Taking the highway outside my comfort zone

If you had told me one year ago today that I’d be coaching a global network of learners on how to tell their stories for maximum impact for IDEO (!!!)... well, I would not have believed you because that would have sounded insane. Alas, here we are, one year later and I wrapped up a 6-month fellowship coaching business leaders, designers, innovators, etc. on how to strategize, and craft their stories through the design thinking methodology in IDEO U's online course, Storytelling for Influence. And if that wasn't amazing enough, I had the absolute honor of working alongside and learn from an amazingly talented and collaborative multidisciplinary team that has been so giving of their time. I don’t have enough room here to go into all of the details of the experience, but in summary, I hella stepped outside of my comfort zone, I conquered imposter syndrome, and I think it’s safe to say that my creative confidence is back. IT'S BACK BABY!!!

Yesterday I met up with a small few of my amazing cohorts at the IDEO U office in San Francisco for lunch, and each of us gifted a copy of, The Little Book of IDEO. Herein lies tangible proof of how far I’ve come since June. Damn. Is someone cutting onions in here?  I’m feeling so incredibly grateful for the experience, all the wonderful creatures that I've met, and I'm also very freaking proud of myself...

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This is only the beginning.

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Rethinking the testimonial: ask for a success STORY!

Persuasion and influence come more naturally when you can have others vouch for you—the proof is in the social pudding! When we find ourselves in a situation, unsure of how to behave, we look to others to influence our actions. Even if it means going against our own beliefs and values.

Fans at a Depeche Mode concert, Oakland Arena, 10/10/2017

This tendency is known as a conformity bias. I’m sure you’ve experienced this “herd mentality” while you’re shopping around on Amazon’s mobile app late at night. If you're on the fence about a product, where do you look for help? The customer review section!

An image depicting stars from customer reviews.

Reviews work because when it comes to spending our hard-earned money, the opinions of others DO MATTER.

User reviews, case studies, endorsements, and testimonials are incredible ways to increase social proof with your online offerings. And while likes and positive comments do to help, when someone is ready to decide on your brand, a testimonial in the form of a customer story can help balance the scale in your favor. A story adds that emotional element required to resonate with and drive your audience to act.

A testimonial versus a story

For example, which of the following statements feels more impactful to you?

Option A

“I highly recommend Bethany’s coaching services. She is warm and knowledgeable. You would be lucky to have her as your life coach.”

Option B

“When I first contacted Bethany, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I felt frustrated by my lack of clarity, vision, and goals. Despite all her incredible reviews, I felt reluctant to hire Bethany because I didn't understand the coaching process. However, I gave it a go, and as I thought through each of her guiding questions, my mind started to see the patterns and make the connections. Almost overnight, I felt a shift from a fixed to a growth mindset, and I ended the program with a whole new perspective on how to live my life and be happy. Through the tools and methods I acquired by learning alongside Bethany, my confidence is back. I know what I want, and I feel proactive in my quest to make it happen!”

Option B, right? Even if you’re not the target audience, you get a better sense of the transformation experienced by this person through the story versus a review. Perhaps you even feel inspired to take action, “I want Bethany as my life coach!”

Good customer stories need to be:

  • Authentic
  • Clear
  • Emotional

To get started, you could ask your client to follow a proven storytelling structure, such as the Pixar storytelling framework (which inspired Option B, above.) Or, here's a list of guiding questions I constructed that you could ask to help your user hone in on their experience and effectively tell their story.

  • What was the problem you experienced before using our service/product?
  • Why did you hesitate to work with us?
  • Why did you choose to work with us?
  • How did you feel before our work together?
  • How did you feel after our work together?
  • How has our work together changed you for the better?
  • At what point did you think, "aha! I made the right choice!"

Then, using the answers, construct a narrative in a conversational tone— avoid any jargon or business speak. Keep it human.  

(Note: if you do write the story for your client, you must send it over to them for approval And do give them an option to edit as they see fit. Then send over a link to the final product—who doesn’t enjoy seeing their story on the Internet? 😉)

And finally, get visual. We are drawn to faces, especially the eyes. Ask for a photo of them interacting with your product in its typical environment. Or visual evidence of them demonstrating the transformation they experienced after using your service (think before and after picture) to connect a potential client to your brand. But a simple portrait of their smiling face will do because the presence of people will increase a sense of trust.

Your mission

Before you begin, ask yourself, “what does customer success look like to me and how can I better integrate evidence of this within my potential customers' online experience?"

Your customer’s story should outline how your product/service helped them experience a transformation. Humanize their words with a visual of your storyteller.

Can you think of some other ways that you can increase social endorsement throughout your online experience?


Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!

How owning your "inner" story can inspire your "outer" story

More often than not, I’ve found during the co-design process of helping my clients strategize their online content marketing I see two different stories that surface: the "outside” story that they share with others, and the “inside” story ridden with struggle, apprehension, and resistance...

How owning your "inner" story can inspire your "outer" story

That inside story has a theme, and it’s usually self-doubt. Self-doubt is the result of an assortment of hindering beliefs, like fear of judgment, fear of failure, analysis paralysis, imposter syndrome, need I go on? Because I’ve experienced these various narratives in my struggle with my inside story preventing me from telling my outside tale, it is relatively effortless for me to speak and listen to from a place of empathy (joining). But it’s often difficult for me to express self-compassion while I’m under the knife.

One thing I’ve found that has been extraordinarily powerful in my experience coaching clients through storytelling is through opening up about my vulnerability when it comes to sharing my personal experiences. In doing so, I establish a connection, build trust, and thus creates a safe space to for the person I am working with to share. It’s incredible to witness that transformation from fear to courage with that simple step.

That's the power of sharing your story!

Courage is indeed a mindset and embracing it as such is truly powerful. Personally, I experience fear in my work and life every single day. The thought of publishing this piece terrifies me! Where I've grown is in my handling of it. I invite it to coffee, but I don't allow it to take over. Fear is OK, but don’t let it keep me from an action, such as telling my story through my content online.

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

We Humans Are Hardwired for Stories AND Video!

I feel a bit grumpy when I see an article listing “story” as a top marketing “trend” of 2017. The word, "trend" implies a trajectory to the next best thing, here today but gone tomorrow. The truth is that story is here to stay. So let's change those headlines to read, “the most sustainable brand marketing technique of 2017?”

Yeah, that’s much better.

Your Story is Here to Stay

In Dr. Susan Weinschenk’s book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (a fabulous read, btw) she lists the top people attention getters:

  • Pictures of human faces (especially if they’re making eye contact)
  • Pictures of food, sex, and danger
  • Loud noises (der)
  • Anything that moves
  • Stories

I bolded those last two items because they’re the most applicable here.

Dr. Weinschenk (also known as, The Brain Lady) explains that we humans were designed with not one, but three brains— a new brain, a midbrain, and an old brain. Our old brain is the stuff concerned with our survival, and we use it regularly in our environments to determine (and I love how Dr. Weinschenk puts it) Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it Kill Me? What this means is that we are programmed to scan our environment for movement or potential predators. We latch on to stories as a means of remembering and organizing information critical to our survival. Dare I say that storytelling is crucial for our evolution? Fascinating stuff!

How To Become an Effective Storyteller

From Visually.

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Perhaps you are wondering, "but how does one effectively tell a story on video?" Well, there are many, many ways and I look forward to writing about my process in future postings.  Above is an Infographic that I found—a short “how-to” that focuses in on the components of telling a great story online through video.

Are there any elements that you can sprinkle into your video storytelling process today to trigger the old brain in your audience?

Kirsten, web content strategist and designer

Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!