Do you want to know how to use storytelling to build credibility? Listen as a three-time bestselling author, Ben Gioia, shares how to harness practical tools to improve your stories and storytelling skills, even if you don't think you have any stories to tell.
Do you want to know how to use storytelling to build credibility?
Listen as a three-time bestselling author, Ben Gioia, shares how to harness practical tools to improve your stories and storytelling skills, even if you don't think you have any stories to tell.
In this week's powerful episode "How to Best Use Storytelling to Build Your Expert Credibility" you will discover:
Susan Friedmann: Welcome to Book Marketing Mentors, the weekly podcast where you learn proven strategies, tools, and ideas and tips from the masters. Every week, I introduce you to a marketing master who will share their expertise to help you market and sell more books.
Today, my special guest is Ben Gioia. He's a three-time bestselling author and publisher who makes it easy to write a world-class book in just five weeks and then launch, position, profit, and make a difference. With 35 years of writing and publishing, Ben has produced more than 352 million magazines. His teachings are used by more than 40,000 people worldwide. Wow, those numbers are pretty mind-boggling. Ben helps Fortune 100 company shift culture by creating an empathy video game for employees with MIT. He trained leaders at Stanford and created the first mindfulness program for the ALS Association. That's for the Lou Gehrig's disease. Ben believes that people thrive when they relax, smile, and quit suffering now. Ben, what an absolute pleasure it is to welcome you to the show, and thank you for being this week's guest expert and mentor.
Ben Gioia: Oh, Susan, you're most welcome and thank you so much for having me here. I am so excited to chat with you today.
Susan Friedmann: Well, Ben, I know that one of your areas of expertise is, in fact, storytelling, which we didn't even talk about in your bio other than those mind boggling numbers and I'm like, "Oh my goodness." Even saying them was a mouthful. Over the five years that we've been doing this podcast, we've had many people talking about storytelling. However, I know what's different about you and your approach to storytelling is that it's storytelling for experts, and I really love us to focus on that side of storytelling in our conversation together. But let's make sure that we're all on the same page and start up by understanding, first of all, why stories and storytelling is just so important for our listeners.
Ben Gioia: Absolutely. Susan, thank you so much because we got to start at the beginning of the story. You think about stories and you think about human communication, it is the oldest way we have been communicating. So before cave paintings, people were around the fire sharing stories with each other, communicating, sharing mythology, communicating among tribes, like the whole thing. I mean, human civilization is based in story and our experience of the world is based in story because it is in our bones, our blood, in our DNA. First and foremost, that's a tremendously important reason why it's so important. Then why it's so important in our business as well is because people like you, people like me, people like our listeners here today teach a lot of stuff, have a lot of wisdom, have a lot of expertise, and if you deliver that wisdom and expertise with a whole bunch of information and no stories, no transformation is going to happen. People need that balance of story and information, story and fact to literally harmonize both hemispheres of their brains to ground each side of the equation. The story needs the fact to give a grounding on the earth and the facts need the stories to give it wings and its ability to inspire and transform.
Susan Friedmann: I love that. I really love that explanation because you're right. I mean, learning a fact is one thing and remembering it as something else, but having a story around that fact, people will remember the story, and hopefully, then obviously the fact that goes along with it. I've learnt that over the years, because I'm a high content presenter and it's the 10 ways to do this and the 5 ways to do that, and I'm learning that I need to do fewer and incorporate those stories or little vignettes because I don't always have time for a full story, but a vignette that helps make the point. Now we talked about in the beginning the fact that experts, their idea of storytelling for experts, and as you know, I work with non-fiction authors to help them go from unknown author to author or authority. Now talk to us about the idea of using stories to help build that authority, that credibility in the marketplace.
Ben Gioia: Absolutely. Thank you, Susan. So there's a few layers of that. The thoughts are bubbling and I want to talk about 14 of them and I'll try to keep it to three. One of my first coaches, although the expression may sound a little crude, kept saying, "Facts tell and emotions sell." When you want to inspire people to action, whether it's clicking like on your Facebook page, opening your emails, saying yes to your high ticket offer, whatever that kind of thing is, they're not just going to say yes because you've presented a whole bunch of facts. They're going to say yes because you've helped them see a vision of themselves and their success through working with you, being around you, being part of your process so that you have essentially helped them reshape their story right in their eyes. You have also the opportunity, as you're doing that, to share your story so the reader, listener, client, prospect, whomever it is really has that opportunity, like I said before, not only to see this real vision of themselves for the future, but also to be able to see themselves in you, and know you, and like you, and trust you because you've helped them connect with their story and ostensibly shared your story with them.
