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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: StoryBranding 2.0 Author Jim Signorelli

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.


Jim Signorelli

Jim Signorelli is a marketing thought leader, speaker and expert on the subject of StoryBranding. His articles and interviews are featured in magazines, newspapers and on radio talk shows throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.

During his 35-year advertising and marketing career, Jim worked at highly acclaimed agencies throughout the U.S. on major accounts including Citibank, General Electric, Toshiba, Kraft Foods, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, The American Marketing Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and many others.

Jim is the founder and CEO of eswStorylab Marketing, cited as one of the top 25 agencies in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business and was named to the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing independent companies in the U.S. for three straight years. His agency is dedicated to helping clients build strong brands based on the process outlined in his award-winning book “StoryBranding: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Power of Story.”

Jim’s second edition, “StoryBranding 2.0: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Purpose of Story,” was published in February. Read on to learn how Jim’s StoryBranding technique can help you create a meaningful purpose for your brand and gain customer loyalty:

Peggy Bieniek, ABC: How did you come up with the title for your book?
Jim Signorelli:
 Actually, “StoryBranding” was not the original title. I wanted to title the book “Storyselling,” because I thought it was clever. However, my publisher found out that the word Storyselling is trademarked. Not being able to title the book “Storyselling” was a blessing in disguise. I soon realized that my effort to be clever instead of clear could have created a huge misunderstanding. Storytelling can be an effective sales technique, but both “StoryBranding” and “StoryBranding 2.0” have less to do with storytelling and more to do with story principles applied to the process of creating engaging brands.

PB: What is the main message you want your readers to understand?
JS: The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. It feels like a story. One of my favorite quotes is by Hannah Arendt who said, “Stories persuade without getting in their own way.” As I discuss in the book, many marketers trip themselves up by telling people what and how to think. People would rather be given things to think about. The latter is what stories do and what marketing should do to become more effective.

PB: What kind of research did you do for this book?
JS: I read everything I could on story logic, character development, plot and theme construction to better understand the mechanics of narrative. I attended storytelling classes conducted by Doug Lipman, an excellent storytelling coach. I attended seminars conducted by Robert McKee, the famed author of the book “Story.” I interviewed Kendall Haven and Annette Simmons, who are regarded as authorities on the subject of story. And I used what I learned to draw the parallel between stories and brands. I’m still not done studying. This subject has become an endless source of fascination.

PB: What did you learn from writing this book?
First and foremost, I learned how much my wife must love me. Writing a book while running a company can put a strain on any relationship. However she was incredibly patient and supportive. I don’t think I could have done what I did otherwise. Second, I learned a great deal about myself. I say in the book, “If you have a birth certificate, you are a brand. And if you are a brand, you are a story.” Writing helped me to get in touch with the story I’ve become and the one I will hopefully grow into.

PB: What were your goals and intentions for this book?
A friend of mine who I greatly admire is Joey Reiman, owner of BrightHouse, a global consultancy based in Atlanta, and the writer of numerous books, including my favorite, “The Story of Purpose.” In it, he says, “A brand with a purpose is no longer distinguished by a point of difference, but by a point of view.”

The more that marketers can understand what he means, the more positively they will be able to contribute to their bottom lines while also contributing to our economy and our society as a whole. Joey and I are big fans of the notion that it’s time to put the tricks away. The most successful marketers have learned that there’s a very big, untapped market for meaning.

PB: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Hopefully it’s more than its bold black and red cover designed by my colleague, the astoundingly talented Joe Pryzbylski. (Sorry, I had to plug him since he worked endlessly on the design.)

Storytelling has become marketing’s new hammer and everything is a nail. There are plenty of books, articles and blogs that talk about the persuasive power of storytelling. However, storytelling to me, is a communication technique – albeit a very powerful one – but a technique nevertheless. My purpose is to go beyond the use of storytelling as a selling device – to use story function as a branding tool.

PB: How can organizations use StoryBranding in communication programs?
JS: Two words need to be fully understood by anyone who communicates for a living. The first word is “story.” What I found in a book titled “Story Proof” by Kendall Haven is that “story is the scaffolding for a narrative about a character dealing with an obstacle to achieve some goal.” Brands work the same way. A brand’s challenge can be overcome and insights can be won by defining each of the story elements Haven identifies.

For instance, if we cast our brand in the role of the character, who is he or she? What is his or her motivation? And how does that motivation manifest in what that character does? What are the obstacles to be overcome to achieve the brand’s goal? And what is the best goal that any brand should set out to achieve?

