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Simple Storytelling Strategies

Episode 223 Simple Storytelling Strategies

Using storytelling is a content approach that will only become more & more important as AI tools & technology becomes faster, better, & more prevalent. 

We can absolutely use AI tools to help us, but... Your audience is STILL looking for a connection to you, a dose of YOU - as a personal brand.

So, as you try to market your program, services, books, and courses in the online world, learning to tell great stories is vital because:

  1. Your audience wants to know they’re engaging with a real human
  2. No one – especially YOU - has time to create stories “just for the hell of it”.
  3. Your stories need to be designed to shift your audience into customers and clients. 

Storytelling is 100% a learnable skill - And even if your life is soooo boring, you're a "horrible" storytelling, or you have no idea where to find story ideas... LISTEN UP TODAY!

Because over the next 3 episodes, I’m offering you what's basically a mini-training on how to effectively…

  1. a) Provide value to your audience while helping them get to know you…
  2. b) Come up with simple story ideas from your real life (yes, even if you barely leave the house)
  3. c) Tell stories without feeling like your audience is getting to know you at the expense of you feeling like your privacy is invaded

A request: Would you take a moment and leave this podcast a 5-star review? We are looking to impact & help many many many more experts like you this year! Thank you!

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




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Full Transcript

Jen Liddy

Hey, welcome to this week's episode of Content Creation Made Easy. I'm your host, Jen Liddy. Today I'm sharing some insights into something that I'm gonna predict is going to become more and more important as AI tools and technology become faster, better, more prevalent everywhere, and also more automated. 

As you try to market your services, your programs, your books, your courses, basically anything that you're selling, one of the most important elements you can use in your content is telling stories.

Now, the thing is we abso-freakin-lutely can use AI in tons of ways. These can help us summarize things, create things, they can generate things for you, they can clean up things for you, they can take it to the next level. 

But one thing that AI can't do for you is tell stories from the deep recesses of your mind. And let's talk about why you'd want to tell stories. 

As things become more automated and faster and more AI driven, your audience still does want to connect with you. They're looking for a dose of you. It's your "you-ness" that I always talk about. 

So they want to know that they're engaging with a real human when they're engaging in something that you've written or produced or a video, audio, anything that you've created. So there's that real human element that they're looking for.

At the same time, no one, especially you, has time to be out here creating content just for the hell of it, right? I'm not going to be teaching you today how to create stories just for the sake of crossing it off your list and getting good at telling stories for the sake of getting good at telling stories. 

The thing is, you don't want to learn how to tell stories and then feel like you are overly exposed or vulnerable or unsafe because you're trying to share stories that don't feel safe to tell.

So that's why I've put together a little three episode arc on the podcast, kind of a mini series on how to effectively A: provide value to your audience while helping them get to know you and we're gonna do that through storytelling. 

B: come up with simple story ideas from your real life. Yes, even if you are boring, you never leave your house, nothing ever happens to you, that's okay. 

And lastly, how to tell stories that help your audience feel like they're getting to know you and learn about your values and learn about your personal magic without you feeling like you've got a vulnerability hangover or your privacy has been invaded or at the expense of your own safety.

So that's what we're talking about over the next three episodes. You're gonna want to tune in each week throughout this month. So let's be in agreement. We're not crafting stories just for the sake of doing it, right? 

I want you to get good at telling stories so that you can shift your audience into clients and customers. That is the whole goal of why we do content in the first place. It's to help your audience get to know you and trust you and like you so they can choose you when it's time for them to actually start solving their problem. 

So let's start with the biggest question I get about how to use storytelling in your marketing content. Where do I find stories, especially if my life isn't exciting and nothing interesting ever happens to me?

Well, today we're gonna focus on becoming what I call a story scavenger. Obviously, sometimes there are things that happen to you and you're like, “This is a straightforward story that makes an obvious point for your specific audience.” 

Their needs, their desires, their pain points, their challenges. I call that a Front Door Story. In other words, here's a thing that happened and here's why you need to know about it. The relationship is very clear between the story and the value that you can provide. It's a very direct value. 

