If it’s business, make it personal

November 27, 2012

“It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business” is a famous line from the 1972 film ‘The Godfather’.

We have all been raised on the myth of ‘it’s business not personal’.  To succeed as business communicators, it’s time to challenge that.  So if you want your messages to stick let’s go against the grain.  But how, how can we make boring business communication personal?

A few years ago we did some work with the chair of a global multinational and his message was ‘spend company money as if it is your own’ i.e. be careful how you spend company money.  This sounds just like another trite company line about cost cutting.  We asked him how he was going with this message and he replied ‘Not very well, but I’m going to keep banging on about this till it hits home’.  We asked him why.  He replied ‘When I was a child, my parents were by no means poor, but neither were we wealthy.  My parents worked very hard for their money and they always told me and my two brothers, you work hard for your money but you get to spend it only once so spend it wisely’.  We discovered he had never shared this with his team and invited him to do so the next time he was presenting this message.  He began with the story and then linked it to the message by saying that is why ‘Spending company money as if it is our own’ resonates with me.  He was surprised at the connection this personalisation created and how the behaviour around spending company money changed.  People realized he was genuine about the message and not just pushing yet another company line.

To make your messages personal think about the personal stories you can share in a purposeful and authentic way to make your communication come alive.

Sadly, most business communication suffers from predictability and sanitization.  But there is hope.  To stand out and be heard above the clutter, consider how you can make it personal…and pack a punch.



Dry facts and data fade from memory over time, but an engaging story is difficult to forget. In Hooked, communication and business storytelling experts Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu use real-world examples and proven, effective techniques to teach the skill of great business storytelling. They explain what good storytelling is, why business leaders need to learn it, how to create effective stories, and how to practice for perfection.

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