Let Me Tell You “About Me”

Why the story on your “About Me” page matters and how to improve it.

Guest post by Daniel McInerny, CEO, The Comic Muse

About.me_icon

My passion is to help businesses and organizations tell their stories. I am an author of fiction for both children and adults. I spend my days immersed in storytelling.

So why does my “About Me” page stink on ice?

It’s not an official about.me page. My “About Me” page is found via the “Hello!” tab on my navigation bar. Although I’m currently working on a much more effective “About Me” presentation, I’m going to leave this one up for awhile so that you can make a meticulous study of its multitudinous awfulness.

What’s so awful about it?

 

A Portrait in Awfulness

First and foremost, there’s no story.

Now, I grant you, there’s copy on this page that might seem like a story. I tell you that in 2011 I launched my children’s entertainment company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, which features my humorous Kingdom of Patria series for middle grade readers. I talk about getting a PhD in philosophy and my seventeen-year career in academia. I mention that I now live with my family in Virginia. I mention my brand storytelling consultancy, The Comic Muse.

But it’s a chronology. A prose cv.

It’s not a story.

As a storyteller, I should be embarrassed by this. I am embarrassed by this.

(Give me a moment while I bathe in the embarrassment….Ahhhh. Thank you. That’s good for the soul.)

 

Showtime

Now take a look at your “About Me” page, or whatever functions as such for you. Think about it. This is the page where folks go if you’ve managed to attract them by some piece of content you’ve placed online. How does it read? Are you telling a story?

Just this morning I received a nice tweet from someone I had never encountered before and who seemed like she would make a good professional contact. She had an about.me link on her Twitter page. So what did I do? I clicked on it, of course. She had intrigued me by something she had tweeted and I wanted to know what this person was all about.

At this point, it was showtime. I had, as it were, bought a ticket, taken my seat, and was ready to be entertained.

Yes, entertained.

Your “About Me” page is not simply a log of your vital statistics. It’s a chance for you to tell a story about yourself that will move our hearts and minds.

Unconvinced? Then answer this question. What would you rather do? Read someone’s cv or canned bio, or sink into a chair with a good novel?

We both know the answer to that question, and so we know what we have to do if we want people to have more than a passing interest in who we are.

Your “About Me” page is your chance to relate a narrative that the world won’t be able to put down.

This is an awesome opportunity.

But it’s also a challenging task. So challenging, in fact, that you’ll probably be tempted, like me, to simply “punt” and start listing stuff.

Avoid that temptation. Take the time to craft an “About Me” page that really tells a story.

   Your “About Me” page is your chance to relate a narrative that the world won’t be able to put down.

 

Telling The Story of “Me”

Let’s talk now about how to craft that story.

Your “About Me” story should, in some sense, be a story of transformation. It should feature you, the “hero” or “heroine,” on a quest in which you are not the same person (doing the same things) at the end of the story that you were at the beginning.

The engine of this transformation is conflict. Obstacles. Difficulties. Challenges.

Let’s break this down even further.

Your “About Me” page is a story in which you, the hero or heroine, are in pursuit of a goal.

That goal might consist in one thing or be a collection of things. If your “About Me” page is functioning as part of your business profile, then the goal your are seeking is the goal of your business.

Now we need conflict. No goal worth pursuing is achieved without encountering resistance. This is the prime thing missing from my current “About Me” page. As it reads, my “About Me” page has me undergoing a mid-life career change without even breaking a sweat. One day I was a philosopher on a university campus, the next I was running a children’s entertainment company. Happens every day, right?

No, it doesn’t. And I missed the opportunity to tell that interesting fact to the world.

I missed the opportunity to tell the world about the life-long yearning I had to be a storyteller, a yearning deeper and more abiding than my desire to be an academic philosopher. I missed the opportunity to tell the world about how I, and my wife, decided to make a daring break with the academic world and pursue an entirely new career as a storyteller. I told nothing of the anguishing deliberation, the hopeful signs, the raised eyebrows I received from those who could not understand why I was doing something so crazy.

I also missed the opportunity to tell the world about the struggles I had once I got started on my new career. I didn’t do what I am doing right now with you: talk about my mistakes.

In brief, there is no conflict in my “About Me” page. And without conflict, there is no story.

