5 Ways to Beat the Fear in Storytelling

Storytelling motivates, inspires, bonds us to one another, yet why are so fewlose the fear to tell a story small businesses and organizations using it? Why do we keep shoveling out the same old product-driven drivel that our audience tunes out in seconds?

We do it out of fear. We’re scared to try something new. We have our campaigns on auto-pilot. All is right with the world…except people aren’t buying it anymore.

Let go of the fear. Dump it now.

Get past your fear and onto telling your story

It’s not difficult to tell a story — a story about you, a story about someone you’ve helped with your product or service, a story about inspiration but you have to shed the fear and look into the unknown.

You need to do this because big business is using stories to appear small. They are competing with you in your niche as the neighborhood _____. If you don’t tell your story, a multi-million dollar conglomerate will and they’ll do it well.

Here’s how to get over the fear:

Be yourself

This is frightening because you worry about alienating your audience. However, in a time where people want to do business with people they know (if only virtually), you are deciding between the possibility of masses of unengaged customers or limiting your customer base by being yourself but thus having them more intimately connected to you.

Which would you rather have people making an unconscious decision to buy based on whim or knowing that they are buying you? Unless you are a horribly offensive person (and, still, there is a market for that), be yourself.

Don’t be afraid of the customers you won’t get, be afraid of the customers you will (if you hide your personality).

Give it time

I know the number crunchers are going to hate this one but you can’t build relationships over night. Even the most adept networker, needs repeated exposure to maintain an impression. Don’t set a time limit of anything less than six months and don’t set that clock ticking unless you are out there making connections.

Hiring a great writer to throw stuff on your blog won’t have any effect on your connections unless you’re socializing the posts, having conversations, asking for feedback, commenting on others, etc.

We’re not 5. It takes us some time to make friends.

Come out of the ivory tower

Don’t limit your connections to people who come to you. Get out there. Join LinkedIn groups, share posts on Pinterest, ask questions on Facebook, comment on people’s blogs (and ask them to elaborate on their opinions). Do this often so they start recognizing and remembering you.

Remember, there’s an awful lot of racket out there. You have to show up more than once a week to make any kind of difference.

Help others

When you are helping others, it’s no longer about you. You can cast away your fear because you’re doing it for the betterment of others.

If you have a product or you represent a group that is of service to others, think about how promoting yourself through storytelling is getting your message of help out there. It’s your duty to do this and it’s no longer about you.

Share your knowledge

Similar to helping, give of your wisdom. Give of your experience. When you are sharing these things, it’s not about dirty marketing (the term I like to use for old school interruption marketing). We all have pasts we can draw from. We are a composite of these events.

Sharing your story is about sharing your knowledge.

Most of the great teachers of the world used parables to make their points. They did this because stories are memorable. You repeat them to others.

Don’t be motivated by fear. Use these suggestions to reframe how you look at storytelling. The point is to reach your audience in an effective way. Storytelling will help you do that.


You had me at your Brand

Brand goes a long way in marketing. But the difference between old school lobrand loyalyalty based on a product name and today’s personal branding is immense.

I don’t think of myself as a brand loyal person from a product side. I am frugal and buy what gives me the best value, which for me also (usually) means the cheapest. However, I noticed this is not true when I’m buying “people.”

I met Christopher S. Penn on one occasion but I’ve followed him in the social spheres for ages. He’s a very smart guy, a 21st century marketer and a master of analytics. His blog posts are meaty and you’ll learn a lot by following him and/or subscribing to his weekly newsletter.

I realized something as I got notification from him on a new book he wrote. I will buy it for two reasons — it’s Chris and it’s about creativity (a keyword that catches my eye). He doesn’t have to sell me on anything further and I haven’t even read the synopsis.

While you may not be interested in the content of my book shelves, as a business owner you should be interested in why I’m buying it. Chris has a reputation (in my book) of serving great, helpful content. I like what I’ve seen and know of him. I am buying “him” as much as I am buying his book.

Chris’ name/brand equals valuable marketing guidance (in my mind). His use of content marketing and storytelling has me consistently turning to him when I need marketing advice. So… when he offers a product, his reputation sells it to me without him saying a word. (That’s not exactly true. He does have to make sure I know about it.) Chris doesn’t sell me in superlatives. He merely provides me with a lot of helpful resources for free.

You can do the same thing with your business marketing. The first step is to create helpful content. Know your audience. Find out what their concerns or struggles are and produce content that helps reduce those things. When you do, your audience will start to see you as a valuable resource and your personal brand will become your best salesperson.


Image via Flickr by pds209

You had a Motive. Where’d it Go?

motivation and storyYou had a reason — for going off on your own to start a business or accepting a job. You had something that sparked your initial interest in the possibility.

