Using Storytelling to Build Your Brand with Parul Banka
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We are talking all about storytelling in today’s podcast and I am excited to be joined by Parul Banka from Caramel Coaching, who shares her personal story as a great example of the power of storytelling.

Why is using storytelling in your marketing so much more engaging and how is it going to make your messaging 22 times more powerful?

Find out in today’s episode.

Time Stamp

[01:55] Parul’s powerful story about surviving cancer

[04:00] Integrating work with joy and meaning

[04:56] All we have is today

[5:56] The meaning of Go Further, Faster

[7:03] How do you make sure you always live by this philosophy - even in your darkest days?

[7:45] Ask yourself - is it really important and aligned to your vision?

[8:50] You need to know your WHY

[9:00] Money is rarely the key reason WHY you do what you do

[9:44] What is storytelling?

[10:20] The difference between a CV intro and a storytelling introduction

[11:05] Research shows that when you use stories, your ability to be remembered increases by 22 times to standard messaging

[12:46] Why are businesses scared of using storytelling?

[13:55] Be willing to be vulnerable

[14:35] How can an agency use storytelling in its messaging?

[18:11] How do people find their stories?

[21:40] How do I practically use my story?

[23:10] How to make your story work in written content

[26:13] Parul has changed her niche - why and how did she do it?

[31:25] If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Quotations

“All we have is today.  Which brings a sense of urgency to get on and live your best life” - Parul Banka
“If you can understand your WHY you can stay connected to the important stuff” - Rob Da Costa
"When you use stories, your ability to be remembered shoots up exponentially" Parul Banka

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 Full Episode Transcription

Today we are talking all about the power of storytelling. Now I'm joined by Parul Banka, and she kicks off this episode by sharing her own very personal story, which highlights how powerful and engaging storytelling is. We discuss storytelling in the context of marketing, and Parul tells us why storytelling is so powerful and effective and, most importantly, why it makes you memorable. Parul shared that storytelling can make your message 22 times more powerful, so this episode is worth a listen. I learn a lot, so I know you will.

So let's get on with the show. I'm Rob Da Costa and this is The Agency Accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started to grow and sold my agency, I know just how it feels during the ups and the downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing my and my guest experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. 

So hey everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator podcast. Today we are talking all about building your brand both personally and for your agency through the use of storytelling. And to do this, I'm excited to be joined by Parul Banka from Caramel Coaching Pro helps middle managers in consulting firms climb up the corporate ladder by building visibility and personal brand through storytelling. So that's a really good example of a clear kind of market position. Elevator pitch. Now today in preparation for today's podcast, I was reading your story on your website. Also, I'd love you to start by just sharing with the audience with us.

What led you to do what you do today? Thank you, Rob. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. You're welcome. Great to have you. If I make it to the other side of cancer, I would do everything in my power to live the rest of my life. No matter how long it is or short. It is as meaningful and choice as possible, Rob. That was the promise I made to myself, and I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in the week of my 34th birthday and didn't quite know if I would still be here in about six months.

And so I did what I had to do to get through cancer. But honestly, that period of treatment was loaded with uncertainty and fear. I had to go through every step to eventually find out whether it would work or not. And during that period of uncertainty and fear, every day I would get up and make this promise to myself that if I make it to the other side of cancer, I would do everything in my power to live the rest of my life as meaningful and joyously as possible.

And then I made it to the other side of cancer, which is a massive gift. It's a gift I've never taken for granted, Rob, because I know that not everyone who is touched by cancer makes it out alive, no pun intended. That's just the reality of cancer. So I was grateful to be here, and when I did make it to the other side of cancer because that was the big result, I had been working to us. It was time for me to keep the promise that I had made to myself, which was to live the rest of my life meaningfully and joyfully so in my post-cancer life the question was, How on earth would I do that?

And one of the things that I did in my post-cancer life was to decide that I would live the rest of my life as consciously as possible. So to find that meaning and joy in my post-cancer life, I said, All right, what I'm going to do is I'm going to only focus on work That brings me joy and meaning because work is such an important part of our lives. And it has always been immensely important to me. And I said, How about integrating work and my need to find joy and meaning?

And I said, I'm going to walk away from the corporate world as an employee, which I, by the way, I loved working in the corporate world, and I said, I'm going to walk away from the corporate as an employee and only focus on the work that brings me joy and meaning which was helping people. And that's how coaching came into being because it filled me up. The joy and meaning when I worked in a corporate were coaching people. And so I decided to qualify as a coach and set up my shop and said, I'm going to be a coach now.

