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Get to the Point: 5 Storytelling Tips for Bloggers

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storytelling tips for bloggers

A well-written blog post is like a good story. It makes us feel that we are right there with the blogger. It can teach us things—about life, or work, or making our way in the world. It can make us laugh, or cry, or say, ‘yeah, I had the same thing happen to me.’

Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story, puts it this way:

“We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain. Story is the language of experience. Other people’s stories are as important as the stories we tell ourselves. Because if all we ever had to go on was our own experience, we wouldn’t make it out of onesies.”

So how do you tell compelling stories on your blog?

1. First find your point.

Like a story, a good blog post has a point. Your point is your takeaway. If your blog content were a holiday tree, it would be the star on top.

Your supporting ideas are the ornaments. Hang them carefully, and make sure each one points back to the star.

How to do it: Write the main point of your post first. What are you trying to say? What one thing will apply to all of your readers, regardless of their backgrounds and experiences?

I write mine on a sticky note and put it on my computer screen, so it’s in front of me as I write. If you have listed more than one point, your topic is probably too broad. Save the others to use in future posts.

Example: In my post, “The Hollywood Guide to a Better Blog Tagline,” my main point was the importance of a concise blog tagline in attracting and keeping readers who land on your site.  So I started with:

“Some of us watched the inflated, over-the-top, “You’re good,” “No, you’re good” Oscars this spring. I did not. Since my daughter was in the biz, the glamour is gone.

I do remember, however, seeing the blow-by-blow on the front page of cnn.com. And watching the trailers online, I couldn’t help but think. Those folks in Hollywood know how to do some things well, like selling their product in one line. They know how to entice us in 25 words or less.”

So by end of the second paragraph, the reader knows the point of the post: how to entice your blog visitor in 25 words or less. That one point sets the tone for the whole rest of the post.

2. Set the scene.

Good stories start by setting the stage, before the characters show up. By creating an intriguing scene first, you make your readers feel more connected to the story and characters.

How to do it: Paint a sensory-rich scene that invites the reader to jump into the story.

Example: In a post I wrote for Becky McCray’s Small Biz Survival blog, my topic was how to make a business work in a geographically challenging location. In the opening lines, I painted a picture of where I live and hinted at the challenges of living there. :

“There are small towns. There are rural areas. And then there are islands. Islands that have no bridges, only ferries.

Ferries that blow their horns on foggy days. That break down at the worst possible moment, usually when you have an important meeting with a new client. Ferries that will take you back home—if you show up before the last one leaves the dock, at precisely 7:30pm.”

3. Throw in a character, add conflict and stir.

Just as in a good story, interesting characters can make or break your post. You want to create characters your reader can emotionally invest in, so she cares about what happens to them. If you tell a personal story, the main character will be you. In other posts, it may be somebody else.

The conflict in a story is called plot. In a blog post, the conflict is the problem you are helping your reader solve. I opened with a scene that put my reader there with me as I try to beat the clock and make the last ferry from the mainland back to our island home after a business meeting:

How to do it: Create tension with a real world conflict, a problem your reader can relate to.

Example: To continue with the “5 Things I Learned When I Moved My Business to an Island” post, the problem in the opening scene was missing the ferry. But the bigger picture, the greater problem, was how to manage a business successfully when it is located in a remote area. The post continues:

“If you arrive even 10 seconds late, the ferry workers in bright orange vests are pulling the thick ropes in and locking the gate. And you are stuck on the mainland, cursing that ‘careful’ driver who chugged along at 16 miles an hour all the way along the tree-lined road that leads to the ferry landing.

You would have made it if not for her.”

This set the reader up with one of the challenges of operating a business in an isolated location, this one being time spent in commuting.

4. Be sure there is a resolution.

Conflict is good, but if there is no resolution, your reader is left hanging. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but the character has to have been changed as a result of what happened. In a blog post, that usually means ending with what you learned, and the solutions you found.

How to do it: You have hooked your reader with a setting, your character and your conflict. Now you need to show her how to resolve that conflict, how to solve the problem.

Example: I ended my post with five tips, things I learned in moving my business from Seattle to a remote, 7.7-square mile island in south Puget Sound. An abbreviated version:

• Get to know your providers and vendors.

• Rethink your ideal client.

• Don’t make your location an issue for your customers.

• Develop an online support network and make friends with social media.

• Don’t shortchange your in-person networking.

That wasn’t the full post, but you get the idea.

5. Read as much you can, as often as you can.

At first thought, this one would not seem to be part of the storytelling process. But I have found that this one strategy has, above all others, helped me become a better teller of stories, which, in turn, has made me a better blogger.

In On Writing, Stephen King says:  “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: Read a lot and write a lot.”

