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4 How-tos to Crafting Better Stories

EP. 225 4 How-tos to Crafting Better Stories

Today we're taking storytelling one step further beyond the whys: we're going into the HOWS

Dive into a gold mine of actionable, tactical storytelling approaches so you can level up in your content game.

I've got 4 "how-to" focused simple storytelling tactics that:

  1. Make stories more FUN and SIMPLE and EASY for you to craft. Let's be honest: sometimes creating content feels like too much work and it's boring to talk about the same stuff on repeat. 

Fun & interesting content approaches are a must-have for you to keep going.

  1. Give realistic tactics, tactics, tactics. Learn how to hook your audience, how to keep them interested with the right details…
  2. Help you segue into the damn point you want to make and get them to take some action!

No more telling stories that feel too long, wander around, or don't strategically work for your business.

From podcasts and videos to emails and blogs, use these storytelling tactics to transform your content into something that keeps people coming back for more. 

4. We've gotta talk about the mindset barriers that hold many of us back from embracing storytelling. 

So, we do that on today's episode. 

Inject new life into your content, connect with your audience on a deeper level, and feel more confident in your storytelling abilities! 

With the practical advice tucked into the episode, you'll be ready to take on the world of storytelling, no prob.

Pssst - would YOU like personalized help with telling stories? Knowing how to translate your expert information into relatable, engaging stories? 

Grab a one-off session by going to https://www.jenliddy.com and nab an hour to get my eyes on your content!

(This is the third of a 3-part series on how to leverage storytelling on your marketing. To listen to the other episodes, click here for part 1 and here for part 2) 

 

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Full Transcript

Jen Liddy

Well, here we go. I am talking to you today about the last thing to cover when it comes to storytelling. 

I'm Jen Liddy, this is Content Creation Made Easy, and I'm excited to get into the third installment of my series on storytelling. 

We're continuing to talk about storytelling content and how to do it effectively. The two previous episodes I covered were all about why storytelling is an important approach when creating relatable content that will help your audience connect with you and eventually shift into becoming the potential to work with you. 

We also covered in the two previous episodes how to find stories that basically you can find everywhere in your everyday life using very simple strategies that anyone can use no matter how chaotic or exciting or simple or straightforward your life is – it doesn't matter, there are stories everywhere. 

And the episode right before this one is all about how to make sure your stories are safe to tell so you don't feel like you're being overexposed or that your privacy is invaded or that you get into a vulnerability hangover situation. 

Today, I'm diving into some specific storytelling tactics. These are the how-tos that'll help you craft better stories so they're easier for you to create and more enjoyable, meaningful, and useful for your audience to consume.

Before we get started, I'd really love for you to think about where would you like to use story and storytelling more in your content?

Because I want to remind you, when I say content, I don't just mean social media. A lot of people equate content with social media or they equate marketing with social media. 

And as you know, that's just a huge conception I like to remind people of whenever I can. So imagine where you could incorporate stories into your content in any place you like to show up. 

That might be, would you like to make your emails more storytelling rich? Or would you like your podcast to be a place where your audience can get to know a little bit more about you through the sharing of stories? 

Or would you like to express more of your voice through stories on LinkedIn or your blog or your videos? As we get going, I'd love for you to think about where do you want your stories to wind up, because it's not just about social media.

I've already made the case that storytelling can make this whole content creation thing more fun. I mean, we're often saying the same things over and over again, right? 

We've got our thought leadership, we've got our insights, we've got our content pillars. So we have to find ways to start making creating content fun for us because saying the same thing over and over again can get boring for you as a creator. 

And that's something that's really true. Like a lot of times managing our minds around our content isn't just like, ‘Oh, I don't know how to do this, or I don't want to be seen.’ 

It's also boring because "I am talking about the same things over and over again". But storytelling can make that a lot more interesting. 

I also want to say two other things. A: when we learn something, we're much more likely to remember it if we have a story to kind of hook into or wrap around it. The story often seeps into our brain and we can connect with it and then we learn the thing more profoundly. 

And B: stories help your audiences connect with what you're saying and make it real to their lives. 

So it's not just a factual or theoretical thing that you're sharing; it's helping them see themselves mirrored in a story or even find enjoyment, pulling out a thread they can relate to, or even seeing potential in your story for themselves. 

So let's get into talking about the tactical approaches and the how-tos that make your stories easier for you to tell and craft and more impactful for your audience to consume. Let's dive in. 

Number one, have a plan. Know your 'Why'. Before you try to start telling or writing a story, you need to know why you're telling it. 

Now this might seem like a really obvious point, but I think I need to make the point because how many people do you know who just jump into a story and just start talking?

How many times have you been the prisoner or a victim to that story from that in-law or that grandparent or that cousin that just goes on and on and on and on with a story that seemingly doesn't have a point and you have no idea why you're stuck in the middle of it. 