The second word is “relationship.” The more we can relate to prospects and customers, the more likely we will establish a relationship with them. However, many marketers believe that relating to their targets is telling them how wonderful, cool, sexy, or powerful their brand is. Brands, governments and anything else you might risk calling an “organization” relate to their constituents on the basis of shared beliefs, values or ideologies. If there is little or no sharing, what we have is an acquaintance, not a relationship.

At the heart of every story is an intention to relate to its audience. The logic of story is a learning laboratory for understanding how relationships are created and sustained.

PB: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about advertising that they need to know?
Advertising cannot change attitudes. It’s not that powerful. Rather it works because of confirmatory bias, which refers to our tendency to believe what we want or need to believe. No matter what the facts, nobody is going to change our minds unless what they communicate can line up with our truths. Seth Godin puts this very well in a quote I borrowed from him for my book: “The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure and reminded that they were right in the first place.”

PB: What are your current projects?
One that I’m truly excited about is a research methodology that I’m developing in conjunction with a consultancy in Boston called SixQ. One of the things I talk about in my book is the use of archetypal analysis as a way to asses a brand’s character persona. However, to my knowledge this type of analysis has not yet been operationalized or validated. We are in the last stages of an assessment tool design that will help brands (and people) better understand what I refer to in the book as their “inner layer” or the belief structure that is responsible for all behaviors. In the next month, you’ll be able to read more about it on my company’s website

At the same time, I’m working on an audio version of “StoryBranding 2.0.” This should be completed by next month and available on

PB: What are some of your favorite resources that inspire your work?
JS: In addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, I’m now reading a lot of fiction, with greater appreciation. For instance, I’m reading Ernest Hemingway and developing a greater understanding of what he referred to as the “principle of the iceberg.” For me this principle has tremendous application for advertising. We don’t need to be told everything. In fact, it’s often best to leave it up to our audience to fill in the blanks.

PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
Jim Signorelli, CEO, eswStoryLab Marketing, 910 W. Van Buren, Chicago, Illinois 60607; email: jims@eswstorylab; websites: and

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What Determines the Success or Failure of an Idea?

Photo: Energy arc, central electrode of a plasma lamp by Blaise Frazier aka PiccoloNamek

It starts with the process and metrics, moves to the culture and structure of your organization and finally ends with the commercialization and product/service launch and integration, according to Back End of Innovation (BEI) Conference Producer Romina Kunstadter.

At BEI, Oct. 6-8 in Las Vegas, Nevada, you’ll hear from industry experts as they share their stories of success and struggle. In the meantime, read on as Romina explains how BEI can help your organization transform its innovation mindset and drive profitable growth.

Peggy Bieniek, ABC: What would you say makes this event unique?
Romina Kunstadter: BEI is solely focused on the execution of innovation. It goes beyond the ideation and shows you how to profit from innovation.

PB: Who should attend BEI?
RK: The event is for anyone charged with executing innovation, whether in terms of process, culture or the commercialization of a new idea/service/product. It’s for people in Innovation, Strategy, Business Development, R&D and Marketing.

PB: What is the purpose of BEI?
RK: BEI illustrates how companies are successfully executing innovation, but it also provides insight into the challenges faced along the way. You’ll get an inside look at the tools and processes used by other companies that have led to innovation success. BEI also takes you outside of the conference walls to explore companies like Zappos & SuperNap that are changing the way business is done.

PB: What inspired BEI to be created?
RK: The identification of a problem. There are a multitude of great ideas, but an idea without profit is just an idea. The challenge isn’t coming up with a new idea, but actually bringing it to life.

PB: How did you come up with the event name?
 The execution is truly on the back end – it’s what happens behind the curtain that defines the success or failure of a project.

PB: What is most important for people to know about BEI?
RK: The three-day BEI experience will provide you with a new set of process, tools, skills and connections to help you drive your organization’s bottom line.

PB: How can BEI help organizations to innovate?
RK: BEI will help you ensure that your innovations are carried through to their final stage. It will show you how to mitigate risk and push your ideas through the pipeline.

PB: What are the main concepts you want attendees to take away from BEI?
RK: Everyone is struggling with the commercialization of innovation – to push new ideas through the pipeline and ensure they get to market. At BEI you’ll hear from people who are experiencing challenges similar to yours. BEI will give you a new perspective on how to avoid certain pitfalls and to make sure your new innovation has all the right processes in place for a successful launch.

