S13E39: How to land your mission and message with impact, with Jack Murray (CEO, Media HQ)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S13E39: How to land your mission and message with impact, with Jack Murray (CEO, Media HQ)

How can you land your mission, and your message, with real logical and emotional impact?

That's the question Richard explores today with Jack Murray, entrepreneur and the CEO of MediaHQ, a leading Irish SaaS company that has revolutionised the PR and communications industry with its comprehensive media contacts database and press release distribution tools. Jack is also an author, having penned "The Magic Slice," where he explores the art of storytelling in business.

In this conversation, you’ll learn:

  • The insidious ways corporate culture is reducing your impact – and what to do instead
  • Specific tools to help you clarify your mission
  • How to use the "Magic Slice" to land your message with impact
  • How to change your presentations so they benefit from the latest neuroscience findings on how to win hearts and minds (and what not to do)

Join Rivendell (https://xquadrant.com/rivendell/), our exponential programme for elite CEOs dedicated to transforming themselves, their businesses, and the world.

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Transcript

Jack Murray
So what I always advise people is someone who’ll come and then say, oh, Richard, that thing you did, the thing with the the booklets and the seats, that was unbelievable. I’d like a little bit of that action on my team, and you go, okay. But you gotta do it my way. So so so what you do when you have a small win in a big corporate environment is, you know, if people step up and say, oh, I’d like a bit of that. Oh, the way you’ve the way you’ve got those people communicating brilliantly now and not boring people with bullet points, I’d like a bit of that on my team. And you go, okay. But you have to do it but you have to do it my way. And you get to call the shots.

And then by doing that next project, what you’re doing is you’re increasing your scope of influence. You’re building your your tribe of people who are into what you’re doing. And, you know, slowly but surely, you’re kind of you’re getting your way around the board and you’re beginning to change your culture, you know, one project at a time, not by getting overwhelmed because you’ve got so many things to do.

Richard Medcalf
Welcome to the Impact Multiplier CEO podcast. I’m Richard Medcalf, founder of Xquadrant, and my mission is to help the world’s top CEOs and entrepreneurs shift from incremental to exponential progress and create a huge positive impact on our world. Now that requires you to reinvent yourself and transform your business. So if you’re ready to play a bigger game than ever before, I invite you to join us and become an Impact Multiplier CEO. How can you land your mission and your message with real logical and emotional impact? That’s the question that I explore today with Jack Murray. Jack is an entrepreneur. He’s the CEO of Medcalf. It’s a leading Irish software as a service company that’s revolutionized the PR and communications industry with a comprehensive media Impact database and press release distribution tools.

He’s also an author. He’s written a book called The Magic Slice. And today, we look at really interesting concepts, really practical tools that you can use as you engage your stakeholders to land The most important vision that you have with real impact. We look at actually how corporate culture can get in the way of engagement and landing your message. Jack offers some really specific tools that help you clarify your mission, sharpen it up, get you really clear on what you want to say, And then he explains the magic slice tool, which will help you land that message with impact. We also get into bit into neuroscience and look at actually how the way that most people build presentations actually works against the brain’s chemical system. And what to do instead to release those feel good feelings that are gonna win hearts and minds and get people engaged with what you’re saying. So enjoy this fascinating conversation with Jack Murray.

Hi, Jack, and welcome to the show.

Jack Murray
Hi, Richard. How are you?

Richard Medcalf
I’m, really good. Thank you. And I’m looking forward to to jumping in today. We’ve entitled this episode, at least provisionally, we might change it in the final mix, but we we kind of our working title is how to land your mission and message with impact. So, obviously, I know that you are somebody who focuses a lot on this. You’ve written a book on storytelling. You’ve built up Medcalf HQ over the last 18 years to be one of the most dynamic media contact platforms in the world. So what I wanna know is, like, why is landing on miss your mission and message with Impact important to you? You know, why is that a subject which is close to your heart?

Jack Murray
Yeah. I well, the reason it’s it’s very close to my heart is I suppose my life’s work has been in the realm of storytelling and helping people communicate their message with their audience. And one of the kind of profound and fundamental things about all of us is that our operating systems are all driven by stories. So from The way from long before we wake up in the morning, actually, we’re telling ourselves a story as we sleep at night. The things that help us achieve great things every day are driven by the stories that we tell ourselves. We communicate to people in stories. And in the world of work, in the world of business, there’s a really weird dichotomy where people tend to be really good at communicating in personal family settings with people they trust. And then when they get into work settings, they get, a lot more stiff, a lot more wooden.

Richard Medcalf
Boring. Let’s just say it’s boring. Yeah.

