Chris Ronzio (01:26):
Welcome back to Organized Chaos. I'm your host, Chris Ronzio, and today I'm here with Jason Harris. What's up, Jason?
Jason Harris (02:21):
What's up, good to be here. Thanks for having me.
Chris Ronzio (02:24):
Yeah, thanks for coming on. So going through your content, your book, your background, there seems to be this common thread of storytelling and the power of storytelling, and so talking to you for the first time, where should we begin your story?
Collecting Life Experiences From An Early Age
Jason Harris (02:40):
My story? Well, I came out of the womb, I was a June baby and yeah, I grew up in Virginia, rural Virginia, and I was a son of two teachers, so I grew up in a very kind of academic household. And my parents kind of experienced things through storytelling in books. That's how they viewed the world, they were avid readers and I was more of a tactical kind of experience person, so I had to go out and see things and travel, and I was very different than the environment.
I was kind of like... I think when you grow up in environments, you either are... you rebel against the environment you grew up in or you become a reflection of the environment you grew up in. I went the other way and I was just always moved around. I moved out of the house when I was 16, lived in Florida when I was 16 and 17. Just kind of always was out there getting my hands dirty, trying to figure out things that I was into and what I liked, which provided a lot of stories. So my stories were kind of like life experiences and my parents' vision of stories was reading stories and learning from other people's experiences.
Chris Ronzio (04:18):
So your parents were academic and they were observers. They read stories and you seem to be creating stories, creating experiences, collecting life experience, and so how did you shift from collecting all of that to actually using it to story tell yourself, when did that shift happen? When did you become a creator?
Jason Harris (04:43):
Ever since I was probably 13 or 14, I knew... I think a lot of people, their careers or their life stories sort of happened to them. They kind of, either through what they studied or maybe possibly in their family or friends or mentors, they sort of end up on a certain career path. For me, ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to go into the advertising business and so I started a advertising agency about 17 years ago called Mekanism. And as a kid, I would watch the commercials in between the shows I was watching and I was always enthralled by them, whether it was like "Mikey likes it" or "Leggo my Eggo" or the Kool-Aid man who always busted through the walls. And I was always kind of enamored by, "Oh, that's somebody's job to come up with those characters, build that brand story and then try to sell the service or product to the audience."
And I analyzed them, even as a younger kid, did that appeal to me why? Why did I like that? What were they thinking? And so I kind of knew early on like, "Oh, that's cool. I want to make... that's what I want to do for a living," because I really enjoy dissecting it, which is strange for a preteen or a teenager. So that's how I got into storytelling, really through the love of advertising and I always knew I was going to start an agency and that was my path. And so through brand storytelling, I got into storytelling, I ended up writing a book because I feel like as an entrepreneur I learned so much about leadership and how to build a company and what to do and what not to do that I thought it would be useful for me to create a kind of a playbook on how to do that. So that's what the Soulful Art of Persuasion became.
What is Soulful Persuasion?
Chris Ronzio (06:53):
So how would you define soulful persuasion?
Jason Harris (06:57):
So I think soulful persuasion to me is really about character. It's about building... It's about... All of us are selling every day of our lives. We're selling, we're persuading, whether it's for you and Trent, who you're going to get on the podcast, or for your business, how to tell people that they need Trainual and why that's useful, or to sell Organized Chaos, whatever it might be, we're all selling, or someone that works for someone, they're trying to persuade that they need a promotion, maybe you're persuading a significant other that you want to go on this vacation versus that vacation. So we're always doing that all day long.
And the idea was to take the negative power out of the word persuasion, which I think people... it has a stigma of pulling one over or getting someone to agree to something they don't want to do. And the soulful piece is when you're doing it from a empathetic's place and you're trying to think about the other person's interest as well as your own, and you've proven that you have a good character and you are a person that people can trust, then you can do that, you can persuade in a soulful way. And I think that's, as a business, what I try to do as an advertising person and I also try to do that in my personal life. And so there's four principles that I've found effective to become a soulful persuader versus maybe a transactional persuader or someone that's just trying to close a deal.
