How to Discover Your Online Story

In life, and business, telling the story of why you do what you do can be compelling, but telling that story online can be challenging.

We’ve all heard of the ‘elevator pitch.’ It’s that between-floors-in-an-elevator summary of your life’s work that has to have a hook. It has to be memorable and it has to be short enough to leave time for you to ask ‘So, what do you do?’ a few moments before the elevator doors open.

Very few interesting lives, however, really compress all that well into elevator pitches. Consider also that online, your storyline is longer than an elevator ride. You need to spin out a compelling narrative that gets off to a fast start yet holds the attention of your listeners and readers. The reason that is so necessary is that social media is a medium of distraction.

I’ve already interrupted this post a few times to check my RSS feeds, my Twitter feeds, Quora, and Digg. When I return to writing, I pick up the narrative.

It’s the same for the story of your life or business or passion that you must tell online. The story of  ‘how you got here’ is a point of entry for how people might understand you. Friends, customers, clients and clients-to-be  – they all need to know what you stand for. That starts with an understanding of who you are. Storytelling becomes part of your suite of online marketing strategies.

I know successful chefs and sought-after business consultants who started out as actors. They bring that story into their online narrative. I started out as an obituary writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas, later wrote the weather blurb  (big promotion!) and finally graduated to writing front page breaking news stories. Later I went on to write plays that ran in New York off-Broadway, and become a freelance writer for Good Morning America and a television producer for NBC, Discovery Health, History Channel, Bravo, and Court TV. I also wrote a movie for Disney. See, that was pretty interesting, huh? You know a little more about me, and you might have a sense that the life and work skills I picked up along the way will have value to you.

Of course, everything about you is fascinating as well, but you have to consider that parts of your life story will be more relevant to your mission than others. Online, you need to have a purpose to all communications.

The knowledge that you love small dogs and that your mother taught you how to make good waffles might not advance your mission.

Your narrative has to lead your listener and viewer to an understanding of why you do what you do, why it matters to you, and why it might matter to them.

Therefore:

  • brainstorm freely
  • consider all aspects of your life
  • then filter

Filtering means thinking about the skills you offer and the services you provide. They are unique to you, distilled from your experience and knowledge. What life experiences led you to offer these skills? What did you get started doing what you do? What keeps you going? Then connect the dots: consider how these skills are useful to your clients and prospective clients. If you filter your story that way,  you’ll start shaping a narrative you can unfold across all online channels. Although social media often seems made of billions of blips, those who deploy a personal narrative will not only connect, but they will also be memorable. You can always save that waffle story for your elevator pitch.

Lee Schneider is the lead consultant at Red Cup Consulting, an online communications agency in Santa Monica, CA that builds online narratives for clients. 

Image:  Markhillary via Creative Commons.

Article first published as How to Discover your Online Business Story on Technorati.

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