Susan Friedmann: That's so important. More and more, we're learning that we need to tell our story and even companies are telling this story because it helps to, as you say, the emotion, it helps to sell because people like to relate to that. So yes, I really liked that. Facts tell, emotions sell. I'm going to remember that one. Now, do you have a particular formula that you use to help your clients tell stories?
Ben Gioia: I do. This is based on a communication framework that is originally credited to someone named David Cole at Harvard, and then I learned it from some marketing mentors. I'm not sure if they're still around doing stuff, but someone named Eben Pagan. I don't know if you've ever come across him or Lou Gallo.
Susan Friedmann: I have, yes.
Ben Gioia: Okay. Yep, so this is what I learned from them originally. Essentially that framework of why, what, how and what if. So helping the person understand like why the story that you're about to tell them is important and resonant in their life; and then giving them the story and any appropriate information, context, hearsay, all of the kind of stuff; and then to give some kind of a call to action or a little bit of a how to, and even if it's just something as simple as turn the page to find out more, or the first step is becoming aware of when you get angry, like whatever that thing is; and then the last step of that sequence, the what if, is helping the person imagine integrating that belief or perspective or thought or behavior into their business or life to have this transformed, elevated experience in their future. So that's one way I do it. The other way I do it is the same framework, but invite my clients to drop us right into the middle of a story at the beginning of that sequence that I just described.
Susan Friedmann: Now, do you encourage your clients to make a log of different stories? I mean, every day, there's something going on, even though you don't think of it necessarily in a story, but you could create a story about everything you do. Do you have them make a log or something? How do they remember all these stories?
Ben Gioia: Absolutely. Absolutely. So there's a few approaches. There's the writing stories that one remembers throughout one's life, whether it's a year by year, or zero to three years, three to six, whatever. Some people get scared of the year to year, so even smaller increments just to get the ball rolling, because once you start unleashing the stories, so many more of them become available and relevant very, very quickly. So yes, Susan, to activities like going back through life. But for me … not but … and for me, I will often help my clients or guide my clients in making the connection among, who's your audience? How do you serve them? How do they talk about their stuff, their pains and challenges of goals and dreams? Then what are the stories in your professional and/or personal life that are resonant and relevant in that kind of cluster of thought right there.
Susan Friedmann: Many years, Ben, I said I don't have any stories. It took me a long time to realize that I have so many stories. I mean, I could write a book about all the stories that I have now that I realized that I have stories. I'm sure you've heard that a few times; that people come and say, "I don't have any stories. How do you convince them that they do?"
Ben Gioia: Yeah. I try not to convince, but more help them see for themselves that they do. I mean, sometimes I have to just say, "Hey look, buddy, but in general …" I try to lead the witness and I do it in such a way that some of it is through the actual activity that I just described. But the primary method for me is I do an exercise with my clients where they face something, it might be called terrible, it might be called terrorizing, whatever that thing is, and then write from that … write, W-R-I-T-E …. write right from that place. Very often, from that place comes a lot of clarity around why the heck they're here doing what they're doing, then that unlocks the, "Oh, these are the kinds of stories and circumstances and situations that I remember from my life and my experience and my first foray into entrepreneurship or whatever it is. Basically, the flood becomes unleashed, the more clear and aligned people get with why they're here in my experience and I try to facilitate that in the work that I'm doing with them.
Susan Friedmann: Yeah, jolting your memory. You're absolutely right, because there's certain things that you say. Just recently, in fact this week, I talked about I tried a product. I always love trying when you have a shower or you're in somebody else's place, and I love to use one of the products that they have. I happen to be at my daughter's, taking a shower, and she had some oil that she uses on her body or whatever. In any event, it says you could put some on your scalp, so I put some in my scalp. After I washed my hair, I couldn't get it out. I was telling my hairdresser this and she said, "Oh my goodness, that reminds me of when I did something similar when I was a teenager and my mother couldn't get the stuff out of my hair." So just me telling my story jolted her memory to tell me her story, which had sort of some similarities to it. I was just like, yes, that flood of memory. Maybe it's a smell. Maybe it's the sight of something that jolts that memory.
Ben Gioia: I appreciate you saying that, Susan, very much because I have a story that I love to share with being on a bus in San Francisco. I live in San Francisco, and I was on the bus several years ago and we're busy rush hour time. We're stopped at a busy intersection and people are crossing at the crosswalk. There's a gentleman crossing in the crosswalk, walking his dog, a German shepherd, so it's not a little dog. Walking his dog and the dog is off the leash during rush hour in the city. I am standing there looking and I'm feeling uncomfortable, like nervous, a little bit scared, the whole deal, because I have had experience in my life throughout the years of living in cities, unfortunately, pets running out the door and getting hit and killed by cars. That's happened a few times in my life and that's not uncommon in city contexts, right? So I'm looking at that and I said to the bus driver because I was right up front, full bus of people, turned to the bus driver said, "Wow, that really scares me, that guy walking the dog like that," for my reasons and I didn't say them out loud and the bus driver said, "Yeah, me too. That's a wild animal."
