergreen this will be. Right now. Some of the numbers on podcasting have gone down briefly. But that won’t be forever, you know, when everybody’s kind of back to as usual in some form or fashion. You know, this is still one of the best transmission mediums in the world for getting information into somebody’s ear while they’re doing other stuff.

John Corcoran  8:47  

Now you’ve bounced around as we said, You’ve started different shows. Now you’re doing a video show. I think that’s so admirable because so many people are afraid to start something they’re afraid if no No one’s gonna be listening. And you’re doing it publicly, you know, you’ll try a new social channel. Try it out for a little bit, even if there’s no one there and connect with whoever is there and build a relationship just to test it out. So talk a little bit about that and why now you’re doing a video show why you pivoted away from podcasting for now, and you’re doing it as a video show on YouTube.

Chris Brogan  9:22  

It’s interesting because the barrier to entry for audio podcasting is the lowest it’s ever been. So the hard work of doing a podcast is really just me recording with somebody because I like to do interview shows. So me recording with somebody sitting and doing a little bit of editing, just pull out a few arms and put it up. That’s it, slap, slap a little audio at the beginning, slap a little at the end, I’ve done my job. That’s pretty easy. You know, it’s even easier pushing a record on the video, doing our thing and then pushing stop on the video and then dragging the file onto YouTube and calling it a day. So I am using Facebook Live as my recording platform for no reason other than it’s just easy and everybody vaguely has a Facebook account. I recorded it using a platform called stream yard that my friend Carrie Gorgon showed me. There’s a regular stream yard so great. So yeah, everybody was using something. And then it felt like everyone had StreamYard once they saw oh my gosh, how can I make it look like a show, I’ll use this thing. You can once you pay for StreamYard, you have the ability to download the video file, just download the audio file. So you can make a broadcast that way too, if you really want to do the editing. So the video show is that and one of the things that I do in my show keeps evolving. So I’m on the fourth iteration of the show. We’re in which now I’ve gone from just having a good guest and kind of a very solid like me and the guest this is the show to I will have sort of a shot clock like in television, meaning I’ll do a segment there’ll be another segment I’ll bring in a guest I’ll let go the guest I’ll do another thing and then I’ll have a featured guest. And then I’ll do another thing and then we’re out, you know, so like a show. And the only reason for that is attention, right? We need to keep people’s attention. So if someone is eight minutes into the guest, and they’re like, they’re not sticking around. And so I can’t always control if my guest is the best in the world or not. But I can say that if you stick around, you know, you’re gonna get some other version of the show, as you keep waiting. And you might like another segment even though you didn’t like that guest. So it’s a little more,

John Corcoran  11:30  

there’s a little more work on your end, but you find it’s more worth it because of people’s attention spans these days. I think it’ll be

Chris Brogan  11:35  

I think it’d be I’m, I’m a few days before executing it. Full on, I’m practicing little bits of it, and then hopefully the orchestra comes together. And because I record this live, I really every mistake I make isn’t right in front of everybody. So when I push my little video intro, if it doesn’t go it doesn’t go in front of everybody who’s sitting there live looking at me funny.

John Corcoran  11:58  

Talk about that, because then many clients who struggle with that piece, you know, they say like, you know, no, in my industry, it has to be perfect or it’s going to damage my credibility. if things aren’t perfect. There’s a lot of fear over any kind of failure and how that will expose them. And you’ve worked with some amazing luminary, you know, fortune 500 companies from Disney, you name it, all kinds of different companies. And, you know, Coke, Google, GM, Microsoft, do you worry about that? Do you worry about, you know, fiddling around with Facebook Live and that that the video that’s going to somehow damage your credibility

