This post’s going to be a quick one.
It’s been a very busy few weeks.
You don’t want to hear about what makes this freelancer tick, do you?
What I’ve been getting up to that’s a bit different to the usual work/play thing?
Or do you?
Do you really want to hear about the first week of Thurso Players’ Juniors annual drama workshop. The one we call Whoops! The one where around 30 kids ranging from 8–18 are helped to create sketches and skits that culminate in two full-length shows put on in our very own theatre, housed in an old mill. The one where the kids create everything themselves from start to finish in only two weeks. The one that builds confidence, friendship and leaves adults and children absolutely shattered, but very happy. The one where McVities Gold Bars are fought over, where there’s a recurring gravestone appearing on stage and this year some of the cast have written a devilishly catchy song?
You may or may not want to hear about it, but I’ll bet it’s created a picture in your head.
Stories and story fragments do that. And a well placed story can help you and your business stand out from the crowd.
Different types of story can help your business stand out and create engagement with your clients, customers or audience.
These are just three types of stories, but I’ll bet you can think of others.
Business stories provide an opportunity for connection with your audience or your customers.
You’re not talking about case studies and the like though *yawn*.
I’ve been a professional genealogist for around 20 years, and have been researching families and buildings for a lot longer than that. I graduated as a professional librarian in 1991. I’ve worked in local archives, a picture framer’s, a large art gallery and an art school library, a gift shop, a pub, a marine laboratory, had a very brief stint as a TV extra, and was an academic librarian before I became an indexer, editor and writer.
Over thirty-odd years I’ve learned something that connects us all.
People love to feel a connection.
Wherever you go, people are telling stories or listening to them.
No one else has a story quite like yours.
When you tell your story, you allow potential customers to see behind the business and to connect with you.
Now, it’s not always appropriate, and over-sharing is a definite no-no, but brand storytelling can convert interested buyers into brand advocates. Business storytelling helps you get your message across, but also builds a connection with your audience.
I’ll say that again.
Storytelling in business builds a connection between you, your services or products and your customers or clients.
Storytelling helps you stand out from the crowd, it gets people nodding and seeing themselves using your products or benefitting from your services.
Storytelling can help people make an informed decision about your business and product
Storytelling waves goodbye to stuffy, sell-sell-sell business practices.
Good business stories are everywhere. You just have to open your eyes to see them.
Everyone knows Apple. Their ‘Think Different’ campaign used emotion to create a huge following in the late 90s and early 2000s. Their adverts put users to the forefront – the latest adverts show Macs being used by musicians, creating sounds that move the world. They put simplicity and passion at the heart of their campaigns – so much so that unboxing the latest iPhone is an experience millions of people look forward to (even if their pockets don’t).
The latest round of lotteries use emotion in their story-laden TV adverts. It’s a saturated market. There are lotteries raising money for everything these days. They’re the little pink and yellow raffle tickets for the 21st century.
What better way to stand out from the crowd than by using stories to hook you in?
The poor unfortunate animals needing your money pull at the heartstrings (cue animal actors staring sadly at the camera, as a narrator tells their story of mistreatment and how only your money can help them). The health charities that promise to bring an end of suffering while you can win big and transform your life. The lotteries that help local communities, with the stories of areas they helped, getting you to dip into your wallet.
These are all stories that are there to deliberately engage you.
If you’re looking for a way to engage, tapping into your unique story can help.
And there will be something unique to you and your business.
Are you an artisan maker who uses locally sourced ingredients? Why do you do that?
Is there something interesting about your production process?
Did you start up your business through passion or circumstance?
Is it a family business, a long-held passion or did you decide to do what you do on a whim?
Did you win one of those lotteries and use the money to pursue a passion for making purses?
See, everyone has a story. Your brand doesn’t have to ‘Think Different’ like Apple, but brand storytelling can bring your business to life – for your existing customers and those you hope to attract.
or contact me directly to chat about how we can help your business.
Have you noticed?