So the first thing that you want to do when telling any story is ask:

  1. How can this help my audience? 
  2. Why am I telling this story? 
  3. What is the ultimate point or goal of sharing the story with my audience?

Basically, what do I want this story to do for me, for my business, but mostly for my audience? 

So that leads us to number two, which is how to start the story. Starting the story is a really hard thing for a lot of people. 

They'll say something like, “I'm gonna tell you a story today,” which is not actually a great way to start a story, especially if people are reading the story. 

The other thing that people do to begin stories is they start with a lot of details and overdoing the background information and the explanation. Now, in a novel, that's the exposition. 

In marketing content, it's not the same. Telling a story is about getting in and getting out. 

So starting a story is absolutely important because it's where you hook people and get their interest, which you know how fleeting interest and attention are. And I liken this whole thing to being at the edge of a lake or a pool and you're dipping your toe, and you're slowly, slowly wading in as your body gets used to the water temperature. 

And that's a lot of the ways that people tell stories. They just begin at the very beginning and they give you so much detail and they're taking you through this enormous exposition until they get into the middle of the lake or the pool where the water is finally comfortable and the good stuff is happening. 

Now that can take a long time and it can bore your audience and that means you're going to lose them. So instead, try the middle of the lake approach, which is what I like to call it and always keep in mind that you are writing marketing content. You're not writing a novel. 

You can really drop your audience into a situation and give them what they need. You can give them some information to create context, but you don't have to spell everything out for your reader. Trust your reader to get the gist if you give them what they need. 

Here's an example.

Say you're sharing the story. Your story wants to be about a pain point from an anonymous client. 

You tell a story, and you begin with a gripping moment."She sat in the 10th meeting of her week, eyes glazed over, and fighting her fingers to not pick up her phone and send a scathing ‘I quit’ email to her director."

Now, with an opening line like that, we get a lot of information. But you don't need to tell us what her role is and what education she has and how long she's been at the company. You don't need all of that. 

You just kind of plop us into the middle of the pool or the middle of the lake, because we as readers don't need every freaking detail of what's going on. Just give us what is necessary and make it compelling. 

This hook is very important. Now, depending on your audience and your platform, your need for length and detail will change, but you always have to consider ‘How am I starting this so that I can hook somebody?’ 

One of my favorite stories was– I don't know what I was thinking in this story, but the dog had run out. It was the morning. I'd followed him in my pajamas, no shoes, no bra, no leash. 

I don't know what the hell I was thinking, because I'm like, what am I gonna actually do when I catch the dog? He was chasing another dog.

I don't even remember why I was using the story or what the point I was trying to illustrate. It was probably something about strategic planning, like put the shoes on and have the leash with you when you go chase your dog! 

But with the opening line, "I'm standing on the sidewalk, braless, shoeless, and it's 30 degrees", I basically dropped my audience into the moment with me standing there and yelling at my dog.

And I really got a lot of feedback on that story because, well, it was enjoyable and the point was, you know, very whatever the point was people liked, but they really liked just being dropped into the story. 

You don't need to give a ton of detail. 

The other thing you don't need to do is announce you're going to tell a story. Just start telling the story. 

One last thing on the topic of starting your stories: Don't give away the lesson to us.

Don't say something like, I'm gonna tell you a story about boundaries today, because what that does to your audience is it makes them think, “Ugh, boundaries again? We're still talking about boundaries or self care? Another story about self care? I already know about self care. I already know about boundaries. I don't need a story about that.” 

And then they scroll or delete or click off, right? So what we wanna do with our stories is drop people in, give them what they need, get them interested and curious and sneak in the details later as they are needed. 

But don't get too bogged down in the details, especially in the beginning, because when you've hooked them right from the start with the most important things that they need to know and they're curious and they're wondering what's going on, they get the gist of it, but they want to know more, they follow along and they're engaged. 

And then boom, you move them into the middle of the story. 

And then boom, you move them to the end of the story and there's a lesson or a takeaway or a point there. 

This beginning piece is so important because that's how they get to the next part, which is number three on my list of the details. 

This is the nitty gritty of the actual storytelling part. This is the body of your story. So let's talk about how to keep people interested in your story along the way.

Every sentence you write is just like a monkey swinging to the next vine on the next tree. Everything is to get people moving through the story. 

So sure, we've got to create some context for people. And it's often important where something happened or who the main player is, but sometimes storytellers really get bogged down in the middle of their stories with nitty gritty details that don't matter. 

I will hear people when they tell stories, they're like, “Oh, it's November 2019, wait, wait. Was it November or was it October? Wait, I remember, oh yeah, yeah. Halloween hadn't happened yet.”

Nobody cares. Nobody cares if it was blueberry pie or raspberry pie. So don't get so bogged down in the details. 

Decide which details are important for the purpose – remember, you're only telling the story for a purpose, and make sure that every detail is useful for that. 

Because you don't want your audience, even if you have a great hook, you don't want them to get halfway into the story and be like, ‘Oh my God, I'm not interested, I'm bored. There's so much happening or there's so many moving parts that I can't keep track of, or why is this important?’

