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  • kevin@thestoryedge.co.uk

Why today matters to me

On the 16th February 2015, two years ago today, I had my first meeting with a potential client. I’d been worried about it. Could I do this? Could I sell my services as a ‘marketing consultant’ for hire? Seven years in a senior management role had taken me away from front line selling. Yes, the department I headed up was responsible for supporting a sales function, but, it’s not quite the same thing. The thought was uncomfortable. The experience wasn’t.

I ignored all my sales training. I ignored obvious buying signals. I just listened and I advised. I gave them some ideas, and we really just had a great conversation. I came away from the experience excited. Maybe I could make a go of this entrepreneurial thing after all. I remember telling Gill that even if it didn’t come off that the experience alone had fired me up. I was excited. I could have a business conversation without feeling like I was selling.

At 9.32pm that evening, I got an email saying that they wanted me to help them. In fact, the exact words were…

We would be delighted to have your expertise on our team.

It was a massive moment for me. It felt like validation. All the unease about going into business for myself was washed away in a tidal wave of pure joy. That’s why the 16th February is such an important day for me.

I was trading as Square Tree Marketing back then, and exactly a year after the high of my first sale, I made a decision that I had to make. On the 16th February 2016, I changed the name of the business to The Story Edge. Why? Because my business had evolved so much in that year. Square Tree Marketing and being a generic ‘marketing consultant’ didn’t reflect who I was or the direction I was going in. It felt like a risky move, but my gut and a few trusted friends told me that it was the right thing to do.

I’d love to say that ‘I’ve never looked back.’ Or that ‘I’ve gone from strength to strength’ and that I’ve experienced ‘unparalleled joy and spectacular growth’ – but I can’t. I’d be a liar, liar pants on fire. It’s been tough. Changing business model from being a ‘marketing consultant’ to a ‘copywriter’ then to a ‘coach’, in such a short space of time, has, at times, felt like a series of false starts.

But, now I see that for what it was. It was part of my journey. Yes, yes, I know… ‘journey’. Fully aware that that word makes some folks recoil, especially in that context. But, I don’t care. It has been a journey. I’ve figured out who I am and how I can best help people. I know I’ll make many more mistakes. I know I’ll keep learning.

But here’s the important thing. I know I’ll keep going. Why? Because I love what I do. I love putting my ‘bat-belt’ of communication, marketing, writing and, of course, storytelling skills to use to help people solve their problems. The doing is great, but the results are what matters more than anything.

I’m proud of my business. And, yes, I’m proud of myself. The truth is that I couldn’t have got to this milestone without the support of my clients, partners, friends and most important of all, my family.

Thanks to every single person that has encouraged, supported and tolerated me over the last two years. It really has made all the difference.

Today matters to me, because I’m still here. Today matters to me, because I know who I am. Today matters to me, because I’m no longer scared. And, most important of all, today matters to me, because I’m happy.

Happy birthday!

The story of my story obsession

“You’re making life harder for yourself.” These were the words of a trusted advisor. Thing is, I can’t deny it. The path I’ve chosen, isn’t the easiest. If I wanted easy, I wouldn’t have gone into business in the first place. I would have chosen a different path. I would have got another job. But his point wasn’t about going into business for myself – it’s my specific focus that he questioned.

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When I introduce myself as a storytelling coach I usually get one of two reactions. Firstly, they’ll say ‘that’s really cool’. Or maybe ‘that’s really interesting’. I get the distinct impression that even those comments, while positive, have a subtext of “I have NO idea who you are or what you do.” Then there is the second group. They cut to the chase. Sometimes they come right out and say it. “So what’s that all about then?” Occasionally they say the same through the art of mime. They do a splendid job of looking like a particularly perplexed puppy. Their eyes widen and they tilt their head to the side.

You see being a ‘storytelling coach’ isn’t ‘normal’. People don’t really get it. And sometimes that works for me. It’s the classic double-edged sword. My friend and fellow coach Tim Mart said to me recently something that was music to my ears. He said, “when I hear ‘story’ I think of you.” And that story resulted in a new story coaching client for me. Tim describes what I do as ‘an awesome niche’. And, it unquestionably is. But maybe, just maybe it’s too niche. Maybe I AM making things too difficult for myself.

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The flipside of an ‘awesome niche’ is that what I do can feel too abstract to people. It’s dismissed as being irrelevant. There is a disconnect between what I do and the value it can deliver. That’s my fault entirely. It’s more important than ever that I communicate the business case for storytelling. And I will do that because there is a lot of evidence to support the power of storytelling. But that’s for another time. Today, I want to share where this mild obsession for storytelling comes from. I want to explain why, despite the ‘what the hell is a storytelling coach?’ challenge, that I’m committed to being a storytelling coach.