Jack Murray
Short. Well, kinda yeah. Boring, safe, dry, lacking kind of the natural slayer and creativity and cadence that they would have in dealing with people that they know. And it’s funny. Like, I I, for a number of years, I used to run a storyteller course. And and one of the things we would do on the storyteller course is that we would say to people, can you give us a photograph, of something personal that means something to you that you’re willing to talk about? And at a random point in the day, your name would pop up on the screen and you would go to the top of the room and you would tell the story. And it became a series of very powerful moments where The that really kind of stays in my mind was, it was a large multinational organization. And the woman on the team who was the junior admin person in the team, her name came up and she came to the top of the room.

And it was black and white photographs of, a woman and a man in their early twenties taken in about 1950. And the woman stood up and she was, a Dutch lady, and she said, this is my grandpapa and my grandmama. And he’s the reason that our family, succeeded. And she kinda welled up and got emotional and talked about how he went down into working in a mine to earn enough money that her father could go to college and, her emotion, connected with everybody in the room. And what what you’d find in those mode in in those moments were The people people kinda went back to their instincts and they, everybody began to see them in a different light. And what they were actually doing was tuning into that innate power that we all have to communicate clearly with stories in a way that is emotionally resonant with people. But if when we go into business or corporate environments, it’s almost programmed out of us. It happens even in formal education.

It starts in formal education where, you know, a lot of formal education Was designed for The industrial age. It was designed to put people into a factory environment where creative thinking are, you know, a lot of education is designed so that it’s easy to correct if you’re and that doesn’t necessarily encourage flare and, like, bringing that natural edge to outward communication about your brand and your mission and all of that is crucial. But also in how you communicate with your colleagues and, you know, we spend hours we spend thousands and thousands of hours at meetings communicating about things that we’re passionate about. A lot of it is awful. It is just terrible. And, like, the best communication is when you go for a coffee or you go for lunch, and you kinda think, well, why couldn’t The communication and the culture within organizations be more like this than the than the wooden, that the wooden state stuff that goes on. And I suppose yeah. Like, my my dedication of impact is to is to that, and all aspects of storytelling in in how they could how they could improve to help people, get their message across, be understood, and I suppose feel feel better on a daily basis as a result of it.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. But it’s interesting, isn’t it? You’re right. Things can be so, well, I said boring, and then you actually said safe, which I think is interesting. So is this is this draining of color of this way that we communicate plans in corporate so dry, you know, is it just, is it just what people think is expected, you know, that I have to have my PowerPoint slide with my bullet points and that’s just the way it’s done around here? Or is it that people feel that The, like, they wanna share on an emotional level? Or Yeah. So is it deliberately playing safe or do they just think that’s kind of what is expected? That’s what’s wanted. That’s what’s necessary.

Jack Murray
Yeah. Well, we like, we create these environments where, they are not emotionally safe spaces and, you know, people, you know, they’re not places that encourage people to be vulnerable in. And if anything, they’re the working, right? A lot of work environments tend to be the exact opposite. And John Hegarty wrote 2 seminal books. One of them was called, whichever one will remember was called Hegarty on advertising. But the other one, which, you know, is less heralded, but it’s a brilliant book is Hegarty on creativity. And there’s a bit in the book where, you know, he said and, like, the simplest questions, Richard, stumped people, and we get on to that same as question of what is your mission that completely stumps people. But, the question that stumped that that really stumped him was someone said, what makes creative people different to other people? And he said he really had to think about it.

And he said the answer was the creative people take risks. So, you know, really creative people. And I have friends who are writers, who are musicians, who are artists and they create stuff without fear or favor. So they create stuff because they want to create stuff and they don’t really care if anybody likes it. And that’s a kind of an anathema to a corporate environment where like generating creative stuff can cause a problem because it leaves you vulnerable and weak. Because if you go to a meeting and say, look, I’ve got this great creative idea and people would say, oh, well, that’s terrible. Then that’s kind of, that’s pinned to your lapel. And it’s the reason that creative agencies and consultants get picked up, from organizations because they need they need the fresh eye from outside to come in because the culture inside is not a place that can encourage them do the things that they need to.

And, it, like, it is interesting and that that that’s a functional dysfunction that happens in the world of work where and, like, look, I’ve worked as a consultant similar to you. The fresh ice from outside is it’s it’s a great perspective. But I think healing from within and helping people to communicate more freely, and like and I wrote about this in my book, but, the Amazon innovation of the 6 page narrative memo that after they had done it for a couple of years, they brought it down to a 4 page narrative memo. And we use that I use that with my management team to run media HQ. And we have a management meeting once a month where people have to write a 4 page narrative memo. And I have to like, I I do still have to remind people where I say, look. Okay. We’re all adults now to circulate the memo 2 days before the meeting.

And I say, look, we’ve all read the memo. So you don’t need to, you know, you don’t need to read it again. Is there anything, is there any particular point or comment that someone raised on your memo that you’d like to have a discussion about now? Or is there any point you’d like to talk about that you feel really strongly about? And it’s a much better way of interacting with people than standing in front of a room, reading bullet points that they can read themselves, and, and having a meaningful discussion as opposed to just this kind of wooden performance in in front of a PowerPoint.