But by the end of your “About Me” story, conflict must be, at least partially, overcome. At least you have to still be trying to overcome it. Don’t think that you have to have a golden ending to your “About Me” story. The end as you know it today may not be all you want it to be in the future. But that’s okay. Your story so far can still be fascinating. And you can always revise it later when new episodes occur.

In any event, it should be clear by the end of your “About Me” story that you have undergone an internal transformation of some kind. Your thinking has changed. Your habits have changed. Your way of looking at the world is totally different. Don’t just tell us you got a new job or launched a new business or venture. Tell us about how you, the hero or heroine, are never going to be the same person again.

Lest you think all this focus on “About Me Me Me” is going to make your audience lose interest, don’t worry. I know the principle about making your audience the hero. But they will be the hero if you tell a compelling story about yourself, because they will be identifying themselves and their struggles with the struggles you relate.

Your “About Me” page is a story in which you, the hero or heroine, are in pursuit of a goal.

 

A Couple of Things I Did Right

I’ll close with noting a couple of things that I am happy with on my “About Me” and which I will carry over into my revised version.

First, casual pictures. Use them. I have one good casual photograph of me and one not-so-great one at a school reading of my Patria books. The world wants to see what we look like. They want to see that we’re human beings. They want to relate to us so that they can put themselves in our shoes and imagine what it’s like to do something like we’re doing. So don’t just use professional photography. Show us a more everyday look.

Second, humor. Use it. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but a little humor brings out your humanity and, again, helps us relate to you. I don’t use a lot of humor on my current page, but I talk about being being “the resident personal shopper and hand model” at The Comic Muse, as well as having, when young, “fallen in with a bad crowd” and gotten a PhD in philosophy. This won’t get me a special guest spot on SNL, but it’s enough to maintain a relaxed, inviting atmosphere.

I gotta go. I have an “About Me” page to disinfect and refurbish into a story.

How about you?

 

P.S. One last thing. I’m very proud to announce that my new online course, The Art of the Storypreneur, is open for enrollment. This course is designed to help you become, not just a storyteller, but a story creator for your business or organization. You go into the phone booth a mere marketer, you come out an storytelling superhero. Subscribers to The Comic Muse free email Newsletter receive a nifty discount. The syllabus and other details about the course can be found here.

IMG_0274

Daniel McInerny is founder and CEO of The Comic Muse, a brand storytelling consultancy devoted to helping businesses and other organizations become, not merely storytellers, but story creators. He also writes fiction for both children and adults. For children, he writes the humorous Kingdom of Patria series for middle grade readers (kingdomofpatria.com); and for adults, he was published the black comic thriller, High Concepts: A Hollywood Nightmare, available at Amazon. He welcomes your feedback at daniel@thecomicmuse.com.

Posted in Marketing, Sales, Story

How to Make the Most of Your Marketing Opportunity When You to Speak to a Group

Guest post by David Lee

A while back I witnessed yet another example of someone squandering one of the most precious marketing opportunities possible: getting the chance to present in front of a group of potential buyers.

This happened at an association meeting of customer service professionals. A representative from a CRM (customer relationship management) software company had the chance to give a five minute “commercial” because his company had sponsored the event.

 

mic-by-comedy-nose

Rather than use his precious time to communicate how his business helps solve problems that were relevant to the audience, he simply talked about his company and stated facts about the customer service industry that were common knowledge to anyone attending the conference.

People waited patiently until he was over so the “real speaker” (yours truly) could get up and talk to them about the topic they really were interested in.

I felt bad for this man and his company because I knew they had spent a lot of money to get the chance to tell people how their product could help these potential buyers, and all he accomplished was boring the audience.

Does this sound familiar?

 

 Have you ever been “that guy?”

Maybe you also have been the main speaker at an event or a breakout session at a conference, and found yourself doing what a lot of vendor reps and consultants who aren’t professional speakers do.

Maybe you did any or all of the following:

Start off with a lame joke.

  1. Transition into a long description of what your company does.
  2. Spend most of your time giving a “State of the Union” speech that merely reminds the audience of all the problems they were facing and had come to get answers to.
  3. Give 30,000 foot high “answers” that are commonsense, such as “Give great customer service”, “You need to have quality employees if you’re going to give quality customer service” or “Turnover is costing you a lot; so it’s important to stop turnover.”
  4. Read off of your PowerPoint slides, bullet point list item after bullet point list item.