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Throughout my life, I’ve had friends and family say – “You should be on stage.” Or, “You ever thought of doing stand-up comedy?” And, sometimes – complete strangers have suggested the same. It’s all very flattering. I’ve referred to myself as an attention seeker on countless occasions. It’s true. But why – to what end? The end is laughter. The end is a smile. The end is a real human connection. Every single time I make someone laugh, something incredible happens. I get a natural high. I feel a sense of contentment.

Here’s the thing. My ability to make people laugh isn’t because I tell jokes, it’s because I tell stories. I’ve been telling stories since I was a kid to make people laugh. Most of those stories are true tales of my various misadventures. Stories that I need to capture before they are forgotten and replaced with other tales. And, yes, some of those stories are embellished for comedic effect, while others are complete fabrications. In this respect, I’m a clown. I play to the crowd, and most of the time, I’m the butt of the joke.

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But, like most clowns, I also have a serious side. Some of the stories I’ve shared in public have produced tears of sadness, rather than tears of laughter. I wrote a poem about my Grandad on the day that he died. It was a poem about a happy memory, but in context, it’s a sad story. It made me cry and it made my mum and dad cry as well. Then there are the stories I’ve shared about my own battles with stress and anxiety. Tackling those stories have helped me understand who I am. Those stories have made me better. Actually, let’s take that a step further. Those stories have saved me. They’ve allowed me to live again. They’ve allowed me to replace a long held false narrative with the truth. They’ve helped me replace deep sadness with insane happiness.

And, the magic of those particular stories is that I know they help people. Every single time I open myself up and share something a bit raw, people will reach out to me. They’ll see their own experience or current circumstance reflected in my own. I’ve had people share their own story in private. I’ve had people share things with me that they’ve never shared publicly. I’ve had strangers reach out to me and thank me for telling my stories, they told me that sharing my experience has somehow made them feel less alone. If I achieve nothing else in life, that fact alone makes me proud and reminds me that stories matter.

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Stories make an emotional connection. That’s why I’m fascinated by them. That’s why I’ve become obsessed with them and, that’s why I’m committed to being a storytelling advocate, evangelist and coach. Stories have an uncanny ability to cut to the chase. They allow us to get to the heart of the matter quickly. And, not wishing to add to the sea of quotes that is part and parcel of our digital lives, this quote says it far more eloquently than I can. This quote sums up my passion for storytelling.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The raw power of story is its ability to make us feel something. The ability to make us laugh and cry in equal measure. Those emotions, those feelings leave an indelible imprint. That’s not just the business case for storytelling, it’s the LIFE case for storytelling.

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Telling stories is normal. It’s part and parcel of who we are as human beings. In fact, it’s what separates us from our primate cousins. I watched a documentary recently that featured a particularly rotund Orangutan. Pop a black jumper, jeans and glasses on him and I doubt that even my own mother would be able to separate us. As well as an uncanny resemblance, we also have similar DNA. But, my chubby little ape friend can’t make up stories. He can’t imagine in the same way I can. He can’t retell stories or create new ones.

There won’t be a single day in your life where you don’t tell a story. There also won’t be a day when you aren’t on the receiving end of stories. We are storytelling animals. It’s our default communication style. And it’s also our prime means of entertainment. We watch TV, go to the cinema and we read books. We read people’s blogs, their Facebook updates and we watch the stories of their life on YouTube of Facebook Live. We seek out stories. We want stories. We need stories. We live stories.

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If we’re so natural at this storytelling malarkey, surely I’ve just made myself redundant. If it’s just something we do then why would anyone need a storytelling coach? Well, the truth is most people don’t. Most people can get by just fine without me. If you’re interested in becoming a better storyteller there are countless ways to do it for yourself. Buy some books. Watch some videos. Consume lots of stories. And, of course, just get on and write or record your own stories. The reality is that you and the majority of people don’t need me, but, there is a minority that would like a helping hand in telling their stories.

Next week will be the one-year anniversary of me changing the name of the business to The Story Edge. But it wasn’t until June last year that I started to describe myself as a storytelling coach. In those nine months, my coaching clients have taught me just as much as I’ve taught them. The greatest lesson is I’ve learned though is that while we are natural storytellers in our personal lives, translating that into the realm of business, charity or work – is another thing entirely. Lot’s of people struggle to tell purposeful stories that have real intent. It’s like we lose that innate ability to tell a good tale. All of a sudden we don’t know how to tell a story.

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This sub-head isn’t my attempt to show humility. It’s the truth. I’m a good storyteller. I’m a passionate storyteller. And, I’m a story lover. I can help you. If you want. I know I can because I’ve done it. But that doesn’t make me an expert or a guru. I’m a perpetual student. I’ll keep on learning. I’ll keep on advising. I’ll keep on promoting storytelling in all its forms. And, yes I’ll keep on coaching those that want a bit of direction.

