Your Personal Rules for Storytelling
In Part 2 of this 3-part Simple Storytelling Strategies miniseries, we unpack how to craft relatable stories that build trust with your audience…
in a way that feels safe for you – without creating a vulnerability hangover or fuzzy boundaries!
I created this miniseries because it’s crucial to connect with your audience and stand out in a highly AI-generated world.
Stories are a fantastic way to do this. AND…this shift toward relatability in online marketing means your audience is always looking for more authentic & vulnerable content.
That’s why we’re tackling how to tell stories without giving away too much information or feeling vulnerable in the name of authenticity!
Receive LOTS of examples & guidance that’ll help you become a great, authentic storyteller without stepping on your own boundaries and privacy.
Listen in for tips on…
- Practical Storytelling Strategies: No more struggling with finding story ideas or topics! Learn to tap into your experiences & watch storytelling become a highly-accessible tool in your marketing arsenal.
- Personal Rule Setting & Navigation: Define your own edges when sharing personal stories. There’s a fine line between being relatable and crossing into uncomfortable territory!
- The Power of Process: It’s crucial to fully process your personal stories before sharing them with your audience.
Listen in & walk away knowing that your stories can bring value and connection to your audience without causing unnecessary harm or discomfort…
To you OR your audience!
Thank you for taking a moment and leave the podcast a 5-star review! We want to impact many many many more experts like you this year! We so appreciate it.
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Hey, welcome to Content Creation Made Easy. I am your host Jen Liddy, and today I'm doing another solo episode because I'm in the middle of a little mini series on using storytelling in our content.
So in the episode right before this, I talked about why storytelling is an important tool to have in your toolbox for your content marketing, and I addressed the number one question that I get, which is ‘How do I come up with story ideas or story topics?’
So if you struggle to find ideas and if you think your life is so boring that you don't have any stories or you don't know how to use stories to make a point that's valuable for your audience, go back to the episode right before this one and listen in because I give you tons of examples and I use storytelling strategies to make telling stories a lot easier for you.
Today in this episode, I am addressing the second most asked question, which is ‘How do I tell stories without giving away too much information or feeling too vulnerable?’
Now this is an enormously important point because though storytelling is an important tactical approach that helps you be a real human in your content and it helps you share yourself authentically, all of that is important especially in an AI world where everything is automatic and everything is fake, and you're like, “Is that really a picture of Tom Cruise or is it a deep fake? I don't know.”
Being an authentic storyteller is important, but we have to talk about what authenticity means, so let's deal with the authenticity problem.
So if you have been watching the online gurus, you've noticed that some have gotten more “authentic and vulnerable.”
My favorite case in point is a few years ago I was driving around in the back roads of Vermont after dropping my family off at the ski mountain and I was listening to Amy Porterfield on her podcast and she was talking about her weight loss and her journey and how her mom comes to help her make salads every week, and I was like, “Wow, this is Amy Porterfield talking about her real life, not just marketing.”
But then the interwebs were like, “Oh my God, Amy, thank you for sharing the truth. Thank you for talking about this.”
And all of these responses were so over the top and I'm silently fuming because I'm over here talking about shit like this all the time and I feel like, ‘Oh, now we're handing out trophies to the gurus who are being human now’ after hundreds and hundreds of episodes where everything is professional and impersonal and polished and everything sunny all the time with unicorns and rainbows.
So I had to kind of get over myself and I thought I might have a bad case of sour grapes, which I might have, but honestly, I tried to look for the good news in this, which is the story that we can tell ourselves about what's happening with this shift is online marketing is starting to shift and our audiences are looking for us to be more relatable to them.
They are looking for humans in their consumption of content.
So that started me down a road of ‘How can we be more relatable and vulnerable?’ What does that mean? And how do we do it without bleeding all over the internet and taking our audience into the mammogram room as we're putting on the little napkins and we get our boobs squashed?
That is not how I want to be vulnerable online.
The other thing is, how can we be authentic without burning bridges and making enemies online because again, last year, I watched another big online guru basically burn her business to the ground because she had a lot to say and she was being truthful and authentic, but it was really, really painful to watch.
So how do we tell stories that feel authentic to us and also safe to tell? Let's start by talking about some of the guidelines that I use for myself and that I help my clients with.
Number one, we want to tell stories that we have fully processed through and are ready to share, either they have some kind of value there, or learning opportunity, or they're a metaphor for something else.
These are important to really think about because what's being modeled by us about what being authentic looks like is very different based on who you follow and your own personal level of boundaries and privacy, right?
Does being real in your marketing mean that you have to expose yourself or look vulnerable and relatable?
I remember a few years ago there were some people teaching about vulnerable posts, which that's great – people love a good vulnerable post, but you need to have strong boundaries around it.
So vulnerability and being real is not the only way to let our audience know about us.
We don't have to bring them into every aspect of our life because every single one of us has a different threshold for what is good and feels right and feels safe in this vein.
I mean, there are people on Instagram that I follow. They are mid-size fashion bloggers, basically fashion influencers, who have hundreds of thousands of people following them.
There's one woman I love and her name is Taryn and she is so helpful in helping women who are mid-sized, like size 10, 12, 14, 16, feel good in their bodies and feel good in their clothes and look good so that they feel confident.
She literally starts every video out in her bra and underwear – there's no way in hell that would be comfortable for me.
So you have to honor what your threshold is and what your level of comfort is, what your boundaries are, and what your level of privacy is.
And I'm gonna go back to something that I said before, which is about not only do you have to understand your own boundaries and be okay with that and give yourself permission that I'm never gonna share this and I'm never gonna talk about that, but you also have to process through stuff before you share it with your audience.
