Kevin shared this story with me the other day. It’s too good not to retell.
> A few years back, there was an ad agency called Allen Brady and Marsh (ABM). It was a very showbiz agency, and not very fashionable. They were pitching for the British Rail account against some very good agencies and to say they were considered ‘underdogs’ would be an understatement.
> If they were to stand any chance of winning this account they had to find a way to prove they knew something the other, more fashionable agencies didn’t.
> Apparently, on the day of the pitch, the top management team of British Rail turned up at the ABM offices. When they arrived at reception it was deserted.
> The Chairman checked his watch, and they were on time.
> He looked around, and there was no one in sight — just a very scruffy reception area littered with crumpled newspapers, food wrappers, cigarette butts, and cushions with holes burned in them.
> It looked like the worst agency they’d ever been in.
> Eventually, a scruffy woman appeared and sat behind the desk. She ignored them and started rummaging in a drawer. The Chairman coughed. She ignored him, so he coughed again.
> He said, “Excuse me, we’re here to see …” The woman replied, “Be with you in a minute love.”
> He said, “But we have an appointment …” and she replied abruptly, “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
> The Chairman was fuming. “This is outrageous” he said, “we’ve been waiting more than fifteen minutes.”
> “Can’t help that love” the receptionist replied.
> The Chairman had enough. “Right that’s it, we’re leaving” he declared, and the top management team of British Rail started to walk out.
> At that very moment, a door opened and out stepped the agency creative director, Peter Marsh.
> He’d been watching everything.
> He shook the Chairman’s hand warmly and said, “Gentlemen, you’ve just experienced what the public’s impression of British Rail is. Now, if you’ll come this way, we’ll show you exactly how we’re going to turn that around.”
> And he took the British Rail management team into the boardroom and went through their pitch about how bright the future could be, if ABM was their agency, which of course, it became.
This story is a great example of someone deliberately doing something remarkable (something people remark on) to make a real impact and to make people feel the need for change. It’s these kind of actions that inevitably trigger stories, and positively influence others.
How might you use this aspect of story triggering in your change initiative to show people what is different, not just tell them? How can you make them ‘feel’ the need for change?