There’s been a boom recently of artisan companies vying for consumer attention.
The word ‘artisan’ is everywhere.
You can drink artisan tea, coffee, beer, gin, rum and other spirits from your artisan cup, mug, or glass, while sitting on your artisan-made furniture. You can live your life (if you can afford it) surrounded by all things artisan.
The UK’s Crafts Council notes that the craft industry generates £3.4bn for the UK economy every year.
That’s a lot.
Artisans aren’t just traditional craftspeople steeped in pre-Industrial Revolution nostalgia. Artisan makers are highly skilled in modern crafts too – from artisan bakers, glass workers and distillers to designers and jewellers, the modern artisan has a passion that flows through into their work.
The business dictionary describes the artisan process as:
‘A production process characterized by minimal automation, little division of labor, and a small number of highly skilled craftsman as opposed to a larger, less-trained traditional workforce. Participants in an artisan process may be self-employed, or employed by a smaller-scale business. Opposite of industrial process.’
In today’s fast-paced world many of us are rolling back to take pride in our creations, taking care to create something personal and worth having. And there’s has no sign of it stopping. People are becoming increasingly sick and tired of a mass-produced world of consumerism.
But this is producing problems for artisans themselves.
While many consumers are favouring artisan-created wares and visiting artisan-run establishments, the number of producers are increasing.
As solopreneurs, self-employed craftspeople, or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), producers have to understand the impact their branding and advertising has on the marketplace.
They have to stand out to survive.
It’s a difficult question.
How DO you stand out?
When there are tons of other artisans out there, all trying to sell to the same audience, what can you do to make sure they buy from you and not your competitors?
Well, there are a few things …
The easiest way to do this is to be yourself. People are buying into you and your vision. If they wanted a generic mass-produced piece of tat, that’s what they’d buy. Instead they want to buy something handcrafted with love and care.
And for goodness sake … don’t be all ‘we do this’ and ‘we do that’ if you’re a solo practitioner. People see through that shit. If you’re a one-man band be proud of that. Talking about yourself in the third person is just so … corporate.
Your text and images should be as good as you can get them.
Images shouldn’t be fuzzy, and your writing should be professional (both in the writing and in the editing). Don’t just lift images from the internet, copyright infringement is a crime!
Yes. One of the most effective ways of setting yourself apart from the rest is to become a storyteller.
People LOVE stories.
People LOVE to buy from people and not robots (well, most people do).
Stories are ingrained into human nature; we’ve been telling stories forever.
To stand out from the other artisan businesses out there, you need to connect with your audience.
And what better way to connect than through human experience?
Through storytelling you can:
When your customers feel part of something, they will invest in you and your business.
Over the next few months I intend to write more on how storytelling can help your business, why storytelling builds connection and builds your brand, and how to simplify your writing to get to the heart of your businesses story.
If you want to get extra snippets why not subscribe to my lovely new newsletter?
Or contact me directly to talk with me about how we can help your business.
This week I stepped right out of my comfort zone.
I talked for nearly two hours to a local writers’ group.
Now, if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’ve given the occasional talk before, and that I am really, really uncomfortable doing it.
I’ve given two lightning talks at SfEP conferences fairly recently. These were only five minutes long – and timed. And at the time those five minutes felt like forever.
So you can imagine how apprehensive I was to give a talk to an established group of local writers who publish their own writing.
To prepare for my talk I really had to look at what I thought would be most useful to the group. The brief was vague – talk about editing and proofreading.
My initial thought was ‘Oh, shit. I’m going to send them to sleep’.
My second thought was ‘Right, what will they find most interesting and helpful’.
And my third thought was ‘Oh, shit. I’m going to teach them to suck eggs and I’m really going to send them to sleep’.
It’s actually really difficult to take a step back, look at what you take for granted and unpack it to see what isn’t as obvious to others as it is to you.
I decided to start at the very beginning, pretend to be Julie Andrews and go back to basics.
