Ever marvel at those people who can pull up a seat to the campfire and tell a story like nobody’s business?
You sit there, hearing nothing but the crackle of the fire and feeling the heat of its flame glow against your face, and you wonder, “Why can this person tell such a fabulous story and I can’t even speak a coherent sentence?!”
Some people just seem to have story coursing through their veins.
- They know how to draw you in.
- They know exactly when to ramp up the action.
- And they know the perfect time to bring it all to an end.
Brands are like this, too.
Some brands just seem to have the corner on the story market, and no matter what they push out, it’s always moving, always incredible, always out of the park.
Obviously, some of that success is a result of the millions of dollars these brands have spent making sure those stories succeed, but here’s the good news:
But loads of cash or not, what you DO know as a woman business owner is that doing a sub-par job of telling your brand story comes with a HUGE COST. . .
- It’s difficult to explain what you do and who you’re trying to reach. . .
- It’s hard to create offers that resonate with your audience. . .
- It’s uncomfortable to show up as a trusted guide or expert. . .
- It’s discouraging when it feels like no one is tuning in to anything you have to say. . .
Friend, I get you, and there’s nothing more frustrating than having a story deep inside you with no clear direction on how to tell it.
So if you’re ready to extinguish all that frustration, let me invite you to pull up a seat to our own figurative camp fire.
I’m going to share a few secrets that will help you finally unleash that brand story you need to tell.
SECRET #1: Your story doesn’t start in the here and now.
And sure, maybe that feels obvious.
But. . . the reality is that most of us try to tell our brand stories in a way that whitewashes all of our before life.
Since 2016, I’ve worked with nearly 400 women business owners, and time after time, I hear the SAME response after asking women to tell me who they are and what they do:
“Well, I started out as an _______, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what I do now.”
And it’s here where I gently remind them of this single truth. . .
- You were a financial advisor and now, you’re a designer. This is why you’re incredibly budget-conscious.
- You married a lawyer and you’ve seen the emotional toll that career takes on relationships. This is why you’re uniquely qualified to counsel lawyers as a legal wellness coach.
- You spent the first half of your career helping real estate agents move past their personal junk so they could become top earners. This is why you’re so great at coaching business leaders.
If you’re someone who’s struggling to understand exactly how YOUR backstory matters, then I’d like to invite you to identify two or three life experiences that you’ve written off as “useless” to your present day situation.
Maybe you were a stay-at-home mom for a decade.
Or maybe you’re pivoting from one career to another, with no discernible connection between the two.
Whatever those seemingly “useless” experiences are, take a moment to jot them down.
Then, I’ll meet you below.
Okay. Now that you have those experiences written down, let’s use the chart below to dig even deeper.
Create a table like the one below.
In the first BLANK COLUMN, write down the first experience you identified as “useless.”
Then, think through the questions in each row and provide as much input as possible for your answer.
Watch how the table works for me, and then. . .
SECRET #2: You aren’t the only author to your brand story.
Hearkening back to my undergrad days, this idea of shared authorship would be called reader-response criticism – a theory that argues that a story doesn’t come to life UNTIL the audience gets it and breathes life into it.
We can (and should) apply this same idea to your brand story, too.
Your core values, your origin story, your mission – all of it matters INCREDIBLY to your story, but unless you can find a way to make it all connect to the audience you’re trying to serve, it won’t ever come to life.
One of the biggest mistakes I see women business owners make in this area is holding on to the “I can do it all on my own” mentality most of us have learned to champion and adopt.
It can be so hard for us to let others into our lives, and even harder to let them into our story, and rather than pushing through that hard to invite others into the process of brand story creation, we determine that it’s safer to just tell our story all on our own.
But here’s what we need to understand: If we know that good storytellers understand their characters, then we also know that good business owners understand their audience.
And here’s the rub with that truth:
- Living the same life as your audience doesn’t count
- Going through the same experiences as your audience doesn’t count
- Having friends who are just like your audience doesn’t count
Sure, those conversations are kinda hecka scary.
Sure, they make us vulnerable.
But they also make us REAL, and it’s here in these conversations with our real-life audience where we find storylines that act as kindling to the fire of our brand messaging (and can spark story lines EVERYWHERE, from our email campaigns and social media posts to opt-ins and website copy).
The good news is that starting these conversations might feel intimidating, but it isn’t hard.
I typically begin mine with just a few questions, and if you’d like to take a peek, grab those questions right HERE.
SECRET #3: You’re stuck in your own head.
This is where reality versus perception really matters.
Because you might want to show up with a certain personality or with a specific skillset, but (and this is an important caveat). . .
Let me make this personal.
When I was a marketing and communications director for a small, private university, I primarily worked alongside a bunch of 22 – 25 year olds.
At the time, I was an entire decade older than these co-workers, and so nothing about their presence felt a smidge threatening or intimidating to me. It was almost like I was their mom and they were my slightly too-old kids.
One day during a meeting, one of these co-workers said the following to me: “Lindsay, I know you and I love you. I think you’re funny and love being around you, but you are SCARY and I’d hate to ever sit in an interview with you.”
Hold. The. Phone.
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
He went on to explain. In detail.
“Your face is SOOOO serious. You look angry all the time.”
Now, I can get pretty feisty at times, but all-the-time anger is about as far away from who I am as a person as what Neptune is from Earth.
I immediately started asking all of my other co-workers, my work besties, and my boss.
They all laughed at me, and then. . . agreed.
At 38 years old, I had discovered that I had a serious case of RBF – and it was getting in the way of my best intentions.
Forget anything I said. . .
Forget anything I did. . .
My uber-serious, uber-scary facial expressions were warding people off. I came across as unapproachable, and with that revelation, I knew something serious had to change.
I had to start re-writing the story of who Lindsay was, and that began with a concentrated shift to my outward demeanor.
(Funny thing is, when I went home and told this story to my husband, he also laughed at me and said, “Yeah, I’ve known that forever.” Thanks for your timely share of insight, babe.)
And sometimes, we can be the first ones to completely DISCOUNT all the great strengths we bring to the table.
- I know I’m a great listener because others tell me that I hear them in ways no one else does.
- I know I’m a great “see-er” because others tell me that I see them in ways no one else can.
- I know that people think I’m funny because they tell me that all the time.
- I know people see me as smart and insightful and as a leader – but these would be the LAST words I’d use to describe myself.
As humans, we often don’t see our weaknesses, and we typically diminish our own strengths (especially as WOMEN).
One of the tools I use with my clients is a simple collection of images. The images provide a more abstract view of who my clients are, and in turn, they allow my clients to see themselves with a more accurate, more honest perspective. And with this knowledge, they know exactly HOW to show up and HOW to talk about what they do and how they do it.
Take some time to do this for yourself. I often recommend Unsplash or Pixabay as a great resource for images.
Find 5 – 7 images that represent how you WANT to be perceived by others.
And then, find 5 – 7 images that represent how you DON’T want to be perceived by others.
Then, find a few trusted friends who are willing to provide their own set of images for you.
Ask them to curate 5 – 7 images that represent who you are to them, and then, ask if they’d provide 5 – 7 images that represent the obstacles they see getting in your way.
The value in this second part of the exercise is that it allows you to measure your own perceptions of yourself against the way you’re actually showing up for others.
When you’ve done the exercise for yourself, I invite you to share your images and your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to dig in with you to ask a few more clarifying questions.
(Just be sure to put “Brand Story Images” in your subject line.)
You’ve done the exercises and you’ve gathered all the evidence, so now what do you do with it all?
Meet me below and I’ll tell you.