Let me give you a great example of this. Let's say a lesson I wanna share in my content is that sometimes your strategy isn't working for you. And even though it's hard to admit because you spend a lot of time and energy doing it, you've gotta be honest about what's really happening and probably make a change. That's the lesson I would be trying to convey.

So I actually have a direct story that makes this point for me. For me, the strategy I was using that I knew wasn't working for me was Facebook ads. I was spending a lot of time, a lot of money on them, and I knew it was time to stop using them because they weren't really bringing me the right kind of potential client into my list. 

I was wasting a lot of money every month, I knew this, but here's what happened. The direct story to go along with this is last March, I happened to wake up in the middle of the night to find that my Facebook ads account had been hacked. 

And the hackers had started running $14,000 worth of ads to a $27 Jesus Loves You blanket. Now luckily, I was able to stop the payments from going through. I basically shut down my bank account in the middle of the night. 

But before that moment, I had not trusted my gut about this strategy of using ads as a lead magnet. I had kept putting off facing that my strategy wasn't working because I had so much sunk cost into it. 

The Facebook ads experts I had hired, the copy I had written, the funnel I had set up, and I could illustrate that by telling my audience about this Front Door Story. “Here's a time I learned the hard way that it was time to examine and change my strategy.” Boom! A simple Front Door Story.

So I want you to start thinking about, first of all, what are the Front Door Stories that you could tell? Start by thinking about the lessons, the mistakes, the myths, the promises that your audience is either making or looking for, and what stories do you have that go directly along with that? 

This is a thing that you train your brain to do. You're like, “Okay, I need a story to illustrate this. Do I have a Front Door Story?” Those are super easy for you to start creating. You just have to train your brain to start looking for them. 

I promise you, once you start to do this, well, I'm gonna say, because you know I'm a nerd, it gets fun, but it might get fun for you too, to think about “How can I tell a Front Door Story that relates to this thing I wanna teach?” However, impactful stories sometimes don't look like real stories at first. 

These are what I call Side Door Stories. They're not as obvious as a story and you may not see the point, the purpose, the lesson, or the value directly. 

This is a more sophisticated approach to storytelling and they make storytelling a really fun challenge and the cool thing about Side Door Stories is you can get good at them and looking for them in your everyday life makes you a story scavenger. 

It's almost like a game you play in your mind, scanning like a radar, looking for the stories of things that happen to you that you can connect in some way to your audience. Of course, I'm gonna break this down for you and give you a million examples because you know that I love to do that. 

The thing about Side Door Stories is they're also fun for your audience to consume because they're clever and they're sometimes unexpected. Let me talk about how to do this and give you some examples. 

First of all, mine through your everyday conversations, experiences, and those millions of thoughts that come through your brain for small nuggets of gold. There are stories in there. And even if you're a person who's at home with a two-year-old all day long, you're having conversations with that person, you're thinking thoughts. 

There might be a Zoom call that you get on, a text thread that you have, a conversation you have with a family member or friend later on in the day. You don't have to be talking to somebody necessarily outside of your life to get a great nugget that you can come over to and say “Hey this is a thing that I saw and I am going to be able to relate it to my audience in this way.” 

It could really be pretty basic and I'll give you some examples in a minute. Now as you're mining, consider the points that these stories can help you make so that you have a reason for sharing them. These are called segues. Let me give you some examples.

My first example is I wrote a whole email based on a group text with my siblings. There's three of us, my two brothers, James and Tom, and then my sister Tracy. And we talk about in this group text all the things that happened to us as kids or things that we see out in the world that remind us of our childhood.

And we were having this one conversation about what Saturday mornings used to be like at our house. Saturday morning cartoons were a very big deal in the 80s. It was like vintage cartoons like, Hong Kong Phooey and Josie and the Pussycats and all of the stuff that we used to watch, not to mention the Schoolhouse Rock stuff. 

So we were going back and forth about that and I wound up being able to write an email about it to make a point about how everything that happened on Saturday mornings where we would watch our beloved cartoons and we would listen for my mom coming down because the minute she started to come down the stairs and we heard that first footstep, we were like "Close down the TV, put your cereal boxes away, put your bowl into the dishwasher and get started on your chores!" 