Chris Brogan  12:36  

now depends on who in some ways. So if I were doing a project for Disney, it would have to be Disney good. The project they did for Disney before the couple projects I did. Were some live events where I keynoted. And then I did a lot of kind of behind the scenes sort of helping them take the community who came to these events and do something interesting with them. Now I could put my show out to that community and I feel great There’s no way that most logos would go on it because they would hate to be associated with me in that way. But that’s how it would work. But with lots of other companies who think what you said is true, it’s almost never true. Like if someone’s like, I’m Lockheed Martin, and I make jet engines and jets and things like that, I can’t have someone thinking, I don’t know how to make a video show. It’s not true. It’s not true because humans consume this. And humans are imperfect and humans, what they want least is to feel like they can’t reach or attain that spot. So the sort of secret goal of being Chris Brogan for all these years, is I mess up every day. And so every day someone sees it and goes, Hmm, well, if he could do that, I’m probably better at it than him. And you know, it’s attractive, thinking that you’re better than someone else and that you can still learn from them on the way up. Do you know what I mean? I don’t make it. If you’re working on your fitness, you don’t go and look at a Mr. Olympia and try to decide how you’re going to look like that. You look at the really big fat dude who lost 50 pounds, and then you see what they did and then you figure out how to get to the next Next level, right? So I try to make that explicit. In everything I create. I have a little video intro for my video, show it by choice, it doesn’t actually fit the screen. So you kind of see me in the background waiting for it to play. And it’s on purpose because I think it’s funny. But I also think it’s like, it’s fitting of the fact that it just doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to make you feel like you’re part of something. And people who have been at a show as an attendee, more than twice know, and think it’s hilarious the same way.

John Corcoran  14:33  

That’s so cool. Talk a little bit about you. You mentioned as kind of as an aside, you said, I do an interview show. And you know, for me, that’s a given why you would not do an interview show because if not, you’re missing out and amazing opportunities to build relationships, connect. Have a conversation with someone like yourself that, you know, you admire their work, don’t talk to all that frequently. I have the opportunity to talk to them. you’ve connected with some amazing luminaries, Paul khaolak I don’t know how to say his name Paulo Coelho qualia, I read his books, I don’t know how to pronounce his name, Harvey Mackay, Steven pressfield, you know, been interviewed by Tony Robbins. Talk a little bit about telling some stories about some of those experiences. And have there been times when you’ve just been kind of pinching yourself, like, how I’ve been able to talk to these luminaries whose work I admire

Chris Brogan  15:23  

every time so if I could get as name dropping as humanly possible, I’d love it. I’ll tell you a story. So this one day, a phone call comes in. And it’s one of my editors at Success Magazine back when I was writing for them. And they said, we’ve got to ask you some questions about their Kardashians. And I said, I don’t know the first thing about the Kardashians. So I hand the phone to my now ex jack and I say, hey, Kardashian, something something and they talk for like 40 minutes. I get my phone back. 40 minutes later, almost out of battery. They hang up, they call me back and go can you rewrite the cover story about the Kardashians? And I’m a About to say no. And then they stay to throw out how much they’re going to pay me because it’s a rush job. And the end will owe you something. So I say, I know what I want already. I want to interview Richard Branson. There’s no way he’s ever going to say yes to me. So can success and I interview Richard Branson. Yeah, done. So right. The Kardashian thing is great and works out. It’s fine. I don’t need to know anything. I just asked Richard Branson. I get his people and I say I want to interview him via Skype. It’s his first Skype interview. I can’t really use the video because he’s a bit nervous to route it. billionaire world

John Corcoran  16:38  

famous nervous about doing a Skype video interview

Chris Brogan  16:41  

wasn’t comfy. He didn’t know who I was. And he didn’t know. Like, is he going to like he doesn’t have hold of all the dimensions of this. Am I going to do something that makes him look bad, anything like that he just wasn’t feeling comfy, and it showed in the video, so I opted not to ever use the video. But what a moment to interview my business. Legend Richard Branson. Yeah. And I’ve had that experience a bunch of times a bunch of Navy SEALs, what I found and you may well know as well, the minute now author has a new book out, boy, are they susceptible to want to be on your stupid show you the number?

John Corcoran  17:14  

I’ve got? I’ve got a stack of them right here. Yeah, it’s a great opportunity. Absolutely.

