Is your story too personal to share on your business website?

Is your story too personal to share on your business website?

Right now, you’re in the grind, working hard to promote yourself and your Next Big Thing.

That means:

  • Perfecting your brand story and popping it in your pocket so you can be quick on the draw
  • Telling boatloads of mini-stories to get new followers interested, engaged, and on board
  • Getting clear on why your message and product make a difference…and backing your conviction up with the compelling proof of story

But here’s the kicker: Which of your stories are tell-worthy—and which are total overshares?

The remarkable power of owning your angst

#Truth: Every compelling story begins with conflict. A crisis of character or circumstance.

Want to tell your own tales in a way that makes people sit up and pay attention? Cough up the angst!

Easier said than done, of course.

Because you’ve got a shifty voice whispering in your brain: Are you sure you want to say that? Isn’t that story a little…unprofessional? Should an expert actually ADMIT she used to screw up in her field of expertise?

Well…yes. Yes, she should. If it makes strategic sense.

You inspire loyalty among your clients by demonstrating the ability to OVERCOME problems they have, too. And the best way you can demonstrate that ability? Is by telling a story lifted from your own life.

This technique is particularly powerful for coaches and trainers who give their clients results they’ve achieved first for themselves. A business coach who rocketed from welfare to millionaire has a lot of street cred. So does a personal trainer who transformed from “skinny fat” to six-pack. 

What if you’ve never had the same MAIN problem as your clients? Well trust me, we’re all human, which means you’ve STILL got hopes, dreams, and struggles in common.

For example, I’ve never had trouble writing, but many of my clients have. For that reason, the conflict-heavy story I share on my About page isn’t about writing but another challenge my clients share: finding the courage to raise your voice.

The tug-of-war problem with personal brand storytelling

Regardless of what tack your story takes, you’ve got to get real and share your struggles. The right conflict—and your subsequent triumph—forms the bedrock of your personal brand, and it makes you relatable, likable, and trustworthy.

Yet SO many people feel judged, ashamed, or vulnerable when they admit they’ve experienced conflict. Especially if that conflict took place the realm of expertise where we now teach, train, coach, or leader others to greatness.

TMI nerves take many forms. My clients routinely ask me questions like:

  • Will I lose credibility as a [health/business/relationship] coach if I reveal that I sometimes struggle with my [health/business/relationship]?
  • My story involves family members who may not want me to share it. What should I do?
  • What if my previous employers/colleagues/friends read my story? Am I going to ruin my reputation?

 If you’ve found yourself asking the same things, trust me: you aren’t the only one.

The REAL reason you’re worried about sharing your story

When we feel the impulse to tell a story as part of our personal brand, but then find ourselves stalling, avoiding, or generally resisting it, one of two things is going on.

Either your well-meaning but myopic ego wants to protect us from failure, rejection, or public censure, OR your soul is saying “Help, I need healing, please serve me before you serve someone else.”

For that reason, your decision to share a really personal story deserves deeper consideration.

Only you know your own tolerance for exposure and vulnerability, so only you can decide. Personally, I’m willing to become very vulnerable if I think it benefits my audience. (I agree with Brené Brown who says, “Owing your story is the bravest thing you can do.”)

By partnering with me, clients often take greater risks in their story-sharing than they otherwise would. This may or may not be true for you.

The key questions you must ask yourself to decide if you’re truly ready to share that oh-so-personal story with your tribe

  1. Does this story illustrate your brand values or method of working with clients? Does it represent the core of what you know and believe as a business?
  2. Is the change demonstrated by this story is a valuable model or lesson for others? Will it empower or lift someone up to hear that this type of change is possible?
  3. Think about whether or not sharing this story has the potential to hurt people you do not want to hurt. If so, are you willing to talk to them before you share it? Or are you willing to risk their disappointment and potentially your relationship in order to speak your truth (if this does feel like your truth)?
  4. If you’re worried that strangers might judge you for this story, imagine one person who you expect to react badly. Is this person NOT your ideal client, i.e. you would not enjoy doing business with him/her?
  5. When you’re alone or chatting with loved ones, notice how talking through this story feels in your body. Does it make you feel energized and inspired (NOT sad, small, hurt, or tearful)?

If you answer YES to all of the answers above, then GO FORTH and share your story.

If you answers are mixed, consider the following:

  • Q1 & Q2 indicate how relevant a story is to your audience—how much it will benefit them to hear it. If your story doesn’t give them specific tools, mindset shifts, or (at minimum) the inspiration to achieve their goals, it’ll sound like that guy who always posts pictures of his breakfast cereal on Facebook: kind of pointless.
  •  Q3 & Q4 refer to the social risk of storytelling. Remember, you didn’t go into business to please everyone. You can only stand out if you’re willing to stand for something—and that means turning some people off. If this story truly benefits those people you DO want to serve (see Qs 1 & 2), then it’s worth running a little cost/benefit analysis re: other relationships.
  • Q5 is the most important question of all. Nothing matters as much as your ability to be true to yourself.

Bottom line: Pinpoint exactly what makes you feel uncomfortable, then mitigate or eliminate it. Acknowledge your fear but follow your intuition.

If you feel the urge to share your story because you want attention, sympathy, or some other form of healing, DO NOT SHARE IT as a part of your brand promise. Share it with trusted friends and family, your therapist, or within private Facebook communities and find the comfort and solace you need. Honor and love yourself enough to take time to heal. You’ll avoid TMI to boot.

On the other hand, if your story makes you feel like pounding your fist on the table, as in ‘OH MY GOD PEOPLE MUST KNOW THE TRUTH,’ then you should probably share it.

Just don’t forge ahead until you feel 100% confident that your intuition says yes. As always, nobody’s opinion matters but your own.

  • I have written several posts about the issues of “baring all” and over-sharing. You’ve put it very well. I like the test, “OMG people must know the truth!”

    Q1 and Q2 seem to be the most important. I’m in some online groups where the leaders keep sharing about their personal lives. A few tidbits might have been okay. But now I’m getting tired of going to the group and reading about their personal lives, which tend to include problems. I find myself questioning whether I’d want to work with them on, say, a JV. If they’re sharing all these personal problems on social media, what will happen when we get on the phone?

    I also advise against “rags to riches” stories. I distrust most of them, as I have heard too many people embellish their stories. One woman claimed that 3 years ago she wasn’t making money. I remember her from 3 years ago. She wrote me a testimonial. She had just sold a business for a nice profit and her new signature program was selling like hotcakes.

    I’m also tired of hearing “here’s what I did” stories that go back five or ten years, even if true. The world was different back then. I want to know what they (or their products) will do for me now.

    Finally I’m appalled that a lot of people are encouraged to “be vulnerable” early in the process. Psychological research shows that vulnerability creates liking when you are perceived as extremely successful. It’s a way to be less intimidating.

    If you’re new or haven’t achieved truly massive success, you probably aren’t intimidating. You can just be perceived as needy.

    But I do like your general point, especially the “OMG” test. And I definitely agree that a bid for attention, sympathy or healing doesn’t belong on Facebook. When my cat died, I decided not to share. I recommend forming a private group for close friends and family, to share your info about issues that fit the label “cringe-worthy.”

    April 12, 2016 at 8:37 am

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