Richard Medcalf
Well, I must admit one of the things looking back at corporate, you know, is how much energy and effort goes into all these huge decks. People spend days days, you know, just communicating to each other. Right? It’s not actually creating value in the business. This is just the communication component. Obviously, you’ve gotta get everybody aligned, but it’s just it’s it’s amazing how much time is spent on The that frankly nobody’s gonna read. Right? Yeah.

Jack Murray
And like, it’s funny when I do the storyteller course, you get this moment where, and like, you’ll see this kind of seer flash across people’s faces. When you go through this new method of communicating with stories and and and not reading bullet points. And someone will say to you, but, like, if people ask for my deck afterwards, like, it’ll just be a series of words and pictures. And and I say, yeah. Because it’s a slide deck, not a word document. And, like, if you’re producing if you’re producing a paper that you want someone to read, produce a paper that you want someone to read and actually write it as a paper. Or if you’re producing a slide deck, it’s a performance piece, but the two things are not the same. And, and, like, if you want people to have a proper discussion, get them a document 2 days in advance, and then have a debate with them about it and, you know, argue through The the meaty points that you put in your thing.

But it it is not a story. And what happens in lots of corporate environments is that the damage gets passed on. So you treat others the way you were, you know, you perform the way other people perform and it just becomes The self defeating cycle then.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. What’s the so so tell me. So if somebody wants to up their ability to land their mission and their message with Impact, what would be the tools that you’d recommend they start to work with?

Jack Murray
Yeah. And I think, like like look. To land your mission and your message The impact, starts at at the start point of of the mission. And, one of the most powerful and forceful questions that you can ask in any situation is what does success look like here? You know, in in any project that I’m involved in, I had a potential, client on the stories telling side of my business Impact me last week, and I they said, oh, we want you to be involved. We want and I said to them, my turn is all over. And you’re saying, oh, that’s brilliant. What does that look like? And people are terrible when you ask them what does success look like or what do we want to achieve. And I’m a huge fan of sports because I think there’s so many I think there’s so many great analogies in sport for how business could run better.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s like the European cup or the World Cup. The trophies, we all know what success looks like in sports. We, we like, we know what the cup looks like that we have to lift over our heads. And, my late dad used to joke, like he was a very hardworking man. He used to get dirt under his fingers, and he’d hear I was going on holidays to an exotic location. He’d say, you’re going on holidays again. And I used to say to him, dad, they don’t they don’t make cups or medals for what I do. I make them myself.

And, so I think the first part of of of connecting your miss your your message with Impact is, you have to know what your mission is and and know what you’re trying to achieve. I do lots of talks in in universities, and I say, look, if you’re brought in on a storytelling project or a public relations project, always ask at the start. What what do we what are we trying to do here? And really good communicators, they know what the dial looks like, and they know where they need to to move the needle on this. And one of the hardest questions, is why are we all here and what does success look like? And in in my company, Medcalf HQ, if somebody wants to start something new, step number 1 in that process is what we call you have to write an objectives document. So if you write a 1 page objective document spelling out why it needs to happen and what does what does the the main objective of the project is, what success would look like. And I think people I think people really kind of suffer with that. So lots of people communicate. They communicate a lot of things, but it’s not driven or guided by any kind of overall direction or or meaningful sense of of of what’s possible.

And, I think that’s where a lot of it falls down.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. And so, what what I’m thinking here is how emotionally invested in a corporate environment do people need to be, or how should they be, in whatever they’re trying to communicate? Because, you know, ideally for me, like, you talk get me talking about my mission. I’m really all I’m all in. Right? I’ve crafted. This is my mission. This is what I wanna be up to in the world, hoping the top leaders in the planet be forced as good at scale. So I know what I’m about, but in a corporate environment where you’re like, okay, like, is it my mission? Is it the personal, is it the company mission? And what is the company mission anyway? Can we find it anywhere? And is it just, you know, or is it like we gotta hit these numbers through the end of the quarter? So when you think about mission, like, how do you define that, I suppose? You Make recognition to Shareholder value.

Jack Murray
Yeah. Yeah. I’m lucky enough The, like, you know, my career path has been on a series of, projects or initiatives that I’m like you that I’ve always been kinda wholly invested in. And, if I’m not wholly invested in something, I don’t really want to do it if I’m being honest. I know it. I know not everybody is like that. And look, part of my personal ethos is The, you know, work doesn’t seem like work when you’re completely aligned with it and you’re motivated by it. It begins to really feel like work.

Like people often said to me, what do you do? And I my opening line is always, well, it beats working for a living. And, so like for like The first thing I ever, the first big job I had from a lecture university was as a spokesperson for a political party. And that was an interesting kind of context for it because, you know, if you didn’t believe in what you, if you didn’t and in public relations and communications, you know, if you don’t really believe what you’re talking about, you’re in real trouble because, there’s a kind of you’ll get found out pretty quickly. You know? It’s a bit like being in a boxing match and waving your chin in front of the other person. You know? You will get you will get hit. Whereas the best way to communicate is to be for me, it’s simple. It’s to be all in. And why why would you be doing it when you when you when you’re not all in? And, like, look, you can have, in a corporate environment, you can have a myriad of missions.

