This advice will guarantee you a very, very bad story

Cathy Goodwin
4 min readJan 16

Storytelling for small business: focus on building your brand

Cropped from an image by Dushawn Jovic on Unsplash

After I wrote the first draft of this post today, I checked my email. A marketing coach was advising readers who were uncomfortable sharing a story of personal trauma.

“People want to see you as a kind, caring person,” she said (well, not exactly — I want to add an element of disguise). “So go ahead and share. You don’t have to tell us everything but even a small part of your story will be helpful.”

Yep…that’s my daily dose of cringe.

==> Listen to the podcast on this topic. Episode #86 on Apple, Spotify, Google, or your favorite platform.

Every day my email inbox gets filled with personal stories that would be better left unshared. Raw details of a bitter divorce. Episodes involving misplaced underwear. Family members involved in illegal activity. Dark moments when nothing seemed worth waking up for.

OK, I rarely get all those stories every day…but there’s usually at least one.

People who are otherwise smart, savvy, streetwise business owners somehow share these episodes…because they’ve gotten really, really bad advice. They’ve gotten advice from coaches like the one I found today.

When I was new to the online world, before I understood business storytelling, I got the same advice. “Let your readers get to know you. Show how you were successful.”

So I did. My first website was about career change. I wrote about my own career trajectory. I talked about being willing to move for a more appealing opportunity. My mentors were delighted.

Then one day, a reader commented, “You’re awfully brave! You’re willing to leap without a net!”

Um…not exactly. I do have a high tolerance for risk but I actually had safety nets in place every time I moved. I knew what I’d do if things went wrong and I usually moved with a job waiting at the other end.

If someone asked me about sharing a traumatic personal story, I would share 3 guidelines.

1 — Start by asking, “What is the purpose of telling a story?”

Cathy Goodwin

Create a compelling marketing message that attracts your ideal clients through your unique selling story.