Now the next question was, What on earth are you going to focus on? Because there could be a million, a billion, possibly a zillion things I could do as a coach. And that's when I tapped into the lessons that I had cleaned out of my cancer experience. And the biggest lesson that I had learned from cancer was all we have is today, tomorrow isn't promised to anyone now. I always knew that. Who doesn't know it? Everybody knows that we only have today. And yet when I went through cancer, it was then that I was able to fully appreciate this message and that brought in a certain sense of urgency to get on and live my life.

But then it wasn't just any life that I wanted to live. The life that I wanted to live was the best possible life that I could place. And so I said, What does it mean for me to live my best possible life in a way that is going to bring me joy and meaning that was the big vision. That was the big cool. And I said, What brings me, what makes my life the best version of life is to be able to do more and be more consistent.

So every day I want to go further than I was the previous day. I want to do better in terms of my finances. I want to do better in terms of my success in terms of my relationships, in terms of health, be better and go further. And that's how to go further faster came into being because of the first lesson, there was an urgency to go faster and because of the second lesson, I wanted to go further and so I said, well, this is what I'm going to do in my post-cancer life.

I'm going to help people go further faster and I decided to work with ambitious, high achieving mid-level managers and leaders in the corporate I help them go further faster and they're Koreans climb up the corporate ladder and I do it through the power of stories by helping them build their visibility and president. Wow. So what a compelling striking story. And also a really good example of storytelling. Right. So, great to hear that you come out the other side and like you say, cancer touches so many people.

How do you make sure in your darkest days or your most challenging work days now that you still live by that philosophy that you gained through the journey of cancer during bad days or during load is I think it is so important to go back to the lessons and stay grounded in those lessons because it is very easy to look at whatever is going around us or whatever we see on social media and get distracted. And I think as time passes, it is also very easy to forget the lessons that I learned the hard way and it is so important to stay connected with those lessons.

One thing that helps me go back, find that connection again and reconnect with those lessons is asking myself the question. Is it really important? So if I would see myself distracted, if I would see myself fretting over something, I would go back and ask myself, Is it really important in the larger scheme of things? Is it a line with my vision? And I have noticed that these two questions always bring me back on track. Yeah, good. Good advice for everybody. If you understand you're why then you can keep reconnecting with that.

It's interesting because I know you commented on the recent podcast I did on Living in the Present, which is very pertinent to what we're talking about today and my month in South Africa. Which reminded me of that because I think when you're in different scenery, it's very much easier. Different situation. It's very much easier to be in the present moment when we're sitting on the sort of daily grind of, uh, you know, in our desk in our office, it's easy to wish time away or not be in the present.

So I think a really good message for everybody from this is that you need to know your why and you need to stay connected with it. And that will be your personal why, but also for your agency, your vision for your agency and that thing that you're trying to achieve. And it's really interesting because in the episode I think 110 we talk about some of this because why is very rarely money? Money might be important for you because you need to have a certain quality of life. You want to have a certain quality of life, but it is very, very rarely the big why that gets you out of bed every day, and you might think it is.

But it isn't so. You know, the great message they're proof. You're taking a very, very unfortunate situation and turning it into something that helps you live your life in a more meaningful way. So thank you for sharing that with us. Let's just move on to some questions around storytelling. So let's just start. Although Parul has already given us a really good example of storytelling, what is storytelling in a marketing context or building a brand context? What is storytelling? Storytelling in simple words is taking a piece of information and sharing it through a story because we human beings are wired for stories.

There is research that corroborates that when we share a message through a story, it is a lot more powerful and effective. Let me give a quick example. When you asked me to introduce myself, I could have just come in and given what I like to refer to as a CV kind of introduction. So this is who I am. This is what I have done. This is what I do further as a very silly kind of introduction. It works. It's worth it. It has a place in itself.

But I gave my introduction through a story, and I dipped into my personal story and brought it back to the work that I do because I use storytelling specifically for marketing, and actually, I use it for everything. So when we use stories are messaging is a lot more interesting. Now I can bet that when you listen to this conversation on this podcast, it would have been a lot harder to remember what I do and how we help people. But because you listened to my story, the chances are that you are more likely to remember me as a speaker.

Or if you were to come across me sometime in the future, you would be able to refer back and say, I kind of remember that. I remember listening to this person before, so our ability to be remembered is shot up exponentially. In this research, Rob tells us that when our messages are shared through a story, it becomes effective by 22 times. Imagine when as business owners, we go and share our message. And if that message becomes affected 22 times more, how powerful would that be? So it just doesn't become a case of throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping that it would stake because posting content on social media and putting a word out and spreading our message can feel a bit like that because there are so many people doing it and we are one of those people and we yet have to rise above the noise to create a place for ourselves.

