The Story Economy Blog

The Problem of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is Still With Us

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened in Pride and Prejudice if Elizabeth Bennet had just been able to do a Google search of Mr. Darcy ahead of time?

I think it would have looked something like this:

 Mr. Darcy|LinkedIn

Derbyshire area; Ÿ Lord of a great manor

View Fitzwilliam Darcy’s profile on LinkedIn. See who has endorsed him for snobbery, being exquisitely rich, saving the reputation of young girls seduced by rakes, and extreme handsomeness.


Mr. Darcy (@pemberleyhousedude) on Twitter

See the latest from Mr. Darcy (@pemberleyhousedude). Inheritor of 10,000 pounds a year. I am a proud sort of fellow with a sour disposition, but also a loyal friend and brother. Look beyond my ego.


Are Good Opinions Once Lost, Lost Forever? – London Times Op-Ed

By Mr. Darcy. Posted March 1, 1813. Comments (108). Mr. Darcy of the great house of Pemberley discusses the value of first impressions . . .


Okay, so anachronism is just plain fun (The Happy Place blog series “If Downton Abbey Took Place Entirely on Facebook” is proof of that. Start with Episode 1!)

But what this is really about is conflicting accounts of something. “I hear such different accounts of you as to puzzle me exceedingly,” Elizabeth says to Darcy toward the beginning of the book, when she is trying desperately to get a handle on his character. Yeah, no kidding, but try your best to look at the whole picture, he basically tells her.

It’s actually quite comforting to know that exactly 200 years later, making sense out of a person’s character is still a problem. A really big problem. One that nearly screwed it up for Fitz and Lizzy. One that still screws things up for a lot of us today. And one that neither last century’s technology nor this century’s technology has fixed.

We’ve All Been Mr. Darcy

About seven years ago, an agency here in town brought me in to work on a big project that involved interviewing doctors and patients for a promotional video their client was making. I traveled all over with the creative team and the client. The chemistry all worked, and together, we created an amazing video (and shared many excellent dinners and conversations). It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and there were high fives all around.

A few weeks later, I was pulled in last minute to a similar project for the same agency and the same client. But the scope was unclear and my role was much less defined. It was a different creative team and a different representative from the client side. Hans was his name. For reasons unclear (other than a possible hatred of women), Hans did not like me. At all. I felt his disdain from the time the plane landed, and I couldn’t shake it. I was exactly the same, being the same me. I don’t know what he told my guy at the agency, but it wasn’t good, because I was pulled off the project the next day (which was actually a huge relief).

One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. I was set up to fail, and I chalked it up as Just One of Those Things.

Except that now someone who mattered to my business had an idea of me that I didn’t think was right. That wasn’t cool.

I remember so clearly my guy at the agency saying, “I just don’t understand: I’ve heard such different accounts of you.”

Like Mr. Darcy, I was left to try to explain myself. All I had was my body of work and the promise to do the best job I could in any future projects. And in that instance, it was enough.

But 2006 might as well still have been 1813, in terms of how information traveled. Before social media and the phenomenon of consumer reviews exploded, accounts still passed person-to-person—just speedier (email vs. hand-written letters).

Now it’s person-to-person, except it’s any person to any other person.

It’s person-to-person times seven billion.

In my video, and in my writings, I’ve said that we live in a story economy. That means that we also live in a review economy. We take more seriously the things that our fellow consumers say than the things the businesses we buy from say. Sure, we’re still amused by multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercials. But our neighbor, colleague, vendor, friend, or fellow size 8 who bought the Modcloth dress we’re interested in has more influence.

That consumers have so much power is awesome.

But as a business owner, it’s profoundly scary to not have the power. And to have such a mass of feedback and ideas with lives of their own swirling around you so fast. Between third party sites that offer reviews, the content you create yourself that gets shared, and the comments that follow on every single social media platform—there are likely to be very different accounts of your business.

What I tell my clients is that their brand is never a fixed thing. We do all of this work to cut down to the core of what you’re about. And then like a little bird, you have to let it go out into the world. Where 1.6 seconds later, anyone can tell you what they think about it and about how you do business.

But I think there is still a lesson in our friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. (I mean, there are lessons splashed all over the pages of 19th century literature, not that you asked . . .) But as for Fitz, he does something to reconcile the conflicting accounts for Elizabeth after she stone cold rejects him: he writes her a very moving letter and he tells his story.

Oh, and the key: He tells it without ego. At which point, she can’t help but see, despite herself, that it’s true.

Detach. And then reattach.

Let go. And then throw the tether back out.

Disengage the ego, and pull it back to your story, over and over again. Because the detractors aren’t going away. Hans is around every corner. The conflicting accounts probably won’t stop. You will never¬† have the control to be able to merge them.

But you will always have your story.


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