I’ve seen people share stories they never thought they’d share. I’ve witnessed first-hand people having huge personal breakthroughs as a result of thinking more deeply about their story. And, yes, I know that people have achieved personal and business clarity by crafting their own narrative.

My embryonic success as a storytelling coach is 99% down to the stories I tell. If I told people what I did, rather than showing them, I honestly don’t believe I’d still be in business.

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Storytelling matters. More now than ever. We’re surrounded by cynicism, intolerance, negativity and genuine human suffering. We’re scared and we’re scarred. My belief, more than ever is that the World needs more stories. Stories that cut through the noise of our manically busy existence. Stories that make a difference to others.

Success to me is seeing more people tell more stories. Success is seeing less dull, formulaic content and more passion fuelled tales that let me understand who you really are. If we accept the cliche that ‘people buy from people’ – why aren’t we telling more stories? Success is being more vulnerable, more human and finally letting people in.

If you want to make a deeper connection. If you want to be understood, and if you want to make a bigger difference in the World – TELL YOUR STORIES.

That’s why I’m obsessed with storytelling. And that’s why I’m proud to be a storytelling coach.

The Story Edge 2017 Prospectus

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For someone in the ‘communications’ business, I’ve not been the best at communicating exactly what it is I do. Ironic, I know. In my defence, it’s taken me a while to figure out which coaching programmes and workshops to promote. From a pool of fourteen ideas, I’ve selected six core programmes to focus on in 2017.

It all started in December when I took a day out to create a single, one-page PDF for a client to outline one of my programmes. That morphed into 6 individual one-page sheets. I decided to ‘top and tail’ it to create my very first brochure. I’ve shared it with a few clients and some partners – now, I’m ready to share it publicly.

You can download the full 10-page PDF here – or, you can browse the embedded version below. My hope is that it gives you an idea of what it is I do, and how I can help you, your team and organisation.

Have a look at the brochure, get a flavour for what I can do, then get in touch. If you’re local, let’s grab a coffee, if you’re further afield, let’s arrange a call.

[/two_third_first][one_third_last]Kev-02[/one_third_last]

 


Could one of my personal writing habits work for you?

Do you ever find your plans for World domination crushed by your own thoughts? You’re trying to write something and a nagging thought jumps up and slaps you in the face? You’ve got a task list that needs ticking, but another, better idea screams for your attention. Or, does your brain inform you that another cup of tea is the solution to the impending crisis that is staring you in the face?

This happened to me all the time. My business and life were chaotic. I wasn’t productive, and I was failing. But the failure wasn’t anything to do with my ability or my desire. It was all to do with a lack of clarity and a lack of focus. My brain was getting in the way. Again.

I’ve talked before about the difference personal writing has made to my business writing. But the four types of personal writing I’m going to share with you, and the discipline I’ve developed has done so much more than that. It’s helped me be mentally tougher and it’s unquestionably helping my business.

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My Four Personal Writing Habits

Must. Have. More. Notebooks.

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This is my reflective journal. It’s the first thing I do each morning before the kids get up. I use it to review the key elements of the day. The memorable moments and my thoughts about them. It’s my opportunity to look for meaning in the ‘stuff’ that’s happened. It’s not a step-by-step replay of the day. That would be dull and serve no purpose at all. It includes a mix of business and personal thoughts.

I’ve always been a little bit sceptical about the power of journaling, but I was wrong. I’ve been writing a daily journal now since the 1st January this year. And, I do mean ‘write’. I’ve yet again abandoned my utopian vision of the paperless office in favour of a Moleskine notebook and a fountain pen. Yes, that’s right, a fountain pen. Why? Because I got one from my brother-in-law for Christmas, and I love writing with it.

The Result

Each journal entry is a single page of about 200 words. Not many words, but of all my personal writing habits, it’s the one that’s helped me the most.

It’s given me clarity and a way to find the meaning behind what’s happening in my life.

The Tools

An A5 Notebook and a pen.

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The majority of the writing I do, whether it’s personal or business focussed, is done digitally. I use Google Drive and Google Docs so that I can work wherever I want on any device. It’s really helped me keep on top of things, both professionally and personally. But, when I become overwhelmed, have a problem to solve or something I need to plan for – I now ditch the digital and turn to my Scribble Book.

It’s an A4, Black n’ Red spiral bound notebook. If I find my thoughts interfering with the task at hand, I step away from the laptop and reach for the notebook. Scribbling out ‘stuff’ in an unstructured way helps me cut to the chase. It’s a form of free-writing. I might write a lot of gibberish, but, sometimes, just a word or a phrase is all I need to get me back on track.