So a completely different story and reason and perspective and history, et cetera, on the same kind of thing. Susan, what you were saying before, the stories mirroring and triggering and inspiring and instigating each other, and also the reminder and the recognition that even in and around what may appear to be the same story, to two different people, it can be two different entire universes.
Susan Friedmann: Very much so, yes. When you work with your clients, your authors, you're going through your program where you teach them how to write their book. You make it easy for them. Is there a certain percentage of the book as a minimum that you encouraged them to have stories in that book?
Ben Gioia: That's a great question. It's not so much percentage. It's more that if the story or because the stories are operating as harmonizing factors for the facts and information that are going on throughout the book; that I teach more of the cadence around kind of balancing from one to the other versus this kind of percentage. But I do make sure that in each section of each book and in each chapter, that there is at least one story, especially in the chapters, meaning the body chapters the meat and potatoes of the book, that there's at least one case study in each of those chapters as well because case studies write our stories onto themselves.
Susan Friedmann: Talk to us more about that because I imagine that, that fits in really well with the idea of being a thought leader that you're presenting case studies. But when I think of case studies, sometimes I think of them being full of numbers and dry and not very exciting. Talk to us about how you present a case study.
Ben Gioia: I follow my framework that I described earlier, where, at the beginning, I'm describing sharing with the reader why it's important for that person to not only pay attention, to read the case study, but why what I'm about to talk about is relevant, whether it's relevant to the chapter of the book, the bigger message throughout the book, whatever that thing is. Then in the second step, the what, that's where I talk about the case study kind of things, but put it in the context of story. A boutique design company in San Francisco wanted to stop serving corporate clients and work with clients who are doing good for the world. So I helped this boutique agency basically shift around their marketing and change their approach to start working with sustainable organizations. As a result, this result happened, this result happened, this result happened, and this person is much happier and now has time to also do volunteer projects and the things that he loves to do. So I just told the story, but that's my case study right there. I was like, "Oh, that sounds like an interesting thing," versus like, "Oh, here's like a slog of data."
Susan Friedmann: Yeah. I think the whole idea of case studies, as your referring to it, takes on just a whole different element than, as I said, what my interpretation of that word means facts and figures and some kind of analysis. But I like it if you talk about it as a story. Yeah, I suppose a case study is a story. It's just about one particular company or one particular incident.
Ben Gioia: Exactly that, and coming back to the notion of storytelling for experts, sometimes, more than sometimes, folks that I'm working with, they're like, "Oh, well I need stories for all these different places in my book. So they believe at this point that they have stories, but then it's like, "Okay, I have to come up with a number of stories." I was like, "Well, wait a minute, a good number of your stories are case studies," and they're like, "Oh, okay, I can do that." So suddenly they have five stories that they didn't know they had, because they pull five case studies and then they make just a little bit of a narrative around it, around their own story.
Susan Friedmann: So it's that interpretation of the information, it's just a slightly different interpretation.
Ben Gioia: Exactly, Exactly right. And disclaimer, it's not an interpretation of the results, of the outcomes, but it's in the creating the empathetic bridge between the outcome, the hero of the case study story, and the reader; to connect those three together.
Susan Friedmann: Fascinating. I'm going to look at case studies completely differently now.
Ben Gioia: Wonderful.
Susan Friedmann: Well, I think that when you start looking at words, I mean, again, different interpretation of what a word means. Now, for instance, I like the idea of talking about vignettes, and I know in my book, Riches in Niches: How to Make it Big in a Small Market, I've got little vignettes at the end of each chapter where I've got exactly, and I suppose it could be a case study. It's how one particular entrepreneur has done what I talked about in the chapter.
Ben Gioia: Brilliant. Yes, a vignette case study. Perfect.
Susan Friedmann: It's probably, I don't know, 100 words, 150 max.
Ben Gioia: Brilliant. In my first book, which is called Marketing With A Heart, what I would do throughout the chapters, I would take two pages per topic or per subtopic within the chapters, and I would write. The left-hand page would be the informational stuff, the facts and the page lengths, accommodated approximately 200 words, and on the right-hand page, I would tell the story, do the case study of the thing I just taught on the left-hand page.
Susan Friedmann: Perfect.
Ben Gioia: It was, yeah.
Susan Friedmann: I love that.
Ben Gioia: It was great, and it was a really easy way because I didn't have to suss out 1,200 words of a concept. It was like 200, 200, 400 total and it's like, "Okay, I can do that," and then I can move on to the next topic. Stuff like that also supports me because I, being a creative entrepreneur, I bounce around a little bit as well. So the vignette approach, I also find supportive to my workflow process.