Chris Brogan  17:19  

You know, I, every now and again, I don’t get someone I really wanted General McChrystal, Stanley, McChrystal, and he was like, I’m just too busy for you, dude. I was like, I get it. I don’t know how I get

John Corcoran  17:30  

this timing too. Right. You know, that could be it too. Yeah,

Chris Brogan  17:33  

my name dropped. Every military person I’d ever done. I stacked the deck. Oh, he was a Navy guy. I listed all my navy seals. He was still like, whatever. And it was fine. I didn’t get him. But what I like about it and what I like about the process and what I like about interviews, I mean, there’s lots of other reasons why you would do a show so you can do an instructional show. You can do a very how to based show. You can do kind of a thought leadership show which I think is So hard to sustain a pure solo all the time. But some people can. I mean, I don’t

John Corcoran  18:05  

know how people do that, I don’t know,

Chris Brogan  18:06  

liberation, and they have time left on the earth, right? Yeah, no, but I think that what I like about interviews if people do the work to practice to be a better interviewer, which is one of the only religions I’m following right now, as I study every day to be a better interviewer, I feel that you can really make magical things happen if you appeal a few threads out and not just ask kind of core questions. And I think that I strive for that moment where someone says, No one has asked me that question, or Oh, my gosh, I had never thought of it that way. That’s the part I go back and you know, there’s little clips that you stick on, you know, places to promo the show. I have a little secret file of those that I have for how much I feel. That asked a good question.

John Corcoran  18:50  

Yeah, that’s a great one. Let’s pivot now and talk a bit about the StoryLeader and so we’re recording this in mid July 2020. In a gold pandemic unfolding, you wrote a blog post in January of this year about your StoryLeader framework, which, interestingly enough, you had been working on for a long time. You said you trademarked the idea many, many years ago. So you know, the, I’ll let you describe what the StoryLeader is or what the concept was for it. But I’m also interested to ask about, you know, how leaders today are needing to tell their story in a different way and pivot and tell their story in a different way, in light of what’s been happening in the world.

Chris Brogan  19:37  

So one slight correction, I only applied for the trademark this year. But I’d been working on concepts in the StoryLeader concept for years and years. And since January, of course, it changed a little bit. So in January, I started pushing out. I’m known mostly as a marketing and sales kind of guy, slightly a technology kind of guy. And that’s who you think When you think of me, you think, Oh, I should talk to that guy about marketing, maybe about tech. And that’s the kind of crowd I get. But I wanted to turn myself towards leadership a little bit. Because really, whenever I had those marketing conversations, the C suite came Anyway, it was always there was always a CEO, a CEO, or somebody else in the room with the marketing person. And I had done some projects with both HR teams, and also Alex Schumann, who’s the CEO over at workfront. He had me in to do a project where we really had to change company culture kind of quickly. He was given a bit of a mandate from the board saying, you really have to make a shift faster than not, and I know that’s not really easy. What are you gonna do? And for reasons I don’t fully yet he called me, you know what I mean? Like, because there’s nothing, there’s nothing in my bond a few days and say, Brogan could do that. He just had a feeling that’s what makes him a great CEO, by the way, only because it worked out not anything to do.

Failed horribly, but

John Corcoran  20:58  

and yeah, what We didn’t win when it came to you for that. Did you think why come to me for culture? That’s not my thing? Or did you think,

Chris Brogan  21:05  

yeah, I can get it. I’m an aspirant about a lot of things. So I write very convincingly about a lot of things that I do. I may not have the backing to do, but that I have the passion to take a swing. Yeah, he was writing this. This is the real lesson. John, before I say what I did. The real lesson is I just kept putting out there my better ideas. And he went, Wow, I like that idea, which is the post. There’s nothing there’s nothing real. It’s just words I put out he said I really like that I want to explore that right. There was no business plan. There was no business model as a blog post when rolling by could have been a podcast. So he and I, he says, I really want to do this culture thing. And I say I think I can do it. That’s in my head. So January I start as a StoryLeader and I’m like, I could do this for more companies. I can do culture shifts stuff. I can do stuff where What I say in the premises StoryLeader is that, you know, stats, and numbers only tell you so far it’s like, it’s like carrying around your food on a pencil. You know what I mean? Like, you can’t drink soup with a pencil. And basically, story leaders use stories to do the heavy lifting. Meaning I could fill your head with numbers. But if I tell you a story that kind of encapsulates what I really need you to do, then you’re really going to go with it.

John Corcoran  22:24  

Oh, it’s all about that. I mean, so you think about all the big companies. They have a story behind them or they use stories in order to drive and motivate. You look at what Elan Musk is doing these days with SpaceX and, and with, you know, with Tesla, you know, it’s like a, it’s a big store. It’s a big vision getting humans to Mars. It’s a big story, you know, and that’s things that people rally around.

