On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from La Guardia airport in New York. Three minutes later the plane hit a flock of Canadian Geese. The passengers and crew heard very large bangs and saw flames erupting from both engines. This was followed by silence and the strong odour of aviation fuel.
Realising that both of the plane’s engines were disabled, Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was left with some critical and quick decisions to make.
Sully chose to land the plane on the Hudson river, and not just anywhere on the water, but right next to the ferry terminal, where the passengers and crew stood the best chance of rescue from the freezing river. The decision he made at speed and under immense pressure, was the right one. He successfully ditched the plane in the Hudson and all 155 people on board were rescued by nearby ferries. The speed of his decision-making saved lives.
We focus on what’s important
Most of us aren’t faced with such life and death situations; yet, on a daily basis, we’re all making rapid decisions. Our subconscious minds take on huge amounts of data and simplify it, stripping out and rejecting the insignificant, and only sending to our consciousness that which is critical. This allows us to focus our energies, so that we can make quick decisions on the important issues.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s individuals, ideas and organisations that are considered insignificant and rejected. We’ve all been there, right? You meet someone for the first time, they take one look at you, or listen to one thing you say, and decide that you’re unimportant and not worthy of attention. Out of politeness, there may be a conversation that follows, but it’s likely they’ve already made a decision about your worth or value. The speed at which our brains process data and make decisions can feel terribly harsh, but it’s the reality we all face.
How we decide
Here’s a little game; have a look at the following, do you recognise them?
These images are fragments of a whole, yet you still probably know who or what they are. And that’s because our brains are good at taking a small amount of data and extrapolating it into a full mental picture. Of course, our assumptions may be wrong, but that doesn’t matter, it only matters that we believe them. And it’s very hard to change someone’s mind, once it’s been made.
That’s why the first impression of your idea, product or offering is absolutely key. From this one tiny impression, people will predict what else they expect to see and make a snap judgement about your idea and organisation. They will decide whether your offering is significant, whether it has value and whether it needs a second look.
Brand Authenticity has impact
Now here’s the rub. There are many online and offline places that people can get their first impressions about us and what we offer. So, how do we make sure that we always make a good first impression?
By telling a consistent and authentic story across every part of our organisation.
For example, if your story is built on community values, when your sales manager parks in the disabled bay outside your office, you’re not telling an authentic and consistent story. Or if your story is built on warmth, openness and friendship, when one of your customer service team is having a bad day and taking it out on customers, they are not helping you tell a consistent and authentic story.
Make a good first impression
Here are five ideas for telling an authentic story, which can help you make a good impression.
1) Have a fully developed story for your offering. It should be a story you totally believe in. It’s hard to consistently deliver a story that you’re not fully committed to.
2) When hiring, check that candidates are a good fit and enthusiastic about your story.
3) Frequently remind everyone on the team, from top to bottom, why your story is so important to your shared goals.
4) Consider having an authenticity audit; assess which areas of your organisation are doing a great job of telling your story and which areas less so. Make an action plan to address the issues.
5) If resources are limited, consider reducing your online communications channels so you can give a great impression in the ones that matter. Do you need them all?
Good stories take practice
If you’ve made it this far, great. I obviously made an okay impression with the first part of this post. But, even if I hadn’t, I would probably just tweak it and try again. All stories get better with practice, so don’t fret about creating the perfect story. Your brand authenticity will naturally improve with effort, practice and time.