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Story + Moxie = Let the world know what you are doing

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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One of the questions I’ve been asked quite often lately is ‘How do you get the word out about your work?’

This is an essential skill for every creative entrepreneur, every not-for-profit founder, and every artist. Whether you are a yoga teacher, a freelance writer, a consultant, a singer, a human rights advocate or a coach – you need people to know about your work. This can be uncomfortable territory for a lot of us. We’ve been raised to be modest, and not to draw attention to ourselves. And now we are being told that the only way we get to do the work we love is if enough people know about it and decide to work with us.

The question is – can you get the word out and have fun doing it?

And the answer is yes. Especially if you like people, and stories.

Because the most important thing I know about getting the word out is that it depends largely on the quality of your relationships and your stories.

As you probably already know, I love stories. I’m fascinated by how we use stories to make sense of our experiences, to connect with each other, to find new perspectives and even new solutions. I’m also interested in how we can get the word out about our work using stories. Specifically, by using our own story.

For several years now, whenever I had a question about getting the word out about my work I’ve talked to one of three people: Tink Stephenson who is a master at connecting the dots and finding the right home for every story; Anna Dean who can make anything interesting; and Brigitte Lyons, who has a rare gift – the ability to teach other people to do what comes naturally to her. Rather than doing the publicity work for us, Brigitte has decided to teach us to do it for ourselves.

So today I wanted to give you a peek at the sort of thing Brigitte and I talk about, when we talk about stories.

Marianne:

So let’s start at the beginning. Before I can ‘mine my story for media angles’, I need to know what my story is. What makes a story a story? What’s the difference between a description of my credentials or my passions, and my story?

Brigitte:

This is a topic I’ve become fixated on. I’m on a mission to convince my clients and readers to tell more stories.

At the literal level, a story is simply a connected sequence of events — cause and effect. The power of story, versus a CV or resume, is we’re hardwired to be curious. We just have to know what happens next.

For instance, let’s say you’re doing TV interviews for Zen Under Fire. Right away, I’m hooked as you relate how your boss left you in charge, saying you’d be fine just as long as a certain tribal leader isn’t assassinated. Of course, he’s immediately killed — setting off the entire sequence of events in the book.

The boring, standard way of sharing this information would be to simply say, “I was in over my head.” There’s nowhere to go from the simple statement.

Journalists are storytellers; they’re looking to you for material.

Marianne:

So how do I go about finding the story? I know that it took me a year of writing before I found where the ‘story’ of Zen Under Fire began, and it wasn’t when I arrived in Afghanistan, or even when I arrived in Herat – it was on that morning when I was left in charge and Amanullah Khan was killed.

Do you have any tips for people who are trying to work out where the story is in their work, or their business, or their life, or their art?

Brigitte:

As you point out, there are infinite ways to frame your story, and arguably the hardest part of story-telling is narrowing down your focus until you hone in on the most compelling message.

Complicating the dynamic further, creating a story for the media is very different than teasing out a novel. The upside is, media stories are easier to create. First, your choices in terms of content and form are limited by what the media actually reports on.

You start with the questions: Who is my audience? Which media outlets reach these people? Once you’ve identified your target media, the process of choosing a narrative to give them is straight-forward.

I’ll give you an example of how this works. The magazine Real Simple focuses on tips to simplify your life. On the other hand, Oprah’s magazine specializes in narratives of personal transformation. I think most people can come up with personal narratives to fit both missions, if they try hard enough, but I doubt very much the same story is right for both.

You can start by looking at the media you want to work with, and journal until you find the right story. Or, start by asking questions that get at cause-and-effect, such as:

  • What inspired you to start your business/project/art?
  • How was your work changed — and why?
  • What are the top three things you’ve learned in the process?

For every question, there’s the surface answer — and the backstory.

Your job is to dig until you bring up the narrative.

Which applies to all writing, really. The only way to tease out your best stories is to force yourself to sit down and write them. You’ll be surprised to see what comes up once you get three paragraphs, or chapters, deep.

Marianne:

Let’s say I’m a yoga teacher, or a restaurant owner, or a human rights activist (or, like some crazy people, all those things at once) but I’m not a writer. Wouldn’t it be easier and better for me to hire someone to do this for me? To find the story, to approach media on my behalf? Why would I want to learn how to do this myself?

Brigitte:

This is a great question. I want to start by saying that, in some instances, it is better to hire the work out. If you absolutely do not have a spare second of time to manage your media outreach, and you’re planning a big event, it could be in your best interest to outsource the work.

But most people are going to get better results by nurturing a small handful of targeted media relationships.

The PR industry has long grappled with an inescapable reality: We can’t control the media, and there’s never a guarantee your story will run. So why pay an hourly rate with no guarantee that you’ll get coverage out of it?

People keep paying, because there’s this big misconception out there that you have to have contacts to get covered by the media, but it’s the story that sells, not the publicist.  A PR pro has an advantage in knowing how to work with the media, which is something anyone can learn. The core of my business is giving these tools to the people that inspire me, because I want to see your stories spread.

The naked truth is this: a journalist would much rather hear from you — the creative, the visionary, the owner — than me. 

Brigitte Lyons is on a mission to help creative visionaries liberate their message without compromising their ideals. She’s a PR pro with a decade of experience, who uses a gift for strategy and passion for storytelling in service of creative business owners, artists and unassuming revolutionaries. She also courts all kinds of good karma by offering free weekly PR ideas for busy people.

Brigitte has just opened registration for a unique course called Media MoxieMedia Moxie is for you if there’s something you’re burning to share. It could be your art, your stylista know-how or your next novel. Whatever it is, you can’t keep it to yourself any longer. 

In just 4 weeks, Brigitte takes you from “I want to pitch so-and-so” to actually writing and sending out your first pitch.  By the end of the program, you’ll know how to identify the media that speaks to the audience you want to reach and craft a pitch with the potential to land repeat coverage. Registration is open now

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One Response to "Story + Moxie = Let the world know what you are doing"

  1. […] On the other hand, a profile piece will focus on your big idea or a challenge you’ve overcome, so you’d want to lead with a story. […]

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