How to do it: The authors of the classics have much to teach us about the superb use of language to drive a point home and tell an entertaining story: Just a few of my favorites:  Ernest Hemingway (for brevity and making every word count); William Faulkner (for evocative use of language); Eudora Welty (for descriptions and setting); and Flannery O’Connor (master of stories with a point).

But reading other, lesser-known authors will help you, too. You will get good at what creates an engaging story—and what does not.

Do you tell stories on your blog? Do you think a good story make a blog post more memorable?

Image credit: Bigstock

How to Use Imagination to Evoke Emotion with Podcasting

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how to use imagination to evoke emotion with podcasting

Envision your podcast having an audience of 300,000 people a month. You are receiving so many requests for speaking engagements that need to hire someone who will simply manage your appearances. Your listeners are encouraging you to write yet another book on your subject. All of the big names in your industry know your podcast is the show on which to appear if they hope to get noticed.

It is all possible for you.

When I get you to envision the future in your imagination, I stir emotion. I give you hope. The story creates excitement. It is inspiring. Emotions are powerful.

Audio in general is so much more emotional than video. You can be so much more powerful if you use audio correctly, because audio uses the power of the imagination to evoke emotions deep within the listener.

The Emotional Difference Between Audio and Video

Video is exactly what you see. When you and I watch video, we both see the exact same thing. There is no doubt about the color of a car in the scene. The weather is perfectly obvious. Your view of the surroundings is exactly like my perception. Every part of the scene is determined by the director.

When you and I hear audio, most of the details are left up to our imagination. We hear a story and envision the details in our head. When you see the scene in your imagination, you create it in a way that gives you the most joy and benefit. I do the same. Our two visions may be very different.

The storyteller may describe part of the scene, such as a back alley on a cool, damp night. If we saw that alley on video, you and I would see it exactly the same. If we hear about that alley, we envision the alley in very different ways.

You may picture a very tight, dirty alley where the buildings are very tall. They alley is one car wide and strewn with dumpsters. The back doors of restaurants rhythmically line the walls of the buildings, like soldiers standing at attention. One street light hangs off a build halfway down the alley. The stench of old food fills the air.

I might imagine that alley as a dirt path through a neighborhood between houses. Chain link fences lines the alley on both sides. As cars make their way down that alley, they are forced to dodge trashcans from the houses that have been set out for trash collection the next morning. The trail goes on through backyards for a few block before it ducks uphill behind the trees. The smell of wet grass fills the air.

Those two scenes are quite different. We both envision our scene in a way that best suits our imagination, based on our own experiences.

The mind is a very powerful tool. The imagination has the power to evoke emotions much stronger than any visual cue could ever do. Fear is simply your mind imagining what might happen. Inspiration comes when you imagine what the future might hold.

One of the reasons for Alfred Hitchcock’s success as a movie director was his ability to stir the imagination. His scenes didn’t show all of the violent details. He may show a shadow while you hear the screams in the background. He might simply show a coffee cup while you only hear the struggle between the two characters. Your imagination makes the scene much more powerful, emotional, and believable than any scene he could show you.

Tapping into Imagination

When you’re preparing to record your podcast, determine what emotions will make your listeners take action. Decide what you hope to make your listener feel. You want the stories you tell to help evoke those emotions. Use wonderful, vivid details within your story that will dance in in each listener’s imagination.

You can activate the imagination of your listener by painting verbal pictures. Put your listener in the moment by asking them to imagine something, like I did at the start of this post.

You are receiving so many requests to appear for speaking engagements that you are close to hiring someone who will simply manage your appearances.

You can see the requests coming in. Are people e-mailing or calling you? I don’t know. That is the beauty of the imagination. If you prefer e-mail, you will envision people e-mailing you. If you like to talk to people on the phone, you can imagine people calling you. You will see in your mind the situation that is most beneficial to you. I only help you paint that picture.

The power of storytelling comes into play when you stir emotions by painting verbal pictures in the imagination of your listener. For imagination to kick in, you have to start off with enough details first. Give listeners a base and then allow them to fill in the blanks.

This is where audio and podcasting become the visual medium. The story comes to life visually in your imagination. The imagination stirs emotion within the listener, and emotions are powerful for turning that first-time listener into a subscriber and turning that subscriber into a fan who will promote your show to his/her friends.

Some podcasters out there are very good at painting visual pictures to evoke emotions. Share your favorites in the comments!

The “Art” of Storytelling

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Most don’t have it; a fortunate few do. Only a handful of very talented “naturals” have the ability to engage an audience through their brilliantly-crafted stories. Not only are they able to use their charisma and emotional intelligence to captivate and charm, they’re able to ignite and convince their audience to take action through the use of their story. These are the people you love being around. They enthuse, entertain and inspire!

