Telling Your Story as a Young Association Professional

tell your story whatever it is
Photo credit: via Flickr by Evan, Photo Extremist

While I am a firm believer that a memoir is probably not the right fit for a ten year-old looking to publish a book, telling your story is not something to put off until you’re middle-aged. Your story is part of your personal brand and can help you stand out in a sea of people who are equally exuberant and equally without relevant job history.

When I was asked a few weeks ago to put together a post about advice I would give a young association professional, my first reaction was “to make the most of your time” because as you age it not only goes faster but you have less of it. Making the most of your time means: joining groups; experimenting with different projects and tasks to find out what you’re really skilled at and what you like; keeping your skills up-to-date by taking control of your own personal development – a diploma doesn’t mean the learning is complete; starting that novel now versus later…you get the idea.  

You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. – The Breakfast Club

But I would also add that it’s important while you’re doing these things to examine who you are, where you came from and what makes you unique. Think of the college entrance essays you wrote about what inspires you or shaped you. Use those things to tell your story.

 

Questions/Tips for Creating and Telling Your Story

  • Think about when you’re happiest. What does that say about you?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • If Hollywood told your story, who would they cast to play you and what parts of your life would they highlight?
  • Think about what the market wants/needs right now and answer how you can fill it based on your life experiences.

Keep in mind that employers, networkers, peers will all see you as they see any other recent grad – ready to take on the world with no practical experience with which to do so.

 

Stand out from the crowd.

Tell them who you are.

Don’t wait for them to decide.

Tell your story.

 

There was a lot of great advice on the topic. I encourage you to read:

Sarah Hill – MemberClicks

Deidre Reed – www.deidrereed.com

Lowell Aplebaum – Association 141 blog

Shelly Alcorn Association Subculture blog

KiKi L’Italien – Aptify and Acronym Soup blog

 

How to Ruin Your Business Story

Many folks are still afraid to tell their story. They’re worried they’ll say/write something wrong or something that will be offensive. Maybe. That’s always possible but that’s probably not how you’re going to ruin your story. now entering storyville

Most people will not ruin their story through:

  • taking a stand
  • bad writing (Come on. There’s more of that than there is good.)
  •  telling the wrong story
  • having a story that’s similar to another’s

Nope. It’s much simpler than that.

 

Most Businesses Ruin Their Story By…

 

being bland. They think they’re telling a story but the things they include in their story are what I refer to as blah details. Blah details are details no one has any emotional attachment to. I wrote a post on how they’ll ruin your storytelling.

Many moons ago when I was in school, my high school history teacher talked about the “rally around the flag” effect. These are the concepts that cause people to come together. They are the “mom” and “apple pie” type ideals that most of the population shares an affinity for. (Please don’t tell me you hate pie. It’s merely figurative.)

 

These concepts apply to storytelling. There are several stories that resonate with Americans.

  • The underdog achieving greatness such as a poor child graduating at the top of her class or an unemployed steelworker winning the lottery
  • A happy ending (particularly in romance) where someone’s struggles are rewarded
  • A good heart (or bad one) getting what it deserves like a hardworking waitress receiving a monstrous tip from an unknown benefactor

 

How can you use the truths in your business?

Think about the obstacles you’ve overcome. Think about the details that make you different from everyone else. Now think about what you have in common with everyone else.

 

Wait, what?

 

The ideal story will unite you with your audience, having them rooting for you or siding with you, but be unique enough that people will repeat it. It will stick with them.

Things that unite people are struggles. Everyone has them. When you’re giving voice to your struggles and what you’ve overcome make sure you give enough details that your story, while it resonates with your audience, does not sound like every other small business.

You don’t have to only highlight struggles. You can also highlight what you believe strongly in.

 

Example: Summer reminds me of the joy of half-melted Italian ice dripping down my chin. My grandmother bought this special treat from the corner grocery store; the tiny kind of shop you’re careful not to turn around in too fast in fear that you’ll knock down a pyramid of tomato sauce jars. I don’t know if that kindly grocer sold it to us for a quarter because that was what it cost or because he just loved to watch us enjoy it. His gentle smile and laugh made us feel like his best customers. He was my first experience with a local, small business owner and thirty years later his generosity and appreciation for his customers inspires my business.

 

You probably won’t ruin your business story by being controversial. You’ll ruin it by speaking of things that have no identifiable meaning. I like the outdoors is not a story. In fact, it’s not even interesting. It’s not interesting because it’s lacking meaningful details. What exactly is the outdoors? Do you like the snow? The sun? The surf? Add that. Now go deeper. Why? When did you notice this?

 

Paint a picture. Cast a line. Invite your customer in.

 

Need some help telling your story?

 

photo credit: BCPL photo

 

Why Stories Work for Business

You’ve heard a lot about content marketing and storytelling for business recently. It’s all the rage and people are either talking about how to do it, thinking about it, lamenting the fact they don’t think they can do it or complaining they’re too scared to do it.

But any way you look at it storytelling and business has become big business. Here’s why:storytelling for business

People relate to stories

We have a natural need to connect. Regardless of backgrounds, there are certain story lines and personas we all relate to.

We understand conflict and wait to hear how it will be resolved. There’s a natural build to a story and we recognize it.

We also place ourselves in a story and imagine how things would’ve worked out had we been a part of it. If we enjoy the story, we want to be a part of it.

Stories stick with us

Stories are memorable. Long after the teller’s name has escaped us, we remember the story. We remember the bit of themselves that they shared with us.

The story may even prompt us to reach out in the future or use it as a conversation opener the next time we interact with the teller.

Stories evoke emotion

A good story moves us. It brings out emotion. We laugh, we cry, we seek justice. Emotion persuades. Purchases are based on emotion, not logical thinking.

Stories get repeated

Everyone enjoys a good story and because they stick with us, we are apt to repeat them. Our audience becomes the storyteller for a new audience.

Stories help you target your ideal customer

Crafting your story helps target the people you want to do business with. Many businesses are afraid to tell their story because they worry people won’t want to do business with them. Good. That’s the point. Unless you have an absolutely terrible story, someone will identify with it. Crafting it in a way that appeals to your target market will help you convert your ideal customer while leaving others on the wayside. Why spend “selling” time and money on someone who is not your ideal?

Telling Your Business’ Story

Telling your story is easy. It’s about capturing the passion of what makes you unique and sharing it in a socially acceptable way. You can do it through words, images, voice or video. But why choose?

People want to buy from people they know and can identify with. I won’t do business with someone whose story is diametrically opposed to my own.

Connections are becoming increasingly important. If you’re not giving them the time they need to be built and nurtured, you will see your customer base eroding as your competition begins to understand the importance of a good story.

 

Photo credit: via Flickr by Janet 59

 

The image is a story telling chair. While it’s beautiful in its simplicity, your business needs something more conducive to conversation.

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