You can have ones that you’re fully aligned with or ones that you’re not aligned with at all. Lots of times people would come to me and say, look, I want to enact real change on how to communicate my miss mission and and impact, but I have so many things to do. Like, you know, I have so many expectations. I work in a large corporate environment. What do I do? And I said to them, well, that’s really easy. And The is fun. I said, well, look. Just have really good success on one project.

And I said, write the rules. And there’s a fantastic story project that that just always excites me, from a couple of years ago. And it was a small regional airline in Iceland called, Air Iceland connects, and they run kind of regional flights around Scandinavia. And somebody had this really great idea that they needed, in flight entertainment. And they had no money. So they had, I think €2,000 to spend on in flight entertainment. And, like, Barr renting a brass band for half an hour to go up and down The plane, I was like, you know, what were they going to do? So sometimes with creativity and with storytelling, with messaging, you embrace your constraints and having a constraint like €2,000 is a brilliant thing to have. And, they created this journal notebook, called my stories.

Beautifully produced, and they got a handful of them, couple of 100 of The, and they put them in the back of the seats and the planes. So people were coming from amazing holidays in Iceland, and they were taking the books out from the backs of the seats. And in a digital world, they were writing analog stories on the back pages of, look, I The about people falling in love, people, you know, seeing the sunset, people seeing the northern lights, people making friends. And then The people were coming and digitizing that by taking pictures of us, uploading it to Instagram, and it was a massive success. A journalist from the Financial Times came and wrote about it, and it kind of went around the world after he after he did that. And when you enact change on a mission, on a small project, what for your impact, what you’re doing is, you’re actually saying, you know what? I understand how this works. And if you want me to help you, you have to do it on my terms. So what I always advise people is someone will come and then say, oh, Richard, that thing you did, the thing with the the booklets and the seats, that was unbelievable.

I’d like a little bit of that action on my team, and you go, okay. But you gotta do it my way. So so so what you do when you have a small win in a big corporate environment is, you know, if people step up and say, oh, I’d like a bit of that. Oh, the way you the way you’ve got those people communicating brilliantly now and not boring people with bullet points, I’d like a bit of that on my team. You go, okay. But you have to do it but you have to do it my way. And you get to call the shots. And then by doing that next project, what you’re doing is you’re increasing your scope of influence.

You’re you’re you’re you’re building your your tribe of people who are into what you’re doing. And, you know, slowly but surely, you’re kind of you’re getting your way around the board and you’re beginning to change your culture, you know, one project at a time, not by getting overwhelmed because you’ve got so many things to do.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Well, I think that that’s a it’s a beautiful lesson, and it comes across in in every area. Right? Fewer but better is almost always the way for success. I remember when I was early days in my career in consulting, I actually missed The promotion by 6 months. Like, they pushed it back 6 months because I was to get them my promotion, I had to show that I was a great project manager. And so these 3 great projects came along, and normally, only one was gonna happen, and they went to be staggered. And they literally all signed on the same day, and I was in all the proposals. And then I could’ve just chosen 1 and let the other 2 go, but they all seemed so exciting.

I kinda figured out that if I worked all hours, I could kinda do it. And, of course, what happened? I delivered all 3 mediocre. It was fine I mean, fine, but I didn’t, like, nail any of them. They were all fine. But if I just done 1, right, nobody would have gone, Richard, you ain’t done The project. Right? They’d have said, you absolutely nailed that project. Great job. Here’s your promotion.

And that was the fundamental lesson for me. It’s like, I’m not doing that again. Like, because I I actually I know, I burned Whittles hours, and, b, I didn’t get the result. And I realized with my clients as well, you focus in, you do one thing that really gets an outsized result, and that’s worth

Jack Murray
Oh, no. Exactly. And and and, like, 2 short stories kind of did arise of that. Like, I had a had a group of communications managers on a strategy communication strategy course a number of years ago, and we were talking exactly about The, about and that was a fascinating course because I would get people maybe 10, 12 years into The career who were already broken, smashed by the corporate world. Literally, you know, we’re managing 2 or 3 creative agencies, and we’re literally not doing any of the work themselves. We’re just sitting there managing budget lines and, you know, we’ve all seen it. But there was one woman in in the audience, and she was a head of communications director director for an organization that dealt with tax and taxation. And I asked people, like, what was the biggest problem that they had? So it came to her and she said, I’ll tell you what my biggest problem is.

And I said, what? And she said, it’s tax. And I said, well, what about tax? It’s boring. I suggest you’re like, it’s very hard to get people interested in The. And the same week I had this very precocious 16 year old who was we have a year in Ireland called transition year. It’s The kind of kind of development year. And, he was in the room. And when she said this, I could see his hand go up down the back and I was going, what’s this about? And I said, oh, yeah. Do do you have something you want to add? He said, do you want can I can I talk to the woman about who who’s dealing with the tax? And I said, yeah.