The Result

My Scribble Book has helped me thrash out ideas and tackle problems head on. When you work on your own, it’s easy to have an argument with yourself. It’s easy to NOT make a decision that needs to be made. It’s easy to ignore the challenges you face. This book is my personal antidote to procrastination and unclear thinking. It’s really working for me.

The Tools

An A4 Notebook and a pen.

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This is the latest edition to my personal writing habit. It’s only two days old. But already I’m committed to making it part of my day. How many great ideas have you dismissed over the years? How many far-fetched dreams have you talked yourself out of? If you’re like me, there will be loads. The rational part of your brain kicks in, calls you an arsehole and reminds you to not have ideas above your station.

Each night, before I go to bed, I write down one big idea. So far it’s been an idea based on what’s happened during the day. Maybe that’s a conversation with someone, something I’ve read or a video I’ve watched.

I use an A6 Moleskine journal notebook that I got for Christmas 2015. I’ll level with you. I thought the books were bigger. It’s a nice idea; 12 small notebooks for you to journal in. But, they were far too small, I lasted 15 days. I found them again three days ago and knew that I wanted to use them.

To give you an idea, here’s my entry from last night.

[pullquote align=”normal”]Contact CompTIA (IT Trade Organisation) about delivering a free talk at one of their events. [/pullquote]

That’s it. No detail. No plans. No strategy. Just the idea. It’s simple, but I think it’s going to be really powerful.

The Result

Well, it’s early days for this one, but I love the idea of keeping ideas alive. It gives me permission to think big. It’s a place to capture those fleeting thoughts that we’re all too prone to dismissing far too quickly.

The Tools

An A6 notebook and a pen

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I embarked on a daily writing challenge last year. I committed to writing a new 100-word story every day. I lasted 177 days. It was meant to ease stress, but actually, the last 30-days were really stressful. It was too much. So I stopped. I turned off the story tap. I went cold-turkey. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. What I should have done was simply change the frequency. And write one story a week.

The truth is I’ve really missed that creative outlet. I also miss the conversations with the folks who enjoyed reading my very short stories. Writing those little tales definitely helped me with my business writing. The act of writing something creative every day helped me to be a more efficient and productive writer. So, here’s the commitment. Here’s the plan. Once a week now I’ll share a 100-word story. Sometimes it’ll be fiction, sometimes it will be more like a mini-essay. The one rule – it can’t be about business. These mini-tales will be shared online every Friday. I can’t wait to get started again.

The Result

Steady on old bean, I’ve not yet started! 😉

The Tools

Google Docs, a vivid imagination and a sense of humour.

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I’m not saying for one minute that this is a ‘formula for success’. What I am saying is that this has worked for me. And, it’s helped me have the best ever start to a year. Yes, I know it’s early days. But the focus and clarity I have about the business is down to this approach. I’m getting thoughts out of my head quicker. I’m making sense of what’s going on and, more importantly, I’m having a lot of fun in the process.

Maybe, though, trying just one of these approaches will work for you. All I ask is that you keep an open mind. Try something different and see if it works for you. I’d love to hear from you if you’re doing something similar. And, if you’re going to try one of the four I use, I think we’d all benefit from hearing about your experiences.

I know it won’t be everyone, but I believe, more than ever, that the key to success in business and life is clear thinking and creative communication. Personal writing, helps me achieve both.

The Littlest Hobo, Self-Sufficiency and My Mission

I’ve got a question for you. Do you recognise this picture? Who is it? Not sure?

LittlestHobo

This will help. Possibly the most memorable TV theme tune from my youth. (Please feel free to sing along.)

If you’re of a similar vintage to me, you’ll know that this is, none other than, The Littlest Hobo. The best thing to come out of Canada EVER. (OK, not ever, I have family in Canada to avoid offending!!) If you remember the show you’ll know that the unnamed dog – (real name London) went from town-to-town saving people, foiling crime and bringing people to justice. And no, the dog didn’t have any super-powers. He just had a big heart and uncanny canine skills.

What I really remember though is the cruelty. Not to the dog, but to the people he helped. He bonded with them. He’d help a kid. And, in a remarkably short period of time, the kid would grow to love him. But then, once the good deed was done – The Littlest Hobo would sod off. No goodbyes. No emotional farewells. He’d just go. Leaving the poor wee kid with nothing more than memories and most likely a messy pool of tears and snotters.

So brutal. So cruel. But, it’s tough love I suppose. You see, now, years later, I see the Littlest Hobo differently. Rather than seeing him* as a heartbreaking pooch, I see him as a wise philosopher, a teacher and a canine coach. He’s teaching those he helps to be independent, t0 not be reliant on him. The subtext – I can’t do it all for you. You’ve got to stand on your own two feet. Either that or he was on the run from the police.

