Irresistible in a High-Speed World – Local Government NZ Conference

July 20, 2015

Presentation Summary

New Zealand's Local Government Conference 2015, held in Rotorua, had a strong focus on leadership and raising the value provided by local government for all communities in New Zealand. Leadership and business expert Kevin Roberts was asked to share his thoughts on storytelling at the conference. He introduced the concept of storysharing instead as in a high speed, instant impact world, a story is much more effective when it is shared rather than simply told.


Telling our story and selling the value of our sector

Two things are clear from the video you showed at yesterday’s AGM.
First, you want to tell the story of local government in new and more inspirational ways: what you deliver, how you deliver it, and the value you create.

Second, you recognize the need for consistency: of message, of format, of frequency, of look and feel.

I love everything about “We are.” format and the highly visual approach of the program, the call to action, the local flexibility, the humanity, even the typeface…but I would say that wouldn’t I!? (Saatchi & Saatchi worked with LGNZ to develop it).

I was asked today to share some thoughts on storytelling, but I learnt long ago to never give the client what they asked for…but instead, hopefully, give them something they never dreamed possible. So no storytelling. Forget telling stories. I’m going to talk about Storysharing…sharing stories…because in a high speed, instant impact world, a story is much more effective when it is shared rather than simply told.

First off, here is how I see the world of communications.









Return on Investment

Return on Involvement

Pumping Markets

Creating Movements

In this Age of ‘Now’, the quality of your story matters as much as the quality of your service. If you are not inspirational, you are invisible.

What’s your story? Your local government survey results said you were good but not yet great, relevant but not yet compelling, irreplaceable but not yet irresistible.

The program I’ve seen is a brilliant foundation for you to come together and make your reputation soar…and inspire all your communities to live up to the standard you’ve set. Just as being with happy babies brings out the best of us.

Here are Five Steps for building your compelling narrative:


Every great story starts with one thing: a Dream. [MLK rap]

A Purpose defines what you stand for. It’s important you get this right.

And you have done this – Making New Zealand a Better Place.

Revolution starts with language. Not a press release or yet another brochure.

I loved the language in the video.

  • “We’ve been hiding our light under a bushel”
  • “It’s time we got out and told our story”
  • “We’re going to do what we say we’re going to do”
  • “Raise the bar”
  • “Put a stake in the ground”
  • “Raise the game”
  • “Lift our performance”
  • “Restore our reputation”

I believe New Zealand’s Focus should be to “Win the World from the Edge”, and we can only do that if you deliver your Dream.


You’ve spoken about Consistency. I have three more C’s to add.

  1. Creativity

We live in the Age of the Idea. The unreasonable power of creativity drives growth today. Ideas are the currency of today.

You used to need money, power and scale to succeed big. Now you just need an idea. Lots of them.

And the communities that have the most ideas are the best placed to win.

And we need Councils full of radical optimists, not cynics, not contrarians, not the Abominable No-Man.

  1. Connection

To connect, you need to communicate with people on an emotional level.

Information and reason leads to conclusions; Emotion leads to action!

And whether in business or in government, we want people to act!

Emotional expectations of organizations are on the rise. When quality, service, distribution and performance are at parity, a customer’s emotional experience has the biggest impact on your reputation.

The challenge is to work back from how people feel. To make effective connections, start with your communities and what they want, how they feel.

This can radically alter what you deliver, and how you communicate.

  1. Collaboration

None of us is as strong as all of us.

JFK asked “not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Cantabrian Rewi Alley founded the Work Co-operative Movement during the Chinese Revolution. He called it Gung Ho. Which means, “work together.”

I like the “working together” story of the Auckland hotel and hospitality industry which is driving occupancy levels to unprecedented through events and marketing the city as a premium and not a commodity destination.

The Rugby World Cup was a catalyzing event that required collaboration as it never happened before – turning a ‘dog-eat-dog’ mentality into enhanced cooperation that has paid off. This involved the airport, the airlines, the tourism and event agencies, all the hotels and hospitality trade.

The need to collaborate shone through your video. If you’re not part of the program yet, now’s the time It’s up to you all to make it work, so we can win together.


A decade ago I wrote a book called Lovemarks, about the future beyond brands.

  • Lovemarks are built through performance and emotional engagement.
  • Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.
  • Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason.
  • Lovemarks win both Love and Respect.

Respect is the table stake. Repairing roads and footpaths, supplying water, collecting rubbish, making resource consents, minimizing rate increases, providing access to your facilities, having the phone answered with a solution at hand…

You need to win every one of these Moments of Truth with your communities in order to win Respect. But it’s not enough. Love is the ultimate destination.


  • Low Respect. Low Love. Commodities and utilities.
  • High Love. Low Respect. Fads and infatuations.
  • High Respect. Low Love. Where “e-r” words rule: faster, bigger, cheaper.
  • High Love and High Respect. This is where you capture hearts and build community pride in the local.


Local government has a great story to share. You matter to people’s lives and livelihoods.

When you are telling your story, remember that well-told stories are
filled with

  • Inspiration not just information (people want uplift, not explanations)
  • Truth not just facts (what is the revelation?)
  • Fables not just tables (take people on a journey)
  • Characters not just charts (ground it in humanity)
  • Pictures not just words (a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words)
  • Showing not telling (use examples, don’t pontificate)

And wrap your stories in Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.

Ask 3 questions of any story:

1. Will people want to see it again?

2. Will people want to share it?

3. Will people want to improve it?


Focus on execution, not planning.

Strategy is something you do when there is nothing to do.
Tactics are what you do when there is something to do.

KR RAP Getting Things Done/Make Things Happen

Avoid paralysis by analysis. You can’t plan your way to glory.
People want it now.
Here’s the magic equation: (IQ+EQ+TQ+BQ)CQ.

  • IQ: Hire smart people who have lots of ideas.
  • EQ: Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, Joy.
  • TQ: People like technology but people mostly really like other people – being understood, touched, and involved. Keep your TQ human-scale

BQ:     A D E:           From                     To

Assess                       50%                     20%
Decide                      30%                    10%
Execute                    20%                    70%

As Gordon Tietjens taught us, a fast game is a good game.

Four tips on sharing stories. MIST.

M – Think Mobile-first. Design your stories and videos around the mobile experience as your audience’s first point of contact.

I – Intimate. People want stories about real people and real experiences, they are less engaged about the size of your infrastructure.

S – Social. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Use all the interactive mediums before you start putting another brochure through someone’s letterbox.

T – Transactional. Invite people to do something, to act, to form a movement.


Filter Speeches

Subscribe to our newsletter

To stay updated with the latest workshops & speeches

Subscribe Now