And he dressed he the 16 year old directly addressed the communications director and he said to her, have you ever had a Podcast called Planet Money? It’s really fascinating. And they they deal with the economy in a way that’s really story driven. And The brilliant story is every week about taxation. You should listen to it sometime. The was a 16 year old teaching the comms director how to soak eggs on the basis of passion about the thing that you’re doing every day. And this notion of he could see the angles. Now she was he was taken on serious water because probably didn’t understand the mission. And if she did understand it, she just wasn’t into it.

And she was completely misaligned. So she wasn’t having an impact with telling her story because, one, she didn’t really get it and she wasn’t going to get excited by it because she was absolutely misaligned. So, like, you do it I find anyway in in communicating, getting stuff out there. Like, the more aligned you are, and the more passionate you are, you become a sponge for all sorts of angles and nuances, and you just pick stuff up in the easiest possible way because you’re aligned with what you’re doing.

Richard Medcalf
I hope you’re enjoying this conversation. This is just a quick interlude to introduce you to 2 transformative programs that we run. The first is Rivendell, my exclusive group of top CEOs who are committed to transforming themselves, their businesses, and the world. It’s an incredible peer group and a deep coaching experience that will push you to new heights no matter how successful you’ve already been. The second is Impact Accelerator, a coaching program for executives who are ready to make a big leap forward in their own leadership. It’s regularly described as life changing, and no other program provides such personal strategic clarity, a measurable shift in stakeholder perceptions, and a world class leadership development environment. Find out about both of these programs at Xquadrant /services. Now back to the conversation.

Absolutely. Well, I’m I’m thinking of CEO clients that I’ve worked with who actually I took on a spat because like The. You’re interested in what you’re doing. It’s intellectually interesting, but I’m not really sensing the passion or the real excitement or, like, you’re really loving this. Perhaps the joy has faded over time. Perhaps you just got your projects, and you’re within the zone of, like, just executing. I’m just doing this thing and keeping the board happy and everything. But I think when people lose that spark, it comes through in all sorts of ways.

They they you can’t hide it. You can pretend, you know, you can kinda you can turn up the charisma perhaps, you know, with your team and everything else, but there is something that goes at that time when you’re not fully committed. So you have to get back to that. But let’s assume at this point that you’ve you are connected to that mission, and so you do know what that is. Then what would you say in terms of a toolset for helping land those messages with impact? Where would you go next?

Jack Murray
Yeah. And I think, like, look, I’ve as as you said at the start, I’ve written a book about this and, the book is called the magic slice. And it’s, it’s about how to master the art of storytelling for business. And the magic slice is 2 circles. So what is what you want to talk about? And the other is what what, what people are interested in, and the magic slices where the The circles touch and sometimes they don’t touch at all. And sometimes they touch very gently and other times they completely overlap. So, you know, we’ve all seen kind of huge stories. So if you’re in the port authority in Baltimore today, I’m assuming the whole world is ringing their head of communications about The terrible tragedy that’s after happening.

And, so the first step is being aligned with your mission. The second step then, which is a really fundamental step to to finding your magic slice of attention or or of story is to understand your audiences, and to know exactly who the target customer is, who the target audiences. In one of my first jobs, Richard, I worked in a shoe company And my my boss who’s The marketing director had a stack of women’s magazines on on his desk. And, remember, like, the first couple of days kind of poking fun at him saying, oh, you read women’s magazines. And he kinda just looked me dead in the eye, and he said, you’ll be reading them soon. All of our customers read these magazines. And I was sent out back to school. Fashion was really big, and I was sent out to do focus group research with 16 year old girls, to figure out quick, like, what shoes, what shoe styles that were really good.

And in the middle of just before the the really busy season, one of the designers came back from Milan Fashion Week with a really interesting soul, but all the schools were on holiday. And I was Impact. There’s a thing in Ireland where children learn the Irish language during the summer. I was dispatched with my pigeon Irish to an Irish language school and a tape recorder. And I came back, and it was a real lesson to me in understanding your audience, for impact. In the lobby of the building, I was met by the CEO, the financial director, the head of materials, and the chief designer. All wanted to know what the girl thought of this of the new Soul, and did they think it’d be a winner or would it? And like I was 24 years of age. And that was a real lesson to me in, okay, If you have deep insights on the audience, you’re going to make a huge impact because the more you know and when I talk to college students who, are going to work in the world of communications, I said The more you will become more useful and more powerful and more impactful The more you understand the people you’re talking to, their needs, their wants, their desires, their expectations.

