How To Build Your Influencer Signature Story… and why you should
“Once upon a time…” is a quintessential opening to a story or a fairy tale. When we were children and our parents read us bedtime stories, I’ll bet many of them started like that. “Once upon a time” was a signature phrase and that leads us into the idea that blog influencers of all stripes — pet, lifestyle, medical, etc. — need to have a signature story. Why? To not only set yourself and your blog apart from the competition, but as a way to help people remember you.
How many times have you been at a networking event or a BlogPaws Conference and someone walks up and says, “Hi, I’m Jane Doe and I help businesses grow their bottom line through the effective use of social media marketing.” Do you remember Jane once she’s walked away? Probably not. What if Jane said, “After I filed bankruptcy and my dog and I were living on the streets, I knew I had to find a way to make a living before winter set in. I would go to the library every day to use their computers. I started haunting online forums, read books on marketing and then convinced the library director to give me a chance and help her grow the library’s following and get more people to sign up for their ongoing programs…” I’ll bet you’re listening to Jane now and will probably remember her and her story, right? She didn’t need to have a “once upon a time” to kick the story off, but it was a story. You felt her struggle, chances are you wondered where her dog was while she was in the library doing her research and reading, you also wondered… did it work? Was she able to increase the library’s following and attendance at programs? You’re hungry for more. Jane has whet your appetite with a story rather than a straightforward elevator pitch as in the first sentence.
You don’t have to have a story as dramatic as the fictional Jane Doe did, but you should have a story. I’ll bet you do have a story.
How To Build Your Influencer Signature Story
Let’s first cover WHY you need a signature story. Imagine this, you walk into a BlogPaws Conference and guess what?! It is full of pet bloggers?! Yes, really! How do you set yourself apart from this sea of pet bloggers? Okay, you’re a cat blogger and the others are dog bloggers, BUT there are a lot of cat bloggers. Okay, you blog about rescue cats. Hhmmmm so do many, many others. You live in North Dakota and blog part time when you get home from your full time job as an EMT. Well, you’re probably narrowing your story down, but does your EMT job have anything to do with, or help enhance, your cat blogging? If not, then it doesn’t belong in your story. Sure, if you’re an EMT, that is way cool, but if you can’t relate it to your cat blogging persona, then it might not fit.
I’m going to get personal with you now. Many of you may know I am a breast cancer survivor — four years, two months and 23 days to be exact. I am a pet blogger. I am a full time freelance writer with a cadre of clients. I write a slice-of-life column for a weekly newspaper and I write about and speak about time management. Time management?! How does that go with all of the blogging and writing? This, my friends, is part of my signature story.
The shortened version (I’ll give you the long one if you ask) is before I was diagnosed I worked from home crafting content for my clients. I worked, sometimes eighteen hours a day. I rarely took a weekend off. I missed family dinners or if I was at the dinner table I was distracted by the work I needed to get done and I was constantly checking my phone. Believe me, I was not present.
Enter a breast cancer diagnosis. My schedule was so full of client tasks that I had no wiggle room. If one item fell over the entire list was a domino train wreck. Guess what? My surgeons and oncologists did not care about my schedule. My medical coordinator, after I’d cried about not being able to come in for the appointment she was trying to schedule said, “Well, our job is to keep you alive. Your job is to work for your clients. If it was me, I’d choose to stay alive, but you decide…” Well, that was a slap in the face wake up call I needed. I DID want to live and I knew to do that I had to do everything and attend every surgeon’s and oncologist appointment they set up. I knew I’d be in the hospital, in intensive care for close to a week once my surgery was over. Guess what, the hospital frowns on a patient who thinks she is going to work on a computer while in intensive care. And honestly, I was on so many drugs and in such excruciating pain that work was the furthest thing from my mind.
I had made arrangements for a colleague to step in and take care of some of my client tasks. I also did as much pre-work for them as I could before I went into surgery. I didn’t want to come out on the other side and have no business to come back to. Anyway… back to the story part of this tale.
Recovery, both mental and physical, was long and painful. Breast cancer and the thought that, “wow I could die” was a wake up call like no other. I KNEW I needed to change my work life. My family was so there for me during everything that I knew I wanted to be there for them. I wanted to be present at dinners and family functions. How could I do that and still keep up with my client load? I needed (cliche alert) to work smarter, not harder.
