Connecting with your audience online can sometimes feel like a momentous task. And how do you know how much of your story to share? I know that over the years, particularly when I’ve come to share more vulnerable parts of my story, I’ve asked myself questions like…
But the answer I always come back to is this: your story matters. And people need to hear your story.
Creating your core brand message is one of the most foundational aspects of your brand. The way I love to do this for myself, and with my branding clients, is by using your story to help shape your message.
There’s huge power in the story that brought you from where you were, to where you are now. There’s a reason behind what you do and that reason is one of the things that powers you to move forward and take action.
But your story is also a unique way of connecting more deeply with your audience and building a stronger brand. Nobody has had the unique set of circumstances and events that have led you to this place - nobody. So by figuring out what your story is, you have a unique advantage over those that don’t.
When I talk about ‘your story’, I am also talking about your brand messaging. I believe that you can’t craft a brand message that will help you to stand out from your competitors in your line of work without your story. You simply can’t have one thing without the other.
That said, here’s a description of both to help you:
Your brand message is everything that connects your audience to your brand. It’s weaved through from the content on your website, how you speak + write on social media, through to the emotions and feelings that your brand visuals evoke
At its core, your brand message will connect everything you create for your brand.
Your story is the meaning behind your brand message. It’s the narrative that is the foundation of your brand message, and also your brand mission and vision.
At its core, your story is what helps connect the dots behind the ‘why’ of what you do.
My story begins when I was a kid: I was at college (in the UK our equivalent to US College is University - this was in the two years before that) about to turn 17, and I had had enough. I was doing terribly by all statistical standards - failing to get good grades in the majority of my classes and exams.
I remember during one particular exam that I sat there and cried for almost all of the 90 minutes. I wrote my name on the paper, tried my best to answer some of the questions, and felt like a total and utter failure.
I ended up dropping out of that college after my first year - and found myself being accepted onto a vocational course, a HND (the equivalent of the first two years of a degree here in the UK) all about interactive media and design. I was accepted a year early as it was an adults-only course, and I was 17, by exception of the exam board that the course was marked under.
It was at this point that I realised there was somewhere for me in the world - somewhere that my creativity and weirdness and uniqueness mattered.
It wasn’t until years and years later - in fact only recently - that I felt like I had found a place that I truly fit in. And to be quite honest, most of the time I’ve had to create that feeling and place of acceptance within myself first and foremost, and then create or join communities that reflect that after.
But the journey to that place wasn’t easy.
I started my own business when I was 22 - at the time of writing, I’ve just turned 29 and my 7-year biz anniversary is coming up in September, just a few short months away.
But around 18 months before I started working for myself, I was diagnosed with a condition called Hypermobility Syndrome, often known at the time as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III. There’s been a whole lot of hoo-haa recently about reclassification of the condition itself, but in a nutshell: I suffer with a connective tissue disorder that causes me intense chronic pain, every single moment of every day - it’s rare that I have a moment without some sort of pain, in some part of my body. The condition affects everybody differently, but I also suffer from chronic fatigue due to the slack my muscles take up that my connective tissue should be doing. I also have many subluxations today - and in fact, it was only working with my most recent physio that has helped me realise just how many I suffer with on a daily basis.
I’m not saying this for sympathy: but it is a part of my story. It’s one of the reasons I now work for myself - not only because it’s easier on my body, but also because it’s incredibly hard to work for people when they don’t understand, care or respect disability and disabled people. It’s also a part of my daily life, so it’s not something I now feel that I should - or want - to hide.
But the main point of me telling you all of this is: several years ago, heck - maybe even a year ago - I would never had posted all of this, let alone popped it into a blog post.
Because it was a part of my story that brought me shame, and that made me feel ‘less than’.
But it is my story - and mine to choose to share, if I want to. I have been shamed, scolded and told that I shouldn’t share about my condition and disability in my business because “people won’t want to work with you” or “people will think you’re unreliable” - and my answer to that is: those are not my people...and I don’t want to work with anyone that is not my people.
But my chronic illness led me to the work that I am doing today - specifically with branding. I was so ashamed about my chronic illness that for many years of running my business I did hide it from the world. Only my closest friends and family knew the daily impact, while many people knew of my condition but not the daily struggles.
But living that double life was intense, and hard, and exhausting. It was only going through my own journey of uncovering why I held onto this shame, and why I allowed other people to keep me small and not share my truth, that I discovered that many, many others feel this way too. And many others struggle with how to embrace what makes them truly special (spoiler alrt: it’s you, as you are, right now) and show up as the incredible person they already are in their brand and business.
It was only through doing the work myself to uncover what truly mattered about me that I was able to see how much others need my work. How much they need to embrace every single part of themselves - from the parts they don’t like, the parts that others have told them they don’t like, to the parts they love - to become a whole person with a business that’s built on the foundation of their values, their incredible personality, and their STORY.
Because your story matters - more than you might think. Your story, your experiences, and the combination of all of this is what makes YOU unique. It’s what makes what you have to offer to the world unique. And it’s what will help you to distinguish yourself from others that do what you do - and the world needs you and your work so, so badly.
If this article resonated with you, I want you to grab a pen and piece of paper (or a simple note taking app on your phone or computer will do), and map out the following:
Once you’ve answered those questions, start to review your answers. Look for any patterns you can see, and see if you can start to weave together a timeline of your journey from where it began, to where you are now.
Look for the moments that were catalysts - the moments that signalled the beginning or end of something. Maybe you had an illness or period of burnout that helped you switch everything around (I landed myself in hospital due to burnout twice in 2 years - but that’s a story for another day!), or maybe simply having children motivated you to make your business a success.
Even if you’re in the messy middle, and don’t feel like you’ve got it all figured yet...that’s okay. So many of us are right there with you - or we have been before.
The thing you need to remember is: your story MATTERS. And the reason it matters is because someone out there needs to hear you and what you’ve got to say. Remember - you might want to impact hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of people! - but your story matters to one person.
And one person at a time, your story can help change the world.