But if we can go into every message sharing with the knowledge that our message is going to be so powerful and it's going to make us unforgettable, we will do it more confident. Then we'll do it by these, and there is research that also corroborates that through stories we can influence the minds as well as hearts of people. That's so good. And it's a good reminder for me. It just makes us more human. And, you know, we need to remember that people buy from people they don't buy from businesses, so we need to as being more human.

But it's also interesting for all that a lot of businesses are scared of putting that human aspect, and what they do is they tell their corporate story, which is exactly that CV type of thing, and they don't want their almost I don't know why. I think maybe you can throw some light on why people are scared of doing that, and they feel safer just giving the, you know, our agency has been in existence for 10 years, and this is what we do, rather than telling that that origin story and I've used, it's interesting because you've made me think I successfully use storytelling. After all, I tell my origin story about running my own business and all the things I did wrong and then selling it and then retraining to become a coach.

So it gives me a really good immediate empathy with my audience because I can say that I stood in your shoes. But then I'm thinking about what you just said, and I think too much of my social media at the moment. It is a bit too, not corporate, but it's a bit too. It misses that story piece. So why do you think people are scared of doing the storytelling? Are you alluding to the answer yourself from it? People feel safe not sharing their stories because when they dip into their stories, it is similar to letting their walls down and letting their audience in.

They feel vulnerable when they share their story, and that vulnerability leads to fear of judgement, fear of rejection. All those fears come up. What if I share a piece of myself a piece of my story with my audience? And what if they don't like me? And that can feel like a personal rejection, not just a business-related rejection, and that scares people off? It's really hard for a lot of people. And it's almost like businesses feel there's safety in doing the same thing as everybody else.

Rather than trying to stand out from the crowd, which, of course, is something you need to do. And your story is one of the ways of doing that. So you kind of answered this already. But if I'm an agency and I'm wanting to build my brand, how do you feel? Storytelling can help me now? And I say you've answered that part already. But have you got anything else to add to that? Yes. I can add a couple of things when you share your story and bring it back to the work you do here.

In this specific example, Who do you help as an agency, and how do you help them? You can tell your audience so much about yourself just through a story. If we go back to the story that I shared for myself, imagine how much information I shared with you in under five minutes. And just think how much information you would, how much time you would need to spend with somebody If you were to glean so much information I shared with your information on what I do, how I do it, and who I do it for.

Why do I do what I do? I give you insight into what tribes me and what are some of my key values. We would need to have hours and hours of conversation to get so much understanding about somebody through a story. You can do it in five minutes. It doesn't mean that it takes five minutes to create that story. That work has been outside the session, but every time you go into that conversation, you would come prepared with a story that will help you communicate your message succinctly and quickly.

So that's one thing about being not just unforgettable, but also the preparation has already been done, and that's where it's going to impact your confidence. If we refer back to my story, I'm sure you would have assigned some adjectives to me. Maybe you listen to my story and said in your head similar to something similar to what Rob said that you took an unpleasant situation and you turned it around, and that's driving you today to do all the good work that you do, and that creates a certain kind of attractive for me in your minds, or you may be somebody who's thought but she didn't have to do that.

There was already so much going on. She must be crazy to change things up in our life. And you know, both the options are okay because no matter which option you went with, it created a certain personal branding off me in your mind. And so, as a business owner, you can consciously decide What is it that you would like people to think. And it is possible that you probably felt somewhere in between these two extremes, and that's fine because we only want to speak to all kinds of people.

And that's important to understand because we aren't looking at appealing to everybody. People who will connect with us through our story will be attracted to us, and there will be some people who will be repelled. And that's a great way to qualify people because you and I can't cater to everyone. Anyway, there are just too many people. It's interesting. And you know what? As you said, whatever those extremes someone feels about you, they should have a feeling that has no feeling.

And if you're not telling if you're not using storytelling, you're being very corporate. Then someone's gonna have no feeling about you, and that probably means they're going to walk away. So so your story of an unfortunate situation was easy to find. My story from my journey in the agency world was easy to find. How do people find their stories if they're not so easy and obvious as ours have been okay? To be able to do that, I want to bust a big myth that a lot of people have, and that is that you need to have a rocket science kind of story to be able to make an impact.