The practice of using stories to motivate is an extremely effective leadership tool and has been used throughout history. Think of some of the great biblical leaders and how they leveraged parables and narratives to inspire their audience. Look at how George Washington, Henry Ford and Martin Luther King and many other thought leaders incorporated stories into their speeches.

Stories in business

“Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal, just three stories.” – Steve Jobs

The leaders that employees follow and admire most are those that tell meaningful stories rather than reciting boring and useless statistics. Consider the now famous speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford graduation. Within the first 30 seconds of his address, he says “Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal, just three stories.” He immediately engaged his audience and then goes on to deliver one of the most inspiring commencement speeches in history through the effective use of his stories.

In Telling Tales, Stephen Denning writes, “Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart. And the heart is where we must go if we want to not only motivate people to take action, but do so with energy and enthusiasm. Even the most logical arguments or well-crafted PowerPoint slide deck won’t do the trick. Story telling can translate those dry and abstract numbers into compelling pictures of leaders’ goals.”

The heart is where we must go in marketing! This is especially true in content marketing. However, the challenge of reaching the heart through text heavy content lies in the lack of emotional hooks a writer can place as they convey their message. Without being able to see, gauge and interpret the audience, only the most talented writers capture their reader’s attention. In addition, readers today are inundated with information and if an emotional hook isn’t set within the first few seconds, the reader is gone.

A better way to tell your story

This is where the data visualization can more effectively tell your story and “translate those dry and abstract numbers into compelling pictures.” With the right infographic, a writer is still able to tell their story, but the likelihood of setting an emotional hook and catering to the reader’s attention span increases significantly.

Imagine that it’s Monday morning and you’ve just jumped online to read about the release of Apple’s iPhone 5. As usual, you’re pressed for time and are looking for some quick content before you make your buying decision. You come across two “stories” that are essentially the same thing; a breakdown of what it will cost to own the new device. The only difference is one is an infographic and the other is an article. Which are you most likely to spend your time on?

If you’re like majority, you’ll favor the graphic over the written. The reasons:

  • You’re visual
  • You’re short on time
  • You’re accustomed to “dashboards” and want the story quick and concise

Avalaunch Media‘s Favorite Stories Using Infographics

Why Utah Has the Greatest Snow on Earth - SkiUtah.com The True Cost of an iPhone 5 - Mashable.com The Life of a Salvaged Tree From Forest to Tree - NationalGeographic.com History of Marketing Channels - AvalaunchMedia.com History of Mickey Mouse - Goin2Travel.com

“The Merger”

This is where the two worlds collide. You put the art in the story and your audience engages on two levels; with the story AND the visualization. For this reason, infographics have become a quintessential marketing tool that:

  • Increase brand awareness, authority, trust and credibility
  • Increase social proof and signals that are important for optimization
  • Build critical links from legitimate sites that boosts SEO
  • Generate new forms of traffic flow to your domain

An infographic that’s well designed and promoted through the right channels can tell a story in such a compelling way that it’ll inspire your audience to take action. Stories told visually should be considered a key component of any corporate communication and marketing strategy.

Telling Instead of Selling: How Smart Brands are Using Social for the Holiday Season

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With all of the banner ads out there promoting holiday shopping, how do businesses stand out online? How do they get their products under the tree? Smart businesses are finding new ways to reach consumers without distracting them from content they enjoy. They’re becoming a seamless part of the online conversation and, as a result, stay top of mind for consumers as they shop for their holiday gifts. Smart brands tell stories that create a connection to their brand.

So how are companies connecting with their consumers using storytelling in social media?

Here are a few examples of companies that are getting their story out there this holiday season.

jcpenney

jcpenney gets it right with creating stories about their products that are relatable and interesting to readers. They even do it in Spanish. One example is their social campaign to showcase a new clothing line from Liz Claiborne. They worked with bloggers like hablasfashion to create three different outfits from their fall clothing line. The readers then voted on their favorite outfit and commented on the line. This is a perfect example of social done well. By working with an influential blogger, jcpenny was able to create a personal story around their products that was authentic and engaging to readers.

Udi’s Gluten Free

Udi’s makes products that are gluten free for people with celiac disease or who just want to live a gluten free lifestyle. Their community page is a perfect example of how they are staying top of mind for consumers. This season, Udi’s is telling stories that relate to the holidays. They highlight stories about gluten-free living and how to survive the holidays.  The content creates an emotional connection with the brand because they talk about a personal experience, living gluten-free. It makes shoppers feel like Udi’s cares about them and their lifestyle.

Operation Christmas Child

This charity organization packs boxes full of toys and personal items for children in need that are delivered around the holiday season. They worked with bloggers like 2wired2tired to create narratives about packing boxes for their programs. The stories were first hand accounts of bloggers teaching their own children about social good and the needs of others around the world by packaging boxes for social good. The stories are personal and heartfelt blog posts that drive readers back to the Operation Christmas Child website where they can also begin the process of packing a box for charity.

