Clients are often shocked when, after a lengthy interview, I write up their origin story and include the messy personal details. They want to leave out the disease, the divorce, the dieting. “I don’t want to be a sob story,” one client said to me. “I don’t want people to take pity on me,” another one said.
I understand their impulse to hide – and I almost always urge them to leave in the personal details. Here’s 5 reasons why.
1. Being human is compelling
The world is full of jerks who only care about making a ton of money. Their origin stories, to use the technical term, are craptastic. So if your origin actually has a real human reason behind it, you’re way ahead of the crowd.
Want an example? One of my clients has been crawling through her nana’s attic since she was six. She’s always loved old things, and loved thinking about the people whose lives intersected with these things. Now, she travels to international flea markets twice a year and unearths lost objects that once held great significance for someone. Lace, prayer cards, coins. Once forgotten, she brings them back to Providence, and transforms them into statement jewelry pieces. She honors the past lives of the people who owned these objects, like the curiosities in her nana’s attic, through her jewelry.
Powerful stuff, huh?
2. Media are drawn to compelling human stories
Plenty of businesses want coverage, but if all you’re willing to share are your products and their prices, take out an ad. A story has got to tell a story. Who are you? What drives you? Seriously, why in the heck are you spending so much time and money on some crazy business that may likely fail? There has GOT to be a human reason behind it, otherwise it really doesn’t make sense why you’re devoting your life to your business.
3. Customers are drawn to compelling products
A compelling backstory can make for a compelling product. Not always, but it certainly helps. The compelling reason behind your product or service often pushes you to lengths ordinary (some say sane) people would scoff at. You pore over customer data. You obsess about your recipe. You drive your product or service to be different because you are driven.
4. Being compelling is memorable
You not only have to get the attention of media and customers, you have to keep it. If you reveal an embarrassing personal detail, are people more likely to remember your business? You betcha. Just ask Spanx founder Sara Blakely about her origin story.
If you go with a bland backstory, you may end up like GOP candidate Scott Walker, who is falling in the polls as Donald Trump’s star rises.
5. Being human builds trust
Your origin story is something people will want to know over and over again. And it’s a story you should jump to tell – because a good origin story explains who you are, what your product or service is, and why it’s so good or unusual that you should buy it.
In other words, your origin story is an opportunity to connect and build trust. Being human goes a long way to building that trust. Blogger Joel Friedlande of The Book Designer says it well:
“Readers naturally engage with bloggers when the blogger reveals something of herself in her writing. It just makes sense, as humans we’re wired to respond most of all to other people. And if you’re hoping to establish authority or trust with your readers, the more they know about “where you are coming from,” the easier it will be.”