You don't need every detail of everything that happened in a story to make your audience understand what they need to understand. 

When creating a situation for your audience, effective details can certainly help you create context or make your point, but you don't need to start out there and when you get into the middle of the story, you don't need every freaking detail either.

Too many moving parts can muddy a story. So again, remember, you're not writing a novel and we don't have a lot of time with our audience. 

They're just waiting to be distracted by the next thing, right? So whether they're reading your blog or watching a video or listening to your podcast, they're just waiting to go to the next thing. 

So keep it really tight and be very mindful with your details.

Now that leads me to what happens when you get to the part of the story where you need to wrap up and make your point. That's called a segue. 

So this is where you want to connect everything back to the point you wanted to make in the first place. This is the reason why you're telling the story. 

And since you've had a plan and you know why you started this whole thing, you already know the point that you're trying to make. You're clear on how the story you're telling will get the reader what they need. And you've already included some great details.

Now it's time to bring it back to the point. And there are tons of ways to do that with segues. 

You can do the obvious thing and say, ‘So why am I telling you the story about my dog and my bare feet on the sidewalk?’ And then you tell them, right? You just make the connection for that. 

But you can also do it in a zillion other ways. These other ways require more thought and more practice. And the more you actually do it, the better you will get at using segues. 

So one time I wrote about a time that my husband got confused when I sent him to Hobby Lobby. He got very confused and overwhelmed. I basically sent him there to buy a flag for July 4th. 

And instead, he walked in and he looked around and he was like, “Oh hell no, this is not my place. I can't find anything here.” And he walked out completely flag-less. 

So the segue I might make there might sound something like...

Confusion and overwhelm doesn't just happen in Hobby Lobby and not everyone has a sense of humor about it. If you're feeling confusion and overwhelm at the thought of trying to write one story a week for your email list, let's talk. I can make you a plan and we can work the plan together.

Right? So I've got a segue wrapped up in a call to action there. Or it could really be even simpler than that. 

I could have said, ‘Do you ever feel confusion and overwhelm with all the information coming at you about marketing and copy and messaging?’

It could literally be that easy. Making the segue is actually something you get better at, but you have to be doing it to get better at it. 

And I have a little secret. When you start reading emails from people in marketing who are your favorite storytelling marketers, because not everybody uses the strategy, right? 

When you start to watch how the people you love do this, your mind can't unsee the tactic of the segue. It's brilliant how some people do it, and some people are better at it than others. 

But start to look at your inbox, and let yourself learn by their example, and your brain will start to train itself to create segues between the story you're telling and the point you want them to make, or the action you want them to take, or the thing you want them to walk away with, basically. 

So bringing your story back to the point you're trying to make can be really quite direct. It could be something like, ‘This is a great example of why boundaries are so important.’

Right? But give yourself permission to start simple and direct and then just get more savvy and sophisticated as you practice and do some reading from what's coming into your inbox already. 

Don't overcomplicate, the segue is the lesson here. So here's the takeaway for the entire episode. Get in, decide what you're doing with this story. Tell the story then connect it to the point you want them to see, make your call to action, and get out. 

It's really like, get in, do the job, get out. That's what storytelling in marketing content can feel hard to be creating, but essentially that's all it is. 

And the bottom line here is storytelling has a lot of nuance, and the only way to get better at it is to simply do it, and that's why I created this three episode arc where I really wanted you to understand like the whys and the hows of it, and then to get some confidence to give it a try. 

Because the last thing that you need to know about storytelling is that the biggest thing that'll get in your way is the mindset garbage. It's thinking things like I'm terrible at writing, or no one wants to hear my stories. 

And these are old painful stories that can come to haunt you. And they will keep you from the joy that you can gain from telling stories, and the happiness and the benefits that your audience can receive from hearing your stories. 

This is a 1000% learnable skill if you start practicing and it's highly doable. But don't let that mindset garbage get in your way. 

And if you want help crafting your stories or learning how to look at your content and your pillars and all the things you talk about and weave in storytelling, we can easily do that in a single one-to-one call. 

I do this all the time. It's for people who feel like ‘I am such an expert in my field. I know my stuff inside and out, but I have no idea how to turn it into a story. I don't know how to do it with storytelling tactics and I don't know how to make people care.’ 

I can do that easily with you and you will have that skill forever. I promise. So if you go to https://www.jenliddy.com/power, you can walk away with a one-to-one session with me and we can create some personalized strategies to get my eyes on your stuff and teach you in a customized individual way. 

So I'm curious, which nuggets from these three episodes were most impactful to you? What are you gonna give a try? What shifted for you? I would love to hear it. 

You can either leave me a note or leave me a review on your podcast app, I'd be so grateful and would love to know what was helpful to you. 

Thank you for listening and I'm gonna say bye for now and I will see you next time on our next episode. Have a great week, bye.

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