Immerse yourself in innovation at BEI! To learn more and register, visit

Stay connected with BEI:

  • #BEI14
  • End of Innovation

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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: Consultant and Author Paul Barton, ABC

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a new series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.

Paul Barton, ABC

Paul Barton, ABC

Veteran communicator Paul Barton, ABC of Paul Barton Communications, LLC, specializes in internal communication and has helped organizations communicate effectively with employees for over 20 years. Paul has led employee communications at Arizona Public Service, Phelps Dodge, America West Airlines, PetSmart and Hawaiian Airlines.

Since we last caught up with Paul in March, he has published his book, Maximizing Internal Communication: Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Ret Results, available now on and, and available soon on Amazon Kindle and iBook.

You can also meet Paul and learn more about his internal communication strategies at his book signing party on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 6-8 p.m. at the Phoenix Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., 4th Floor Lecture Hall in Phoenix, Ariz. Paul will share his insights on employee communication and sign copies of his new book. The ticket price includes a copy of his book. Refreshments will be served and lots of prize drawings will be held.

In the meantime, read on as Paul shares his insights about writing his new book and how it can help your organization implement best practices to boost employee engagement.

Peggy Bieniek, ABC: How did you come up with the title for your book?

Paul Barton, ABC: It was a collaborative effort with my publisher. We wanted the main title (Maximizing Internal Communication) to speak to the head, and the subtitle (Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Results) to speak more to the heart of my audience. Winning heads and hearts is a theme carried throughout the book. The tagline is about the practical things (Tools, Templates and Proven Practices) the audience can start using right away. The title and subtitle are depicted on the cover in talk balloons, and they are interlocking to symbolize that we need to be sending meaningful messages and simultaneously obtaining meaningful feedback. As pointed out in the book, two monologues don’t make a dialogue.

Peggy: What is the main message you want your readers to understand?
Paul: Employees are an organization’s most important audience, and great internal communication is the key to employee engagement and sustained business success. I also want employee communication professionals to understand that what we do is important not only for the business, but for employees. We help to enrich the lives of employees and their families. What we do is a noble profession, and we should be proud of what we do.

Peggy: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Paul: This book is primarily about the strategies and techniques I learned from my mentors and colleagues over my 20-year career in internal communication at five fast-growing corporations. I was extremely fortunate to work alongside some of the best and brightest in the business, and to have led some incredibly interesting large-scale projects: first-ever intranet and social media platform launches, building an internal team from inception to implementation, a 401(k) conversion, a large safety initiative, major operational performance and customer service initiatives, crisis preparation, implementation of a full flexible benefits plan, mergers, acquisitions, and re-organizations. I supplemented my on-the-job experience by reading a lot of research papers and several books, and I conducted several telephone interviews with subject matter experts.

Peggy: What did you learn from writing this book?
Paul: This book allowed me to organize my thoughts in great detail and clearly articulate the communication philosophies I have forged over the years. One of the things that stood out was how much my approach seeks to win over hearts as well as minds. I have always known it that was a part of it, but I didn’t realize to what extent until I conducted research from change experts like Alan Weiss and John Kotter and completed my book.

Peggy: What are your goals and intentions for this book?
Paul: My goal is to inspire internal communicators to take their organizations to higher levels and to help them get there with this book serving as a roadmap to success. This book provides tools that communication professionals can start using immediately to get things headed in the right direction, and there are solid methodologies that will help them to sustain their efforts and build a solid internal communication function.

Peggy: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Paul: The approaches in this book were forged on the job over a 20-year period in multiple industries to handle a wide range of communication challenges. I think the blend of deep-thinking philosophies and proven practices from someone who’s been in the trenches make this book unique.

Peggy: What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about employee communication, that isn’t so?
Paul: The single biggest problem in employee communication is the assumption that because communications are going out, that messages are getting through. Employees are drowning in a sea of information, but they are thirsting for clarity and purpose.

Peggy: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about employee communication that they need to know?
Paul: Research consistently shows that the better an organization is at communicating with its employees, the more profitable an organization becomes. There’s a direct correlation. Organizations that understand this have a competitive advantage over those who fail to give their internal communicators the resources and autonomy they need to get the job done.

Peggy: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
Paul: You can connect with me in a variety of ways. My website is, my business Facebook page is, my Twitter handle is @PaulBartonABC, my LinkedIn profile is and my Google Plus profile is I look forward to talking internal comms with you!

What are your ideas for topics or people to be featured in upcoming profiles?