Spin Sucks: if You Want to Tell a Good Story (a Book Review)

I was fortunate to be among a group of early reviewers for a book that recently game out – Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich. Storytelling with Spin Sucks

Here’s my synopsis: buy it. The more time you waste reading these reviews, the less time you’ll have to implement these very worthwhile tips.


But if you need more encouragement….


While this book was written by one of the great PR minds of our time, she did so with business owners in mind. Gini provides readers with tips they can put into place themselves or simply use to have a better conversation with the people doing their PR and marketing.

Telling your business story is so important in today’s sales climate. It improves loyalty, sales and engagement. While initial efforts to create a spin-free representation for your business take time – you’re building relationships after all – in the end, if means less work for your marketing, sales and PR teams because you will have created loyal brand ambassadors out of your customers.

As Gini says throughout the book, this method is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. But she gives you the tips and tools you need to run a good clean race you can be proud of.

You can find my full book review of Spin Sucks here.

Or if you’re more into video…


Full disclosure: I have not been compensated for this review nor do I have any financial interest in it. I was given access to a galley copy but have since purchased my own copy – and you should too.


Tips on Telling your Business Story from Successful Writers

When I suggest telling your business story I hear a lot of grumbling. While the cause is partly lack of understanding as to who they are or who they hope to be (aside from successful), some people are just hesitant because they think they can’t write.

Telling your story is not about writing. It’s about encapsulating who you are as a business (and the people/person behind it) in a medium your audience will consume.

Still feeling nervous about storytelling? These great writers can help:

“I myself am made entirely out of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” -Augusten Burroughs

If you’re not going to tell an honest story, don’t tell one. Conflict is what makes a story so don’t be afraid to tell of your failures. Think of them as flavoring, without a little spice, there’s not a memorable finish.

“This moment will be just another story someday.” – Stephen Chbosky

We can only hope that what we are dong at this moment is material for a great story.

“The world is a story we tell ourselves about the world.” -Vikram Chandra

Your business story is more than how you came to be. It’s about who you want to be.

Do you sell to pampered pets? Or do you want to be known as the working man’s something? Your story must convey this. Just as a novelist would pick a genre and write accordingly, tell your story in a way that appeals to your target audience and speaks their language.

Your business story becomes who you are to the world.

“Have your adventures, make your mistakes, and choose your friends poorly – all these make for great stories.” -Chuck Palahniuk

Your business failures will later become the grit of your stories. They will be the glue your customers adhere to, if you own up and admit to them.

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” – Brandon Sanderson

When writing your business story the phrase, “This is why you should buy…” should never come into it.

The story is a courtship of the customer.

That’s why a lot of marketers hate this method. It’s slow. It’s patient. You must woo the customer, court them. Never order them to do something. Lure them. Seduce them and they won’t want to leave.

What’s your story?



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.