by Yvonne DiVita
I'm working on a presentation for an insurance organization about how to use social media effectively. Insurance organizations are traditionally one of the groups that worries excessively about the way people use content on the web, and especially about what will happen if they engage in social media.
When I hear professionals say things like, "My industry can't do that. We're highly regulated.", I step back, blink a bit, and scrunch up my forehead...because it gets me thinking.
"Do you talk to people outside of the office?" I ask.
"Of course," they answer. The "of course" is shared with a scowl because... what a stupid question... do they talk to people outside of the office!
"What do you say?" I ask.
"This and that," they reply. They go into some detail about their work, their profession, they sometimes describe client interaction without giving away who the client is. In essence, they tell me stories.
Large organizations that are heavily regulated can take part in social media if they do it correctly. To continue to ignore the power of the shared experience is to bury your head in the sand. Many of the professionals I talk to know this, but they don't know how to get around it. They continue to stumble along watching others succeed at social media, while they tentatively venture in, one toe at a time, hesitant to get wet.
The answer is... storytelling. Nothing on earth is as powerful as a good story. Nothing will ever engage and entertain and connect with other human beings as much as a good story. No matter what industry you're in, you have stories you can tell, and if you tell them well, you will gain confidence and clients, both.
How do you tell a good story? It's easy... start with a purpose.
In my youth, I spent many a Saturday afternoon on the windowseat of my little house in the city of Rochester. It was an old home, with drafty windows, small bedrooms, creeky stairs and the biggest bathroom on the block. Why we needed such a huge bathroom, when all the bedrooms were like closets, I never knew.
I remember many a fall afternoon devouring my latest book, in the windowseat which was located halfway up the stairs. A glass-paned door separated me from the noise of the TV downstairs, but it wasn't tightly closed enough to keep out the good smells of dinner cooking in the oven. The deliciousness of roasted chicken and vegetables wafted upwards, tickling my nose, throughout the afternoon, and I kept the tempting aroma locked in a box in my brain, ever aware that I would have to put the book down in due time, and go partake of this wondrous meal, with my family.
The afternoons spent with my books are among the fondest memories I have of my youth. That old, crumbling house embraced me in its tender arms, giving me solace when I was sad, and protecting me when I was afraid. It created a world in my mind that probably didn't exist. It gave me content for the many stories I wrote and the books I would write and it whispered to me after dark, reminding me that no matter what happened, my little windowseat was always waiting for me. With a good book, I could solve any of life's problems.
Is it important to you ... whether all of that story is exactly as I have told it? I don't think so. I could tell it to my brother or sister and each of them could laugh and say, "It wasn't like that! You made that up."
But, in the end, it was like that. It was like that for me.
When we grow up we tend to put away our stories. We think, as business professionals, we must live in the present, convey facts, relate information... with no embellishment or creativity. We think a 30 second commercial is sufficient for storytelling. We latch on to the visual of life... the television of life... the easy way out. And, then we wonder why no one is listening.
It's past time to go back to storytelling as an art, both for business and personal use. Storytelling is the richest way to share yourself - your passion, your dreams, your experiences. As human beings, don't we crave the connections of shared experiences? As human beings, don't we ache to be part of a group, a tribe they say today, that understands us? How can that happen but through the act of telling stories?
Business, no matter how heavily regulated, is just another story to tell. The key is to tell it with feeling. Don't crush the emotion of the story because "it's business, just the facts, ma'am"... Bring all you have to the story. It's so easy to convey a shared experience, without breaking any rules, if you but embrace the human qualities of what you're about.
I submit that no matter what business you're in, you're about people. If you want those people to work with you, you must appeal to them via their hearts... because all human interaction involves the heart.
Oh, the stories we will tell... we storytellers of the world... on our blogs, and anywhere we can type words. Because we have such marvelous stories to share, do we not?