And so I was able to make this Side Door Story about how I wound up as an overworking, people pleasing, burned out Gen-X-er in my business. And I found that it kind of started back in my childhood. 

And this is something that we need to examine as content creators because we always could be overworking, overdoing, overperforming, over giving. Right? So that is an example of a Side Door Story that I was like, “There's a lesson in here. What is it? What can my audience benefit from?”

Another example of a Side Door Story is one time I was standing in Starbucks and I'm not a huge Starbucks or coffee person. So when I go, it's like a whole big deal for me. And I got in there, I parked my car, I got inside and I'm looking around and there were 13 people in line. 

There were 17 people sitting in the store, working on their laptops, drinking their things or having their conversation with their friends and 11 cars in line. I had counted the cars in line because I was like, “There's 11 freaking cars in line. I better go in.”

So that is a lot of people right there. I think if I'm doing the math right, that's 30, 41 people right there. So I started thinking about how much people spend on coffee today, how it's such a normal thing. 

But I also started thinking about how much you spend every single time you're there. And it was a really small moment, but it got me thinking about what we value, how we spend money, how we spend our time. 

And that became a whole boatload of content that I wrote on pricing, how to position ourselves for what we're “worth”, and how to maybe change your concept about your pricing and your value and what you're bringing to the world from that simple moment in Starbucks. 

Now, I want to remind you, I am not over here climbing mountains, going to galas, flying on private jets, but every single week I am able to come up with at least one story to share in my content. Now my favorite place to be content wise is my podcast and my email list. 

I'm not even really on the socials anymore and I have to figure out if I'm doing that in 2024. I want you to remember my life is very vanilla. I have one child, my life isn't chaotic. Like my brain can't handle chaos. I don't enjoy chaos. 

So if you were to come over to my house, you'd be like, “Jen, you are the most boring person on the planet. You don't even really have any clutter in your house.” So I'll let you know, if you looked at my life, you'd be like, “Where the hell are you pulling stories from?”

I would put money down on the fact that your life is more interesting, more varied, more rich. You have a lot more plates spinning than I do. So if I can find stories to tell every week and segue into a point that makes my audience know me and learn something at the same time, I promise that you can too.

Here's another little clue as something that you can do to mine and become a story scavenger. Listen for those small moments in conversations that you can turn into insights to share with your audience. 

Now this might be a conversation that you're having, it could be a conversation you're having with yourself, it could be a conversation you're having with a client or a colleague or even your partner, even your best friend. Everything really can circle back to the stuff, the work that you're doing with your audience and your clients. So here's some questions.

Do you interact with humans, either in your home, your workplace, at school, stores, standing online, at the grocery store, or even online? Every single one of those conversations is a place for you to mine for story gold. 

Remember, too, people say shit every day that you might disagree with or prove a point you want to make to your audience like something that you've seen you're like, 

“Oh my god. This is a perfect illustration of something. I've been wanting to point out to my audience”

“This is something my audience would benefit from.” 

Or maybe even somebody has said something that sparks an idea or It becomes a metaphor for something that you need to teach. These are all places for you to mine your story you know as a story scavenger

Now, a throwaway comment from someone might actually be a lesson or illustrate a point that your audience could benefit from. 

For example, someone in my life actually said to me, it was kind of a throwaway comment they were making, “I'm a horrible storyteller, so I just tend to stay quiet at family dinners.” This is probably because I'm pretty much the opposite at family dinners.

And listening to her say that she just didn't believe she was a good storyteller or could become one it made me sad because this storytelling stuff that I'm teaching you today is 100% a learnable skill. This is why I'm here doing this work.

I want you to know you can do this. You just need to practice and let your brain open the door for you by searching for the little nuggets in your everyday life that you can turn into a valuable benefit or story for your audience.

Another example is, this is a throwaway comment my husband always makes, he says this thing, “What are we optimizing for?” Now this is how he makes every decision in his life. 

Like when I wanted to move to North Carolina 10 years ago, he's like, “Yes, but what are we optimizing for?” 

And I'm like, “Oh, better weather! Syracuse sees sun about three days a year.” 

And he's like, “Right. But what are we optimizing for besides better weather?”