 

Does this sound hauntingly familiar?

If so, it’s time to upgrade your presentational approach by adding stories and concrete examples that make your key points and take away message more understandable, more fascinating, and more memorable.

Here are three of the nearly twenty story genres I teach that will make your presentation—whether it’s five minutes or sixty minutes—far more fascinating and persuasive.

 

“I Feel Your Pain” Stories – This story genre helps the audience bond with you. It helps them understand that you understand their pain. It also helps get them in touch with their pain, which increases their desire to hear how you can help eliminate their pain.

When I give programs on constructive conversation skill, I often start off with an “I feel your pain” story about a really difficult conversation I once had with a co-worker.

I share my painful initial interaction with my co-worker and then my subsequent reaction to what he said. I share how angry I was at him, how I obsessed about my not having a witty comeback, and how I plotted my revenge. When I share this with groups, I always see nods of recognition. They know exactly what that feels like and…they immediately recognize that I understand their pain, because I have faced the same struggles as they have.

As part of the story, I share my reluctance to bring up the issue with my co-worker, to remind them of their reluctance to bring up difficult issues with difficult people, a reluctance born out of them feeling they don’t have the skills to make the conversation work. This also helps increase their interest in learning the skills that will make them more confident in bringing up difficult issues.

So, number one, sharing this “I feel your pain” story helps them bond with me; it helps them recognize I understand them. Number two, because this “I Feel Your Pain” Story reminds them of the pain they experience because of the problem we will be discussing, the story increases their interest in what I am going to share.

“I Feel Your Pain” Stories can be about your experience with the problem they struggle with, or a story about a client or customer with challenges that mirror theirs.  The key is that these stories let them know “I know where you are coming from” and….they get the audience more deeply in touch with the pain the unsolved problem is causing them.

 

Pain and Promise Stories – Here’s an example of a Pain and Promise Story I start out with when I do management development training. I start off with a story about two managers I met during a consulting engagement to assess employee morale. Management was concerned because they were about to go through major changes and needed everybody to be able to rise to the occasion,  and wanted to find out if there were things going on that were diminishing employee motivation and commitment.

After giving the audience the context, I share what I noticed in the focus groups I conducted:

“Depending on who was in the group…or more specifically which manager the people in the group worked for…it was like I was talking with employees from three different companies.

If the people in the focus group were from different teams with different managers, it was an OK place to work. People weren’t all that fired up to go to work, nor were they unhappy. It was basically a paycheck.

However, if they worked for a manager named John…it was a horrible place to work. They regaled me with story after story about how rude and abusive he was, and how much they hated working there. The amount of venting and emoting that went on in those groups made it feel like I was leading a therapy group.

However, If the people in the focus group worked for Harry…it was like I was meeting with people from a totally different organization. They loved coming to work and they were full of pride about the job they did.

Later, I found out from senior management that Harry’s department was the star department of the company. They had the best quality output and the highest productivity. Meanwhile…John’s department was the ‘problem child’ of the company. His quality and productivity scores were the lowest and he had huge turnover problems.

 Furthermore, John confided in me how miserable he was because of all the problems he had with his team.

 Sadly, he was unaware of how much his behavior was causing his problems.

This is an example of a Pain and Promise Story that compares and contrasts two individuals as a way to connect listeners with the pain caused by the problem they have and also illustrates the benefit—the Promise—that comes from applying the knowledge or skills you are going to present. I like using that story as an opening story because it illustrates so perfectly the pain that managers experience when they use counterproductive management practices and… the price they pay for doing so, without realizing it.

Other Pain and Promise Stories directly demonstrate the value of your work. They depict “before and after pictures” of the pain your client or customer was experiencing before working with you, and then the positive results they got through working with you.

The goal in starting off with a Pain and Promise Story is to dial the audience into “WII-FM”—as in “What’s in it for me?”  Because this story genre taps into their pain and offers hope, it grabs their attention.

If you open up your presentation with a Pain and Promise Story, you don’t want to launch into describing your solution, step-by-step. This isn’t teaching time. Remember, your goal is to spark interest, not teach technique.

