Three years ago today, I was enjoying a Sunday afternoon in my Manhattan apartment after spending a lovely Saturday in SoHo with a new love interest in NYC. I did my usual Sunday routine– yoga, watched my sermon online, meditated and then uploaded photos from the weekend to Facebook. I always choose a song title for my Facebook albums, so I scouted out some new songs that night, and fell in love with Swedish House Mafia’s ‘Save the World’. So, I created an album titled, “Who’s going to save the world tonight? Who’s going to bring you back to life?” I checked the time, 10pm, and decided I should probably check my phone that I had put face down on my bed hours earlier so I could focus on my yoga and things besides text messages and calls. Much to my surprise, there was a text from my mom that said, “Urgent. Call me.” Ten seconds later, I found out that my sister died.
One of my very first thoughts was the acute understanding that my life would never, ever be the same. And, it wasn’t. The naivety of that twenty-something in NYC, was replaced by a sharp realization that life was SHORT, and that no one was safe from death. Anything that had ever happened in my life before that moment seemed insignificant. I felt like any complaint I had before was unwarranted. I was a mess of emotions– but mostly angry and sad.
I spent the night alone in my NYC apartment, curled up in the fetal position in my bed. I was semi-new to the city, and my only friends were out of town for the beautiful, summer weekend. My semi-love interest was already asleep and didn’t hear my call that night.
A brutal sleepless seven hours later, I got up, got dressed, and went to the airport. I took my scheduled flight to the business training I had that week in Michigan, and put on a smile through it all. I tried to keep positive music on my iPod (Waterfalls by Coldplay), and keep my mind set on just getting to our office in Ann Arbor.
It wasn’t until halfway through the day, after lunch with my boss, that I finally broke down in tears and told my company what had happened. I stayed with a Christian family in the area that offered to take me in until I had to fly out to the funeral.
While all of this was beyond generous, it was not until a couple of days later that I found some semblance of hope and peace that I would make it through the darkest moment in my life. I was called to write my sister’s obituary, being the writer in the family. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written in my life. As I was going between that, and work, and checking Twitter, I saw a Tweet from a blog called, ‘I Wrote This For You’. I followed it to a page that clearly spelled out every single emotion I had not been able to put a name to over the past three days. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone, I didn’t feel misplaced. I realized that other people had lost their loved ones, too, and they still lived positive, meaningful lives. For the first time, I felt hope again.
That blog kept me alive. I religiously checked it everyday for any new piece of insight, and printed valuable posts to share with my family members. It was one of the only things that brought smiles to us in the tenuous days ahead. One person’s selfless authenticity made a girl who felt like her world ended, believe in life and love again.
Hardly a day has gone by in three years that I haven’t checked ‘I Wrote This For You’, or read a passage from his books. By being real, he gained a fan for life.
Lesson –> Your fans and consumers are real people going through real things. They don’t just want your Hallmark cards. They want posts they can relate to. Granted, it doesn’t have to be on the incredibly personal level like my relationship with ‘I Wrote This For You’. It could be as easy as sharing the news of the success of one of your employees, or sharing personal, uplifting stories about your staff and brand. Don’t be afraid to be genuine and real. We’re all living life. We all know that it isn’t perfect, and none of us can even begin to relate to perfectionism, so why try to keep your brand in a protective, perfect bubble? Engagement stems from authenticity, so open up to your fans. Let them know that you’re not just an automated computer sending out advertising messages. Trust me on this.
– Marji J. Sherman