Grow Your Brand with Story-Based Content Creation

By Pete Ziolkowski
Content Development
9 MIN READ

You’ve worked hard.  Hustled on the side.  You’ve got an idea, a product, a service – something to offer that can transform a person’s life and make the world a better place.

You know you have what it takes.  All you need is that one opportunity.  If one strategic lock could be plucked, the flood gates would open.

You could quit your 9-5 and be devoted to doing what you love.

But for some reason, an opportunity hasn’t come knocking.

Why?

It would be foolish to think we could comprehensively answer such a complex question.  And it would be just as foolish to think no answers exist.

Some do.  But to see them, you must be willing to risk being vulnerable.

Do you want to know how to pick one of the biggest locks that might be holding you back?

Stories Provide a Mirror for Your Heart

I wrote and published two books for a middle-grade audience.  They are based on true-ish stories.  Wacky twists and turns abound!  Family, faith, and farts – who wouldn’t buy these books?

I thought all I needed was that one opportunity.  One key influencer to love the books and I would be off signing a deal with a major publisher and an animated Netflix series.

But the books did not fly off the virtual shelf.

Why?  

Maybe they aren’t very good.  Or perhaps my heart was blinded by my hubris, so I missed something critical. Maybe you have as well.

Create Content to Serve Someone Else’s Story

One book that has taken the world by storm is Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand.  In it, he identifies the seven foundational elements of a good story.

1.      A Character

2.      Has a problem

3.      Meets a guide

4.      Who gives them a plan

5.      And calls them to action

6.      To avoid failure

7.      And achieve success

This is where my books missed a massive step.  And my website.  And my marketing strategy.

A good story hinges on a hero lacking something and needing guidance.  In my books, the hero was a cartoonish, exaggerated version of myself.

There was no guide.

My messaging had a similar problem.  Can you guess what it was?

I fell into a trap that suffocates so many small businesses.

If your side hustle isn’t getting closer to a career, you may have also been lured into this trap.

In reality, most people view themselves as the center of their lives, as the hero of their own stories.

Many aren’t looking for another hero.  They are looking for something, someone, who can help them live the life they dream of.

When a small business positions itself as the story’s hero, it unintentionally competes with its prospective customer base.

The best businesses, the best friends – don’t see themselves as someone’s hero.  But as a partner.  A guide, at times.  And a servant.   

How do you view yourself?  Your business?

Agatha Christie nailed it when she wrote, “Words speak us more than we speak them.” Review your messaging.  What do the words speak about how you view yourself?

Sincere Content Trumps Creative Content

Now, let me jump in front of what should be an obvious objection.

Isn’t it slimy to cloak your messaging with “servant” language to increase sales or status?

Of course.

You could just change your words.  But people will catch on.  Sooner or later.  

Costumers are savvy.  There is so much competition.  Multiple platforms for reviews have empowered consumers like never before.

So don’t prioritize your words.  Focus on your heart. Be honest and introspective.   

When you genuinely desire to care for others with the products or services your small business offers, don’t be afraid to take the humble position of a servant.

Your words will naturally follow.

Creating Content that Guides People into Wholeness

This is probably the most consistent adjustment I make when editing and rewriting website copy.  People write copy that positions the company as the hero and speaks from the company’s perspective.

Once you see this, you won’t be able to unsee it.  It’s everywhere.  And unfortunately, it was all over my own messaging.  No doubt it cost me customers.

Words that don’t serve people compete with them.

Potential customers can’t even hear that message.  They have to take extra steps, on their own, to determine how a given product will solve their problems and make their lives better.  

Most people don’t easily part with their hard-earned money to make someone else feel like a hero.  

Your backstory and company vision may be deeply moving.  But the primary question consumers ask when on your website is, can you improve their lives?

People want a guide.  They’ll pay for a guide.  That’s why they are on your website, at your store, or reading your blog.

They have some lack in their life and are willing to pay someone to guide them toward wholeness.  But they aren’t looking for a hero.

When you position yourself as the hero, not the guide, at a subconscious, instinctive level, people will feel like you are competing with them—not helping them achieve their goals.

In business and life, we will be far healthier and more successful when we try to view the world from other people’s perspectives.

And then leverage that insight to better care for the people around us.

This means cultivating a heart that de-centralizes self and increasingly delights in serving others.

When you find your joy in seeing other people thrive – everyone wins.  You won’t be shortchanged in any way.  Your capacity for happiness will only grow deeper.  Fuller.  Healthier.

Build a Brand to Benefit the Story of Others

If self-focus is one major marketing problem, a fear of being self-promoting is another.

So many people have so much to offer, but their voice isn’t heard because they hate promoting themselves.

For many, marketing is a dirty word.

Viewing yourself as a servant, though, transforms this fear.  If you know what you have to offer will make other people’s lives better – and you want to see them thrive – then NOT speaking is doing a disservice to the world.

You don’t have to be afraid of being self-promoting.  Or let me rephrase that.  If YOU don’t want to come across as self-promoting, you won’t.

Your words will speak you.

If what you offer won’t help a particular customer, and you desire their best, then you won’t pressure them into purchasing something they don’t need.

People will feel your genuine care for them.  They will be eager to have you guide them into a better life.

Plot Holes That Will Swallow Your Dreams

Don’t be enchanted by growing your platform or lured by dollar signs.  If you do, you will unintentionally objectify human beings – subtly using them to make yourself a big deal or a lot of money.   

People who have achieved wealth, fame, and success know this reality.  Rich and famous actor Jim Carrey offers this insightful perspective:

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Give yourself to improving the lives of the people around you.  If that’s your genuine desire, potential customers will feel it.  You’ll earn their trust.  And you’ll be allowed to make their lives better.

And that – will make your life better.

If you don’t pursue this path, you will position yourself as a competitor with your customers.  Sales will suffer.  And you may never stop hustling on the side.

Four Steps to Creating Content that Serves Other People’s Stories

1. Read helpful books

Pick up a copy of Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand.  He goes into far more depth with far greater expertise. 

Tim Keller’s Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is a second book that has amazed me.  I have yet to figure out how he packed so much insight into so few pages. 

Greater self-awareness is accessible.  All you need to do – is look at yourself with honesty.

2. Hire a professional

JS-Interactive has been walking a servant’s path since its inception not because it’s good business, though it is.  But instead, because the owner cares deeply for his clients – regardless of their budget.

Greater health is available.  All you need to do – is have the courage to accept your limitations.

3. Be Humble

Don’t be afraid to seek personal help.  Going to therapy is not a sign of weakness.  Needing guidance to heal emotional and spiritual wounds does not mean you’re broken beyond repair – it means you’re human. 

Greater joy is available.  All you need to do – is leave yourself behind. 

4. Do what you love – to love others well

You can’t be everything to everyone.  But you can be you.  When what you love doing cares for others well, that’s the sweet spot we all long to live in. 

The life you dream of is accessible.  All you need to do – is treat others as you would want to be treated.

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Pete Ziolkowski
Pete Ziolkowski has been a professional communicator for over 15 years. He aims to CAPTURE the heart of your organization, COMMUNICATE your brand message with your clients, supporters, and networks, and CULTIVATE relationships between all involved.

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