Chris Ronzio (08:48):
So I want to get into the four principles, but you've got me thinking about persuasion and influence. And you're right, there is kind of this negative connotation when you think of somebody being persuasive. It's kind of like a slimy or something, like they're trying to talk you into something bad. I remember taking a, maybe it was a disc profile or something when I had the really high influence and it had me in the wheel as an influencer persuader type person, and I remember thinking, "Is that a bad thing? Should I be ashamed of that?" Or is that-
Jason Harris (09:20):
Hell no. That's where you want to be. That's where you want to be. Yeah, you want to be able to influence people.
Chris Ronzio (09:27):
Okay, so talk us through the principles then, because these are from the books, so people, if they haven't read the book, The Soulful Art of Persuasion, definitely check the book out, but the cliff notes the four principles, what are they?
Jason Harris (09:39):
Yeah, so they're really four foundational principles and then I have a bunch of habits underneath those principles that people can learn and ways to practice these principles. And I've really learned these through starting a business in trial and error. And some of these principles, Chris, you might have been born with some of these and then some of them you might have to learn and things become habitual when you practice them over time. But the first foundational principle of soulful persuasion is this idea of being original and it's really be yourself, everyone else has already taken, really putting your idiosyncrasies out there, knowing who your role models are, what inspires you, what makes you unique, defining your core values, part of its learning to be a great storyteller on your life experiences and your point of view, and that to me is the... that's like the basement level.
You have to figure out who you are, be yourself, that develops good character that makes you more persuasive, people react to that and that's sort of the first principle. So it's easier to have when you're older, but it's a great thing to have as you're coming out of school or starting a career, but to really define your values and who you are. The second principle is about being generous and it's this idea of giving something away at every interaction whenever you cross paths with someone, trying to leave them a little bit better off than they were. And giving things away can mean your time, your advice, your connections, maybe it's a gift, but it is trying to have a generous spirit.
And for me, for example, this principle, I was not born as a generous person, I had to develop this overtime and when I started a business, I would hoard my connections. I would not connect... Being a connector is very influential and I would hoard my connections because I thought that it was a zero sum game, if my business is doing well and their business goes down a little versus we can all prosper. And connecting people and giving advice to people in your similar industry or outside your industry is really valuable and it comes back to you in really magical ways with a lot of additional reciprocal value that you don't really know how to measure, but that it happens and that's part of being a soulful, persuasive person. So that's a principle I had to learn.
Third one is empathetic, which is really thinking about commonalities, not differences. Seeking out common ground with people versus approaching everyone as very different than who you are because we're all 99.9% the same DNA, there's 0.1% that separates each of us, but we always focus on that 0.1% and we think about different values they have or how they were brought up or how they see the world different than we do. And so being empathetic, seeing commonalities, making it about the other person, collaborating as much as possible, that's the core of principle three. And then the final one is soulful, which is striving to be inspirational in your life by finding something that you can do to make the world a better place with whatever skills you have, but it's about when you do that and you give back, you become more inspirational, you become more persuasive and people will be more influenced by you. So yeah, that's like a 300 page book in three minutes, basically.
Chris Ronzio (13:53):
Three minutes. So I'm going to play this back, be original, all about finding your voice. When you said that, I think about how... I don't know if you've ever watched one of those shows like American Idol or X-Factor or something, one of the things that they say is people often copy other artists and they don't sound like themselves until finally they have that breakthrough moment where they finally sound like themselves and they've become their own artist, that's what I was thinking as you were saying that. And I think that's a struggle for a lot of professionals to get to that point where they don't feel they like they can be themselves and they don't have to just copy others. So that's a strong one.