The reason why a lot of people feel that they don't have a story worth sharing is that they lived that story every day. Something that has been done every day feels normal to us. I want to share with you that every story is worth sharing, and there's always something that you can share from your story that is going to speak to your audience. Here is a drastic example that I can share with you because this is a question I get so often, Rob my story is normal. How do I put it in a form that is going to speak to my audience now?

Imagine how many people there are in this world who believe their story is normal. But when as a business owner or as a leader used to have A, B and C, I am somebody normal and this is my normal story. You are going to appeal to all those millions and billions of people. So it is not about having a rocket science or a story that is rooted in adversity that needs to make an impact. Now there are a lot of people who would say to me, you have a cancer story.

You came out the other side of cancer and that is why your story is powerful. I want to put my story in perspective at some numbers. In the year 2018, there were 17 million new cases of cancer that were diagnosed and reported all over the world, and we aren't including people who were already living with cancer, living beyond cancer and their families. And yet in a world where 17 million new cases were reported, my story continues to make sense to some people who listen to it. It is a normal story in the world of cancer, and yet it is extraordinary to people who need to hear that story and learn from it.

So no matter what your story is, no matter what shape or size of form it is, it is going to make sense to the person who needs to hear it. Once we get an understanding of that, it becomes so much easier for us to have faith in our own story and start using it. So that's the first thing. That's the whole belief in the mindset piece. And the second thing is you need to call out one story or a couple of stories and share them with your audience, and that would be tied into. What is it that you want to achieve?

So if I was speaking to a completely different audience, I may use parts of this story, but the whole story would not be the same. It would be aligned to the audience I am speaking to, and what is the key message I want to share with them? That neatly brings me on to the next question, But I guess you work with people to elicit those stories out of them and to bring those stories out of them. So that's I guess sometimes, if you're struggling without having that third that second, you know that other person helping ask the right questions to bring the story out probably really helps.

But the question that sort of leads on from that is so now I've got my story. How do I practically use it? How do I practically use it in my marketing and my brand building, both from a corporate perspective and from an agency? But also, from a personal perspective, I would say you can use your story everywhere as a business owner. As an agency owner, you would be having conversations with people, conversations with other business owners or networking events, conversations with your prospect clients, conversations with your clients.

You may be doing presentations. You may be doing live videos, and every time you come into one of those you are available for one of those speaking opportunities or even writing opportunities. You can share your story. It doesn't mean that you have to share the whole of your story, but you can share slices of it, depending on what is the purpose and who you are speaking to. You may be speaking at conferences. You may be speaking on podcasts like this, and every time you have a speaking opportunity or an opportunity to share your message, you can share your story as a business owner or as a corporate leader.

You may have a team reporting to you, or you may have a sizable business where you have people working for you, and you can use your story to inspire those people to help them be the best they can be and to help and help yourself get the best out of your people so you can use it everywhere. What about in sort of written context, like blogs and social media posts and all that kind of stuff? How would you alter the story to make it fit in that delivery mechanism?

So we have got to understand that a story would always work, but a story would be several times more powerful when it is aligned to the purpose that we want to use it for. So when I, one of the best places to use your story and write from it is the about section on your website or your social media page. And that's where you look at. What is it that you want to speak to your audience about and align your story accordingly? So here is a certain version of the story, my story that I shared with you for business owners.

Now let's say if I was speaking to a completely different audience, the message would be different. I remember speaking to a group of practice nurses in the NHS some years ago, and the purpose was to help them understand what it is like to be a cancer patient. And they wanted that information so that they could support cancer patients who were referred back to them more effectively and do their jobs better in terms of supporting people touched by cancer. Now, what I'm sharing here that I help people go further faster in their careers is not what I would share with a group of nurses, because what they need to know, and it's still my story, that's the vehicle.

But what they need to know is what is a cancer patient or their family needs and so all my focus was on giving those nurses that piece of information a different example would be when I was speaking for a cancer charity to help them raise funds. And in that event, which was the goal of the fundraising event, all my focus was, it's my story. But what I needed my audience to do was to listen to my story, put their hands in their pockets and say, this is a cause worth supporting. That's one and the second is this is a charity worth supporting.

So while my story was the vehicle, the hero of that story was the organisation that I was speaking for that day. So you see, it's still my story is still the same vehicle, but it needs to be customised. If I would go and still say the same thing, it would make an impact, but it would not have as much impact. So whenever you share your story, whether it doesn't in spoken format or written format, always think about who are you speaking for, or who are you writing for?

And what is it that they need to know what is the relevance if we can get who we are speaking for? And what is the relevance for them? We will never get in a situation where they need to know X and we need to speak. We are speaking by, such good advice. I mean, fundamentally know your audience, and that applies to so much of what we do, including this topic of storytelling. Now I just want to take a little bit of a sort of a left turn in our conversation and ask you a big question that needs to be answered in just a couple of minutes.

