Honest Storytelling Lets Audiences Know the Full Story
When an organization or individual is pummeled in print or online, a smart strategy is to find a way to tell their story in their own words. Telling your story doesn’t guarantee the pummeling will stop, but it can change the arc of the conversation to include your facts and perspective.
One-sided accounts of events or facts are unfortunately common. These accounts and their aftermath can be further distorted by misinformation circulated on social media. Failure to tell your side of a complex story is unfair to affected parties and the community at large who are left in the dark about the full story. They have no one to blame but you if you fail to tell your story.
The best strategy to combat a one-sided story or hit piece is to tell a complete story, including admitting your missteps. You should make your case without sounding like a saint or demonizing your antagonist.
Most complex stories aren’t about right versus wrong; they are about competing interests or conflicting perspectives. Without your voice, the audience can make up its mind without knowing the full story.
Telling your story can take many forms. An op-ed or open letter works well for print publications. Video grabs attention on social media, which can be an accommodating conduit for honest storytelling. Podcasts are a perfect medium for longer stories that take more time tell. Visual communications can play an important role in effective storytelling. A photograph, illustration or chart can be powerful reinforcement for your words.
Honest storytelling requires careful thought and diligent editing. Your story should calmly and factually address the questions your intended audience is asking. Save venting your anger for your bathroom mirror.
We live in an imperfect world. People deal with imperfection everyday. You don’t need to put lipstick on your facts. Just share them in an orderly, audience-centric manner. Shoot for understanding, not necessarily praise. Convey reality, not hype. Most important, be honest.
Storytelling is an art form. Seek help to assess your facts and frame your story outline. Get help to convert your outline into an actual story. Get more help to review the final product to ensure it does what you intend instead of misfiring. There is no shame in asking a village to assist in telling your story. Friendly feedback is your friend.
One of the biggest obstacles to honest storytelling is a blind eye to the truth. You are getting pummeled in public for some reason. Deal with it and tell your side of the story. People are more likely to respect your full-bodied account than one-sided attacks by your detractors. Depending on the issue, check your account for accuracy with subject matter experts or your attorney. Remember, your credibility is the subtext of your story.
Honest storytelling is difficult if you are mad and want revenge. Anger seeps through and corrupts your facts, undermining your side of the story. Your level-headed storytelling will be more convincing and might expose the motives or inauthenticity of your critics.
One of the biggest obstacles to honest storytelling is a blind eye to the truth. You are getting pummeled in public for some reason. Deal with it and tell your side of the story.
Telling a story straightforwardly doesn’t mean the story has to be stiff and lifeless. Lively language, word pictures and well-chosen phrases will make your story more readable and relatable, not to mention quotable. If you are stumped at how to compose an approachable story, look at illustrated children’s books for inspiration. They often tell complex stories in simple ways that a child can grasp. It’s a good model to follow.
Creating an honest story is only half the battle. Your hard work will be for naught if you don’t place your story strategically where your target audience will read, see or hear it. Thinking about story placement should occur before you create your story because where a story is placed may influence the form of the story. If you are trying to reach a national business audience, The Wall Street Journal is a good avenue. To get published, you will need to understand its editorial policies and follow its rules for length. A video story might be placed on YouTube and promoted on Twitter.
When your story has been published or posted, you have shareable content to place on your website or an email outreach campaign. You have something better than a one-paragraph media statement to give to a reporter covering the events behind your story.
You don’t need to treat your story as cast in stone. As events unfold or new facts emerge, you can update your story – or even tell the next chapter of your story. Telling your story well puts you in the game. People like good storytellers, and they will keep on reading the stories they tell.