Storytelling works because it is the natural way that people communicate. When you hear a heartfelt story about a personal experience shopping for the holidays, read about a recipe that someone created, or learn how someone taught their child to care for others, you feel an emotional connection with the writer. Brands that join the conversation and tell stories that mean something to the reader become more relatable. When consumers connect with a brand, they buy their products. Nothing connects consumers to a brand like a good story.

Editor’s Note:  Want to hear more from Jennifer Beaupre? Be sure to come hear her speak at BusinessNext Social, collocated with NMX, this coming January! She’ll be interviewed along with Sam Fiorella of Sesei Marketing in a session titled, “A Look Into The Future Of Influence Marketing.” Register today!

Telling Your Brand’s Story: Historic Lessons and Modern Applications

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In May 1942, Nazis ordered a group of German filmmakers to go into what is today one of the most iconic areas of the time period: the Warsaw Ghetto. Here, over 400,000 Jews were kept as Nazi prisoners in conditions that most of us couldn’t dream of surviving. Rations without enough calories to survive, deplorable living conditions where disease ran rampant, and police brutality were some of the daily struggles for Warsaw Jews living in the Ghetto.

And yet, the Reich sent in a film crew. Writes Huffington Post’s Richard Z. Chesnoff, “Their perverse propaganda goal: to record for posterity examples of the religious practices and “sub-human culture” of the soon to be eliminated judische Rasse, everything from a circumcision ceremony to a burial service; from the extreme poverty of the many to the supposed lack of concern of those few Jews who still had some assets.”

The Nazi brand, when simplified, was “Jews and others who don’t fit our mold are bad people.” And they knew that the most powerful way to spread this message was not in telling this message to others outright, but rather showing it in story form.

The wall of victims at Yad Vasham, identified using both Nazi and personal records

The film was ultimately never finished because the footage didn’t tell the story the Nazi party wanted it to tell. But on my recent trip to Yad Vasham, the World Center for Holocaust Research, Education, Documentation, and Commemoration, I was taken aback by this idea of storytelling during the 1940s. It was something even the Nazi party, perhaps the kings of propaganda, pegged as extremely important. Brands can still learn from this lesson today.

The Value of Information

Recording and sharing information are perhaps more important to your brand than you realize. It’s in these activities that your story has a beginning, a base for your entire brand. Leaders of the Nazi party certainly put their own heavy spin on the information that was shared with the public, but they nonetheless realized the importance of precise records to the story they wanted to tell.

“For the Germans, proper record keeping was part of proper management. Hence, careful records and organized paperwork were maintained of all Nazi activities, even when these were criminal and murderous. The only blatant exception to this record-keeping was the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” a top secret operation for which there was no official budget and whose records were camouflaged within other records or in special language. It was only in the very last stages of the war, when defeat was at the door, that various officials (e.g., Adolf Eichmann) and offices destroyed some of the incriminating records,” says one historian at Yad Vasham.

Lest you’re wary of learning a lesson from the Nazi party, fear not: protecting information as a way to shape ideas and culture goes back much farther than the rise of the Third Reich. In “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making for Modern Memory,” authors Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook write, “Archives are social constructs. Their origins lie in the information needs and social values of the rulers, governments, businesses, associations, and individuals who establish and maintain them. Despite changes in the nature of records, the uses for those records, and the need to preserve them, archives, ever since the mnemons of ancient Greece, have been about power – about maintaining power, about the power of the present to control what is, and will be, known about the past, about the power of remembering over forgetting.”

The value in proper information, then, is power.

It’s easy to see how this translates into power for a brand. With the rise of social media, now more than ever before, it’s important for every employee, from CEO to night janitor, to understand the brand’s story. Every employee is a potential brand advocate through Facebook. Every employee is a potential customer service rep through Twitter. If information isn’t readily available to every employee, your company runs the risk of employees spreading incorrect information or muddling your messaging.

What systems do you have in place to share information within your company?

From Brand Information to Messaging

Every brand’s story starts with facts: when the company was founded, why the founders saw a need for a product or service, how the business operates today. But presenting the facts to your audience isn’t the same thing as telling a story. That’s what the Nazi party understood and why they sent filmmakers to Warsaw. And ultimately, it’s why the Warsaw Ghetto movie never got made. What the Nazi party realized is that they couldn’t turn the information about their atrocities into a positive message about their party no matter how hard they tried.

You can’t turn bad information into a good story–and your shouldn’t try. Doing so is no better than a propagandized message or, as we like to call it today, “spin.” If you have to spin your information to tell your brand’s story, it’s perhaps time to rethink your company policies and the way you do business.