But you were telling me in our prep for this podcast that you recently changed the niche and the target audience that you're targeting in your coaching business, which is a brave thing to do so really quickly. I don't have to know why you did that and how you chose the niche and how it's going. So when I started, when I decided to help people in the couriers through stories, I had to start somewhere and a few years ago I decided that I would choose business owners to work with, and I have held lots of coaches, lots of business owners over the last few years.

But there was a very interesting pattern that I was not to say and that pattern was that even though all my marketing 100% of my marketing was focused on speaking to coaches and business owners. Yet I kept attracting corporate leaders who wanted to work with me and they would come into a conversation with me and us. We know that you worked with coaches, but would you work with us? Would you help us share our story? And that was interesting to notice and it was also interesting to experience because if you refer back to what I said right in the beginning, I was a happy corporate employee.

I didn't walk away from the corporate because I was happy or I had a story of burnout. None of those things. I tried there, and I think it goes back to the saying that we have that we don't that we attract who we are. So I was that person and I was attracting those people energetically and still through my messaging and it went on for so long that I decided to do something about it, and the second thing was when I would work with Corporates and do the training for them from workshops.

I realised I noticed how much I love doing that, how much I loved that environment. So I said, All right, let's do something about it And why not do this instead? Because it was a lot easier for me to attract those people in terms of the effort that I was putting in and in terms of our ally and in terms of results that I was getting there. So I just said, let's do this and I did it Fantastic. And how is it going? Is it I don't know, quite know where you are on that journey of transition, but how is it going?

So I made that transition about six months ago, and I would say it is reflected in the results. It is. It's a good decision that I took because I feel more aligned and my business results could operate so happy with the change that I've made fantastic. So there are a couple of things that I wanted to pull out from that. For our listeners, one is having a clear niche makes everything so much easier. When you have a clear niche, you know exactly who your ideal target customer is.

You know exactly the pains that challenge that they have that your product or service can solve. And I'm glad to see that you made that choice to switch rather than trying to hedge your bets and sort of serve both the business coach audience and also the corporate space, which is what a lot of people do. They kind of think, I wanna put my feet in several different camps and what they end up doing is diluting their messaging and finding struggling to find those stories that hit home with each of those audiences.

And it becomes a bit of a mess. So often I say to people, When you try to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to anybody, so commit to your nation and you've just shown that over time your niche can change if that's what's necessary. Although in my case I would point out to Robert, that I'm still helping people improve their careers through their stories. And when I talk about the corporate leaders, yes, I help them move up the corporate ladder because that's one of the biggest things.

People working in the corporate want to be able to move up the corporate ladder with ease and without burning themselves out and still having time for things and people they love. And when I was working with business owners, I was still doing storytelling for personal branding and visibility. But the main outcome there was helping people through their businesses, and so there were lots of battles. It was about going back to those fundamentals, gleaming those similarities. But yes, but yes, we shouldn't be scared of doing this work.

And if there's a change we want to make, it is so important to go back to the basics and go back to the whiteboard and start all over. Yeah, absolutely. Don't be afraid to do that. So that is such an interesting conversation. And I always know when these podcasts, when I have a guest and the podcast is good because it makes me reflect on my business and how I can do things better and you know. One thing I learned is every time I have a guess, I always learn something, which is what's so great about having guests on the podcast.

So let me ask you the final question. I ask all of my guests, which is if you could go back in time and give yourself your younger self a piece of advice, What would it be? One big piece of advice that I would give my younger self is that you get to choose and you make the choices in a way that you will never, ever live with. Regret. Even if it feels risky, choose risk over regret. That's what I would tell her. Choose risk over regret. That's a good man to have in life.

And, a great one. And as ever, we, you know, through having 50 plus guests on this podcast, we've never had that. You know, I don't think I've ever had a guest say the same thing. This is why this is so interesting. Such good words of wisdom. So, Paul, thank you so much for joining us today. If people wanted to find out more about you or reach you, what is the best way for them to contact you? People can find me on through my website, www.caramelcoaching.com.

I hang out on Lincoln. People can find me there. I am also on Facebook. People can find me there, and people can also write to me by email, this ParulBanka@caramelcoaching.com. Great. So we will include all of those links in the show notes. And I just want to say thank you so much for giving up some of your time today to share your words of wisdom with our audience. Thank you so much for having me. Rob. It's been a pleasure.

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