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What does a dog have to do with me, and you, for that matter? In November, I started thinking about the business and what I wanted to achieve in 2017 and beyond. I thought about what success looked like. Typically, I’d look at this in financial terms. But, I didn’t. Not this time. I scribbled in a notebook and the first thing I wrote was ‘self-sufficient storytellers’. I wrote a tonne of other stuff, but it was those first three words that I came back to, again and again.

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Because that’s what I want. I want to be The Littlest Hobo of Storytelling Coaching. I want to come in. Do my thang. And then leave you to it. Safe in the knowledge that I have equipped you with the tools, skills and knowledge to tell an infinite number of captivating stories. My coaching programmes and workshops are designed to make me unnecessary. In fact, they’re designed to make me redundant.

Of course, I’ll not bugger off without saying goodbye. Not my style. And, instead of tears, I’ll leave you with smiles and most importantly the ability to tell stories on demand. For the avoidance of all doubt, I think it’s important to note that I’m also house trained and will refrain from sniffing you in an inappropriate manner.

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So that’s it. My mission for 2017 is…

[pullquote align=”normal”]To create more self-sufficient storytellers than I did last year. [/pullquote]

I want to make as big an impact as I can. That means working harder and smarter. That means being more creative. That means leaving a legacy of more people, telling more stories. Stories that have intent. Stories that have power. Stories that help grow your business. Stories that help charities raise funds and awareness. And, stories that help people help themselves.

I’ve got a lot to do, but I’ve never been more excited or up for a challenge in my life. The hard work starts today, and until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on.

* Note:  It was a him, right? I can usually only tell the gender of a dog by how it pees, and unless I’m mistaken, that didn’t feature in any of the 114 episodes.

When Content Shock & Shocking Content Collide

What happens when content shock and shocking content meet head-on? It’s not pretty. Actually – it’s ugly. Very ugly. But first, what do I mean? Content shock, a phrase coined by Mark Schaefer, suggests that we can only consume so much content. He puts it far more eloquently than I can.

Content Shock

I agree with this.

In 2016 I consumed less online content than in 2015. Like most people, time is my most valuable commodity. The reality is that I don’t have the time to consume the volume I used to. Back in the day, I had RSS feeds and Google Alerts set-up to fire me all manner of interesting content. And some days, I’d spend time following one Google search after another until I found the content I was looking for.

Sometimes that search would reveal a content gem. Content that I loved spending time with. Content that I’d happily share and promote. Why? Because it earned it. It earned my attention and my support because it delivered on some level. In the last 12 months, I’ve found that a lot of the content I’ve consumed has left me feeling flat. Is that because my expectations are unrealistically high? Or, is it because much of the content I find is shockingly bad? Sadly, I think the rise of shocking content is to blame.

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Shocking content doesn’t need to be explained, you experience it every day. Whether it’s a poor piece of journalism or a blog post that has no point. Maybe it’s an article that draws you in with a clever headline that it fails to deliver on. Or, possibly it’s a video or podcast that despite its polished presentation, doesn’t showcase content to match. If you’ve never experienced shockingly bad content, then you’ve been very lucky.

There’s so much content and too much of it is bad. We’re living in a remarkable age where anybody can be a publisher. But as that wise philosopher Spider-Man once said – with great power, comes great responsibility. Just because you can fire off a blog post and publish it in a matter of minutes, doesn’t mean you should. You owe it to your audience to make your content as good as it could be. That doesn’t just mean proofreading. That means reading it as a reader. That means thinking and caring about your audience.

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Content Marketing as a philosophy of doing business is brilliant. I spent a large chunk of my professional career working in traditional marketing communications, so trust me, I know its merits. So I’m an unashamed fan. But I’m not blind. The greatest risk to Content Marketing as a concept is the CONTENT. Too many people are focussing their attention on attracting eyeballs. They chase the metrics. But it all counts for nothing if what they’re driven to is rubbish.

In many cases, it appears that the desire for eyeballs outweighs the desire to deliver value. And that’s dangerous, as it breeds cynicism and makes it harder for the many brilliant content producers out there to get the attention they deserve.

Content; whether it’s written, video, audio or a combination, should do one of three things. It should educate, entertain or make me think. Sometimes, it can do all three things. But, if it fails to deliver on one of these fronts – then it fails. Full-stop. End of story.

I’ve reflected on my relationship with content and on my own personal productivity. Undeniably, I’ve wasted time on blogs, podcasts and videos that didn’t deserve my attention. I’m going to be far more selective in what I consume in 2017. Don’t mistake this for arrogance on my part – it’s simply a case of self-preservation. I’m a one-man operation. My time is precious. If I consume as much as I did last year, I’ll not achieve what I need to in 2017.