Chris Brogan  22:48  

And those mission type stories. So I have three types of stories and stories that have mission stories, belonging stories, growth stories, mission stories are like we’re all going to Mars. That’s the mission. Everybody who knows that we’re part of this, you’re coming to Mars, even if you are connected. Tesla, and you’re making cool space cars. That’s part of getting to Mars too. You just don’t know it because it’s day to day stuff. We need to make money to get to Mars. So let’s sell cars. Belonging stories are the type of people who, why did they make the boring company? Were the type of people who thought, Well, why can’t we do that? Why can’t we dig a hole in the ground? Right? That’s another musk story. Why can’t we make a hole that we can stick our Tesla’s in and have robots drive these cars, you don’t scrape them on the sides of the hole. And we’ll make another secret runway all the way underneath LA. Right? And so that’s a blinding story, because we’re the type of people who belong here. That’s an internal and an external story. We’re inclusive people is a belonging story, you know, black lives and all lives matter. All lives matter. You know, that’s two stories, right? one’s very cognizant of this time in our life. One maybe is tone deaf, so you go, oh, maybe I don’t belong with these people. And the third growth stories, they’re split into two one half is pure, motivational speaker stuff. It’s Tony Robbins, you know, growth. Just General Growth, I want to feel better. The other growth is correctional on whether or not you’re doing the stuff that’s going to get you to the mission. And so some growth stories are basically like, Well, let me tell you why. Even though we say we’re the most family company in the world, you can’t really take every day off to go back and hang out with your kids. If you miss four hours every single day, then every other person who has a family is in a little bit of a challenge because they have to pick up for you not being here. And so that’s really hurting your work family. And we’ve really got to kind of think about how we’re going to prioritize this right? It’s a growth story. What is changing and has changed since this beautiful quarantine has rolled around? Beautiful being a joke. The working from home setup of this, suddenly culture is not necessarily a given. It’s not you know, it’s not pies delivered on Friday. It is not water cooler chat is not the fact you can always go into any boss’s office and ask a question, because everything is different. So how does culture survive this? How do you hire a new person, when you have a team that’s used to working together? What if your ritual for working together was, you know, you’d all go out and just shoot hoops in the backyard at the office or something like that? What do you do now? Because you just hired your first person who’s 200 miles away, or you just hired your first person you know, you’re in the greater San Francisco area. That’s already happened. The real estate market. Oh, no problem. And suddenly Utah is getting popular, you know? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, great, but a San Francisco dead center Metro. Working human is very different from somebody who’s out of Provo waiting for the slopes. And, you know, my first experience like that ever was when I went to New Englander. I’m an East Coast guy born, bred all the way through bricks and mill buildings run through my blood went out to the LA area, to an action Sports Network event, which was held at Oakley headquarters, and it was the CMOS of like Oakley, Toyota, USA, Hurley, Patagonia and north face all the companies can imagine their companies. And just before I go on the stage, literally like a minute and a half the CMO of Oakley goes, Oh, dude, he goes, if the surf was really good today, there might not be anybody in that audience. What? Such an East Coast guy he goes, man, you know, out here we just kind of we work to live man. And I am flustered because I’m thinking, a very existential thought as I’m getting ready to go on the stage. Are they right? Or am I right?

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome, Chris.

There is a really bad surf because the audience was cool. But I thought at that moment, I think I’m doing this wrong. What did I just do, John, I told you a story. Yeah. story that talks about my work ethic. And the fact that I have to question my work ethic and the culture. That setup. That’s how I’m hoping the StoryLeader helps businesses. I’m hoping I can start to talk through those kinds of stories with companies so that they start realizing, oh, man, we’ve got to train in a different way.

John Corcoran  27:10  

You know, it’s it. It’s such a hard thing to figure out what a person’s story is. And so many people struggle to tell their own story. You know, for I remember for me, you know, I had someone tell me about six or seven years ago, as I was trying to start to do more things online. I said, John, I can’t relate to you at all. You seem like this guy was born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you worked at the White House, because that’s what I’m most known for. And, and you seem to get every opportunity. And that was the exact opposite impression that I wanted people to have of me, because my father got laid off multiple times as I was growing up because we had to move thousands of miles away because I knew what it was like to struggle because I’ve had struggles in my career, and I wanted people to know that so I started telling my story in a different way. And I started telling that story, starting sooner in my journey and saying about how when I was a kid, my father got laid off, and we had to move. So that people would relate to me so that when I talk about successes, they could relate as well. And I realized that you have to tell that story. But tell me for you, when you work with a CEO, when you’re talking to a CEO, and you’re trying to get into that organizational DNA, and trying to uncover what the company’s story is, how do you uncover it? Is it just rapidfire getting to know them? You know, do you have an instinctive attitude where you just eventually find what the story is? How do you get under the skin and figure out what that story is when they may not know what it is?