He's like, “My whole job is here, we own our home.” He outlined all of the things that we already have. What are we optimizing for? 

And so I thought it was kind of brilliant, I'm gonna say first, it was annoying as hell, frankly, because every time I say I want something, he's like, “Well, what are we optimizing for?” But honestly, it has become a framework around which we make decisions as a family. 

So  actually took his question, “What are we optimizing for?” And I created a whole content framework around his question. So an email that I could create content out of is me talking about John's annoying question and how irritated it usually makes me, but how it one time clicked in my brain and made a lot of sense and now I have this awesome framework that I can share with my audience. 

So take another look at a silly story, a little throwaway comment, a thought you had, something that you witnessed, something that you experienced and connect it to your content pillars. Because sometimes it's the smallest, silliest, most throw away thing that can make a big point in a big way with a great story. 

Remember, you don't always have to be like, curing cancer with your content. You are sharing little bits and nuggets. You can't solve all of your clients' and audiences' problems with your free content. 

So here are some things to ask yourself no matter what the nugget is, no matter what the moment is, no matter what the story is, here are some questions. 

  1. Why would my audience care about this? Let your brain go to work on that. Why would my audience wanna hear this? How could I make it relevant to them? 
  2. Is there a nugget in this thing that I can unpack for them or make clear for them or make a link for them to something bigger? 

Here's an example.

I got to thinking about how I walk around the house all day talking to the different animals. I have one cat who's an asshole, another cat who's extremely sweet, and I have a little dachshund-corgi mix dog who looks like a Christmas ham or a sausage and he's pathetically in love with me. 

And it's so silly, but like I talk to them all differently all day long because I work from home. And then I imagine them talking back to me with different voices too. 

And sometimes my son and I will actually have conversations where we assume the personality of one of the animals and have conversations with each other. 

So that led me to writing about how vital voice is in our content, how you need to sound like yourself and knowing yours, embracing yours and honing yours and how that's an important aspect of creating effective marketing content so your audience knows it's you. 

So a lot of what I'm unpacking here today is a mindset issue. Because I've given you a ton of examples, I've given you a ton of tactics, I've kind of broken down for you how you can do this. But instead of thinking, “I can't do it, I'm not a good storyteller, I'm boring, nothing happens in my life, my dad told me that I need to be quiet because I drone on and on, I don't know how to tell a story, my teenagers told me I don't know how to tell stories.”

Well, you have to break that. You have to decide you can learn and the only way you learn comes from practice. So start using your daily life as a scavenger hunt in your mind. 

Ask your brain to start noticing those little dramas, the little stories, the little insights that are literally in front of you everywhere in your everyday life, even if you don't have a big, giant, lots of moving parts in life. 

You don't need to have survived a tsunami or personally stop the government from shutting down to be compelling. Just ask yourself to think, “What little moment today can I turn into a story? What's a point my audience would need to hear? What's something I can pull out of that moment that's of interest, of value, of entertainment for them?” 

I promise that telling great stories is way easier than you think it is. And it has felt hard because you haven't known the hows, right? But today I gave you the hows. How to shift your mindset about being a good storyteller, how to have good access to great stories, how to start seeing stories in your everyday life, whether they're Front Door Stories or Side Door Stories.

How to segue to make a point and get your audience to shift, whether that's moving them along their journey with you as an audience or becoming clients, because we're not telling stories for the sake of telling stories. 

We are helping our audience get to know us better, relate to us more, and receive some value from whatever we're trying to share with them. How can you take something away from this episode today and practice telling a story?

Decide what you want to teach, persuade, motivate, inspire, entertain, sell, whatever it is, then give yourself some time to wander around inside your brain and find a way in whether it's a front door or side door entrance. 

In the next episode, I'm going to talk all about how to use and tell stories without sacrificing your privacy, without feeling unsafe or without oversharing in a way that feels good to you and so you don't feel like kind of bullshitty or inauthentic.

I hope to see you then. And in the meantime, will you please take a moment and give this podcast a five star rating? I would appreciate it so much and my goal is to help more people access the information here so that they can make content creation much more easy for them in the coming year. Thank you so much. See you next week.

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