The Top 1 Way to Get Started Sharing Authentic Stories

This is a short list. I know. :) I could probably come up with a few more things that people could do to share their authentic stories:

  1. Make up their minds to do so.
  2. Document them.
  3. Share the stories quickly.
  4. Come up with a realistic workflow.
  5. Come up with a distribution plan.

As you can see I could (some might argue that I should) have changed this to “The Top 6 ways…”

But the point is that without this one piece it won’t make any difference what other steps are outlined in a process. Because we know that just because something is written on a piece of paper as a theoretical step, that doesn’t mean it will actually be implemented or done by the people in charge of the doing.

The Top 1 way to get started sharing our authentic stories:

  • Recognize the stories that happen in front of us, react and then actually share them!

Common sense, right?

But it’s actually harder than it sounds. Sometimes we focus on strategy (which is super important). Some people skip this step, too.

Other times we focus on the tools: Here’s a blog. it’s set up…

“Please blog now.”

“About what?”

Exactly.

There are plenty of stories surrounding us daily. Some are worth sharing. Some are quite routine and likely don’t warrant much publicity.

Some fantastic stories can be mis-categorized as routine and sometimes we don’t even categorize or spot stories at all. We just move on with our daily routines.

Task done. Check. Moving on to the next thing. Catching stories is the farthest thing from our minds.

Interestingly, missing stories worth sharing even happens to professional storytellers like content marketers or journalists, too. I remember times when a handful of journalists had access to the same event and people and even were near each other. All came back with and shared completely different stories.

One person even got a story that some editors thought was worth re-reporting for the competing newspaper.

“How did our reporter miss this?” they wondered.

It’s so easy in theory and intellectually. It’s much harder in practice.

The trick is to spot stories when they happen and then react.

Even when we try, we can miss them. So, how do you get there?

  • Encourage people to share stories.
  • Call the great ones out. Recognize people for them!
  • Be involved. It’s much easier to share the stories that we are a part of.

All the tools, tips and tricks to share stories don’t do us any good if we don’t spot the ones worth sharing in the first place. Let’s start there…

My best Retweets this week came from all of you!

rtsYou may have seen those Tweets announcing that a number of accounts sent the best Retweets this week…

“My best RTs this week came from…”

I like interacting, connecting and sharing experiences with people on Twitter. I probably spend more time than I should having conversations on there even.

But those “my best RTs” Tweets make absolutely no sense to me. In fact, when somebody tells me I had one of their best RTs, I often unfollow them – especially if I barely know who they are.

Of course, an RT (Retweet) is when somebody shares your post with their network. Thanks for doing that, by the way.

rts ctrappeIn the last 28 days, I’ve tweeted over 1,000 times and was retweeted 434 times. So overall up to 43 percent of my tweets were retweeted. I assume that some Tweets may have gotten retweeted more than once. (I hadn’t run these metrics in a while and I have to say that’s awesome to see. Yay!)

But how could I ever decide whose Retweet of my Tweets was the best RT? Aren’t they all just retweeting what I said? So, aren’t they all equally as great as the originating Tweet? (Say that three times fast!)

Seriously, though, everyone resharing what somebody else said (exactly as they said it) can’t differentiate them between each other.

Judging who retweeted you the best is one of those Twitter practices that could just go away.

Please keep retweeting me, though. :)

Sharing your story from anywhere

baby talking on skypeTechnology is nice because you can basically share your stories from anywhere.

I’m thinking about my 10-month-old daughter for example. She can go on Skype and has a video chat with her grandmother who lives in Germany and they share their stories. Granted the 10-month-old is not old enough to actually speak but she is still sharing stories just by her appearance, by the way she looks and and her visible behaviors.

Grandma is verbally sharing stories and baby is actually paying attention and is listening. They are making a connection virtually. They’ve never met offline and there’s currently no plans to actually go see grandma in Germany.

Technology helps us share our stories from wherever. There are no more barriers.

It is better to share your story than not. Sometimes we do that in person and people might want to listen to you and being face-to-face to each other is great and builds relationships  but sometimes that is not feasible.

There are ways that you can share your story remotely. Let’s think about blogging. You can always blog and share your story that way.

Webinars are another way. You could call in on a conference call number with people in different locations and share your stories, experiences and learn from each other. It can be interactive, too!

Skype is another way.  I remember talking to a class one time over Skype. It was definitely an experience and  kind of strange.

You couldn’t really read everybody’s body language, couldn’t see their facial expressions.But bottom line is that I was not able to travel to where they were located but I still could participate with the Skype presentation so it did work.