During my recovery, I devoured time management books, I learned about the 80/20 rule/the Pareto Principle, the 15-minute rule and many others. I also did a time audit of myself. That was eye-opening as hell. Why? Because I realized I was not as productive as I’d originally thought; I mean truly can anyone be productive eighteen hours a day? Probably not. I found I wasted a LOT of time poking around the Internet. I watched a lot of television throughout the day and wasn’t working then SO I had to work long days and nights to make up for that time I was frittering away. Very eye opening. If you’ve never done a time audit of your day, I suggest doing just that.
Can you see where I am going with my signature story? I have become a time and goal management and time blocking diva! I write about it. I speak about it. I work with clients to help them be more productive. Why? How did I get there? Because of breast cancer. I needed to change my life and I did. I wanted to work “reasonable” hours and have a family life. Believe me, when you receive a diagnosis of any kind of life threatening illness, I can’t imagine walking away unchanged.
It is my real life — my signature story — that gives me the credibility to help them regain control of their schedule and their to-do list. I’m not just “book smart” about time management, my story and how I’ve changed the way I look at productivity is in-the-trenches experience and that makes me an “expert” resource.
Remember, when you say “I’m a pet blogger” or “an accountant” or “a dog groomer” or a “web designer” your audience immediately fills in the blanks with the pet bloggers, accountants, dog groomers and web designers they’ve met in the past. Your signature story sets you apart from the crowded field. Your signature story shows how you are unique among other pet bloggers, accountants, dog groomers and web designers.
Take some time now and answer these questions as they can help you build your influencer signature story:
- What is your blog/business name? Why did you choose it? Is there a story behind it?
- What goods or services do you offer? Why? Was there something in your life that prompted you to find a way to fill a need in the market?
- What experiences have you had that you bring to your blog or your business? How does that set you apart? Think back to Jane Doe’s story. Is she an EMT who is charged with rescuing animals that might be involved, alongside their owners, in an emergency situation? Does Jane write about how she developed an “emergency first aid kit”? Hhmmm see, how Jane’s story is coming together?
- Do you write about a specific breed or species because you had a cat, dog, bird, reptile, ferret or fish that changed your life? How? What did that one animal do that propelled you into the business you’re now involved in?
- What did you do, or do you do, in your nonblogging life that lends itself to your blogging or the business you operate? Did your career path take you down a twisting road that landed you in the pet blogging world? Can you weave that into your signature story?
- Before you started your business did people tell you, “Wow you are so great at this” or “I can’t believe I never thought of doing it this way” or “That was a literal lifesaver”? If you heard those, or any phrases like those, use that information for your signature story. My being a pet blogger hasn’t changed anyone’s life. My being a time management diva, maybe hasn’t changed anyone’s life, but my hard-won skills might have helped them gain control of their life, get a better work-life balance and perhaps helped them be healthier because they have time to relax. Your signature story doesn’t have to be as massive as a cure for cancer, but think about any incremental changes your skills may have wrought for others.
- What is the one, biggest benefit that you bring to the market? When crafting your signature story, don’t cram everything you do into your story. Let’s look at my story, I do a LOT and most of it involves writing BUT what I focus on is the time management and productivity aspect. I am #TheOrganizedWriter that is my signature story and it’s crafted around my personal battle with breast cancer and a driving need to change my life after I came out the other side. I’m not just “Robbi Hess who loves to be productive, use to-do lists and time blocking to get more done in fewer hours and can help you too!” I’m “Robbi Hess, four year breast cancer survivor who knew that once the battle was over, things had to change in my life and my business and the starting point was becoming a more productive entrepreneur. Fitting in medical treatments with client tasks took skill and expertise, but I’ve been there, in the trenches, came out the other side and can help you…” I’m the “expert” because I lived the signature story I am sharing.
After you’ve answered the questions, can you see a way to weave them into your unique signature story? Can you find a way to elevate your business idea because you have a story that colleagues will remember long after you’ve left the networking event? I’d love to know. If you need help, leave a comment and let’s craft your story!
Robbi Hess is an award-winning author, full-time writer, newspaper columnist, writing coach and time-management guru. She works with bloggers and solopreneurs and blogs at All Words Matter.