Write Your Blog Boldly: Use Stories to Connect With Your Audience


So you’ve written your post for today and it still needs something. It’s…well…a bit dry. Stiff. You take a break and come back a few hours later. Nothing has changed. Instead of tossing your laptop out the window, ask yourself how much of you is in the story. Did you give anything of yourself or are you still holding back?

Giving facts and offering solutions are great, but if people aren’t able to connect with you, and by extension, your blog post or article, they aren’t going to remember it. Or you. It’s hard to build a loyal following if people don’t remember you and want to come back.

Think back to the last time you were at a party where you didn’t know everyone there. When you were introduced to someone new, did you stand there awkwardly and remain silent? Or did you smile, maybe extend your hand, and ask them a question? “So, what do you do?” The answer might be followed up with another question, such as, “How did you get into that?”

In that moment, that person has been handed a chance to make an impact on you with a story. A personal story of what led them into their profession. How they tell that story, and what details they include, are up to them. It’s those variables that take it from ho-hum to exceptional, no matter the story being told.

Make it intentional

When writing a post, choose a story to include. Make it one that elicits emotion, whether it generates a hearty chuckle or causes a tear to roll down your cheek. Either way, you will be connecting with your audience.

You can do this in a couple of different ways. Obviously, you could choose your topic and then search for a story to fit into some part of it. Or you could choose your story and then fit a topic to it. Chalene Johnson, in her Smart Success program, would call the second approach reverse engineering.

Get permission or change it

Choose stories that illustrate a point you want to make. The story might not even be yours. Perhaps it’s one that has been told in your family for years, or one shared by a friend or neighbor. As long as you don’t use names without permission, go ahead and share the story. If you can’t get permission, simply change the names and anything that would identify that person. The story remains true, and no one will know or care.

Story stockpiling

Why not get ahead of the game and start writing only your stories when you have extra time? Remember that day in sixth grade, when you were so bored that you crawled out of class on your hands and knees? When you went from there down to the girl’s bathroom and played jacks with your friends who also snuck out? Wasn’t that a thrill for your rebellious little heart? At least until your mom came to school as the Art Lady that day and wanted to know why you weren’t in the classroom.

Oh, wait, that’s MY story. I’m hoping, as a writer, that at this point you are invested enough that you want to find out what happened and, if you are like me, then you’re laughing at my foolish self. Anyway, back to my story.

I can still remember my friend, Carolyn, bursting in, the door slamming against the tile wall, as she breathlessly announced, “Lisa, your mom is here!” I looked past her as the ball dropped into my hand, and sure enough, there she was, right behind her. I was in serious trouble. It’s always worse when it’s only the eyes that are doing the speaking.

Plan ahead

Once you have your stories, think about how you can use them to illustrate a point, and build your next post around that. For instance, I could use that story to talk about risk-taking, about the way boredom affects people, about the self-control my mom showed, or even about that feeling you have inside, that rather hopeless feeling, when you know you’ve screwed up and you decide to use it to fuel your determination not to experience it again.

The stories you have can be used to not only connect with your audience, but to make a point, to teach a lesson, to entertain them, or even to allow yourself to release something you’ve maybe never discussed before. And in doing so, in admitting it, you are allowing others to do the same, and to feel a tie with you that they maybe hadn’t before. Those experiences turn them into loyal subscribers.

Above all else, be authentic. Tell the story that no one else can tell, because it’s yours. Tell it the way no one else can, because they aren’t you. And don’t forget to proof it.

The Frustration Fix: 10 Ways to Stay Focused

Distracted by thoughts of vacation, of working in the yard, or of seeing a goat on your next vacation?

Distracted by thoughts of working in the yard, the piles of laundry that need to be done, the kids clamoring for a snack,  or seeing a goat on your next vacation?

I work from home, just like countless other people. Most of us have a lot to do, and a lot to distract us from doing it. It happened to me just the other day, in a scenario that is very familiar.

My college-age boys were hanging around the kitchen after lunch, something I’m lucky enough to have happen regularly. They were remembering when Tim had spotted a friend, car running at the curb as he returned a movie to Redbox. In a flash Tim was in the car, slamming the door shut to get his friend’s attention, and squealing tires as he peeled out. The friend turned around fast enough to give himself a concussion and sprinted through the parking lot after him.

Of course it was only a joke, so he stopped a short distance later and after a lot of laughter, and some abuse from his friend, the car was given back and a memory made. Even now it gave everyone some really great laughs.

And it was in those few minutes, as fun as they were, that work was set aside and I lost about 10 minutes, because laughing like that has to be followed by a fresh cup of coffee. It’s an obsession of mine.

Distractions aren’t a big deal if they only happen once in a while, but have them become the norm and you’ll soon be wondering where half your day went. Or where that blog idea went.

So what can we do to minimize it? Here are the 10 best tips:

  1. Have set office hours.
  1. Have a specific workspace. This should include all you need to have on hand for it to be productive, and shouldn’t be in the corner of your bedroom, or near a TV. You wouldn’t have those in an office on location, so don’t have them at home.
  1. Keep your stuff organized. For instance, you could use a rolling organizer like one I bought at Target. It’s perfect for holding a lot of things I use on a day-to-day basis. Also, use a calendar, make lists, and utilize your smart phone for those, if you have one, in addition to hard copies.
  1. Know your way around a computer and the peripherals you rely on. Understanding how they work together—the internet connection, your router, and your computer—can save you downtime if you know what to check or, failing that, who to call for help.
  1. Hide! Well, maybe not. As you work to keep home distractions to a minimum, consider childcare, food prepared and in the refrigerator for older children when they get home from school, explaining to family members the need for uninterrupted time, and working in a room with a door that can be shut.
  1. Plan breaks according to your family’s needs. If you take a break when the kids get home from school, chances are they won’t be looking to bother you for a while, and you get to spend some important time together, asking about their day, and possibly going over what’s planned for the rest of their day and evening, whether it’s heading to baseball practice, dance lessons, or studying for finals.
  1. Keep work and home separate. At least in your head. That means no doing tasks that you wouldn’t do if you were sitting in an office half an hour from home. No laundry, no dog sitting, and no mopping the floor. Unless you spill coffee.
  1. Stay healthy! That means don’t make too many trips for snacks just because they’re more available, drink plenty of water, and think about getting out of the house and taking a walk around the block on your lunch break.
  1. If you use Skype or another web-based virtual meeting application, take a critical look around your workspace. Does it look professional or do you have a towel and clothes hanging over the arm of a chair within view? Clean it up!
  1. Dress appropriately. Sure, PJ’s are comfortable, but showering and dressing in casual work attire carries more than just style with it. It translates into a more professional attitude and chances are you’ll get more done.

If you’re interested in a book on the topic, consider reading “Remote: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They are the best-selling authors of “Rework,” a non-traditional look at how to succeed in business.