The most important thing really to remember is that it is important to share our story no matter how we get that accomplished. Sometimes we might have to talk over the phone.  Yes, people still use the phone. Sometimes we might do a video chat. Sometimes it might be text-based through messenger or even through social media or blogging.

The key is to figure out what’s the best way, the most feasible way to share. Of course the best storytellers they use a mix.

Sometimes it’s face-to-face, sometimes it’s online, sometimes it’s FaceTime

But they find a way to share their stories.

Why I (may) Retweet competitors from time to time…

This is a controversial topic so I hope many of you clicked on the link. :)

Why would I ever acknowledge competitors and – even worse – why would I retweet and share their message for them?

Why would I even consider doing this?

There are some people and organizations that I would never retweet. No matter what they say, I don’t want to be associated with them for one reason or another. Period. I won’t retweet them, respond to them, etc.

Sometimes, potential competitors share something worth resharing. If I think my followers would enjoy it, I will likely reshare it. Why? They might steal business from, you say.

They might but it’s unlikely that one tweet will kill my opportunities and enhance theirs so dramatically that I will have no more projects to work on.

For the purpose of this, I looked how many times on average I tweet. In one recent 28-day period I averaged almost 30 tweets daily. 30! That’s more than one an hour – including all those hours I’m sleeping. (Full disclosure: I do schedule just about all of my social media posts. So they publish no matter if I’m at work, sleeping or the gym.)

Many of my posts are original content, pulled from blog posts on here or thought of while out walking, running or some other unrelated activity. But I do share other people’s from time to time. (Unfortunately, I didn’t see an easy way to see how many of my overall Tweets are retweets of others.)

So retweeting somebody else  is just one of many updates. And Twitter moves super fast so chances are, people see it as part of my overall collection of Tweets anyway.

At one point, when I was hardly blogging myself, I shared a lot of other people’s content. In fact, that’s all I was doing: I curated other people’s stuff.

And yet, people came up to me offline and messaged online to let me know that they really enjoy my content.

Problem was that it wasn’t my content and I never said that it was. I just shared somebody else’s. So there’s that. People will think it’s yours, or you endorse it or whatever. And it doesn’t matter that your profiles says that RTs are not endorsements.

Then there’s the abundance of partnerships. As much I would personally love to help every single person and organization around the globe share their authentic stories – that’s probably not that realistic of an opportunity – yet.

And just because we ignore the competition doesn’t make it go away.

I usually find it easier to retweet Tweets without links. Even though, many Twitter users do not click on links, there’s always the chance that they will click on the link that I just shared. It’s much easier to agree with and amplify a short  Tweet than a longer article that might get changed or have some interesting call to action attached to it. I’m much more selective when it comes to retweeting links of articles.

The bottom line question I ask myself before RT is this: Do the people that are connected with me care about this? If they do, I might retweet it. If I think they don’t and if it can reflect negatively on me, I likely will not.

People repeating what you said can be telling – Better listen

It may have happened to you: You said something. And then the person you said it to or a person near you repeats what you just said … in a totally different voice and tone.

And their voice and tone didn’t sound nearly as pleasant as your own voice sounded in your head.

In fact, their playback sounded kind of negative. Is that really how I sounded? At the least it was the other person or persons’ perception. However they play it back is their perception of how it was said. (Of course your perception of their playback of your statement might be different than what they meant, too. OK, that’s getting too complicated perhaps.)

How others repeat what we said, though, can we be telling and if we are willing to listen we can learn from it and adjust our communication style.

When we are open to listen, we were just given the gift of in-the-moment feedback. You know the feedback that’s actually helpful. I like to compare it to the one time I was participating in a professional speaker training. I was speaking with my hands, but I denied that I was. The coach let me get back to presenting and at one point grabbed my hands, which were right in the front of my body flailing in front of my face.

“Please stop talking with your hands.”

Oh, I see. I guess I was talking with my hands. I didn’t believe it and with that couldn’t learn from it until the undeniable feedback was held (literally) right in front of my face.

In-the-moment feedback is so much more powerful than delayed feedback.

The trick is to be open enough to taking it in and learning from it.

Maybe I really sounded like that? Don’t excuse it or try to rationalize the difference in perception away. ‘Oh, they just took it wrong.” Yea, don’t do that.

Appreciate the feedback. Maybe even thank the person:

“Thank you for showing me how you perceive me.”

If there’s a question about the perception, now is the time to ask it. Gently. No accusations. Gentle fact-finding is OK.

Thank the person again for being so honest and helpful.

Then learn and apply – where applicable – anything that was learned from the encounter.

Sometimes it’s better to ask clarification before blogging an uniformed opinion

I was going to blog about seeing the number of traffic fatalities on those interstate signs in several states across the United States. I’ve seen them in Colorado, Iowa, Texas and maybe others.