Being generous. I know people a lot of times want to give... say that, "Oh, I'll do that at the end of my career," but it sounds like this is something that you're constantly doing. And the reciprocity is there. Empathy and finding common ground, collaborating, and then the soulfulness, just making an impact because that example that you set continues to perpetuate your influence. So I think those are really strong. If someone has these four things, if they have these building blocks, does that mean they're a great storyteller? Does that mean they're persuasive or do they have to rehearse their ability to communicate or connect with people?
How To Become A Great Storyteller
Jason Harris (15:18):
Well, I think storytelling is really just one factor of the soulful persuasion piece. Really I put storytelling in that principle of being original and it's foundational to be a good storyteller because part of being a good storyteller is being persuasive, but to tell stories you have to know who you are, what your values are, what's your favorite book, what's your favorite band, what's your favorite movie, why that touched you, what were turning points in your life, what your interests are, all those things are kind of wrapped up into storytelling. And I think storytelling can absolutely be a learned skill. I think it's not like you are good at it or you're not. I think learning to be a great storyteller is about trying to transport people through your narrative and you can write stories down. You don't just go through life and things happen to you and you kind of don't think about them, when important things happen, write them down.
Why were they important? Why is this parable or an analogy or something that you can use in when you're trying to create or make a point in any instance. And so I think it can certainly be a learned skill. And there's a famous psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, who says, "The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor." And so that's basic part of being a human and we're all born to tell stories, but we think when we persuade sometimes that the data or the facts or the numbers or the logic will persuade people, but really it's storytelling. And we apply that in advertising when we're building a brand story. It's about emotionally connecting with the audience. It's about storytelling versus gigahertz speed and how wide the screen is or whatever it is, it's about why we made this product, why it stands out, why it's differentiated, and people are the same way. But storytelling is a really critical ability to become a persuasive person.
Chris Ronzio (17:42):
I could tell you that after this podcast comes out, that right there is going to be one of the soundbites. So I appreciate that because I do think it's not the bells and the features, the stats, the data, it is the store, it's the stuff that we connect with as people that's carried for thousands of years. So you say that this is teachable. I know I've had to work with some of our emerging leaders at my company to say management, people management, it's not just checking the box and sitting down and doing one-on-ones. There's an element of motivation, persuasion, storytelling that you have to get good at as you're growing as a leader. So how could someone that's a new leader really work on this?
Jason Harris (18:29):
I mean, I think you have to, if you know your values and you know important things that have happened, capture those, write those down. Think about influences you've had. Think about role models. Think about writers that you've loved, quotes that you loved and dissect how those... why that quote was important to you at a certain time in your life and create a story around that. Talk about a story from your favorite movie, but don't just say, "Well, this is my favorite movie." Why did that touch you? Because you were a kid when you saw it and it made you feel a certain way or it connected you to this emotion in some way.
But really think about... and I draw a lot from role models, people that I follow or that are important to me. I think about why I love those role models and then I dive into their story and then I can tell a story. It doesn't have to be just your stories from your own life, it can be famous stories from pop culture or iconic stories from role models, but really think about stories and how to tell them and how to connect with other people. And if you become a storyteller and you have a bag of stories, you'll be able to pull one out when the time's right. But it takes effort. People that you see do this, they've actually worked on it and anyone can work on it, anyone listening can become an amazing storyteller.
Find Your Brand DNA
Chris Ronzio (20:01):
Do you think brands and companies can be storytellers or is it the people in those companies? And I guess the step two of this question is it the brand social media account that's putting out content or is it the people at the business? What do you recommend?
Jason Harris (20:16):
Well, I think it's the people running the business that create the stories for the brand, but those people running the business should be creating stories that are core to the brand. Why did the brand start in the first place? Why does it exist? How is it different? Why do people need this brand or product or service? And from there you're trying to find a truth and when you find a truth, then that core truth really shouldn't change. When you land on it, it should be in the brand DNA. And then you can tell stories that connect to that truth, and you can tell a lot of different stories around it, but it should always come back to the same idea. And that's how you build great brands in the world is you know what... we don't love advertising, like as consumers.