You can tell a good story without being dishonest. It’s all about presenting information in an interesting way, not about exaggerating or falsifying information. There are certain “storylines” that resonate with customers you can use to tell your brand’s story. I also recommend checking out this extremely detailed lesson on the elements of story structure for businesses. At the root of business storytelling, however, is this: be honest and personable. People spend money when they know, like, and trust you and your company.

Some companies do this extremely well. Take Ford Motor Company, for example, who combine online advertising with storytelling to make new product promotion more entertaining and personal. Another great example is Canon, who’s Project Imaginat10n is telling a new story of inspiration, creativity, and product simplicity for their brand.

The Storytelling Timeline

Your brand’s story isn’t just a one-time tale with a defined end. As your business continues to grow, your story will expand. Thus, you need to update the information you share with your employees and edit your story to provide updates. Over time, your message may evolve, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you keep records well so that you’re always a credible source and continue to share your story in a way that is easily understood by your audience.

Why You Want To Make Your Listener Forget

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Image Credit: Shaileshnanal

There is a primary reason most people seek entertainment. They want to escape reality. Help your listener make their escape by making them forget they are listening to a recording.

People want to forget about their troubles of the day. To get away, they watch movies, go to concerts, watch television, listen to radio and spend time with your podcast. People get wrapped up in another time, place and story. This makes them forget about their reality, even if it is only for a short time.

Take them to another place with your podcast by using stories. Make your storytelling so strong that their imaginations put your listener in another time and place. That’s what great storytelling is all about. That’s what great relationships are all about. It is engagement.

So, how do you make them forget? How do you engage and entertain to the point where your listener is so engrossed with your content that they forget about everything else? What are the steps to create a great story?

Take a few tips from movies and television. Tell compelling stories just like the movies.

Here are the five things you need to remember in order to create great tales for your podcast.

1. Have great characters

Every story has great characters. You may love them. You may hate them. Either way, you remember them, because they stir emotions within you.

The characters are well-defined. You feel like you know them. During the story, you find yourself either rooting for them or against them.

Podcasts create these characters in various ways. It may be the host that is the character. The host may tell stories about others. The people defined in the e-mail questions answered during the show could be the characters of the stories. You could take phone calls or voicemail questions from people. Their voice alone helps define their character. Live guests with colorful backgrounds are also a source for great characters.

“Billie Jo, single mother of two who works as a waitress in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to make ends meet” is somebody you can begin to envision in your imagination. “She uses her kids to shoplift” completely changes your perception of her.

Great characters get your audience wrapped up in the story, so they forget they are listening to a recording.

 

2. Create some tension

All good stories have a plot. As we learned in composition class, great drama and tension create a solid plot. The protagonist must overcome the dilemma. Your listener begins to wonder what will happen next.

Podcasts that answer listener questions create some tension. The listener typically has a problem they need solved. This typically isn’t an Earth-shattering problem. However, it is a form of tension.

Great guests have usually overcome some obstacle to achieve their success. These obstacles create great tension in the story. Help your guests define that tension.

Tension in the story gets your audience wondering what will happen next. Once your listener gets focused on your story, they begin to forget about their reality. That’s what great stories are all about.

 

3. Use great details

Details make stories come to life. When you use vivid details, your listener can smell the air. They see the colors. They can hear the sounds. Your details put the listener in the moment.

You can tell a story in one of two ways.

The first way would have no details.

I stopped at a diner to grab some dinner.

That line does very little to stir the imagination and transport you to another time and place.

The second way incorporates vivid details.

Dinner would be the first meal I would have that day. I stepped into the roadside diner and shook off the snowy, December cold. The beat of the jukebox and bubbly chatter of the locals began to warm me even before I could take a seat at the barstooled counter to order my biscuits and gravy.

The detailed story begins to stir your imagination. You can feel the cold. You can hear the jukebox and crowd. You can almost smell the diner food. When those senses are activated, you begin to forget you’re listening to a recording.

 

4. Have a resolution

The resolution is the payoff to every great story. It is the climax to the movie plot. It is the “happily ever after.” The resolution puts the bow on the whole package.

Your resolution comes when you follow through with whatever you were hoping to make your audience feel. It could be the answer to the question. It could be the breakthrough success of your guest. You could wrap up the story with the punchline to the funny tale. Your resolution is where you solve the conflict and tension.

 

5. Me, not us

Talk to your audience one-on-one. Make your podcast personal by treating every listener as an individual. The more personal you get, the more engaged your listener will become.

Notice the tone of this writing. I’m talking directly to you. I’m helping you with your podcast. I’m not addressing “you guys.” I’m not talking to “all of you.” Sure, I’m writing for many. But when you read this, I’m writing for you and only you.

If I’m talking to you, you will in turn feel responsible to listen. If I’m talking to “all of you,” it becomes easier to assume somebody else will listen if you want to stay focused on something else. Engage by speaking one-on-one.