Chris Brogan  28:38  

It’s a great, great question, because what I want the answer to be isn’t what what the answer is, some massive amount of this so far is just pure craft on my part, and sort of like psychological skills on my part, and what I want the answer to be some simple formula that we can all just take out of a workbook and look at these three pages in the back of my new book, and You’re good, but it’s not true. Because what you alluded to, is that the real story that really defines itself almost always has that really open faced vulnerability fairly early on in the story. And here’s a name drop, I met Bob Iger at Disney. And it was on the Disney dream boat, media launch or whatever. So the boat is full of only like, you know, media and their family. So abc news, all the big name news, and a bunch of idiot bloggers, of which I am on and my friends and for no great reason convinces everybody in their brothers to get Chris Brogan to be the last interview of the day. And nobody knows who I am at all like it is not it’s not a thing. And so I get to be the last interview Bob Iger. So he is pushed to think about it all day, all day. Oh, he’s doing the interview. So he’s interviewing you? well known. He’s a pretty face, and they roll in yet another crew to ask him all the question but tell me how big is the boat

John Corcoran  30:00  

you’re interviewing urinating, Bob got it again. Bye bye. Okay, okay, Heather Disney here. Okay head

Chris Brogan  30:05  

of Disney. So, here’s the part that matters. I decided to pump up the story though, because you have to know this man is bushed. This man has been. He’s probably done a few hundred interviews all over the world from this doofus. He hasn’t stopped Really? I’m sure he got a sandwich somewhere. But yeah. So I come. He’s wearing a black turtleneck. I’m wearing like, you know, idiot blogger costume of the day, which was like a jacket with a button down and over jeans. And he shakes my hand. He’s very nice. And immediately the first he says, Where are you from originally? I said, Oh, man. Oh, man. He says, have you ever done any sailing? I’m the absolute working class. This working class guy that ever was no, I didn’t ever do any sailing. I was a boy scout. So we did canoeing. However, I said, I sailed once in my life, if you can believe it, and yes, it was me. It was serious for me. He goes, I’ve sailed to support me. I said why it was weird because they sailed on a really old sailing vessel and that’s kind of like a tourist thing, but you can crew on it. He says the Savannah Beale I agreed on that boat. Wow, I’m suddenly the chair of Disney and I have this thing in common. And we have both sailed the same 1800 zero vessel. I love that crazy right and, and there’s nothing bad is going to happen after that. He has his arm around me for the whole interview. Like we’re pals that there was no vulnerability. It’s no vulnerability. All it took was that Bob wanted to make a connection to me. And so there’s that one element of leading through story, connection through story. We make mistakes all the time. We worry we’re not good enough. We worry we’re not smart enough. We’re not whatever enough or something right? We’re too ugly. We’re too fat. We’re too old, or too something for the person we’re in front of. What is really true about a story is the story really comes most when we connect somewhere in To the person we’re around. So there’s a need to know your story. But what you most need to know is how can you make that story click hard enough with the people you’re with. And that’s how comedy works. You like comedians, when we watch comedians, the thing we love is that sort of 90 degree we didn’t think they were going there. But we love that other part where we go, oh my gosh, I totally do that. I thought I was the only one. And now a whole roomful of people are laughing. And that’s the thing and so what I’m trying to teach when I go in, this is the longest answer to the shortest question. What I’m trying to teach is, how do we help you find those elements? How do I help you tune for them? And also way most importantly, how do I strip away your armor? enough that you can say something like that, you know, I you know, didn’t have a lot of money. I always tell people, my parents growing up I was very upper lower class, very upper lower class didn’t know. And you know, my parents would be like, Ah, this is amazing. We get to have spam and rice twice. in a row, how No, you can’t believe it. That’s not normally how food goes. Normally you get something different every night, but you get to have it twice. I be like, wow, this isn’t me, I was an idiot. But you know, it really my parents, I never had an empty belly, you know, because my parents figured it out for me to work. My dad worked four jobs. My mom worked two or three. And when you tell a story like that, someone goes, Oh, you’re not like that. When people find out I don’t have a degree, but that I have 27 credits from seven different universities. They go, oh, how did you do what you’re doing? They say, well, the permission fairy came and they hit me on the shoulder. And then that’s how we get there. Right? We get there from breaking down the thing we thought was true about the other person. And then we’re like, oh, man, we’re totally on that ground. The only people you don’t ever want that from are like your surgeon and your airplane captain. What’s your airplane captain? I know everything.

