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.

Podcasting 101 – How to Start and What You Should Know

Podcasting 101 – So you wanna start a podcast? Join me to learn about podcasting, how to start a podcast and how it can help you boost your brand. Plus how it has become a lot easier to do. Literally do it using my smartphone! Joining me was Dwayne Richards who drops some knowledge about how to start a podcast and a quick walk through my fave app, Anchor! Check the comments for tons of links and goodies.

IF YOU WANT TO START A PODCAST OR LIVE SHOW AND ARE STUCK – I’m offering a free consultation call. No catch. Just me and you brainstorming over coffee and Zoom. I’ll give you my best ideas. This is an exclusive offer just to readers of this blog. Reach out and put “FREE Brainstorm” in the subject line and I’ll take it from there.


Here’s a great article from Gary Vaynerchuk on how to start a podcast.

How powerful is podcasting??? Here’s the infographic I referenced in the broadcast from – a great site with tons of insights and data around podcasting.

2018 Podcast Statistics

How to Maximize Engagement and Sales in Every Social Media Post


Guess what THE BIGGEST CONVERTER is when it comes to social media content. Here’s a hint: it’s not linking to your website, although that is important.

According to experts, including a call to action (CTA) on places like Facebook can increase your click through rate by up to 285%.* So, why do so many brands forget to include a CTA? Here’s your chance to get a leg-up on the competition.

A call to action is simple direction where you tell people WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO GO to accomplish your goal, typically in five words or less.

A classic CTA we’ve all seen is, “for more information, visit our website at www…” but did you know there are tons more? Including a CTA, PLUS A LINK, plus eye-catching social media content is the trifecta every smart social media strategist shoots for. Why? Because that creates the HIGHEST CONVERSIONS, be it more traffic to your site and sales or engagement right there on social media.

Remember, you’re on social media for a reason. TO INSPIRE ACTION. You have a GOAL to reach and objectives to accomplish which involve getting people to go from passive followers to active and engaged fans or customers. A fundamental piece of mastering social media is knowing how to put purpose behind everything you do on places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Including a call to action is THE MOST CONVERTING piece of content in your entire post so included one.


  • For more information, visit…
  • Tag a friend
  • Leave a comment
  • Click to RSVP…
  • Share this post to support xyz
  • Click to donate (download, purchase or subscribe)
  • Doubletap (Instagram like)

AND THEN DON’T FORGET TO INCLUDE THE LINK if there is one. This is the most costly mistake you can make when posting to social media.

As independent as we like to think we humans are, we aren’t. We still need more than a simple push sometimes to get us to stop scrolling and actually pay attention. So the next time you sit down to write social media content, ask yourself: “what do I need my followers to do to accomplish my goal?” Then frame your social media posts around that with a simple CTA.

TIP: Jump on social media and follow a favorite brand or two. See if you can pick out their CTA. Once seen, you can’t unsee it! So, take a page out of their playbook.

This is step four of my popular “How to Inspire Action on Social Media in Five Simple Steps” process. You can download the official cheat sheet, which highlights all of the major ingredients needed for you to immediately begin infusing action-oriented language into your social media program. It is free for download here.

If you found this helpful, you’ll not want to miss my latest blog post on how to increase engagement on social media using emotion for greater results.


*Source: AdRoll

How to Increase Engagement on Social Media Using Emotion

How to Inspire Action on Social Media Jessica Payne Brand organics


Successful brands recognize the value of creating an emotional connection as quickly as possible on social media. So, is there a right or wrong way to stop the dreaded thumb scroll and drive actual engagement? 

Yes, and the first step is to think positively when it comes to your storytelling.

Studies have shown that using positive emotions (like humor, awe and delight) on social media engages 3 times more than when using negative or fear-based emotions.

If you’re struggling to connect with your audience on social media, it’s most likely because:

  1. You’re relying solely on negative or fear-based messaging to convince your customers to buy from you

  2. Your choice of video or images used doesn’t accurately reflect your customer or his/her aspirations

  3. You post about your business, product or service 100% of the time

Stop doing all of this. Start thinking about what your customers want and need. Where are they at in life, right now? What’s keeping them up at night? What’s your personal experience facing what they are facing now? Can you offer encouragement or a solution? Can your social media channel serve as a safe place for your followers to gather? Ask yourself if your story has been missing from your content. Adding this valuable context suddenly pushes you forward as someone they can relate to on a human level. Someone they can trust. Just make sure it’s true. 

Using your own lived experience told through stories, videos, images or even casual tweets is much more natural and suddenly frees you to market your brand without being pushy or salesy. TRY IT. 

TIP 1: I’m always surprised by how many businesses still rely on lifeless stock imagery when there are better alternatives like Unsplash and CreateHERStock just to name a few. If you don’t have your own photography, I recommend spending time exploring these resources and always follow licensing agreements. 

TIP 2: “Social Media Fatigue” is an actual term coined for the general burnout people feel and increasingly, people are more protective about how and where they spend their time online. People are starving for a positive experience and that’s where you come in!

Establishing trust is the quickest way to stop the dreaded thumb scroll, to get people to listen, watch, like and share. But you have to pay it forward. Connect first and then convert. 

I’m so proud to share with you my “How to Inspire Action on Social Media in Five Simple Steps” cheat sheet, which highlights all of the major ingredients needed for you to immediately begin infusing emotion and trust into your social media program. It is free for download here.

If you found this helpful, you’ll not want to miss my blog post on secrets to creating short and sweet social media content for greater success.

Feeling stuck when it comes to social media? Take my 20-minute Social Media Wellness Quiz to assess and build your roadmap for the year ahead.

Jessica payne Social Media Wellness Quiz