To heighten your audience’s interest and make them “thirsty” for your “how to” information, start off with a Pain and Promise Story where you share the “before picture”—i.e. a story that relates to the problem that is causing the audience pain— the “after picture”—the positive outcome the client achieved—and then tell the audience that you will share with them later in the session what you did to help your client achieve that positive outcome.
This is called “salting,” as in “give them salt to make them thirsty” for what you are going to tell them.

The story I started this post off with is an example of salting. It starts off with a story that communicates “This is the price you pay for being an uninteresting speaker…a huge lost marketing opportunity”. While I don’t explicitly say “Keep reading and I will tell you how to rectify this,” you understand that is where we are going. If you related to that story—which was chosen because my intended audience CAN relate to that story—you wanted to hear more about how NOT to be “that guy.”

 

“What I mean by that” Stories – These stories take your key concepts and help listeners understand what they mean at an emotional and visceral level, rather than have them vaguely understood at an intellectual story. So for instance, I gave you examples of what I meant by an “I Feel your Pain” Story and a Pain and Promise Story. I didn’t just explain what they were. I showed you.

This is an important distinction. When we use abstract terms—such as the term “A Pain and Promise Story”—without  demonstrating what they mean by giving a concrete examples, we risk people either not understanding what we mean or….risk them believing they do understand, when in fact they don’t.

You prevent this from happening by following each key point with “So for instance…” or “Here’s an example of what I mean…”, and then giving a concrete example or sharing a short story that illustrates that point.

Doing this will make a HUGE difference in your audience’s ability to comprehend what you’re saying.

So for instance, when I give programs on constructive conversations, I talk about the language pattern I call The Multiple Choice Opener. This language pattern makes it more comfortable for people to speak honestly about a tough issue. When I describe the Multiple Choice Opener, I don’t just list the characteristics of this language pattern.

I give the audience an example.

I say “So…for instance…let’s say you did a performance review with Mary…” I then describe the scenario and how I would use the Multiple Choice Opener in that situation.*

By giving  a concrete example of what you mean or sharing a short story that illustrates your concept or point, you help the listener play a movie in their mind of what you are talking about, so they can truly understand what that concept looks and sounds like in real life.

By making abstract terms concrete, you help your listeners move beyond “sort of knowing intellectually” what you are saying to fully grasping at an experiential level what you mean and why it’s significant.  When this happens, your message becomes more understandable, more interesting, and more persuasive.

So Use Stories to Make Your Points More Understandable and Your Presentations More Compelling

So…don’t be like the typical vendor or professional who has a great product or does great work, but doesn’t know how to talk about it in a way that makes others want to listen.

Don’t blow your big opportunity to spread your message when you do get the chance to speak in front of a group.

Start off your presentations with a story and use stories and examples to make your points come alive.

Doing so will make you a far more fascinating and compelling speaker.

Adding storytelling to your presentations will also making speaking a lot more fun for you, and… it will make listening to you a lot more fun for your audience.

*If you are interested in the particulars of that technique, I have several articles about it, including “Can We Talk?: How to Foster Honest, Open Conversation”

david lee

David Lee is the founder of www.StoriesThatChange.com and www.HumanNatureAtWork.com. He has been using and teaching storytelling for over twenty years in both the clinical and business world, and has taught storytelling at conferences and within organizations.

He is the author of Storytelling Techniques for Training, and has had his work published in Tales Of Enchantment: Goal-Oriented Metaphors For Adults And Children In Therapy by Carol H. Lankton and Stephan R. Lankton. For information on individual coaching or group programs on adding storytelling to your speaking, marketing, or coaching, contact him at david@storiesthatchange.com

microphone photos is courtesy of comedy_nose, creative commons license.

Posted in Communication, Story

B2B Marketing: Act Less Like a Rock Star and More Like a Roadie

Roadies-byPabloBM

Rockstars not wanted

Why customers (not you) should be the heroes of your content marketing stories.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I was talking with 20 business owners in the Kauffman FastTrac New Venture program about the power of story for business communication.

“Who or what should be the hero of your marketing stories?” I asked the group. Quickly, the answers came in: “The product! The company! The founder!”

While those three topics are certainly important for any marketing story bank, I asked the group to consider others. After a few moments, one person called out, “The customer!”

