storytelling for better communications

Are We Overthinking Storytelling?

storytelling for better communications

Everyone has a story and for some of us, telling our story will be the biggest thing we do in our lives. Easy for some, monumental for others. Some will never tell their story out loud, yet it will broadcast through every single one of their actions and life choices. Regardless, it is our why and informs what we say and how we listen. It informs whether or not we choose to listen at all. This is important to remember in communications. It’s our job to empower individuals and organizations to reach their audiences through storytelling. This only works if you have an audience willing to hear what you have to say. Sounds simple enough. Yet, in a competitive marketplace where everyone’s clever, it’s tempting to overthink this process and lean into strategies that emphasize optimization when we should be leaning into humanity a bit more.

I truly think there’s a happy place where “algorithm awareness” (I just coined that phrase) and organic human storytelling can co-exist. Where SEO and regular conversation can be neighbors. I see it in places like social media and podcasts where genuine conversations about failure, mistakes, and lived experiences are part of the main focus and branding less-so. Where cleverly-worded posts are being replaced by almost stream-of-conscious journal-length entries weaving culture and values into spaces normally left for promoting products and resources — where comments are starting to look a lot like an ongoing conversation.

When communicators embrace a storytelling process where vulnerability and success are equally championed, we free ourselves from wordsmith calculus and return to free-flowing conversation led by the sharing of real experiences. It’s less predictable, but I’d like to think a much happier place to be.

So, what can communicators do?

Start by remembering that everyone comes from somewhere. Everyone is going through something — including our listeners. Remembering what they deserve to hear (our truth from a real human) can keep our strategies grounded when we feel the tug of SEO or perfection calling.

Host a meeting where your team does nothing BUT discuss your org’s why. Retrace the steps of your organization, its founder, or its original mission and consider why it’s changed. See if there’s anyone in the group who emerges as a natural storyteller. Pay attention to how they speak and how others listen and why. Audit online spaces to find out how your audience prefers to be seen and heard and what they want to hear from you about. Compare and contrast. Think about ways you can amplify those conversations. Forget your KPIs for a second. Forget the HOWs. There’s a kernel of a story emerging right in front of you but you can only hear it if you listen.

It’s our job to empower individuals and organizations to reach their audiences through storytelling. This only works if you have an audience willing to hear what you have to say.

Strategy For Impact Founder and Lead Consultant, Jessica Payne

For storytellers and listeners, this is a much better experience. For communicators, this gives us the opportunity to lead with conversation first and maybe even extend the life of our programs. We just have to keep it simple.

PRO TIP: Overthinking storytelling is real and nothing to be ashamed about. It actually means you’re invested in getting it “right” and that’s good energy. The key is to channel that energy into something more productive. Reach out to learn how I help teams redirect that energy and improve their communications strategy.

Why Most Brands Win When Coming from a Place of Service

I asked a client once to describe one of his customers. His response? “150K a year.” My response? “You just described a number, not a person.” The gentleman was a seasoned business owner. A CEO of an international apparel brand and he’d forgotten that his customers are human. It’s an easy mistake to make when you’re focused on the bottom line, but it’s a costly one when consumers simply have other options and will flock to support brands and orgs where they feel seen and heard.

Coming from a place of service isn’t a revolutionary idea. Just think of your favorite nonprofit or cause. What is relatively new is how brands traditionally outside of the social impact world are applying service as a marketing strategy and I’m excited. I’m excited because like you, I’m bombarded by brands selling to me the old way. I want it to stop.

“Instead of labeling your audience as customers who need to do something, think about how you can actually serve them so that they can accomplish their goals.”

Running social marketing campaigns has taught me that coming from a place of service is immediately a more fulfilling and richer story to tell. There’s greater depth for meeting customers (followers, supporters, etc. ) where they’re at when you’re putting their journey and goals ahead of your own. I started applying this strategy during branding sessions and then expanded it to message mapping and now it’s the filter I apply to marketing and communications strategies for my clients spanning the tech sector to mental health.

I dug up this podcast from my archives where I dive in a little deeper into how to start thinking from a service perspective. Give it a listen and consider asking how your brand or org can come from a place of service in its marketing and communications efforts going forward. If anything, it will spark a much more fulfilling conversation.