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I want to spend time with content that –

  • Helps me solve a problem.
  • Leads with a story.
  • Shows vulnerability and honesty.
  • Makes me laugh.
  • Challenges me mentally and forces me to think.

That’s not a blueprint – expecting a story that solves a problem, while making me thinking, that has me laughing tears of joy and sadness, is probably asking too much. It would also be just a bit exhausting as a reader if every post was like that, don’t you think?

When it comes right down to it, I want to see more heart and balls in the blogs, podcasts and videos I engage with.

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And, let me be honest. I’ve looked back on my output from 2016 and by my own definition, as outlined above, I think I was successful 50% of the time. That’s right. Some of what I produced was shockingly bad. Some of it was ‘meh’. Some of it was OK. The reality is this – some of my own output didn’t meet my own standards. And, some of it didn’t serve my audience as it should have.

Content Marketing represents the present and future of marketing. It’s a force for good. It’s a leveller. It’s unquestionably a good thing. I just know that I’ve not been doing it right, and based on my own experience, neither have a lot of people.

In 2017, my commitment is to put more thought into what I produce, reflect on what I’ve written here and work harder to produce content that I’m proud of.


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Hope, joy and Festive Cheer

I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I couldn’t escape it. I tried switching off by taking an extended festive break. I read a lot, played with the kids and over indulged, as is required at this time of year. I had a great time. But every so often my festive thoughts were invaded by the inescapable truth. I was building the wrong business.

That was a year ago. Since then I’ve listened to my gut, head and heart. Sometimes they’ve been in perfect harmony. And sometimes, they’ve been miles apart. I’m an old romantic so, when it comes right down to it – when the battle has raged between the three, it’s the heart I’ve listened to the most.

On the first anniversary of the business in February this year, I made my first major decision. I changed the name of the business. I loved the name Square Tree Marketing, but the truth was, it didn’t represent me or the business. The Story Edge was born and although the road has been bumpy, it was, with 10-months hindsight, the right decision at the right time.

At that stage, I was still making my living predominantly as a copywriter. I was a writer for hire. The coaching had started, but only with a couple of existing writing clients. It wasn’t until the Content Marketing Academy conference in Edinburgh that I first introduced myself as a ‘storytelling coach’. I’d like to say I did that with utter confidence, but, that would be a big fat lie. Here’s a short re-enactment of how that ACTUALLY sounded.

As you can hear. It was delivered as a question, not a statement.

But after I told my story on the stage in Edinburgh, everything changed. The 120 folks in that room taught me two valuable lessons. One, I can tell a story. And two – I could be a storytelling coach. The reaction gave me a huge personal lift and also reaffirmed my belief that people care about the person behind the business.

On the Monday following the conference I launched my first coaching programme, and by Tuesday, I’d secured my first dedicated coaching client. (Thank you, Steve Ross, from Shackleton Technologies. Don’t think you appreciate just what that meant to me at the time.)

That was an amazing feeling. A cocktail of emotions washed over me. One part relief, one part pride, a hint of joy and a large dollop of fear. The fear part was driven by self-doubt. What if I’m a rubbish coach? What if coaching isn’t my thing? It’s the classic case of imposter syndrome. That feeling we all get from time to time where we don’t feel worthy. We don’t feel we’re good enough.

But that inner critic was told to shut its cake hole. I discovered a love for coaching. I had a sense that this was absolutely my thing. I’ve now delivered around 50 coaching sessions in 6 months. I’ve learned from each session. I’ve got better. And I’m now a confident coach. In a break from my tradition, I’m going to go a step further. I’m going to say out loud what I’ve been thinking for the last few months. Here goes… I’m a bloody good coach.

Phew. That was hard to say. But I AM a good coach. When my clients told me, I thought they were just being kind. This is a classic ‘Kev’ thing. I talk myself down and I focus more on the things I do wrong instead of the things I do right. Don’t confuse this with arrogance. Don’t think that I’m being cocky. It’s simply a realisation that being a coach and a consultant is what I’m good at. It also just happens to be what I love.

It’s taken me awhile to get to this point and this year hasn’t been easy. I made the mistake of closing down the copywriting side of the business overnight. In hindsight, I should have gradually phased that out. Not doing so has cost me money and yes, has created quite a bit of stress. But I recognised those familiar feelings and I tackled them quickly and decisively. I didn’t drown in my own thoughts. I spoke to people. I took advice. I shared how I was feeling.