When you record your podcast, you need to create that wonderful theater of the mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading fiction or talking about gardening, put your audience in the moment. Transport them to another time and place.

Make your podcast entertaining by creating great stories using the five elements. Great stories have great characters. Engage your audience with some tension. Spark the imagination of your audience with vivid details. Wrap the story up with the resolution. Finally, speak to your listener with a one-on-one tone. Stories help your listener forget about their troubles of the day.

Try to incorporate stories in every podcast. Stories will help them escape reality. Make your listener forget they are listening to a recording.

Weaving Your Personal Life into Your Podcasting

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The power of podcasting is enormous. Just think about it, when somebody puts on their earphones and heads out the door for their daily run or their long commute, you are the one accompanying them. Your voice is in their ears and for a little while you have their undivided attention. It goes without saying then that you have the power to personally and massively impact the life of someone you may not even know exists.

But with this awareness also comes a great question: How much of my personal life should I share on a podcast? Or even further than that: How much of my struggles, my victories or even my insecurities am I allowed to share with my listeners?

The truth is that in order to build a successful podcast, you have to create a bond with your readers. It doesn’t matter what your podcast is about, if you only stick to the facts, you’ll hardly be likely to build a strong audience.

The boom of “reality TV” quite powerfully shows that people love to take a look behind the scenes and they hardly ever get enough of it. The same is true for podcasting.

People love to get to know the person behind the microphone. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. We are wired for human connection. We want to hear stories. We want–no need–to belong and relate.

We also have a high level of curiosity and simply want to know whom the person really is that we are listening to.

As a podcaster, you can use that natural tendency for relation to your advantage. By sharing bits and pieces of your life, you’ll create loyal listeners who have a meaningful connection with you.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to or should talk about all details of your private life.

Keeping your privacy, but still building an effective relationship with your audience is like a dance and you are the one who leads.

You give your audience the nuggets of information that are relevant to your podcast, your topic or just this one episode. You create a bond with targeted, specific and relevant information.

The secret is to share with a certain purpose behind it. The secret is to know which outcome you want to achieve. The secret is to be smart about it.

When I decided to not only blog but also podcast about my recovery from anorexia, I opened myself up and became very transparent. However, I didn’t do it in order to assuage my (non-existent) desire for fame and attention. I did it because I knew that I would be able to help others. I knew that by talking about walking the rocky road to health, I would inspire and encourage others to do the same. I knew that by giving away details of my private life, I would speak straight to the heart of others who are experiencing similar issues.

At the same time, there are still many areas of my life, many stories, many circumstances that people don’t know about and won’t ever hear or read.

Yes, there has to be a level of transparency about your life, but you get to choose how high that is.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself when preparing your podcast episode:

1. Is there a personal story that would illustrate what I am talking about in this episode?

Would my listeners benefit from it? In the end, it all comes down to helping your listeners get the most value when listening to your podcast. By sharing a story, you’ll not only strengthen the bond with your listeners, but you’ll also be able to clarify the points that you are trying to make. We learn best when following examples. So, if you have one, then share it.

Do you want your listeners to let go of their delusional dream that having a certain body size will magically make them feel worthy and whole? If so, then talking about your own story of dieting and never experiencing this transformation makes sense. Do you want to inspire your listeners to get out of an unfulfilling job and find the career of their dreams? If so, then sharing details of how you finally walked out of a soul-sucking job and changed your life for the better is perfect. Do you want to encourage your listeners to find their way back to a healthy exercise regime? If so, then sharing how you fell off the bandwagon for a few months and successfully reintegrated exercise into your life is just the right dose of inspiration your listeners need.

There is a myriad of ways you can use your personal experiences in order to make a point. Just be sure that it really serves your audience in the best way possible.

2. Do I respect the privacy of others?

It is crucial that when you share a personal anecdote and other people are involved, you either ask their permission or change their names and adapt other information. It is easy to forget that not everybody feels comfortable having their name put out there or having thousands of people hear a story about them. I share a lot about my family’s past because it is so tightly interwoven with my history of anorexia. However, every time I share details that may be uncomfortable for my family or I decide to use a story that they’re involved in, I ask for their permission before I publish it online. It’s just the right thing to do. So, be respectful of other people’s wishes and accommodate them.

3. In a few years from now, will I still feel comfortable having shared this information?

I find this to be one of the most important questions to ask ourselves. It’s so easy to talk about something on a podcast when you’re mad, hurt or otherwise emotional and later on regret it. Or maybe it’s not even that. Maybe you feel led to share a very personal part of your life because you feel passionate about it at the moment, but you end up feeling uncomfortable knowing that thousands of people have heard you talk about it. When you get ready to share something deeply personal, then take a step back, breathe and really try to determine how this may impact your life and how you might feel about it in the future. I know this is not an easy exercise, but it is important to do if you want to save yourself some agony and if you want to respect yourself.