Budding entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who sometimes think of the customer after their cool product or service. We’ve all seen big B2B brands cast their latest offering as the hero of the marketing story, with the customer as a side note: “This year’s software platform has two XJ7a dashboards instead of just one. Wow!”

Natural enthusiasm and an abundance of technical knowledge make it tempting to frame your product or service as the “rockstar” in your marketing message. Avoid this.

Instead, consider a “roadie marketing” mindset. Great roadies are proactive, extremely flexible, and most importantly, help their rockstar clients shine in doing what they do best. The humble guitar techs and loading crew do the grunt work that makes those rock and roll moments possible. In the same way, show how your organization’s products, services, and people support your clients as the true rockstars in growing their own businesses.

How to be a B2B Marketing Roadie:

1.       Share a story.  The elements inherent to a story, (such as conflict, hero, and resolution), will practically require you to describe scenarios, success stories, and use cases instead of dry lists of features and benefits. Naturally, clients will be central characters in many of these stories. And if you feel you simply must convey facts, figures, and data, a story is still one of the best ways to make the numbers memorable and meaningful. Ironically, the research data consistently shows that stories work better than data does alone. Think about that one for a minute…

2.       Take a client’s perspective.  Ask your clients to get involved and actively shape the story. User-generated content, case studies, and video testimonials put your clients front and center.  A client can connect with the audience (your target customers) better than you can. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer showed “a person like me” has re-emerged as one of the three most credible spokespeople, with its biggest increase in credibility since 2004.

3.       Embrace imbalance. One rule of thumb for content such as case studies is to let your clients do most of the talking. If two-thirds of the material in a story is about your product, service, or organization, then flip the ratio. Interview your clients, listen closely, and use their authentic words—even if it’s not the perfect corporate-speak you’d prefer. Prospects listen more closely to their peers than they do to your sales and marketing lines, anyway. A 2011 Forester research study on enterprise software purchasing behavior showed that peers are the number one source of insight at 93%. Salespeople are trusted just 22% of the time

4.       Don’t “rescue” the client. Take a step back. Show how the client solved their problem – with your help, of course. If the arc of your marketing stories always involves your company or product as the knight in shining armor riding in to save the day and douse fires, it removes the potential energy from the story. Your clients aren’t victims in need of saving, they’re rockstars! And you can be a darn good roadie for them.

To be a rockstar marketer, act like your clients’ roadie

Now, take another look at your organization’s marketing content. Is it framed with your organization as the rockstar?  How can you reposition to allow the client to be front and center?

Be a roadie marketer and help your customers shine like rockstars. In return, you’ll be a rockstar in the eyes of your clients and prospects!

What other B2B roadie marketing practices would you add to the list?

 

Flickr photo is creative commons license, Attribution 2.0 Generic, courtesy of PabloBM

 

Posted in Communication, Marketing Tagged with: , , ,

How to Diversify Your B2B Client Case Studies and Avoid Marketing Ruts

GrandmasII-by-Debs

I have a relative who likes to tell the same story every time we see her. It’s a good story that makes people laugh, but it seems to be the only one she knows, and she tells it regardless of the situation or the audience. Sometimes it feels like she isn’t sure why she’s telling it – it’s simply become a reflex. Do you know someone like this? Are you someone like this? Everyone has “old standby” stories.

 

Perhaps you also know a business that has fallen into the same communication rut. Sales and marketing teams regularly tell the same one or two stories—and not much else. There’s nothing wrong with classic, bedrock stories, like the founder’s story, that epitomize the organization. However, having a wider repertoire of stories will make your communications and marketing much more versatile. For example, if your primary story is, “We’ve been steadfast in this business for 100 years,” that may not very useful when you need a story about a fresh, agile newcomer breaking the status quo.

Reflective, not Reflexive

Avoid the rut of using the same story over and over in your B2B marketing with a diversity of client case studies in your storybank. And to get more mileage out of each success story, consider the many lenses through which content like client success stories can be viewed. (Hint, it’s not all about your company or your products.) Listen closely to your clients and prospects and reflect on the ways that client organizations and key decision makers think of themselves and their situations.