There's this story that I had to process through when I turned 51, I think it was 2021.
So we're at this very fancy spa, my husband has taken me there, it's local, it's like a half an hour away, and I am blowing my hair straight so that we can go out to dinner.
I'm wearing a robe and I have nothing on under the robe, and as I'm blowing out my hair, I'm seeing all this steam come out of my head, which is how I know my hairdryer is working.
But it sets off the damn fire alarm in the fancy spa and hotel, which means every single person, from me standing there in a robe naked, to that person who's just gotten on the massage table, to the person prepping dinner, the chef's assistant in the kitchen has to evacuate the hotel.
And we're standing outside in April and we are cold and we are listening to this shrieking thing going off and I am so embarrassed that I've done this and nobody knows of course, but I knew and I knew I had ruined everybody's afternoon and I was just really jammed up about it and my husband, who thought the whole thing was hilarious by the way, he gave me a little squeeze and he's like, “Look, you gotta find the humor in this situation or your birthday night is going to be miserable.”
Basically the end result of this story is me wanting straight hair ruined everybody's afternoon and affected literally everything in the kitchen so that all of the meals were late that night.
So I did that. And that took me a little while to work through my embarrassment, the cringiness of it, to it being kind of a funny story right now. Is it the stuff of real life?
Yes. Do I encourage you to tell the stuff of real life and to be yourself? Yes. Real life stories are the ones that people connect with.
But until you work through it and you feel clean about sharing it and there's no residual shame or embarrassment or cringe for yourself, that story is not on the table for you to tell.
You have probably some healing to do, some work to do around that, etc.
So you might be thinking as you listen to that story, “Jen, that is a terrible story. It is super cringy and you should be embarrassed.”
Well, that's fine if you think that. I am not in a cringy place about it.
I actually think this three-year-old story is very funny and I'm not humiliated by it, or I wouldn't have told it to you because I don't want to tell cringy and embarrassing stories that feel gross to me, and I don't want you to do that either.
So remember that telling your stories should never humiliate you or make you feel so vulnerable that you regret it or that it humiliates anyone else too.
It can't feel unsafe – your stories have to be safe to tell.
So before you consider sharing a story, just ask, ‘Will this create a vulnerability hangover for me? And what's my threshold for that?’
If you are an uber private person, you might be more loath to share a story because your level of wanting to share is just lower than mine is.
If you ask me something in real life, I'm going to tell you the truth about it. So I don't really have that low of a threshold, but I'm also not standing in my underwear and bra on Instagram, showing you how to look great in your size 14 body.
So you get to make this choice for yourself. This is where I want to head today.
Something that can help you immensely is to decide on your rules around which real life stories you'll share with your audience.
Now I have a few personal rules about what I'll share in my content and I'll share them with you and maybe they'll help you devise your own rules around storytelling.
So the first thing is if it's not my story, it's not mine to tell. If I've ever shared a story about a friend or my son or my husband or even a client, even anonymously to make a point, I have gotten permission.
In the past, I have had other people tell my story when it wasn't theirs to tell. And that hurts and pisses me off, makes me angry. So I don't do that.
Two, if the story is hurtful to someone still living and paints them in a terrible light, I don't tell that story. I'm writing marketing content over here.
I'm not writing a memoir of my childhood stories that I need to bear all for the reader. Let me clarify, are there times when I would like to tell all of the deep, dirty, dark details, the juicy stories, the nuggets?
Yeah, because that would be fun, right? It would be fun at the moment to get it off my chest.
But they are not necessarily needed to make my point in my marketing content, so I try to make my point without revealing unnecessary details that are harmful to others.
The third one I've kind of already touched on, ‘Am I in the middle of some shit storm, some meltdown in a dark place working through something?’ Well, that story is completely off the table until I completely work through it.
And I do that because our audiences don't need to take care of us.
So if I ever do share a story about some mental garbage I had to work through or a traumatic event, whatever, it's because I've already done the healing or the therapy or the recovery or whatever I needed to do to get to a place that's clean so I could share it from a perspective where you as the listener or the reader or the consumer of my content doesn't need to take care of me.
So yes, storytelling is a vital aspect to help your audience get to know you, get to know your voice, get to know your style. And this is all important, especially in an AI world.
But I also think it's really vital to talk about safety as an aspect of storytelling.
Like I said, in real life, I'll tell you pretty much whatever you want. And in my marketing content, I'm really committed to making marketing feel more human, real and authentic, but you have to do it without breaking your own boundaries, your own rules, give yourself permission to tell the stories.
It's a fantastic way to get your audience to connect with you and help them learn more about you while increasing their trust and their interests so that they can move down a journey with you and eventually become potential clients or customers.
But if being authentic and vulnerable feels scary and you're not sure how to tell stories that compel and connect, then make your list.
What are your rules? What are you never talking about? What's not on the table for public consumption? What's safe for you to talk about? What or who is off limits?
There are plenty of content creators out there who never show their children and never show their partners, never show their friends, never bring you into what they're doing during the day.
Remember that your stories don't have to be ‘I went to hell and got back and here's my story.’ They can be everyday topics that help your audience connect with you, relate to you and find some value.
So I hope this has inspired you to not only start thinking about the stories but also thinking about what are your boundaries, what are your permissions, what are your personal rules around telling stories.
Hope you found this helpful.
If you could leave a review to tell me how these podcasts are helping you in terms of thinking about stories for your content, I would be so grateful.
Growing my podcast is something that I wanna do more of in 2024, and being able to tell people that I have great listeners who really benefit from my work would be wonderful.
So if you could just leave me a quick review, I would appreciate it. And I will see you next time when we're going to dive deeper into the how-tos of storytelling. See you then, bye.