The signs typically say something along these lines:

89 traffic deaths this year in the state

And I was wondering: What does that mean? Is that up or down? Why is it what it is? What should we take from it?

The journalist came out and I wanted context! I was ready to write that kind of post: Give me some context!  Please!

Every life certainly matters so even one traffic deaths is too many! I still had questions about the numbers…

Instead of just sharing my uneducated opinion, I first decided to reach out to the Iowa Department of Transportation on Twitter to ask about those signs. Hats off to them for responding within seconds!

You can see that entire conversation here:

Iowa DOT

 

The DOT posted numbers as public awareness messages and in the hopes of them being conversation starters. I suppose the sign achieved its goal with me. I’m certainly talking about it. :)

You can also go to the Iowa Zero Fatalities site to learn more about fatalities in Iowa and the number of annual deaths. Looks like the high since 2001 was in 2005 when 450 people lost their lives on Iowa’s roadways. In 2014, we saw 321.

As you can see it’s a worthwhile project that I certainly hope we can achieve one of these days.

The lesson learned here for us storytellers is that to gather unknown facts, we have to ask questions. It’s certainly OK for us to share our opinions on our blogs, but don’t forget about asking questions first and continuously when it helps us share a fuller and more meaningful story.

zero fatalities

Why are his emails always written in such a nasty tone?

You’ve probably been there. One person or another’s emails are always written in a snarky, negative or maybe even “I know better than you” kind of tone.

Always.  Why can’t that person stop it and start writing in a nicer tone?

And then when you ask the writer of those allegedly nasty tone emails, he says they weren’t written in anything resembling a negative tone. He didn’t write them in a nasty tone at all. In fact he was smiling – nicely – when he wrote them. He was thinking they would help the project move forward.

So why do we have these opposite viewpoints on the same emails? Sometimes, people could pick better words. Sure. Or they could go into more depth to explain what they are talking about. Continue reading

We can’t copy our authentic stories from others

The decision to share our authentic stories is also a decision to be unique and original.

We can’t copy our authentic stories from others.

You know how sometimes it can be easy to (over)analyze what our competitors are doing?

They are on the latest shiny social media network. So we join – even though we don’t really know what to do on there, yet.

They use Tactic A. So we use Tactic A – or at least try to.

It’s certainly good to know what social networks are taking off and fading away. It’s also good to keep up on new techniques, but ultimately the act of actually collecting and sharing our authentic stories is not that much affected by all of these things. In general, here’s how you share your authentic stories – if you want to:

  • Make decision to share authentic stories (in line with business objectives)
  • Collect stories
  • Share stories in a public and consumable way

This is pretty much how I shared stories as a newspaper reporter, later as digital storytellers and how I taught organizations  how to implement these kind of strategies.

It certainly is easier said than done, but it’s also not rocket science.

Knowledge of the latest tools and tactics is good and I personally like to try new techniques and tactics to see if they help me reach the community members I want to connect with.

Ultimately, though, my authentic story won’t change based on what everyone else is doing. This is my story and I’m sticking to it, I guess. Ha.

My unique value proposition might need to be tweaked some for clarity if others try to copy it, but even if that’s the case my authentic story remains my authentic story.

Of course, all of this assumes that we are living and sharing our stories and aren’t actually practicing traditional messaging.

Producing great content is not the finish line – it’s the starting line

the content code bookI recently finished Mark Schaefer’s book “The Content Code” and have to say it was a fantastic reminder of the importance of content distribution.

Mark reminds us that creating great content is not the finish line but the starting line. If you can’t ignite your content’s distribution, it won’t make any difference how great it is. He shares valuable tips on how we can build trust, build our Alpha Audiences (the people that really care about us) and get our content shared by building meaningful relationships.

I also appreciate the transparency and presentation of several sides of tactics. In his chapter on the importance of social proof, Mark discusses the importance of publicly showing signs of authority and relevance.

For example: He presented virtually the same article to several groups of people. One had been shared a few hundred times. The other just a handful of times. Which one would you read, he asked. Everyone picked the one with hundreds of shares. People make decisions based on signals that show relevance and authority. And more shares signals that the one article is better and more relevant.

As soon as Mark was done sharing all of those social proof best practices and tips, he shared why some signs of social proof should be considered to not be shown on a blog – for example, if they can be gamed. He mentioned one publication’s listing, which was solely based on one person’s opinion. At the least, I appreciate the full coverage of the topic.

The book is a great reminder that creating great content isn’t enough. We also have to figure out how to distribute it and get it to the right people at the right time.

I’d recommend this read to content marketers and authentic storytellers.