Taking the broadest view possible increases the chances of finding points in common with your prospects. Yes, that healthcare CFO you’re trying to woo will be interested in your existing healthcare clients’ experiences. But that CFO may be equally interested in the innovative risk reduction work you’ve done with CFOs in other unrelated industries.

Here are just a few of the many ways to organize, tag, and view your client success story catalog. Notice that some of these lenses apply to the organization you’re marketing to, and some apply to the decision makers in those organizations. Big difference.

Lenses for Client Success Story Bank

Geography        

Examples: Rural America, Downtown Toronto, Brazil.

Question answered: Have you worked with organizations in our part of the world?

Industry Verticals           

Examples: IT security services, clean energy materials, gourmet pastries, jet engines, healthcare analytics.

Question answered:Do you really understand our specialized industry?

Organization Size                       

Examples: Small, medium, large, enormous

Question answered: Can you properly handle a business as big (or as small) as ours?

Organization Mission

Examples: Business, Non-Profit, Government, Academia

Question answered: Do you really understand our culture and goals?

Adoption Curve / Sales Funnel / Client Status

Examples: Innovators, majority, laggards. Browsing, researching, ready to buy. Current clients, conversion clients, never-before clients.  (These three are all somewhat different, but you get the idea.)

Question answered: Are you going to make this comfortable and appropriate for the stage we are in now?

Business Challenge

Examples: Accelerating sales cycles, raising quality levels, reducing churn, improving morale.

Question answered: Can you show how your widget/technology/service will improve my actual business results?

Functional Role

Examples: CIO, ER Nurse, VP of Marketing, Solopreneur

Question answered: Do you really understand the nature of my job responsibilities?

Emotions & Values        

Examples: Safety, Excitement, Convenience, Fairness, Social Responsibility, Innovation

Question answered: Are we aligned philosophically? Does this feel right?

Products & Services

Examples: Product 1, product 2, service A, service B

Yes, you’ll probably want to have examples for all your offerings, as appropriate, but I wrote this one last, since your prospects think about themselves and their needs before they consider product.

Get Started

With these lenses above as a starting point, a case study for your West Coast biotech client will obviously fit those two specific geographic and industry categories. Don’t stop there. Look for multiple connection points, too. The more lenses you use, the more client-focused your marketing mindset will be. For example, themes like the speed at which you delivered results and the innovative solution your team co-developed with the biotech’s CIO might also resonate with organizations and decision makers outside West Coast and biotech.

A note of caution: Stories are not like Swiss army knives that you simply whip out to save the day. But having a broader selection and wider awareness of the facets of client success stories across your organization will increase the chances of having the right story at the right time when the right person is ready to engage.

Nobody wants to be a one-story wonder like my relative. Avoid the ruts in the road and try some new paths. Take a moment to catalog your existing client success stories, using this model as a rough guide. Writing it out as a mind map or grid format helps to visualize. Are there any gaps or opportunities? What are your strengths?

This blog post includes only a partial list of lenses and tags for client success stories. What have I left out? In what other ways does your organization categorize its case studies as marketing content?

 

 

Road rut photo courtesy of flickr photographer Debs (ò‿ó)♪, creative commons license.

Posted in Marketing, Sales Tagged with: , , , ,

When Leaders Should NOT Tell Stories

Beauty and Danger: Stories Shouldn’t Live in Cages

These days, leaders are frequently urged to tell stories to provide direction, navigate a crisis, or sell the next big thing. Yes, stories are powerful, but they shouldn’t be used recklessly or with ill intent.

Jo Tyler of Penn State makes the point in her amazing TEDxPSU talk that stories have a life of their own, whether we tell them or not.

Sharing the story of a leader she knew who used a story carelessly and ended up causing damage in his organization, Tyler makes the point that sometimes it’s better to take a step back, and listen for the authentic stories around us, instead of relying on “caged stories” all the time.

By the way, it seems like the recent expansion of the TEDx series has diluted the quality of some of the talks, in my opinion. This is one of the great ones! No matter what your professional role is—if communication skills are at all important to you and your success—check out this talk. Tyler’s storytelling is engaging, and the message will give you food for thought about your own communication.

 

Thanks to Karen Dietz for alerting me when she posted Tyler’s video on her Just Story It curated ScoopIt site.

Posted in Communication, Leadership, Story Tagged with: , ,
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