Tell a story that’s personal

, ,

Storytelling has been on my mind the past two weeks.

That’s because my dad passed away April 25 after battling pancreatic cancer for about two years. I’m a writer by trade but nothing really prepares you for writing an obituary about someone you love.

Nevertheless, that’s what I found myself doing during the car ride to my mom’s house (while my husband was driving). I knew it had to be done and it helped my racing mind focus for a short time. There were tears and smiles as I typed words into a note on my cellphone, but it was a brief respite from grief to do something I love.

Before I knew it, I had more than 700 words, which makes for a pricey obit by today’s newspaper rates. I talked about dad’s proud Austrian heritage, his love of music (which he eagerly passed on to his daughters and everyone who knew him) and his amazing hugs.

It’s that hyper-personal writing experience that still has me thinking about the importance of storytelling, content and writing in our everyday lives.

Not every article, social media post, video or billboard will evoke strong emotions, but there are certainly opportunities to connect with people in meaningful ways through the content you’re creating.

Take a second to think about the last thing you read or watched that connected. Why did it make you laugh or cry, get angry or read/watch to the end?

So, how do you get started telling a story? Start by being real and authentic. Highlight what makes you and your organization unique.

Consider these questions:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Why is it special to you?
  • Why is your work meaningful to your clients, customers, patients and audience?

Take a few minutes to answer those questions, and then solicit answers to those questions from people who operate at different touchpoints of your organization. Then tell those stories at every point where individuals interact with you (your website and social channels – where space is mostly unlimited – and in collateral as space allows).

Also find opportunities to tell stories about real people, from the team members who do tremendous work day in and day out to the people who’ve been helped by your organization.

Our work in healthcare marketing has allowed us to tell amazing stories about people who’ve overcome disruptive, even life-altering conditions and injuries. Those stories can help reduce stigma, educate and actually connect people with much-needed services. I’ll sum it up like this: Losing a loved one is a reminder that we have limited time to tell our story. Take time to prioritize storytelling in your own life, both personally and professionally. Trust me – that special connection will be truly worth it.