April 2nd was Autism Awareness Day, and April is Autism Awareness Month. This year, thanks to the tireless efforts of Autism advocates, the world took notice. But what is it that was noticed?

What if we moved beyond general stereotypes and strived to understand real individuals? Tweet This Quote

The media’s coverage of Autism often focuses on the deficits of people labeled as having a disability. At best, the narrative dwells on the challenges faced by an individual and the accommodations made by their family, school or employer. At worst, the story reinforces stereotypes of a strength or weakness and paints a community of 3.5 million Americans and 1% of the world’s population with a single brush.

But what if we looked past accommodations for a perceived disability to an appreciation of actual abilities? What if we moved beyond general stereotypes and strived to understand real individuals? That’s exactly what DifferentBetter, a campaign by ULTRA Testing to support Autism Awareness Month, aims to do.

Any business with social impact baked into its DNA will have incredible stories to tell. Tweet This Quote

ULTRA, a technology company that provides high quality, highly responsive software testing services, currently has team members working in 12 states across the U.S., 75% of whom have Asperger’s Syndrome or a similar Autism Spectrum profile. As you might imagine, no single narrative or stereotype can fairly represent this incredibly diverse and talented team. So, ULTRA launched DifferentBetter, to celebrate diverse ways of thinking and learning by giving voice to those of us, neurodiverse and neurotypical, to tell our own stories about what makes us different, and how those differences make us better.

Telling stories versus publishing metrics is what will set your business apart. Tweet This Quote

Any business with social impact baked into its DNA will have incredible stories to be told, stories that energize your team, engage your customers and investors, and capture the public’s imagination. Telling stories, vs. publishing metrics, is what will set you apart, and how you tell those stories will be a source of differentiation that is more compelling than lower prices or higher quality.

If you’re thinking and/or doing anything related to storytelling at your company, here are two things to keep in mind:

  • Empower individuals to tell their own stories.
    Don’t speak on behalf of others, but rather let them speak for themselves. Letting employees, customers and stakeholders speak for themselves does not mean piecing together testimonials and sound bytes to tell the story you want to tell. It means letting each individual tell their story, in their own words, based on what matters to them. You don’t need your product to be in the story; you just need the story to be told on your platform (and “platform” could be your social media channels).
  • Plan for a hundred stories, not a single PSA.
    Build a constant stream of content for social media to share with your supporters versus a single PSA that lives on your website. In a world where more people get their news from their Facebook feed instead of a television network, authenticity matters a lot more than production value—cheap and real will almost always beat flashy and fake. You don’t need an internal content or production team. Your employees, customers and beneficiaries just need a smartphone to shoot their own video. Additionally, you can always issue calls for content framed around specific campaigns or themes (to guide the content that’s shared) and provide tools to make content gathering and sharing easy (as ULTRA did with DifferentBetter by using the Storyvine app).

You don’t need your product to be in the story, you just need the story to be on your platform. Tweet This Quote

This April during Autism Awareness Month, visit DifferentBetter.us, share your own DifferentBetter story, and spread #DifferentBetter to your colleagues and friends. Then, consider what you can do to let your team members, customers and stakeholders speak for themselves and tell their stories.

Rajesh Anandan

Author Rajesh Anandan

Rajesh Anandan is SVP of UNICEF Ventures at UNICEF USA, Co-Creator of Kid Power—the world's first wearable-for-good—and Co-founder of ULTRA Testing, a high performance software testing company that employs individuals on the Autism Spectrum. @UltraRajesh

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