Storytelling for Active Mobility

Finding the Courage to Tell Your Story

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This week I had the privilege of hosting a coaching session with a young woman from Australia who I believe has the talent to take their bike advocacy world by storm.

I can't tell you how exciting it was to talk to someone from the other side of the world about what's going on in her life, her advocacy efforts, and their greater bike advocacy world.

She absolutely has the potential and the passion to be a game-changing leader. And frankly the world needs her voice (and it needs yours too). But first she's got to find the courage to tell her story in multiple ways to a growing audience.

But isn't this really the challenge that most of us face?

In My Work I Find That...

>> We're afraid to tell our own true story or stories for fear people will criticize us and tell us our stories don't matter.

Everyone's authentic "why I do this work" story matters. No one can tell your story of why you're doing this work the way you can, don't make anyone else responsible for it.

And yes, you will encounter critics. But unless they have valuable advice to uplift you and help you get better at telling your story ignore them. Especially anyone who is being anonymous.

They're a coward and not worth your attention.

>> We're afraid to learn the skills to be really great storytellers and communicators and move beyond our current comfort level

We like our comfort zones. Often we get into a particular groove and want to stay there - and we want others to magically discover us and support us and promote us even if we're hard to find, or inconsistent with our outreach.

This is magical thinking. I know it well. It kept me trapped in a mindset that I was the sort that should promote others more from "behind the scene" rather than stepping forward myself.

I finally realized I can't ask people to be courageous and step forward with their stories if I don't step forward as an example myself. Thus this new video series!

>> We're afraid to ask for the opportunity to get up on larger and larger stages to share our stories to bigger and bigger audiences

All of this fear comes from a sense of unworthyness, that you're not the right age, shape, race, or from the right background or education level to truly excel.

What if every day you instead gave yourself your own #permissionslipfromgod or #permissionslip from the universe that you are worthy just as you are? That you are enough just as you are?

Only by accepting exactly where we are, with all of our fears and doubts can we actually move forward good, solid progress.  

1. Get Clear on Why You're Doing This Work

What gets you out of bed in the morning about what you're doing? 

I don't know about you, but I'm here to be a change agent.

I think you're a change agent too, even if you're finding it hard to say it out-loud.

Your 75% there, 85% there, and 95% there are someone else's 110%. I learned this from Lisa Nichols. 

Lisa Nichols is one of the most talented and effective motivational speakers on the planet. This former athlete and single Mom from a tough neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles rose from poverty to being one of the only African American women in the U.S. to have a successfully publicly traded company.

If you take the time to listen to her for just the first five minutes of this talk she'll change the way you think about yourself. If you listen for the whole thing you'll be on fire to begin telling your story in new and powerful ways.

Ok, now you're intrigued, you feel inspired. What's next?

2. Create Short Sweet Baby Step Improvement Goals

These goals can be daily, weekly, or monthly - or all three. What small incremental improvements can you make for each email newsletter, social media post, or live presentation?

The key is that they are very specific, that you understand what you're reaching for, and that they're measurable so you'll know if you've hit your mark.

You may have noticed that my email newsletters have been coming out at very different times lately. This is because I'm researching when is the most popular time for them to be opened. 

3. Be Clear On Where You Want Your Goals to Take You

My partner Charlie uses the lay down, stretch and visionary goal setting technique for this and it's a tool I use quite a bit.

I'm currently working with my friend Ryan Snyder on his goal of being a popular media spokes person on public policy and Autonomous Vehicles here in the U.S., and frankly around the world.  

Ryan absolutely has the chops for this visionary goal. He's been one of the thought leaders on active, sustainable mobility in the U.S. for the past 30 years, but he hasn't before systematically focused on media outreach the way we're doing together now.

Ryan is hosting the traveling "Autonomous Vehicle Policy Conference Series" with Transpo Group this year, and just this week he's featured in an in-depth article in The Wall Street Journal. You can download that article here.

What's the baby step towards finding your courage and telling your story that you can take today? Let me know!

Framing Overview + Framing for Emotional Engagement

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Last week I shared with you how crucial the concept of "framing" as an editing tool is for all of your communications from live presentations to Instagram if you want to continue to grow the engagement of your fans, followers and most especially, active customers.

If you missed that email you can read it here.

When we use "framing" as an editing tool we zoom in on the most important focus of our message and cut out the fluff of details and data that won't really matter to our audience (even if it does to ourselves or our team).

Using the right framing for your storytelling and communications editing is just as important as choosing the right frame for a picture you hang on the wall.

Depending on the platform, there are multiple editing frames you can use to make sure your storytelling and communications are the best they can be.

I like to use the following four frames to edit my communications:

1) Emotional connectivity

2) Visual connectivity

3) Language

4) Length

Today I'm going to delve deeper into emotional connectivity.

If your marketing and communications pieces (including short social media on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc.) aren't truly connecting with your audience and growing it you might have forgotten to include emotionally engaging storytelling.

Plain old promoting rarely works well (remember, in today's modern era of marketing it's smart to use the 80/20 rule). Neither does lecturing much. The human brain is wired for stories. It's wired to remember a hero's journey with a beginning, a middle and an end, over data and statistics.

Weave Emotional Engagement Into Your Communications

>> Ask yourself am I mostly trying to promote how smart I am (or our product/service) is? Or truly sharing real value for others?

>> Share stories of the actual people (maybe you) that your idea, product, infrastructure or service has actually helped and how.


>> Layer stories of real people into your communications and presentations like a cake. Make it a rule of thumb not to share more than a tidbit or two of data or product information without accompanying it with an illustrative story about a real person.

>> Use images that almost always include real people who's stories you can highlight in your blogs, email newsletters, and other forms of social media.

Take a look below at the email I received this week from New York's Transportation Alternatives - one of the most successful city-wide advocacy organizations for safe biking, walking and public transit in the U.S. They are masters at personally engaging storytelling. This time the story is about Giovanni and it will break your heart. I'm quoting it directly.

Here's how the Transportation Alternatives Email Newsletter Opens:

Dear Melissa,

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Nine years ago, my wife gave birth to our son. I named him Giovanni. He grew up to be a good boy with bright eyes who loved soccer, like his dad.

One month ago, in the crosswalk on Northern Boulevard, while the WALK sign shone white, a man killed my son with a Jeep.

>> Read the full email newsletter including its clear call to action here.

Tragically we live in a society where many people view the lives of those doing something other than driving a car as less worthy (in this case walking across the street in a crosswalk with his mother) less valuable than those driving the car.

Transportation Alternatives excels at using emotionally engaging storytelling to focus in on the heart of the matter. Everyone matters. Children matter. Children should be able to safely walk across crosswalks without getting run over. 

You are part of the solution to create healthier, safer streets for everyone. Think about how you can use "framing" to help you tell more engaging stories this summer.

Remember, you're a work in progress. It's not about perfection, it's about authenticity and engagement.