And if you’re a detective on the case trying to figure out what that frequency is, you will be always useful, to to the end, market. I got a call this morning. We’re changing our prime minister here in Ireland, and, our new prime minister is all over TikTok. And, there’s a phenomenon that they’re calling him the so our prime minister is called the Taoiseach. So they’re calling him the TikTok Taoiseach. But I’m doing an interview with the Irish Times just about, like, what does that look like from an audience point of view? But I went down the stairs about 2 hours ago, and I said to my daughter, can you do me a favor? Yeah. I said, I need your insight. Yeah.

I said, I’m doing an interview about the prime minister and TikTok. Can you, spin up an email? Can you go on his TikTok and tell me what do you think about it? And, why are you asking me The? I said, because it’s you he’s trying to influence on TikTok. I said, it’s not me. And she came back and she said, she gave me a brilliant insight. She said, he was really early to it in the middle of the pandemic. People followed him at the start because they were taking the The out of him. He is getting his message across, but I’m not quite sure. Is it always kind of The the way he, he thinks he’s going to receive it, or it’s expected the way it’s going to be? So so it was The the next thing then is understanding your audience.

And the point after that then is you begin to tune into wider frequencies in. So, you know, your mission, you understand your audiences. The you start looking at kind of, well, what are the key trends? What’s my scope of work? So what am I trying to achieve? And then what else is kind of happening in the environment? So, like, what are so right now it would be maybe tech contraction, AI, you know, global recession, high interest rates. They’re just kind of broad teams that are happening in the world right now. But and then I suppose every organization itself will point out what here here’s what we want to achieve this year. So we need to sell x amount of product, or we need to communicate this, or we need to grow by 15%. And when you when you understand all of that, then you’re in a position to start crafting stories. What I do then, like, in the magic slice method is you began to you began you begin to look at topics that the brand can credibly talk about, and you write a magic slice statement.

And the magic slice statement is a little bit like the mission statement, but it’s plugged into topics, and realities for the business and that are happening in the world right now. And, there’s a list of topics that you would be really good to talk about. And it’s only at that point that you start crafting and creating stories that will be relevant to the audience. And normally, what people do is they start you know, The rocking and they start telling stories, but they don’t plug it into any of that stuff.

Richard Medcalf
Right. So what I’m hearing is that actually plugging into the broader trends that are going on in the world is important to ground it. Is that what I’m hearing?

Jack Murray
Yeah. And I think well, like, you know, there’s I suppose there’s there’s 3 guiding factors. This is my overall mission. Like, this is what the top of the mountain looks like. These are the people that, you know, need to hear what I’m saying. And then the 3rd part of it are, well, this is what I need to achieve in the next 12 months. And this is what’s going on in the world right now. And when you, when you get a handle on those three things, it’s only then that you can begin to craft stories based on specific topics that are relevant that you can talk with credibility on.

And it’s only it’s only at that point that you can actually get to the point of of of communicating stories. And that’s like when you get to the open, like, I suppose when you get to the opening door, then of how to craft stories, that’s, that’s a whole other skill set and a whole other a whole other to do.

Richard Medcalf
So it sounds like it’s quite a lot of work. I can understand you do this when you’re talking with a brand about their, The next marketing campaign and so forth. Do you see this as something that people can do, you know, when they’ve got a new project kicking off or a deck they’re trying to create or whatever? Like, do you still go through that same process?

Jack Murray
Yeah. And, like, it’s one of those things where, like, you know, if you, if you think about it, like a story can be everything from a 30 second YouTube ad to a 3 hour long movie and, and everything and everything else kind of in between. And the fundamentals are, you know, what do you want to do? Who are you talking to? And, you know, you know, what does a short term win look like? So what do you want to do is, like, you know, we want to land, you know, we want to land a man on the moon or a person on the moon. You know, your audience is your audience. And then the kind of what’s happening in the here and now and your 12 month objective, they’re Rivendell check-in points along the journey because if we take too much stuff on, we we we kinda get overwhelmed. But when you get to the really interesting part then, and the really interesting part, I suppose, is you’ve got through all of that. Well, tell me a little bit The about what does it take to create a store an an actual story. And the fascinating thing about storytelling is that, the transaction of storytelling and why it works so well is very scientific.

And when we meet a long lost friend or we go to the pub on a Friday night, or, you know, we go to a wedding or we go to a funeral and somebody reads an amazing eulogy, what happens is stories Richard hormones and hormones make us feel in a certain way. So really expert communicators know the stories that they’re going to tell, and they do it for, they do it for desired outcome. And the 3 positive hormones are, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. And the 2 to avoid our cortisol and adrenaline. And the dopamine is the who don’t it. It’s the it’s the it’s the murder mystery. It’s the reason that crime and all of those sorts of things, court cases, there’s reason those stories are really powerful. Oxytocin is the sharing hormone.