John Corcoran  33:53  

Exactly. Exactly. Now, a couple of these points that you hit on here. I think we could spend a lot of time on The one of the ones you mentioned was stripping away the armor. Which is ironic in a sense, because so many companies, so many leaders’ armor has been stripped away, you know, publicly with this downturn with this global pandemic. So talk about how companies are having to pivot and tell their stories in new ways. Now in light of the changing circumstances, I was just listening to a podcast interview with the founder of Eventbrite and they, you know, went from a very successful company to laying off half their staff. And, you know, they’re still in the midst of redefining what their story looks like, because they were based on a software that was selling tickets for live events, right? I mean, that doesn’t exist for the time being. So how are you watching CEOs, companies pivot and tell their story in a different way. Now?

Chris Brogan  34:55  

I heard something the other day that’s haunting me and I didn’t write it down like you do. Here’s something that you like. And I’m killing myself that I did, because it was such a great sentence. And what he was saying is that the ideal brand doesn’t serve a specific function. It serves a specific emotional kind of state. Right? Nike doesn’t sell shoes. Nike sells a drive to pursue and go after. And Nike sells sportsmanship and all that sort of thing. And they also sell shoes and this and that, whatever. So when Nike makes a video and they say stay home, and that is a powerful message, they said also, we’re all on the same team. A year before the civil unrest that happens during COVID. The year before they said, we’re backing Colin Kaepernick and we know that’s going to make some of you mad. It’s our move. Our move is we stand with this guy who is a sportsman and who believes in the things we believe in. And you know what people did leave and so people went to Adidas and Adidas said, Well, you know, what we believe is we’re going to pull a bunch of plastic out of the water and we’re going to make a million shoes out of like, recycled out of the ocean plastic. So maybe someone who didn’t believe for whatever reason, in the other issue, said, well, cool, I’m totally for the earth, like people can die, but the earth I want to keep, and they sold 2 million plastic shoes, they thought they’re gonna sell 1 million they sold 2 million. And so clearly there was a voice there. When we have to return and kind of in pivot and shake ourselves to new space. Sometimes it’s just not going to be on the thing we are known for selling. Eventbrite might be in a spot right now. But what else can they do? How else are people gathering? They’re gathering online, we’re going to make it so easy to make your online gathering good. We’re going to do something that almost no platform does. So Joseph Jaffe does this video show called Corona TV. And he does the first part of it in an app called stream yard that we talked about. And he does an after show in an app called zoom. Do you know how hard it is to get somebody from StreamYard to zoom? You know, it’s like well, there goes my audience. They’re walking out right? The event made the hallway between those two so easy. That would change someone’s life. All they have to do, by the way, is get ideas for free events right? Got to know that they’re what companies exist to? Do they serve the needs of the people that they serve, right? So they have to serve their constituents ; if they’re Republicans, they have to serve Wall Street. But who they really serve is the person who puts their money down somewhere. And all I keep seeing are two types of companies, ones that like to crash into the wall and hope someone pays for it. or ones that are like, well, we got to do something. So here’s the thing we decided we’re going to do. And they’re helping in some way. There’s so many breweries making hand sanitizers right now. Right. Yeah, interestingly liquor sales are right up. But you know, they’re also doing their part. There’s a lot of companies that retooled their assembly lines to make more masks and more visors and more whatever during this pandemic, you know, and these moves are not going to be lost on people I’ve seen like The pushback I’ve seen people saying it’s gimmicky? Well, it’s not for the people that they helped. It’s not for the people that felt like oh my gosh, these guys happy.

