Tell your story. Be more vulnerable. Talk about your weak spots. If you’ve created any kind of content, I’m sure you’ve heard this advice somewhere before. Stories are an essential part of every brand’s strategy to bring them closer to their audience and make them seem more relatable; but how do we know which stories to share and which ones aren’t quite appropriate for public consumption? Even if we share those stories, how much do we reveal? Where do we draw the line? Having told my fair share of stories, I recognise the ones that feature personal details always seem to drive the engagement on my content. Knowing that where to draw the line is always a bit of a moving target, I developed a simple 3 question frame to help me decide on whether or not it’s the right time or right story to tell. Here’s what they are and how they can help you.
Am I over this?
Telling stories, especially the ones where we learn lessons the hard way could make us emotional. Whether we get angry, we cry or we feel anxious, telling a story is almost like reliving the trauma over and over again. Sometimes these stories are the kinds to have the most impact on your audience and its risky sharing them. So you should ask yourself “Am I over this incident?” Being “over” an incident is being in a place of clarity after it has happened. It’s a mental place where you’re not overwhelmed by the emotions surrounding the incident, so you can actually communicate the story with some level of calm and objectivity. It’s important that when you tell your story, even if it’s an inherently emotive one, that you can tell it with some degree of ease. Will it be difficult for other people to hear, perhaps, but it should not be too difficult for you to tell it anymore. If it’s too difficult or you feel like you’re reliving the trauma, you’re not ready to share that event yet, so you don’t have to. You can shelve it until you’re ready to open that Pandora’s Box.
Can I identify the lesson my audience is supposed to learn from this story?
Have you ever listened to someone go on and on and wondered “when are they going to get to the point?” This is what it feels like listening to a story with no moral. As a thought leader, your audience needs you to teach them. Even if that lesson is a reminder about something they have heard a million times in the past or it’s just your take on something that’s commonplace. Telling a story that has no lesson is a rant. It doesn’t add any value so you’ll find it tough to engage your audience or connect with them in any real way. You also want to be mindful that every detail of a story may not be relevant to your lesson either. Sometimes stories have a tendency to meander and leave your audience lost in the weeds of your point. If certain details don’t contribute to the outcome, especially if they weaken your position, leave them out. While events happen every day in our lives, it’s not necessary to share every single story. Neither is it necessary to share every single detail of every story. If the story you’re about to share or the details you want to include don’t help people, you should keep it in your personal library. Not every book needs to be read aloud, sometimes you’ve got to turn the page and move on.
Can I reframe the perspective on this event to turn my vulnerability into something positive?
This is where you get into the “Jedi mind trick” level of storytelling. Once you’ve become more experienced at telling stories to grow your personal brand, you’d find that you have all sorts of stories you can pull out of storage. Stories you never thought mattered would suddenly become great for content. Experiences you’ve overcome and many lessons to share. However, being able to re-frame a story that seems to expose a vulnerability in you while positioning you as the winner is certainly a story to be told. Stories that turn disappoint into to opportunity and rejection into redirection. When you train yourself and your audience to start viewing events through this lense you will realise that you start to rewire their brains to be a more positive and productive place. In essence, you become much more influential and your brand has much more reach.
Stories will always be vital to any brand’s DNA and when it comes to your personal brand it’s the thing that creates the bridge between you and your audience. Is there such a thing as over sharing? Yes, but you can test yours to determine if it’s the right story or even the right time to tell it. If your answer to each of the questions above is a resounding yes, then you’re good to go. If not, turn the page or put that story book back on the shelf until they are.