Susan Friedmann: Our listeners love learning about mistakes, especially ones that they need to avoid. What a couple of big, juicy mistakes that you see people make when it comes to storytelling?
Ben Gioia: We've addressed some of them already from your questions, thank you. Everybody has stories. But from there, it's that most of the time, it behooves you to go deep into the raw truth and be as vulnerable as you can be in the story. Because the more vulnerable and raw you are, not all the time, all situations, not all stories, of course, but the more raw and vulnerable you can be the more you're going to resonate with the person you're serving assuming that the story is resonant with that person. If you're serving them and you know what they need and what kind of challenges that they have, then the stories that you're telling about yourself are wonderful mirrors and guides for this person. You can effect a deeper transformation in yourself, in this person and in the world, spiritually, quantum physics-ally, however you want to call that, all things are connected, the more you go to the truth and the more you really connect with who you are, why you're here and express that unhesitatingly.
Susan Friedmann: Not to be shy about sharing. I know that for many years, I just didn't tell people about me or any flaws that I had. Didn't want to admit them. But now I'm like, "Okay, this is me. You're getting me, and if you like it, that's great. If you don't, hey, that's your preference. Take it or leave it." Can we be too raw in what we're sharing?
Ben Gioia: Probably. And I think the simple solution to that is to know your audience and know how to most effectively connect with them, and that whatever you're sharing and that you understand why you're sharing it. Like if you're going to be way raw, why are you being way raw? If you're going to be way not raw, like what is the reason behind not only the story you're choosing, but the way in which you are sharing it. So just the intention behind, just like everything else, our thoughts, our words, our actions are key to what's going to happen. Even when we're perfectly aligned and intentional and all that kind of stuff, somebody still might say it's too raw or whatever, and that's okay and it's worth the risk to play full out in this context.
Susan Friedmann: I think, you know, if you would boil down what you've just said, it's really knowing your audience. I love talking about niche marketing, knowing your niche, knowing what would appeal to them versus what wouldn't, then I think that's very important to take into consideration when you're presenting that story, whether it's in written form or in a training program presenting as well.
Ben Gioia: Exactly, yeah. Several of my stories are around experiences of mine traveling, and traveling is super relevant to my audience. My folks who are book writers are also very intentional and intending around, people call it different things, but basically to have full time and financial freedom so they can be creative, they can travel, they can have time with their family, and they can share their message everyday unrestrictedly.
Susan Friedmann: Fabulous. Ben, if our listeners wanted to find out more about you and what's going on in Ben's life, how can they do that?
Ben Gioia: The most exciting thing going on right now, Susan, as you know, is my upcoming event Publish, Position and Profit. That's at publishpositionandprofit.com. What I'm doing at that weekend is basically teaching people and helping people understand how to go from idea or half-finished manuscript or even a book to published and profitable and making an impact. It's not just a weekend of a whole bunch of information, but actually I take you through building a customized roadmap for your best strategy for launching and doing it in a way that really supports your goals and your lifestyle. You don't have to do all the crazy launch things on one single day; do everything in your business in a way that supports you and supports the people you serve. I'm teaching that stuff June 18th, 19th, and 20th, publishpositionandprofit.com. If you want to chat with me about that or anything else, because we got into so many wonderful places today, Susan, thank you very much, feel free to just book some time with me at influencewithaheart.com/chat. That's influencewithaheart.com/chat, C-H-A-T.
Susan Friedmann: Fantastic, and I'll put that in the show notes as well, Ben, because sometimes our listeners are traveling and can't write anything down while they're listening, so I will put that.
Ben Gioia: You keep your hands on the wheel.
Susan Friedmann: Absolutely. Focus on what you're doing. Ben, if you could leave our listeners with a golden nugget, what would that be?
Ben Gioia: The most important thing in the world to understand and practice is the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is part of this life and suffering, many, many times, is optional. Whether meditating, exercising, psychology, whatever the things you need to do to help yourself understand that and practice that and stop taking pain personally, let it be a part of life. I mean, obviously take care of your pain, but don't take it personally and let yourself still be happy regardless of the "discomforts" of life.
Susan Friedmann: It sounds like there's a story there.
Ben Gioia: Oh, yes, there is.
Susan Friedmann: But we'll have to save that for another time. Ben, you've been amazing. I loved having you as my guest, so thank you.
Ben Gioia: Thank you.
Susan Friedmann: Thank you all for taking time out of your precious day to listen to this interview, and I sincerely hope that it sparked some ideas you can use to sell more books. Here's wishing you much book and author marketing success.