That simple act of talking got me back on track quickly. Without that, I don’t think I would have got through it. Without that, I would have quit. I would have surrendered to the negative thoughts and sense that I was failing. Here’s the thing, I wasn’t failing – I was learning. Learning about myself and what drives me. Learning what I’m good at. Learning how to be a better coach. And learning to cut myself a bit of slack.

I’ve achieved a lot since February 2015. More than I really appreciated. The real gift can be summed up in one word – clarity. For the first time in my life, I know what I am. And, I know what I need to do in 2017. I’m more organised than I’ve ever been. 2017 is going to be a massive year for me and The Story Edge. This Christmas I know that I AM building the right business. I know that I’m going to help way more people than I did in 2016. And, I know I’m going to make a bigger difference.

I’m not naive, it’s not always going to be easy and there will be times that I fail. I’m good with that. Perfection is an illusion. I’ll learn from my mistakes, dust myself down and get back on the cliche. And along the way, I’m going to laugh more. I’m going to have more fun. I’m going to meet more people. And, every so often, I’m going to pause, dismount my humble cliche and enjoy the view.

2017 will see me launch more coaching programmes, more courses and a lot more content. It will also see me get out from behind the laptop. I’ll speak at more events and I’ll stop being as reclusive as I have been. Oh yes, and I might even have a podcast or two to share with the World.

This wouldn’t be possible without the clarity I now have. And that clarity has been a collaborative process. I couldn’t have got to this stage without a lot of help. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the journey so far. It means everything to me and the family.

So from my family to yours, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and fab New Year.

See you in 2017!

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Free Writing Compass Template

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last month working on my first online course. As the final part of the process, I created some additional resources that my students could download to help them turn the theory into practice. I shared one of those downloads with one my coaching clients during a meeting last week. He loved it. I sent it to him and he’s already started using it.

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The idea behind the Writing Compass is to keep your writing on track. There are three steps to it, and, when you see it you’ll probably be astounded by its simplicity. But, forgetting the purpose of WHAT you’re writing, as well as WHO you’re writing is one of the key reasons we get frustrated and confused with our writing.

The idea is to have the following three things on a single page that you can have by your side. The three areas are –

  1. Who you’re writing for
  2. Why you’re writing 
  3. The Outline. 

If you fill out the form below, you’ll be able to download an editable PDF version of the Writing Compass. Use it for every writing blog post to keep your writing on track.

Any questions of how to make the most of it, please let me know.

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P.S. You can save 51% off the cost of the Write with Confidence online course until the 11th November. 

Creating my Origin Story | Part 1 – The Outline

In yesterday’s blog post, The Origin Story, the Power of Reflection, I made a commitment to write my own Origin Story. But I also made the commitment that I’d share that process with you. This is part one of creating my origin story.

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Whether it’s a single sheet of real paper, or a blinking cursor on a screen – starting with nothing can be frightening. It stops us in our writing tracks. It’s especially true when we’re taking on the challenge of writing our own origin story. Where do you start? Sure, ‘the beginning’ is the obvious answer, but it’s wrong. The best place to start is by investing the time to create a solid Outline for your story.

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Your outline can start out like the headings from your own CV if that helps. This is about capturing the set-piece moments of your story. Each bullet-point is a sub-heading. A stop on the road to your completed origin story. Here is the outline I created.

  • A girl called….
  • Uni dreams
  • My first job – DCT
  • London Calling – Sunday Times
  • Uni reality
  • Catching a bus
  • Getting off the bus (NCR)
  • Failed Freedom
  • Fickle Finger of Fate (DCT v2)
  • Breaking down & reboot
  • The Story Edge
  • I have a dream….

I’ll treat each of those bullets as sub-headings. They’re separate stories really. I’ll write each one independently. Once I’ve written them all, I’ll go back and look for themes. Is there a pattern in those stories? What do I learn as a result?

Then my job is to blend those stories together to create a more rounded story. The final part of the story ‘I have a dream’ will act as the conclusion and will share my vision for what my business might look like in a few years time.

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If you want to follow along with me, your task today is simple. Go and create your outline. Think about the different places where you’ve worked or the different roles you’ve had. Create a simple bullet point list initially that captures those set-piece moments.

Think about the different places where you’ve worked or the different roles you’ve had. Create a simple bullet point list initially that captures those set-piece moments.

Once you’ve created your first outline, spend a bit of time editing the basic bullets into more relevant sub-headings. So for example – for my first bullet ‘A girl called…’ I initially had ‘Work Experience’ written down. I changed it to something more meaningful. Something that represents the story I’m going to tell in that specific chapter.

If you’re feeling in a sharing sort of mood, feel free to drop your outline into the comments.

I’ll be back again soon with part 2 of creating my origin story. 

