Telling Your Story Without Becoming an Open Book

The other day, I was sitting in a coffee shop - a regular destination for me these days - having a conversation with a fellow marketer who works at one of the major tech companies based here in Seattle.

Amidst the conversations between fellow coffee drinkers, business people, and Seattle’s tech community surrounded us, we found ourselves deep in conversation about the company he works for and the image problems they’re currently facing. As we talked, we realized nearly all of the tech companies are under some sort of scrutinization at the moment.

Facebook is in the midst of recovering from its PR crisis earlier this year, with Mark Zuckerberg being the face of it all (not to mention the latest hack last week).

Amazon has a negative outlook due to the way the company reportedly treats many of its employees, with Jeff Bezos as the primary name to blame.

And lets not forget Uber’s constant PR crisis, resulting in a change in leadership because of the negative image of - you guessed it - the CEO, Travis Kalanick.

Now, in comparison, lets take a look at Microsoft. They’ve been under fire lately for harassment issues - especially with female employees. Talking to a friend, he told me when he visited their campuses and talked to people, they would look at him with a look of relief in their eyes as they comforted him, “at least it’s much better now…”

But, despite all this, there wasn’t a whole lot of uproar. Yes, the allegations were terrible. Yes, shit clearly needed to change. Yet, Microsoft isn’t the bad guy; not when you compare them to the images of tech giants like Amazon, where hatred of Jeff Bezos is clear and widespread.

Of course, much of this is my own speculation. But I truly believe the reason is due to Bill Gates’ connection to Microsoft. Although he isn’t tied to the company anymore, he’s still seen as the angel of the tech industry. Where Bezos is working on a way to send the 1% to space, Gates is working to - well, save the world.

So, what does all of this have to do with sharing your personal story? Braveen Kumar, a contributing writer for Shopify’s e-commerce blog, puts it elegantly:

As an entrepreneur, a creator, a professional (whatever it is you are), your business, your craft, your value (whatever it is you create) is an extension of yourself and a part of your life’s story.
— Braveen Kumar via Shopify

In other words, your personal story shapes your business’ story. This is true whether you’re a small business or a large corporation.

In a world where privacy and security is a growing concern, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. On one hand, you want your audience to connect with you through your story. On the other, there are things you just want to keep private.

So, how do you know what the right balance is? How do you share your story without having to share everything about yourself?

1. Determine What’s Important to You

The first step - and I’ve organized it as such on purpose - is to determine what’s important to you.

Let me make this abundantly clear: you don’t have to share what you’re not comfortable with sharing.

For example, some people are making the decision to not share any photos of their children on social media. On the other hand, others turn their entire feed into pictures of their child.

Decide what you are and aren’t comfortable with sharing. Write down everything you’d be OK with sharing and everything you wouldn’t be OK with sharing.

Then, stick with it and don’t apologize for it.

2. Determine What’s Important to Your Audience

By now, you have a basic understanding of what’s important to you. You know what you are and aren’t willing to share with your audience. But, in many cases, just because you’re willing to share something, doesn’t mean you should.

There are so many things in our life that just aren’t relevant to your business. For example, I make it a point to work out at least 3-4 days a week. But my workout routine isn’t exactly relevant to brand storytelling, so I don’t talk about it a whole lot.

As you come up with this, ask yourself (and your audience), “What’s important for them to know to do my job?”

When coming up with your backstory, an anecdote, or even an Instagram story, narrow down your topics to things that are related - or at least closely related - to what you do and make that the core of your content.

It’s OK to share what you ate for dinner once in a while - in fact, it makes you more human. Just make sure you’re not doing it for every single meal every single day - unless you’re a food blogger.

That’s basically it - telling a story without having to share everything about yourself simply comes down to creating boundaries and sticking to them.

These days, people crave transparency and authenticity. This is so true that both those words have become overused and abused, but it sticks to a point.

People want to buy from and work with other people; that’s the whole point of sharing your story. But you hold the ultimate power in how much you’re comfortable with sharing.

Telling your story can be difficult. You’re so close to it that it can be difficult to know what is and isn’t worth sharing.

If you’re looking for someone to work with on getting your copy ready to make more sales, let’s talk. I offer everything from one-off brainstorming sessions to full website copywriting services. Not only do I offer an unbiased third-party perspective on your story, but I can help you tell it in a way that captivates your audience and turns them into loyal customers.

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