You're not dying for the popup before your video that you want to watch comes up or the stuff that you scroll past when you're trying to read something online. We don't love advertising, but we love great brands and great brands should always be centered around a consistent story and a consistent truth, and you can create stories around that truth and tell it in different ways. But the story and the truth shouldn't change every year. That's what happens with a lot of brands that aren't great brands is it's the people. So a new marketing team will come in and they'll throw away whatever story's been told before them and create a new story and then they'll stay for a couple years or a year, new people will come in, throw that story away and create a new story. Those are inconsistent brands that are not successful.
Chris Ronzio (22:12):
What brand do you think has been most consistent in telling the same story for as long as you can remember?
Jason Harris (22:20):
Well, there's a lot. I mean, an easy one is-
Chris Ronzio (22:24):
Top of mind?
Jason Harris (22:25):
Easy one is Disney.
Chris Ronzio (22:26):
Jason Harris (22:27):
You know when you close your eyes, there's one thing Disney stands for, it's magic. You now right away what Disney stands for and they take great pains to always stand for magic. BMW's had the same tagline for 50 years, "The ultimate driving machine." Hasn't changed, you know what they stand for, they set high standards, they're consistent with their story. The North Face is another brand I love. When you close your eyes and think about the North Face brand, you think about exploration. That's what you think about, you think about being outside, they make great products for when you need them in that environment. They're not changing their story season to season. Those are just a couple examples off the top of my head, but those brands are great brands and you know they're consistent and you know what they stand for.
Building Brand Vs. A Short-term Transactional Mindset
Chris Ronzio (23:26):
Yeah. The great examples. All right, so let's change gears a little bit. When you're storytelling, when you're focused on this, you're kind of crafting this long arc to build a relationship with your customer, to build a brand rather than a very short term transactional churn and burn mindset. Do you think that you should be doing both in business? Is it long transactional and long tail, or what are your thoughts on that?
Jason Harris (23:58):
That's a great question and it's very insightful, actually. You need to be doing both. At the same time, you need to be doing both. You need to have the big emotional brand push that is your higher purpose, your higher story, you need to be telling that. At the same time, you need to be down here converting and making sales and keeping shareholders happy and making quarterly gains. And those two things should feel similar, it should feel like it's from the same voice, but you can't really try to do both at the same time. I mean, no, you can do both at the same time, but you have to do both in different channels and in different ways, but it's still the same brand voice.
Chris Ronzio (24:51):
So I'll give everyone that's listening just like a peek behind the curtain. In one of our board meetings a couple years ago, we asked our board, "How much should we be investing in brand activity?" like endorsements and just fun brand campaigns and sponsoring things that are for impressions versus direct response, "We're hoping that people sign up." And I'm curious your take on that. If you had to put a split for a company how they're going to allocate their budget, what do you put towards acquisition versus awareness or long-term gain?
Jason Harris (25:25):
What size company would you say?
Chris Ronzio (25:28):
Oh, good question. I don't know, company with like a hundred people, that's what we are.
Jason Harris (25:34):
Oh, okay. And now is it B2B? There's a million questions.
Chris Ronzio (25:40):
There's so many questions, but just imagine-
Jason Harris (25:41):
There's so many questions. But yeah, if there's a budget, I would err probably on 40% brand.
Chris Ronzio (25:56):
Jason Harris (25:57):
60% making the donuts.
Chris Ronzio (26:01):
I don't think there's a right answer. I just wanted to see what you'd say, because I think it's an important question for everyone listening to think about, how much are they allocating toward these long tail activities? And I bet it's not enough.
Jason Harris (26:16):
It's probably not enough, but those, in the long run... you need those transactional campaigns to drive the numbers and get the revenue. It's all about revenue. Winning solves everything. If you're driving revenue and you're bringing in money, then you have a lot of choices. If you're not, then you don't have a lot of choices, but you can't forget long term brand value and you can't forget making your brand famous ultimately is going to be a big payoff. And if you're just looking at transactional sales and not long term brand value, then you're also not going to stick around because eventually you'll run out of customers and you can't get the audience wide enough.