John Corcoran  38:07  

And from a story perspective, I think it’s incredibly moving. I watched a video. I think it was a New England company that does these shutters like you see in an old colonial style, you know, home, and they’ve been doing it for like 250 years. And then in a pandemic, no one’s buying shutters. So they immediately pivot and start making mass, but only for like two or three months. And then this video was about how they were coming out of that. And then so the story really was that, here’s who we are. Here’s what we’ve been doing for 200 plus years, and we’re going to do it again. But when the shit hit the fan, we stopped. We contributed our part. And now we’re going to go back to what we’ve been doing and continue to do it. We’re gonna make people happy. And I love seeing the stories of these companies that are pivoting and that are finding their new story.

Chris Brogan  39:00  

One way to rise. I mean, I think that’s an important word, right? One way to rise is to say we’re doing our part. And then we’re here and we’re going to bring other people with us. The best stories in the world are the ones that are participatory. So my company is called StoryLeader, Donald Miller has a story brand. One of the coolest things that Donald Miller put together in his little process in story brand, as he teaches people all the time. You’re not supposed to be Luke or Leia. You’re supposed to be Yoda. You’re supposed to be like the wise person guiding people towards Charlie green and David Maister, a trusted advisor. You’re supposed to be the trusted advisor, right? So in story work, we forget that we don’t have to be the hero. We forget that what we could be is a really kick ass non player character on the way to some really cool experience. And that sometimes just adding in some way what we can bring to a picnic, right? What kind of things we can pull out of our backpack and bring to this next event are the things I think that we can contribute. And that will bring us to that next spot, even when we’re Stumbling on the way to that next spot, because they saw us there and they saw us pitching.

John Corcoran  40:08  

It’s great. I think this is really interesting work and relevant in these times. And with so many companies having to diversify and put their staff either working from home or changing everyone outsourced, I think that it’s going to be important for companies to be able to tell their story and, and, you know, redefine their culture at the same time. Chris, this has been great. I want to wrap things up with a question I was asked which is let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars or the Emmys and you’re receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up until this point, but we all want to know is, you know, initiative family and friends who do it. Who do you think were the mentors? Were the friends were the business partners were the peers who were the bosses, who are the people you would acknowledge in your remarks.

Chris Brogan  40:49  

I have to start with my mom and dad. My mom and dad were great at teaching me that it was okay to be a weirdo and an entrepreneur. They saw from a very early age that I was the kind of guy who’s going to see differently, and they kept empowering you at every turn. My mom also instilled a really heavy work ethic because she scheduled people to work at the phone company. And so I got a big car crash one day and I was like, I don’t think I can come to work tomorrow. And she goes, are you scheduled? They said, Yes, she goes, you’ll be there. And, you know, it was the first time I realized that I mattered outside of just my own body. I had great bosses along the way, Debbie Millan, who always taught us that brevity in meetings was really important, brevity and conversation and communication is important. She was like chop, chop, let’s get to the important part. And always in a loving way. Alana Fiedler, who taught me that strength and tenacity and persistence. We’re a great way to be a leader. As long as you really couched it in striving towards the mission, and not trying to go after humans along the way, you know, and making sure it was a team driven experience. Dan Carney who taught me nothing ever happens with the drama that you expected to have. My boss Dave Johnson, it was a sad day when you don’t learn anything. And really ultimately, finally, my Kids for teaching me the kind of leader that I have to be going forward. Because as much as we’d love to poca generations, Gen Z is a whole different kind of leader, they have way more social interests than we do. They have way more passion about marrying their values to the companies that they choose to serve. And they’re not going to settle for just doing the job. And I think that all leaders had best heed, people starting around age 16. And up, because there’s a whole new world coming in if you’re going to try to build longevity to your corporation. Those are the leaders of tomorrow that you need to really start engineering for today.

John Corcoran  42:34 is the website and on YouTube and Twitter and all those different channels. If you go look for Chris, you can find him there anywhere else in particular where you want to point people to go check and learn more about you.

Chris Brogan  42:46  

That’s all of them. If you swing by just grab my newsletter because that’s the one thing I do every week that I think is probably my best work. And you can always just hit reply, and I always love to talk to people there.

John Corcoran  42:57  

That’s great. All right, Chris. Thanks so much.

Unknown Speaker  43:00  

John, thank you.

Outro  43:01  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the Revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution podcast.