Like I said, sharing personal information on your podcast is extremely important to build a strong relationship with your listeners and to bring important points across. But you don’t have to disrespect your own sense of privacy in order to be successful.

Listeners want to get to know you, but they wouldn’t want you to feel uncomfortable doing so.

Know your motivation, respect others and always be true to yourself. If you follow these steps, then you’re on the right path to creating a perfect balance between sharing too little and sharing too much.

How about you? What is your experience with sharing personal information on podcasts? Do you have guidelines or do you feel uncomfortable sharing anything at all? I want to hear your thoughts!

Three Steps To The Art Of The Tease

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Photo Credit: Tiom

When you want your listeners to stick around and listen to what you have to say, you need to give them a compelling reason.Your listener needs to anticipate what is to come later in the show. You need to excite them. You need to tease them.

Anticipation is a key feature to storytelling. Your story should build just like a good plot builds in a movie. You need to make your audience anticipate the content that is on the way.

Your story is similar to a vacation you are planning to take. The fantastic anticipation for the trip is almost as pleasurable as the trip itself. You can’t wait for it to arrive. You want your listener to feel the same way about your story.

When your listener can’t wait for the story to arrive, you have created some great content with a powerful tease. Your listeners will get more enjoyment from your show when they get the tease payoff more often. The pleasure of the “oh wow” factor will be increased. The joy of anticipation will keep your audience coming back for more.

There are three steps to creating an effective tease.

1. Intrigue me.

When you promote content that is coming up later in the show, you must give your audience an intriguing reason to stick around. It isn’t enough to simply say, “A great story about this weekend is coming up.” Few will stick around for the payoff. The tease lacks stickiness. It doesn’t hook the listener.

A creative tease produces anticipation. Instead, use something like, “You’re never gonna believe what I found in the attic this past weekend. My world is about to take a wild turn.” With that statement, your imagination begins to work.

What could it be? A wasp nest? An antique? A structural problem with the house? Imagination is the magic of a creative tease. Stir the imagination of your audience to truly engage them with your content.

When possible, intrigue by incorporating the listeners world. “This weekend, I discovered a way to save $100 a month on my grocery bill by changing one thing in the way we shop. I’ll tell you how you can do it too.” It answers “what’s in it for me” for your listener.

2. Give them 80%.

To create an effective tease, give your listener 80% of the story while leaving out the most important 20%. It is similar to giving the setup for a joke without providing the punchline. Lead your listener right up to the line, but make them wait to step over.

The key to an effective tease is to withhold the most important 20%. Let’s use our previous example of the attic weekend. I could say, “You’re not gonna believe it, but I found a $25,000 antique painting in the attic this weekend. I’ll tell you what’s on it coming up.”

This is a perfect example of withholding the wrong 20%. Who cares who is on it. If it’s worth $25,000, it could be a painting of the sky. It wouldn’t matter to me. I’d only be asking where I could sell it.

Twenty-five thousand dollars is the most exciting piece of information in the entire story. That is the piece that I need to withhold to create some excitement. To properly tease, I need to say, “In the attic this weekend, I found an antique painting of Napoleon. You’re never gonna believe how much it is worth.” You are more likely to stick around to see if I can retire on my winnings when I set it up in this fashion.

3. Make it impossible to search online.

You want your listener to keep listening for the payoff to your set up. If I can simply search on Google for the answer to your tease, there is no reason to keep listening. I can just look it up and be done with it.

You need to get creative to make your tease unsearchable.

Let’s say I have a story about Joe Celebrity getting drunk at High Profile Bar in Las Vegas over the weekend where he got arrested for assault. I could say, “Another movie star got arrested this weekend after he got in a fight with a customer at High Profile Bar in Las Vegas. I’ll tell you who it is coming up.”

Celebrity name is part of the correct 20% I’m withholding. However, I can look this story up on Google in a heartbeat. If I search “Arrest High Profile Bar Las Vegas” the chances are good that I will find the story in the first few search results. The tease isn’t effective. It is too easy to search.

To make the tease more powerful, make it impossible to search. “Another bar fight over the weekend landed another celebrity in jail. The story is coming up.” This tease makes it much more difficult to search. If you entered “celebrity bar fight weekend” in Google, 70 million results show up. It will be much easier to wait for my payoff than to begin searching 70 million Google entries.

The three steps to powerful teases will help you begin to engage your audience on the way to building powerful relationships. Use the three steps to entice people to listen to the episode. Then, use them again during the introduction of the show to get listeners to enjoy the entire recording.

You’ve worked hard to create your content. A lot of effort has been exerted on your part while writing and recording your show. Make your content intriguing by using these three steps to intrigue your audience.

