You call yourself Fat Amy? Owning the counter-story...

Over the festive break we got a Pitch Perfect reminder of how to own the counter-story, and of the surprising strength in vulnerability. Before we go any further and to make sure we're starting from the same place, let's run VT. 

Fat Amy owning her own counter story 

So the hero of our story, Amy, gives a live, early-stage audition for university A Cappella group the Baden Bellas at the freshman's week activities fair. 

For her part, the story she's telling in audition is strong. She shows she can sing, confidently matches a pitch and explains that she is Tasmania's finest songstress (with teeth).

However, in Hollywood's teen America, skill alone is not all that matters. In that fickle world, an angelic voice requires the looks to match for an aspiring campus chanteuse. 

Having finished her on-the-spot skills test and facing clear unease at her 'look', Amy is asked her name. 

By replying, "Fat Amy" and explaining that it means, "twig bitches like you can't say it behind my back," she makes the counter-story part of her own. Her story becomes immediately stronger, and the counter story of her audience become weaker. She makes it to the audition, and sails through into the group.

To take another lesson from the Seymour PR Christmas play list, albeit one close to real-life, The Queen contains a warning for us all. It's an example that Gavin Esler cites in his excellent book on the importance of storytelling, Lessons From The Top.

Following Princess Diana's death, the Queen took the decision to stay at Balmoral in Scotland rather than returning to England and Buckingham Palace. 

The intention here was to manage the counter-story that Scotland was somehow less important than England for the United Kingdom. 

In reality, the palace misjudged the mood of the country and failed to manage a more damaging counter story, that the royal family was emotionless and dysfunctional. 

On her eventual return to London, pictures of the Queen taking the time to look at the floral tributes left at the palace gates were broadcast around the world in a turnaround of counter-story management strategy. 

Telling the wrong story is clearly a bad plan, but so too is managing the wrong counter-story.

When it comes to counter-story management, Amy has a big advantage over Helen Mirren's Queen. Her counter story is so personal that she presents a vulnerability that is difficult to resist. For any individual, counter-stories present a natural opportunity to demonstrate vulnerability.

To quote Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” 

For every story, there is a counter-story; the strongest stories contain the counter-story. On the basis that truth and courage are two of the most attractive characteristics, the very strongest stories contain a counter-story that demonstrates vulnerability.

Esler's book contains many other examples of counter-story management from Clinton, Thatcher and Jesus, to name a few - it's well worth a read.

To play us out, here's our good friend Amy and the other Bellas in the film's final performance. Yes we love this film too much. 

Happy New Year!