There’s no placeholder in the brochure template that says [Insert painful memory of heartbreak and loss here].
Nothing you read in business school or marketing school ever said:
If you hesitate over clicking the Publish button, sick to your stomach with nerves, you’re doing it right.
This is how you know we’re living in a completely different world than we used to, by the way, even though the buildings and the scenery and the people all look the same. You see it. I see it. The rest of humanity doesn’t necessarily see it, but they respond to it (unless they’re scared away, in which case screw ‘em anyhow).
So yeah… personal stories.
Personal stories are one of the oldest experiences we humans have. The ritual of telling stories around the fire at night is ancient.
Blogs are one of the virtual campfires of our time.
What a personal story post looks like
Personal stories often read like fiction or at least like autobiography. They often begin like a fiction story, with an opening line that introduces a character and a situation. You don’t have to do quite the amount of exposition the opening of a novel would need, because the main character is usually you. So introducing yourself every time you write something isn’t needed. Your readers already know you.
But people need the basics:
- Character and setting.
- Beginning, middle, end.
- Climax (oh, baby!) and denouement.
Of course, how intense can the climax be in a personal story on a blog? Well, that’s up to you, I guess. But if I were you, I’d go bigger rather than smaller.
Personal stories need gripping details, as any work of fiction would. Details matter.
The important thing to understand here is the reason why you’re telling the story in the first place. That reason means everything. The reason you’re telling the story is the moral. The lesson.
So you tell your story and you tie it to a lesson your ideal client needs to learn.
Now, here’s what separates the business blogs from the wanna-blogs.
That lesson should always have to do with hiring you or buying your stuff.
You can say the lesson is about whatever you want in a superficial or surface sense. But anyone who reads a bit deeper should pick up the real message, which is “you want this.” It doesn’t have to be overtly expressed (best if not). But it’s there. Think of it like in the movie Inception, where they’re trying to plant an idea in a person’s head and have them them believe the idea is their own.
If the thought of influencing a purchase makes you feel uncomfortable, remember you’re running a business. If you’re not running a business, get the hell off my website because I’m not talking to you.
A personal story without a lesson or a moral on a business blog is just TMI.
Why personal stories rule
The personal is the universal.
That’s it. That’s why personal stories rule: the personal is the universal.
The more personal something is, the more likely everyone will identify with it and connect with it at a deeply personal level. You could hardly ask for anything better. This is why fiction is so powerful: the characters go through heavy personal shit and you go through it with them. You identify with them as if they were real people.
Except on a business blog, they are real people and everyone knows it. Which makes it even more powerful.
Adversity, opportunity and boredom
Well-known old-timey dead white rich guy Napoleon Hill once said that in every adversity was the the seed of an equal or greater benefit. One of the benefits of getting dragged through hell is that your experience may be able to help someone else avoid the same pain later.
Personal stories about how flawlessly awesome you are and how you effortlessly succeeded at every turn are not only laughingly unbelievable, they’re insufferably boring.
Nobody wants to read that.
You have to write about the scary shit. The bad shit. The shit you’re afraid to reveal.
You have to write about when you were hurt, when you made your biggest mistake, when you completely fucked up and lost everything. When you felt like a complete failure. When you were a lowly, scummy vacuum cleaner salesman. When you survived sexual abuse. When you crashed your car but were broke. About your disease.
If… if… if…
There’s a lesson in it that makes people want to give you their money.
If there’s something valuable in it for your ideal client which makes her fall in love with you a little bit (or a little bit more).
Only then do you write this deeply personal, intense story. Otherwise, you leave it alone and write about something else. Which is cool, because I got 12 other types of posts you can write. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the rest.
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Image by chetan.s