With the current buzz about storytelling, you might feel pressured by the advice to, “Tell your story.”
But what most people won’t tell you is, how do you find the one story that will help you sell yourself — the difference-maker?
Here’s what a no-sell story looks like:
An author had just published a book on loneliness. Back in those days, authors gave book talks. Then they answered questions.
One of the author’s first questions was, “Why did you choose to write about this topic?”
“My agent thought it would be a good topic,” she said, “because there’s a lot of buzz around the topic and we could find a publisher.”
This story has the ring of truth to it. It fits the definition of an origin story. But will it sell? No way.
Choose your brand story based on your archetype.
Your brand story will be your core, defining story. So it’s important to match your story to your brand. Most successful businesses have branded on one of 5 story types: the innovator, the role model, the celebrity, the educator or the passionate advocate. You can learn more about these 5 archetypes in this free download.
Melinda is a wedding planner who’s come up with a new approach to planning weddings, using the Internet and a series of templates for the wedding party. She’s an innovator.
Richard is a motivation coach who’s spoken on many big stages. He writes a column for a national magazine and he’s published some best-selling books. In his former life, he was an actor who worked in Hollywood, so he’s got lots of names to drop.
Richard works with a small number of clients and charges very high prices. Clients see him as someone larger than life — someone who inspires them to achieve. Richard brands himself as a celebrity. His promise is, “I’m living an amazing life…and that means you can learn a lot from me.” He’s a celebrity.
Richard is careful to avoid promising, “You can achieve everything I’ve done.” That’s not realistic.
Cynthia, a health coach, has built her business on the promise, “If I did it, you can too.” Cynthia likes to shares stories of the years when she struggled to lose weight. She had a dozen health problems and always seemed to have a doctor’s appointment on her calendar. Exercise was out of the question: she just didn’t have the energy, let alone the motivation.
Cynthia finally had a “last straw moment.” Her doctor made a snarky comment about why did Cynthia keep coming back with the same problems, over and over.
So Cynthia began to explore ways to get healthy. She ignored most advice and came up with her own diet plan and a baby-step exercise program. Now she’s 61 pounds lighter, she’s a regular at the gym, hasn’t been to a doctor in months. Cynthia built a business following the Role Model archetype: she’s an accessible, approachable resource.
Your archetype isn’t tied to your business category.
You might have been sleeping on a bare mattress in somebody’s basement two years ago and now you’re enjoying a 4-bedroom house. But that story doesn’t show you can coach someone to make the same journey.
And these days, readers are (rightly) getting more cynical. They’ve heard too many motivational speakers. So they wonder if you conveniently left out a crucial detail, like that winning lottery ticket.
Your audience relates to stories of people you helped, not stories of how you struggled.
You do have to be careful to make disclaimers, such as, “These success stories should not be considered typical.” In some fields (such as law or finance) you face legal restrictions on what you can claim.
Move from message to story.
So back to the author facing an unexpected question, “Why write a book about loneliness?” Her message is, “Authors get loneliness — it goes with the territory.”
So she says, “As a writer, I spend lots of time alone. Sometimes being a writer can be a lonely business. I realized I had developed strategies to deal with loneliness, and as a writer I have access to experts who can provide additional insight.”
She’s not distorting the truth. She’s digging deeper into her own motivation.
Ultimately, it’s not about finding reasons to tell a story. It’s about finding a story that fits your reasons.
Building your own storytelling toolkit? This FREE ebook explain the 5 brand story archetypes that characterize most successful business owners.
Or sign up for a one-on-one Story Consultation. We’ll review your business, find your story, strengthen your message and nail your brand…in 90 stimulating minutes. Click here to learn more and sign up.
Discover how strategic storytelling can boost your business — read my best-selling kindle book, Grow Your Business One Story At A Time.
Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com on August 10, 2020.