To keep me on track (I do tend to go off on a tangent quite easily), I started with a piece of paper and some headings:
This was THE most important thing I had to get across. Too many times editors are approached by authors who think they’re ready for a proofread when really they need a copyedit. I figured that if all I managed was to stumble my way through this, it would be useful to the group.
As the group self-publish I thought it would be good to go over this, and explain why it’s a useful way to look at self-publishing too.
Perhaps this would be a persuasive argument when so many writers think that they can do it themselves.
I should explain to them what the different levels of editing are, why they are different and why they are all important.
Really, I thought this would perhaps be the second most important thing to get through to them. It’s all very well hiring an editor, but no one really tells you how to do it properly.
Following on from the last point, I figured that it would be good to tell them where to go to find an editor. And how to make sure they pick a qualified editor and not a hack who’s just out to do a spell check and take their money.
I’d also give them a small number of useful links to take home with them, and a couple of other handouts.
I thought this would take me an hour.
I was wrong.
Cue Tuesday night.
I checked my bag about 100 times to make sure I had everything. Ok, only 50. I have a thing.
I left in plenty of time to make my way across the county. During the drive the surrounding countryside was subjected to me singing tunefully to Panic! At The Disco’s latest audio delights. Well, I enjoyed it.
But when I arrived at the venue I honestly thought I was going to bomb as my hayfever tablet wore off and the cough I call ‘daffodil’s revenge’ took over. Ack. (or rather, ack-ack-ack-aaaaack)
Hurrah! My lovely host got me a cup of coffee and all was well.
But I was still scared.
When everyone arrived they were absolutely lovely, and were very receptive to me sitting around the table with them, rather than stand up and talk at them. I think this worked out much better as I didn’t have to stand up with everyone staring at me, we were all on the same level and it allowed the conversation to flow more freely.
Besides, I have no idea how a smart board works.
The group finished off their initial business. Then it was my turn.
Deep breath. Smile. Remember to breathe.
What happened over the next two hours is slightly hazy.
I kicked off by asking the group if they knew the difference between editing and proofreading, and they mostly did. Which was good. But I still whipped out the SfEP fact sheet that I’d printed out for them (from the website, it’s all good). We went through that, just because it was the most important thing of the night.
And then we kinda got side-tracked.
But that was a good thing. The group started asking questions.
Over the course of the night we talked about most things on my list, just not in order. We talked about getting beta readers and why family and friends are not good at critiquing your work. We talked about the different levels of editing and we talked about getting the most from your editor. Towards the end we also talked about where to find a qualified editor and what those qualifications are.
Oh, and I talked a lot about money.
For someone who hates talking money, I figured that it was important.
Then, on the back of giving them examples of how much an editor might cost you, I whipped out my style sheet. None of the group had seen one before or used one.
Now, it’s a fairly cluttered style sheet as I included parts of the drop-down menu I use when I’m working, but it gave them a pretty good idea of how to keep their writing consistent. I explained that if they use it when they write, and give the sheet to their editor when they begin work on their novel, it makes their editor’s job easier.
Next, I gave them a character sheet. Like a style sheet for characters in their novel. I didn’t tell them that some of the information on the sheet came from old D&D sheets I used to play with at college.
Finally I handed out my ‘handy links’ sheet. It just had a couple of websites of fellow writers and editors whose information I find useful, and editorial societies and tools that can help the writer.
By the time we’d got through all this is was 9 p.m. and time to go home.
I actually ended up enjoying talking with the Caithness Writers.
The atmosphere was good and most members of the group were engaged and asked questions. Many of these questions were things I hadn’t even thought of including, such as the worry that you’re writing something that someone else has already done, a kind of unintentional plagiarism, and the difference between a subplot and a parallel plot.
So, overall it was an interesting night. I think they found the talk useful. And it goes to show that you can plan a talk, but it’s ok if it goes slightly off piste.
I drove off into the night, singing along to Panic! (only quietly this time), and looking forward to reading the anthology they kindly gave me for not sending them to sleep.
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