Why you need to test stories before telling them

When you tell your story, you share your values, beliefs and goals. You say, "Look, we are connected. Let's do something together." But that can also backfire on you like it did with Nikon Europe.

They recently announced five new brand ambassadors. And, as the photo above reveals, it turns out they are all white men. When their followers called them out, they said, "Don't worry - these aren't all of our ambassadors. We have more diverse ones on our website."

Yet, a quick look at the site reveals that they have a lot of work to do to understand diversity and become an inclusive brand. By sharing the story of how they decided to continue to promote a white patriarchal culture, they showed their followers that, in fact, they are NOT alike.

The beautiful thing about stories, from a research and strategy perspective, is that they reveal our secrets. When we tell a story, we unintentionally share our values, beliefs, dreams and regrets. If you want to know why customers choose your brand, ask them to share a story about using it. They'll identify benefits you never even thought of.

But if you want to tell stories to engage people in your brand, you'd better be damn sure you're clear on your own values and beliefs. Because they will absolutely leak through, in the most subtle way. If you're not sure about your story, test it first with members of your audience to see what they pick up. We all have powerful narrative intelligence that responds to tiny details in stories we don't even realize we're including, because of our unconscious biases.

Culture is nothing more than a collection of stories created by a group of people that define the way they think and act. The only way to understand and change culture is to change those controlling stories. Hopefully, Nikon Europe recognizes that they have more than just a social media problem, and commits to doing the hard work of acknowledging and addressing its biases.

FYI Here's Nikon Europe's response on IG:

"Thank you for the comments on this post. We sincerely apologise that this post indicated a lack of diversity in our Ambassador programme – we recognise and acknowledge that representation is essential both in front of and behind the camera. Due to our website update, which is currently under construction, we have not featured all of our European ambassadors or creators just yet. In our Nikon family, we currently have 62 Ambassadors, of which 38.7% are women and 12.9% from a minority ethnic community and are extremely appreciative for each one of their great talents enriching the programme. We acknowledge your feedback and deeply care that there is still more work to be done and as we continue to grow our programmes, we’ll be welcoming more diverse talents of image-makers, content creators and professionals who are all shaping the business and who inspire us with their work."

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