So it’s opening up, revealing something of yourself, building trust, endorphins are triggered by humor and then cortisol and adrenaline are triggered by reading out bullet points, anger, stress, tension, things to be avoided kind of at all costs. And I suppose they’re the they’re the top line kind of driving, hormones that would drive kinda how you would communicate. And if you want people to listen really clearly and to really take on details, tell a story where you slowly reveal the punch line, and people will really listen. I I was commissioned a number of years ago to do a series of stories for Irish National Radio Station. And the theme of it was media moments to change the world. So we looked at everything from The famous, interview that Diana did to the the challengers shuttle exploding to Nixon’s dog, and The whole load of other ones. But we told them in 10 minute stories in a perfect story arc. And, I I I was at a drinks reception The night, and I I bumped into this woman.

She said, you’re you’re the guy that does the stories on the radio. And I said, yeah. They’re on Wednesdays at 1 o’clock. And she said, I love them, but I curse you every Wednesday. And I said, why? And she said, I’m always late to pick my son up from school because I always have to wait to hear what happens at the end. She said, I can’t get out of the car until I hear the final bit of the story. And I think I think that’s that’s a piece that peep people, they understand kind of intellectually why stories work, but they don’t fully that’s the bit under the hood that’s once, once that kind of drops, you think, okay, this is the only show in town.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. It’s a great, it’s a good reminder. It reminds me of my uncle, actually, who, whenever his wife, my aunt is about to tell a story. He will close the towel because she’s going to do it in 30 seconds. And then he’ll say, no, no, no, no, no. Let’s go back. And then he’ll then take half an hour to tell the same story. Yeah.

Yeah. But there’s normally a punch line.

Jack Murray
Yeah. And like they look The math, the math thing about this Richard is that we’re all, we are all hardwired. Like we’re all hardwired from a very early age. We’re all natural storytellers. Like it’s, it’s actually an innate talent that everybody has. And some people nurture it and kind of keep it up, and other people kind of, you know, they lose it or the environments of which they operate in. And, when you get down into the kind of minutiae of it then The there’s, if you look at the elements of an actual story The, and, every story has a hero. The it’s very obvious at the start of the story what the heroes want or need is.

And very early into the story, something happens to the the hero that, sets them on a journey. There’s an inciting incident at the start that sets them on a journey. About halfway through the story, there’s a point of crisis. And generally, it’s a crossroads where left is hell and damnation and right is salvation. And then near the end of the story, the forces of good face to forces of evil. There’s a resolution and amorals. Now everything you watch, everything you consume, everything that you engage with, if it’s any good, it has all of those things in it. And if you say to people, well, who’s the hero of the story and what’s their desire? And if you’re working on any project for for impact, and you really want to get your message across, have a look at your story and say, look.

Is it clear to the audience who the protagonist is here? Are they likable? And, like, it was funny. Like, we lived now with the era of the 100 hour story of when the Sopranos came along, that amazing HBO drama series kind of introduced us to the 100 hour story arc. And, like, Tony Soprano kind of was one of the first great antiheroes. And in the corporate world, even you think of somebody like Michael O’Leary and and Reiner. Like, you don’t have to be likable. You just have to be compelling. You just have to be compelling. And, and even look, we’re we now are in The mirror of, you know, Trump as I’ll and like, we take that to a whole other level.

So, so there’s this notion of kind of compatibility. And, but if you if if you have a corporate story that you want to tell, like, if you go through it and you think, okay, we know who the hero is. We’re not quite sure what they want. That that’s really not fair. The more you dial it up, the crisper gets The better it is. And I suppose the other thing, you know, that doesn’t happen in business world is storytelling is all of a process. And in the era of social media and all of that, the world loves process. Now the corporate world, you know, in lots of cases deals with finished kind of shiny object at the end.

You know, a story is, as you were saying about your uncle, it can meander, it can go up and down, but it will get there. And if it’s good, it can bring everybody with them right to The finish. And and that can be kind of disjointed when it comes to corporate audiences as well.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Thank you for this, Jack. It’s really helpful to remember. I mean, I’ve looked at this, I’ve studied this and then not being professional in it. I find myself drifting away. Right. I, I can do that, and get conceptual, through, get in my head, talk about The things. And it’s fascinating reminder, right, that, yeah, these story arcs that we experience so often in all the time, all around us in in creative works, they’re also present in our own lives lives and stories and business, and we we can tap into those.

It just takes a bit of what bit of effort. Right? Because nice CEO think, well, do we have all that? Do we really, you know, do we really have the hero? Do we really have the big crisis point? You know, do we really have all that, you know, that resolution? So I think it’s just a bit of an art or a practice. That’s part of those in the mundane as well.

Jack Murray
It is. Yeah. And I I also think that, like, just for people on a personal level as well The, like, you know, and I’m thinking of, like, making career impacts and stuff. We are all guided and governed by the stories that we tell ourselves. And in our own operating systems as business leaders, as executives, as team members, you know, we can achieve if if if a team lead comes in and says, oh, we’re, you know, we’re gonna create really good impact and we have the talent here, we’re all gonna do it. People go on that mission, but we can be limited to by negative stories as well. And, like, I’m a huge believer in in in self, like, in in in really examining your your own narrative arc, your own operating systems. Like, the stories that shaped and formed you.