When you use the art of the tease, your listeners will spend more time with your show. The increased frequency of the tease payoffs will help your audience enjoy your content more. When your show is more entertaining, it becomes more engaging. When you truly engage your audience with your content, you can begin building powerful relationships. That’s where trust and influence with your listener begins.

18 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Storytelling

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Storytelling

Storytelling is an art, and one that the best bloggers, podcasters, and web TV producers must learn to master online. Even business owners promoting their products on social media can benefit from learning about

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

Social Media Has Evolved Into The Art of Storytelling, And We All Must Become Masters Of It. by Lauren Fisher

Writes Lauren, “Social media is now at the stage in which we are all becoming expert storytellers, often without knowing it, and developing the skills to tell those stories effectively.” Whether you’re using social media to promote your online content or your business, telling stories is necessary for building your brand online. What I like most about Lauren’s post is that she goes beyond just talking about how important it is to tell your story. She also talks about the importance of the visual story. Check out the full post on Simply Zesty, then follow Lauren on Twitter at @laurenfisher.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about storytelling? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Special Edition – BlogWorld New York

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

6.5 Ways To Start And Finish A Documentary Film Project

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For the past year, I have been working on an online documentary video series called Innovators of Vancouver that documents leaders of vision, passion and action throughout my hometown of Vancouver, WA. Each episode is 5-10 minutes and combines a filmed interview with B-roll of the Innovator doing the work that inspired me to choose their story for the project. I have finished six episodes, currently working on the seventh episode, and because of my work on this project, I often get asked by aspiring documentary filmmakers what they need to know to get started making their own documentary projects. Among everything that one could know about making documentary films, here are six and a half things that any aspiring documentary filmmaker needs to know about starting and finishing a documentary film project.

1) Know What Interests You

A lot of people don’t know where to start when it comes to making a documentary and it is important to start with what interests you. It could be something serious that you have personally struggled with such as depression or cancer. It could be the story of your grandparents coming to America. It could be a visual blog post about your addiction to gator meat or your love affair with coffee and doughnuts.

2) Start In Your Own Backyard

You don’t need to travel the world in search of experts or subject matter for your documentary film. What you are interested in and what you end up making a film about can be filmed in your own community, all it takes is finding the people that share the same affinities that you have. Start with your friends, family, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or kids. Ask them their thoughts on your subject, this is formally known as conducting a pre-interview. It helps you to develop a report with your subject off-camera, ensuring that you know exactly what they bring to your documentary film. It also helps you with step three.

3) Learn How To Ask Great Questions

Essential to great documentary film production is the ability to ask great questions that are open-ended and specific to your interviewee’s experience with your subject. By pre-interviewing people you learn about the depth of their experience, their passion or dispassion for your subject, and helps you to craft a series of questions that go beyond who, what, when, where, why and how. With that said, the best place to start is:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What are your feelings on [subject]?
  • When did you first experience [subject]?
  • Where can people learn more about [subject]?
  • Why does [subject] matter to you?
  • How can [subject] affect others?

These aren’t the best questions, but they are a starting point, but you will only get to the ending point if you…

4) Shut Up And Listen

Don’t be like newsanchors and pundits that interrupt to get their agenda and point across, shut up and listen to what the person is saying. Nod your head in agreement, emote with body language, empathize when necessary. If you think of something to ask as a follow-up, write it down and wait until they are done talking before asking the question. Learn how to make people feel comfortable by looking them in the eye and giving them 100% of your attention.

5) Adding Images And Video To Further Tell The Story

Now that your interview is recorded, find photos and film B-roll that will help visually tell the story. Childhood photos go well with stories from your grandparents. Film volunteers serving in the community, follow your subject as they go about their business during the day, and don’t forget to get multiple angles, wide-shots, close-ups and everything in between.

6) Edit Everything To Tell A Broader Story

Open your favorite video editor: Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker and start watching the interviews. Clip what stands out, forget the rest. Start adding the B-roll on top of the interviews. Keep building without worrying about the length of the project. Once you have a strong beginning, middle and end, eliminate the fluff. Fine-tune the edits. Level your audio so that all of your interviews are at the same volume. Add some background music, but don’t break copyright laws: use royalty free music or find a local musician that will let you use their music in return for free advertising.

Now that you have a finished documentary film, here is the final tip:

6 1/2) Do it again

Don’t just check “Make Documentary Film” off your bucket list, do it again with a different subject. You’ll learn better ways to do specific techniques, your editing will tighten, you’ll learn what to shoot and what not to shoot, and you’ll become more comfortable reaching out to subject matter experts that bring depth and credibility to your finished film.

With that, get out there and start your next documentary film. Most importantly, finish it, upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, and share it in the comments of this post.

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