When done right, the first-person narrative is a beautiful thing that delivers authenticity and impact.
I really love stories of impact and need that are told as first-person narratives. This means asking people to tell their own stories. It isn’t always easy, people don’t always open up the way you’d like – or deliver the message that you want.
In order for someone to tell their own story effectively in a first-person narrative, you must create a balance between making that person feel comfortable with you (and a camera), and asking them the right questions. Sometimes this takes time, other times – you’ll be surprised at how people want to talk.
When I rejoined the team after taking a few days off for Monty’s funeral, I couldn’t put what happened out of my mind. One night on the road, I started writing down my thoughts on Hilton hotel notepads. Why do NHL players struggle so much with moving on from the game? Why are so many former players I know battling depression? Why does the hockey community ignore them when they’re gone? And why can’t we create a more concrete program to help them transition into real life?
Later on in the post, Carcillo sits in front of a camera and talks. The rawness of his emotion will grab you in the first 20 seconds. Here is a professional athlete talking about the mental health of NHL players, and his own mental health.*
As you watch this video, think about the comfort he feels opening up. Think of the open-ended questions that Carcillo was asked to get him to talk about his emotions around losing his friend, talking about how players feel when they leave the NHL… and how they got him to link it into the services provided by the NHLPA.
*Kudos to Carcillo for speaking out about mental health and the NHL.
Last week, a woman I know only professionally, asked me this fantastic question out of nowhere.
She asked me to consider people who only knew me through social media, people who might not really know me personally. She asked:
What five words might they use to describe your personal brand?
I challenge you to answer this quickly. Think only of your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Google+/Linkedin feeds… what words would they use to describe you?
Of course, always the argumentative one, I slyly answered (and yes I was attempting to buy time) that I was giving her a list of words I hoped people would use to describe me. Here’s my list:
I’ve no idea if this is the right answer, but I suspect there isn’t a right answer. But it made me think of some of the people I follow on social media – and don’t know personally – and for a few of them, I made up my own list of words that describe how I see them. I’ll bet they included words they wouldn’t want to see on that list.
It’s something to consider when posting to social media. Personal brands, like corporate brands, are created over time. Whether you want them to be or not. If you want to have a brand that has a specific set of lists and ideals, you need to construct your posts to support that brand.
(You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the biggest brands out there aren’t already doing this)
I remind my students to think of their personal brands before posting that photo of themselves dancing on the keg at that end-of-year party.
After all, potential clients and employers can make their own lists too.
I’m a huge fan of driving engagement by getting the community involved.
I have always argued that there are more folks on the ground than reporters, and often they can tell their story better than any outsider can.
Case in point: The @UW_Cameras twitter account from United Way Ottawa, where I work. United Way Ottawa gave some of the agencies it funds a wifi-enabled iPhone (dubbed a ‘community camera’) and gave access to this twitter account. We then asked them to show the world how they are changing lives on a daily basis.
The photos are stunning, and they tell a story better than we at United Way ever could. Take a look:
Publishing content has never been this easy, companies no longer have to rely on traditional media to get their message out.
Whether you’re publishing content as a company or an individual, there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind.
1. Know your audience
Who are you writing for? This is the first and most important step towards designing content to appeal to that audience. Take the highly-coveted world of the ‘mommy blogger.’ Pampers has created ‘Mommy Corner’, with lots of parenting tips for newbie parents. The site offers tips on how to get babies to sleep through the night, what to do with your toddler on a rainy day, cooking with your child… and coupons and explanations of its full product line.
BONUS: Get your audience to join in, and create its own content! Lots of sites have an active community of writers, looking to get their voice out to a wider audience. Involve your audience in the discussion, and watch your web traffic grow as they share with their networks.
Not the nebula taken by the Hubble you see beside this post, but more micro than that. This space. This blog.
What do I want this blog to be? For the past five years I’ve blogged mostly about journalism under the blog name ‘Journomel.com’.
(At the end of October, I’m retiring that URL, replacing it with the name you see at the top of this page. I know, original.)
Maybe this space suffered an identity crisis? After 16 years in newsrooms, I’m now a ‘Communications professional’ – someone called me that to my face the other day , so I guess it must be true – and now I’m left wondering how best to use this space. For months, I’ve written nothing. Not-so-deep space, you might say.
But here’s the thing – I’m writing, editing, producing and storytelling more than ever. My life has always been, and continues to be, about content.
I’ve been telling stories since I was two. Sure, at that time I was developing plot lines around my best/imaginary friend Cheeky, who was the most dynamic character you’d ever imagine. But from there I was writing short stories and poems in grade school, columns for the town paper in high school and I never looked back from the student newspaper office in university.
And who doesn’t love a good story? Who doesn’t love examining how content can make its audience react? How simple letters/words/video/visuals can move us?
I’m going to be talking about amazing digital content here people.
If you haven’t got me interested with your your first sentence, I’m out.
I’m fickle, ruthless and impatient with online content. And I’m not alone.
Journalists have always known the importance of snappy headlines and crafting a lead that makes a reader want to know more.
That’s why most stories written are in an ‘inverted pyramid’ style, with the most pressing information at the top and less information (traditionally it could be cut from a printed page) at the bottom.
But I also find it interesting that during conversations I’ve had with people (journalists, politicos, public relations/communications professionals) about social media, they think Twitter first. There’s no doubt that there are some key influencers on Twitter.
I knew the risks in 2011 when I went to work for a company owned by hedge funds. And I knew the risks in 2012 when I turned down an attractive offer from a family-owned newspaper company to stay with the company owned by hedge funds.
All this makes the j-school students I teach, the journalists of the future, nervous.