Chris Ronzio (27:04):
Right, right. Yeah, I know you know Gary V as well, but he told me brand is the only differentiator, you can kind of do anything the same as people, but brand is a huge differentiator. You agree with that?
Jason Harris (27:17):
Chris Ronzio (27:19):
Jason Harris (27:19):
The Mental Benefits of Thinking Long-term
Chris Ronzio (27:20):
All right. As we start to tie this one up here, last thing I want to touch on is the constant transactional short-term nature in a business can be really stressful and when you widen your aperture and you focus on story and you focus on authenticity and you focus on originality, I think it's less stressful on a person trying to just always be going, going, going, make their numbers. I like the long-term approach. Do you think it has a benefit to mental health in the workplace?
Jason Harris (27:56):
Yeah. So we're talking about individuals versus brand, right?
Chris Ronzio (28:03):
Jason Harris (28:04):
Yeah. I mean, I talk about this in the book, about playing the long game when you're building a business and when you're working, and playing the long game is not just... it's going beyond transactional thinking and it's going beyond, "Did I make that sale? Did I do a pitch and it didn't work?" It's not binary. I look at... In my business, I look at every pitch and every client and every current client, it's all part of the network. It's all part of playing the long game. It's all about nurturing relationships.
And when you lose something and you think, "Oh, the transaction's dead, it's over. I got to move on to the next one." I think you need to start playing the long game and thinking about, "Well, that's a contact that I made. That's a connection that I made. I'm going to nurture that and that contact might come back to me in terms of monetary gain or they might refer me to somebody else," but it will come back to you. And so you have to take the long view, not the month to month view, which you also have to think about. But you have to think about, it's all about building your network, it's all about relationships. It's not just yes or no and move on. And I think switching into that long game mentality has a lot of benefits.
Chris Ronzio (29:34):
Yeah, well said. I think that long game concept is something that is so important because in business we show up every day with so much pressure to deliver a client project or ship this thing or hire this person and when those things don't go well, it's easy to get down on yourself. But when you zoom out and think about the long game of those experiences and those lessons, and like you said earlier, any one of those failures can be an experience that gets flipped, a parable that is a story that you then share-
Jason Harris (30:08):
Chris Ronzio (30:09):
... And start to build influence. And it's that compounding effect, I think, that makes us persuasive and successful in the long run.
Jason Harris (30:18):
I love that. I also think... a compounding effect is right. I also think of whenever you get a no, I always think about it as a no for now, but not a no forever. And I think about that mentality, it makes you pitch differently, it makes you approach things differently, ultimately, I think it's a more persuasive mindset. And also, things do take time. You're always thinking day to day, pitch to pitch, sale to sale, but things do accumulate and they do take time. And I think it's that mental strength to think about the long game and that it is a... it's not a no forever, it's a no for now, and how are you going to nurture that in the future?
Chris Ronzio (31:09):
No for now, that's a great way to put it. So, all right, Jason, before I give you the final word here, I want to remind people to check out your book, The Soulful Art of Persuasion. Check that out. Where can they find you online if they want to connect?
Jason Harris (31:24):
Well, my website is thesoulfulart.com, and you can find me @JasonHarris on all the old networks.
Chris Ronzio (31:36):
All right. And biggest lesson or takeaway that you want to leave people with?
Jason Harris (31:41):
I have two mantras that I always think about. One is be true to yourself, always think about that whenever you're at work or creating a business, but always try to stick true to who you are. And the second is there's no growth in comfort. So always think about pushing yourself and be uncomfortable and that's going to really help your personal life, but also in your business life.
Chris Ronzio (32:12):
All right. Jason Harris, I love it. Thank you again. Great throwback to that first principle on being original, being yourself, because I really do think that is the origin of all great stories. So thank you so much for sharing these lessons with us today and we'll catch you next time on Organized Chaos