 

PS – yes I am aware coconut was spelled incorrectly. 😉

The Origin Story – the power of reflection

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“We all have a story to tell.”

It’s my most overused phrase. But there’s one story that goes untold. Your story. The story of how you got to this place in your life. We have an incredible ability to take our stories for granted. We dismiss them. Discount them as a self-indulgent luxury that nobody else will be interested in.

Some are reluctant to tell the real story because, well, it’s too REAL. They don’t want to look back. They don’t want to reflect on the past. They’re too busy creating the future.

Others see it as irrelevant. Who cares what I did? Who cares about the path that I’ve taken? People only care about what I can do for them. The results I get for them. The difference I can make in their lives.

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If you’ve ever watched superhero movies or read comics, you’ll be aware of the concept of the origin story. It’s how Spiderman, the Hulk, and all their chums got their powers. It’s their back story.

The concept is the same for you. What’s made you the superhero you are today? What’s shaped your view of the world, what’s made you who you are today?

So why bother?

There are two main drivers for writing an origin story. Firstly it’s to build trust with your audience. You’re pulling back the curtain. You’re revealing the real you. You’re being more human. Sharing the journey you’ve been on reveals your character. It shows your values and what drives you.

But, the single biggest beneficiary of writing your origin story is you.

You learn a lot by looking back.

Your origin story reveals truths you didn’t see the first time around. Things you ‘just did,’ now have significance. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it myself. Moments from my past that were written off as a failure now take on an entirely different complexion. More importantly, each time I’ve worked with a client on their origin story, there have been moments of discovery. Some of those have been quite easy to understand, while others have required a bit of probing to make sense of.

Some of those moments have been emotional. Being there when a personal and business breakthrough occurs is magical. It’s what gives me the biggest buzz in business. It’s also why working on a 1-1 basis as a coach is where I want to spend more of my time.

But the real joy I get is when one of my clients push the ‘publish’ button on their own Origin Story. Below are three fantastic examples of the Origin Story in action.

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Karran's Origin Story

Read Karran’s Origin Story

Vicky's Story

Read Vicky’s Origin Story

Yva's Origin Story

Read Yva’s Origin Story

(Please note… I also work with the male of the species!)

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Your Anthology

The origin story isn’t just a single story. It’s a story of the individual stops on your journey. It’s your anthology. The set-piece moments that have punctuated your life. And within those individual stories, there will be themes. Weaving the threads into your tapestry reveals the bigger picture. You learn from the experience.

And what’s great is this. That new understanding of your history can help shape your present and your future. But that only happens if you’re honest with yourself. I mean truly honest. You need to challenge yourself. It will make you uncomfortable. It will force you to face up to your reality, but that’s OK because you’re in total control.

To share or not to share?

Your story is exactly that – yours. Only you can decide whether you share it or not. How vulnerable you want to be is your choice. Maybe the process of creating your origin story has given you personal insight that has helped you. It’s served its purpose. You can keep it to yourself. There is still value.

But what could sharing your story do for your business? Could opening up bring people closer to you? Could revealing more get you more? It may well do, but it shouldn’t be the driver. It’s a by-product because your origin story will help articulate two key drivers – your WHY and your VALUES. And for me, as a buyer of products and services – that’s important.

I want to know that you’re invested.
I want to know that you care.
I want to know that you’re human.

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If you’d like to write your origin story, here are my five steps to help get you started.

  1. Identify the set-piece moments in your life to create an initial outline.
  2. Write a quick draft for each outline point.
  3. What’s the lesson you learned from each set-piece moment?
  4. Is there an anecdote or memorable story that sums each of your key moments?
  5. Is there a theme or a universal truth that cuts across all your stories?

When you’ve pulled your first draft together, confide in someone that knows you. Speak to a close friend or a family member. Let them read your story. Get their perspective and recollections of some of your highlights. Can they add anything? Do they see things differently? Can they challenge you?

I was the one that challenged Karran, Yva and Vicky. I asked the tough questions. I was an interviewer as much as I was a coach. But there’s no reason why someone else can’t fulfill that role for you. Find that person who will be honest with you. Your story deserves it.

Look – it’s an Elephant

Kev-05

If you know me or have read any of my business or personal blogs, you’ll know that I’m a sharer. I’m comfortable showing my vulnerability. I’ve shared lots of different stories, but something’s missing. My Origin Story.

That’s right. I’ve not written it. But I will. In fact, I AM.

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I’m going to document the process of writing my story. I’ll share the journey across a series of blog posts. I’ve already created my outline which I’ll share as the first blog.

My hope is that by following my journey and reading the stories of Yva, Vicky, and Karran that you’ll be inspired to write your origin story. And, if you do, I’d love to showcase it as another example of the power of storytelling.