For me, it was following the enchanting thought of being my own boss and making my own schedule. It was the thrill of climbing out of the corporate ivory tower to get back to people I thought I could help. It was being able to form close personal relationships and not be encumbered by a corporate structure.

That’s the story behind why I left my last company and went out on my own but it doesn’t explain why I chose to go into content marketing. If I talk only about flexibility, I’m leaving the most poignant part of my story out. Don’t do that.

Your Motivation is Your Story

We’ve all heard an actor ask, “What’s my motivation?”, to a director. Discovering the motivation tells the actor how to play a role and it also affects how we (as the audience) feel about the character. For instance we feel very differently about a woman with a starving child at home who steals a loaf of bread because all of her money went to pay for her husband’s burial versus a teen from a gated community who takes a 99 cent bottle of nail polish because she likes the feeling she gets of nearly getting caught. The bread is worth more but we have more empathy for the woman. While we may not be able to identify with the desperation she feels, we can understand that. Your audience will do the same when you share your motivation behind your current role.

If you leave out the motivation behind why you started a business or why you chose to be a part of your organization, you’re leaving out the best part — the part that evokes a response and is a foundation for building a relationship.

photo credit: Image via Flickr by AlsterJogger

photo’s story: the motivation behind building the Taj Mahal is frequently told as a love story but the building wasn’t built to win the heart of a princess. It was to commemorate her death. She died giving birth to the emperor’s 14th child. This amazing building was something he promised her on her death bed. It took 22 years to complete.

Telling Your Story and an End-of-Year Review

year end reviewRegardless of how — or if — you celebrate, I wish this for all of you:

a trouble-free time where you’re surrounded by the love of friends and/or family.

This image features a few lines from my favorite Christmas song — Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I love it because in addition to the well wishes and typical sentimentality of this time of year, it’s nostalgic and forward-thinking.

“Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.”

As we mark the close of one year and one just beginning, I always take a moment — usually in a candle-lit room (no fireplace here in Florida) with glass of cabernet — and I reflect on the past year.

These are just a few of the things that enter my mind:

  • Where was I this time last year?
  • What were my challenges at that time?
  • What was I hoping to accomplish for this year that just past?
  • How have I changed?
  • What have I learned?
  • Is the lesson over? Or will it continue?

I make a living showing organization’s how to tell their story. Since every story needs a beginning, middle and end, taking the time to review the past year — like the struggles you’ve faced or the wins you’ve had — is a way to gather content for your story and continue to grow. If you’re shaking me off, try the video below for inspiration.

This song puts me in a reflective mood every time. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can appreciate the nostalgia of the song and of course, the velvet pipes of good ole Frank. Enjoy!

The Most Important Thing About Content

content locks impede sharingLots of people are going to tell you quality is the most important aspect of content. But let’s be honest, there is an audience for everything. Quality is in the eye of the consumer. It’s about what the people who follow you want to read about, not your personal preferences.

Helping Create Content Curators

The most important thing about your content — because I’m going to assume you know your audience and what they like to read (how would you write for them otherwise?) — shareability. This week I visited a popular blog. The content wasn’t my sort of thing — it was about Batman and his political persuasion. Even though it wasn’t my thing, it was clever and I have a very dear friend who loves the Bat. My friend and I, being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, love to debate politics with one another. The post was a very fitting share. Or at least it would’ve been, had the site allowed me to share it.

It looked like I could, with all of those colorful share buttons, but when I hit those nifty things I was prompted to join their community. My share was held hostage unless I joined. No join. No share. This is the wrong message.

Encourage Content Sharing

After all, sharing is caring. By blocking my ability to share, this blogger penalized herself. I already read the content by the time I wanted to share it. I wanted my friend to read it too. He would’ve liked it and shared it with his network. I would’ve looked like a superstar to him, which would’ve made me happy and would’ve made me come back to this blog in the future as I would associate it with good content. Instead, I remember it wouldn’t let me share. (Note: yes, I could’ve copied the hyperlink and shared via email or written him a hand-written letter about the appropriateness of this blog post but alas, I had other things to do.)

When Locking Content Works

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to lock content, but only when your reader is vested in what the blog has to offer. When I’m only given a taste and I’m left wanting more, I’ll gladly give something for what is being offered. If I’ve received what I want from a content perspective, my personal needs are met. By barring me from sharing, the blog was keeping me from shining and cut itself off from receiving exposure to my network. I wasn’t emotionally invested or curious enough to be tempted to join the community. I didn’t see the value. If you’re going to lock content, give me a glimpse of what I could get or show me the value.

Have you come across a site that discourages sharing? Have you been back?