Three Critical Attributes For Effective Storytelling

558164ab388115b518422209f4191662I was laid up on my couch Friday night in horrific pain because I have a lovely little thing called Endometriosis. If you’ve never heard of it, feel free to Google it, but the most important thing to know about it is that it feels like barbed wire having its way with your abdomen. It strikes whenever it feels like striking with very little warning.

While I tried to brave it out for the majority of the night, I finally found myself calling my mom for a midnight chat when the pain became just a little too unbearable. It started off with me being perhaps the biggest baby ever as I complained about the severe pain from an illness that is low on the totem pole compared to all of the major things out there. Considering its self-wallowing origin, it ended in a beautiful place.

An hour into the call, we started talking about something that’s become quite a hot topic for me → People I meet in real life stumbling upon my online life. Not just people, but rather potential dates. Come to find out people Google you before they go on dates with you, and when they find out that you have 150K followers on Twitter and run an inspirational blog, they tend to put you in “that box”. Suddenly, you’re no longer just someone they met at church, but you’re spreading a message to thousands of people on a daily basis and, from what I’ve heard, that can be a bit intimidating.

This is an absolutely strange concept to me, because I don’t walk around with a sign hanging around my neck that I’m pretty into Twitter. In fact, when most people bring up my social presence, my usual response is, “I’m pretty popular online. In person, not so much. Don’t let it fool you.”

See, my online presence is just an extension of my personal experiences with life. I don’t think about it as some great, huge presence that I have to keep up everyday. It’s my life, it’s my passion and it’s just in me. So when people try to pin it as some separate existence of me that suddenly makes me some intimidating person, I just don’t see it that way.

My mom said it’s my “secret garden”. She also quickly followed that up with that I have permission to use that quote in my blog :) She’s absolutely right. My blog and online presence is my safe haven. It’s the place I go to write about things that I’m figuring out in life, and things I’ve gone through in life. It’s my escape.

Now, how super ironic is that considering it’s really not much of a safe haven or escape at all. I’m not sure the majority of the world would say broadcasting your life to the world is “safe” or an “escape”. However, there is something innately therapeutic and intuitive in my writing that makes it something that I just have to do. Period. Call it a spiritual calling, call it a ministry, call it plain blogging…it’s just something I know I need in my life as much as I need to breathe.

Fortunately, I have an incredible mom who talked to me long enough into the wee hours of Saturday morning, that she completely distracted me from the throbbing pas in pain enough to allow me some time to fall asleep.

The next morning I remembered a message I had received from a man who lives in NYC but also has a home in South Florida. He wanted to meet with me to discuss social media. Now, I receive a lot of requests to meet with people to discuss social media, and a lot of them end up being requests for me to be a free social media strategist to anyone and everyone. While I do love giving my time free of charge to help others, there has to be a line when you have 150K “others”. After all, this is my profession. So, I had put off his calls knowing I would eventually meet him, but not making it a priority among me moving into a new city and adjusting to a new job and new people.

However, as Saturday pushed on, and I continued to feel the lovely pain of my Endometriosis, I just felt called to return the man’s phone call. To protect his privacy, I’m not going to write the entire conversation here. However, I will tell you, that I was in complete shock when I heard the REAL reason of why he wanted to talk to me. This man randomly saw a friend’s RT of a Tweet of mine that had an inspirational message this man needed to see on that day because his wife was just diagnosed with cancer and he was in a dark place. He said this message completely changed his direction and he began reading my blog, and that my blog pulled him through that dark time of being a caregiver (His wife is all good now- Yay!). I literally stopped what I was doing and felt goosebumps overtake my body. Here I was, having a shitty weekend, and this man just dropped the highest compliment anyone could ever pay me.

I happily met him in person last night, and continuously had to pinch myself to confirm that it was real as he elaborated on how my words and candid sharing of my experiences positively impacted his life. HE continued to say he wanted to repay me, if that was even possible.

Here’s the thing –> This man had no idea that he was repaying me in more ways than he would ever know. My weekend suddenly went from, “OMG I am in so much pain and feel like I might die” to “OMG, I helped someone through my writing –> the one thing I have wanted to accomplish in my life.”

Point? You never, ever know who you’re influencing out there, so SHARE YOUR STORY. I’m not just talking to individuals out there either –> Brands have a responsibility to share their story, too. This can manifest in many different ways from giving the down home history of a brand to telling the true story when a crisis erupts. People want to hear about the good and the messy parts of life.

To this day, I still receive positive emails, calls, Tweets, etc. over this little nugget I shared over a year ago confessing that I was in an abusive marriage and finally found a way out –> Using Social Media For A Higher Purpose. It would have been so easy to sit back and pretend it didn’t happen, but I owned it, and by doing that I’ve seen people find their own strength to leave toxic situations and move forward.

Now, I’m not saying this to brag and tell you how awesome I am. I’m telling you this because I literally had no idea that post would go viral the way it did and people would so closely resonate with it. I had no idea that my candor about my mom’s battle with cancer would positively influence a man in NYC for the past two years.

What did I know? That I was called to write about my experiences, and share my story, no matter what the response. That I have a duty to be authentic, approachable and honest in every piece of content I put out there. Guess what? Brands do too.

If you want to be an awesome brand, or person, out there in the social universe than you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with yourself and ask yourself if the stories you’re telling are:

Authentic

All stories should ladder back to your values, missions and beliefs as a person/brand. I can’t say this enough –> A person should meet the same you in person that they meet online, and a consumer should find the same brand online that it finds in the store.

Approachable

Your stories should open the gateway for people to feel comfortable talking to you. If people don’t feel like they can relate to you, or approach you, then your story dies with them.

Honest

Your stories are awesome the way they are. There is no need to embellish, or try to blur the big, fat pimples in them. People want to see those flaws so they know you’re a human brand/person.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, take a look at some of the brands out there crumbling under the social media spotlight. I can guarantee you it’s because they were the opposite of authentic, approachable and honest and this day in age, you can’t hide who you really are. Consumers, fans, etc. will find out who you really are, and wouldn’t it be so much easier if it’s exactly who you portray yourself as in your social universe?

The best part about all of this? It’s an incredible circle that will come back to you in your life. Yes, I influenced this man during a dark time in his life, but he definitely returned the favor by adding sunshine to a weekend full of pain and strife.

Who will you positively influence today? You’re more empowered than you think to share your story and influence others.

-Marji J. Sherman