Listen to my Podcast: How to Come from a Place of Service No Matter What You’re Selling

Do you use a similar strategy? Do you agree? Disagree?

Social Media Wellness Quiz – Get Your Social Media Strategy Back On Track

Jessica payne Social Media Wellness Quiz

I’m guessing that you’re chipping away at a long list of to-do’s right about now. Don’t worry, I am too. If social media has fallen off that list, here’s a quick exercise that will bring it back and only take a few minutes. 

Think of it as your social media wellness checkup. While it doesn’t include the kitchen sink, participating in the exercise will help you first, GET REAL on the status of your social media program and second, bring it back into alignment by setting goals so that you can start achieving results. 

No more collecting dust.

In order to get results, you need a plan. To create a plan, you need goals. And to set goals you need to get honest with yourself about where you’re at with your own program. What’s been your proudest moment? Where are you hung up? What’s holding you back? Are your challenges excuses? Is what’s impacting you internal or external, or both?

Here’s a hint: you’re exactly where you need to be. Assess, adjust and let’s get you back into alignment, pronto.

You can complete the following exercise in 20 minutes OR LESS, or take as long as you like. I encourage you to print this out and write your answers with a pen and paper. Old school, I know.

Seriously, turn off your digital devices while completing the exercise. Don’t worry. It will all be right there when you’re finished. I PROMISE.

Ready to improve your social media strategy? Good. Let’s get going.

Social Media Wellness Quiz 

  1. Have I truly committed to social media so far in the last 6 months? y/n
    Example Answer: Heck no. I need to get my sh** together.

  2. How can social media help me accomplish my goals?
    Example Answer: It can help me reach a global audience especially with new features like live streaming.

  3. Am I using the right channels to reach and motivate my primary audience?
    Example Answer: Not exactly. I’ve been completely neglecting LinkedIn.

  4. Has my content been effective?
    Example Answer: Yes! My live tweets at conferences have brought me new prospects.

  5. What value am I offering through social media content to keep people coming back? 
    Example Answer: People like my free tools and insights which keeps them engaged on my channels and returning each week.  

  6. Does my content accurately reflect who I am?
    Example Answer: Not really. It’s mostly just articles I share.

  7. Is my call-to-action (CTA) clear?
    Example Answer: No. Which could be why engagement dropped on my Facebook page.

  8. Am I using the best tools?
    Example Answer: Not sure. I use Hootsuite but there are probably others. 

  9. A brand/organization that I enjoy following on social media is ______ because___.
    Example Answer: Glossier for their cheeky personality and fresh, minimalistic look/feel.

  10. If given a magic wand, the first thing I’d change about my social media content is ___________.
    Example Answer: Consistency. I know I can make the time and create better content and need to finally commit to it as a priority.

You’ve probably realized by now that there are no right or wrong answers to this quiz. Your answers are valid and you’re already further along than you were when you began the quiz. Bravo! Ideally, you’ve written your answers down. Start by moving forward with #10.

Here’s a hint: Your first step is making your answer to question #10 a reality. Do it. No excuses. I know that you can do this.

The next step is up to you! What do you need to to do fully commit to your social media strategy? Then, execute.

On Storytelling: How To Use & Choose The Best Platform

On Storytelling: How To Use & Choose The Best Platform

When Success Feels Hollow – What To Do Next It’s easy to know you need to make changes when things aren’t gong well, but what about the opposite? What if your job is easy or you’re making a s*** ton…

When Success Feels Hollow – What To Do Next

It’s easy to know you need to make changes when things aren’t gong well, but what about the opposite? What if your job is easy or you’re making a s*** ton of money? Join me for my next episode where I walk you through how to recognize hollow success and what you can do to capture that energy and make your next most powerful decision.

If this feels a little different from past shows, you’re right. I’m making powerful shifts in this show to center more around empowerment and storytelling, specifically how we can all speak our truth. We can no longer let others speak for us in life and business and it’s time we get serious and take the wheel in our own decision-making. Feel me? So let’s get serious-ish, let’s have a few laughs and let’s do it together.

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