So so when we as adults, if we rock into something, all the good bits are the good bits we learned from from small to big and all the bad bits are the things we learned from when we were small as well. And it is really important because you will increase the impact that you make. And I would have done a lot of work like this on myself for the last 5 or 6 years. And my impact, in regards how I’ve grown the business, in regards my health, mental and physical health and well-being, and my productivity in writing a book, would all have come through really examining my own personal story and thinking, okay, what parts of this is are really serving The? Or what parts of it aren’t and what parts of it, you know, am I able to change and what parts of it are open to change? And a lot of that is driven by An internal story operating system. But it’s, it’s only by pausing and investigating and putting that onto the microscope to realize, oh, that’s what I’m bringing to that or, you know, that’s why that really stresses me out or this is the reason that I do that all the time. And the more you can blueprint that as part of your own story, I think The more powerful you can be as well.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. That’s why I say to my clients The one of my roles is not to believe the stories they tell me.

Jack Murray
Yeah.

Richard Medcalf
Because so often that’s...

Jack Murray
Yeah. Yeah. And is it like it is The like it is that thing where you kind of where you kind of scratch scratch the surface a little bit. Someone else give you something as a The facto truth and you’ll go, or what’s that about? Or what, you know, where does that come from? Or why do you think that? Or and, like, sometimes, like, when my kids were really small and they were on the white white white, like, I used to always call The 3rd why, like, the dawn of humanity. Like, you’re only 3 whys from the dawn of humanity. And do you if you why something three times like you’re you’re back, you’re nearly back to the Big Bang, like, you know, so it’s a very powerful tool for investigation.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Thank you. So so, Jack, as we wrap up here, this has been a great conversation. I I always like to ask people, what’s it gonna look like for you to multiply your impact in the coming years? You know, you’ve got here. You’ve built your business. By what’s next, or or or what would my what would be incredible for you?

Jack Murray
Yeah. And it’s like, it is interesting. And, you know, my my dad died, 8 years ago, and I I wrote the eulogy for him. And a friend of mine died, very young before Christmas. He was a very successful entrepreneur, a man called Jerry McCaughey, 60 years of age and would have had a massive impact in the global timber frame house manufacturer. And I I delivered a eulogy for Jerry as well at his, funeral. And I think in those moments when you stand up to assess somebody that you love and the impact that you have in the world, I think it really makes you kind of pause and investigate on a personal level. Like, if somebody was to do it for you, what would that look like? And, it isn’t always what you think.

You know? It isn’t, it it isn’t more money. It isn’t more material things. It isn’t bigger is better. I think it’s the personal impact that you have on those people around you and, how much love and respect that you were able to garner and grow with the people who were close to you, how meaningful the relationships you had, and how fulfilling every day of your life was. My dad, worked in a business that started by my great grandfather, and, he, I realized when he passed on that The my dad was socialist. Like, he was he had no interest in money. He loved he loved work, and he loved helping people. And, and I think for me, like, it’s to continue to get deep into my craft, build technology to help people find their audiences, and share stories in Medcalf HQ, and look at ways to embrace new technology like AI to continue that journey.

We’re very mission driven in media HQ. So when you’re mission driven, you’ll always try and find the best way to do something. You never get hung up on methods. You’re always trying to deliver the mission in the in the best way possible. And I think it’s to have meaningful relationships, have a laugh and a smile every day and try and impact people positively and do a little bit of good along the way while feeling good about yourself. And I think in the final analysis, like, you know, the love that people have for you and the final analysis is is really what should be measured by in my book. And, that’s the lesson I’ve learned in the last few years.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. So, Jack, thank you for this. How can people get in touch with you or find, you know, find out what you’re up to in the world and about your book?

Jack Murray
Yeah. So, Medcalf HQ is just mediahq.com. I’m on Twitter. I’m Medcalf Murray, and I love LinkedIn. And if you like this and you want to connect with me, I’m kind of all over LinkedIn. I find it a great social network for, you know, big into business networks and kind of, connect with people. So LinkedIn as well. And my email is just jack@mediahq.com.

Richard Medcalf
Perfect. Thanks. Best again. And the book is called, The Magic Slice.

Jack Murray
The book is called The Magic Slice. There it is. How to master the art of storytelling for business.

Richard Medcalf
Excellent stuff. Jack, thanks so much. I look forward to con continuing the conversation, over the months to come.

Jack Murray
Thanks, Richard.

Richard Medcalf
Well, that’s a wrap. If you received value from this conversation, please do leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. We deeply appreciate it. And if you’d like to check out the show notes from this episode, head to xpodrant.com/podcast where you’ll find all the details. Now finally, when you’re in top leadership, who supports and challenges you at a deep level to help you multiply your impact. Discover more about the different ways we can support you at xquadrant.com.

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