We connect with people through stories. If you watch any good speaker, entertainer or educator they illustrate what they communicate with stories. If you're like most people then you have a ton of stories you could tell - and if you told them, you'd stand out. We remember stories.
This week my Podcast guest is Hillary Rea from tell me a story. Hillary works with business owners of all kinds to help them discover and deliver the stories which can make you and your brand connect far more deeply than the more superficial content we're used to.
Hillary Rea is the founder of Tell Me A Story, a full-service communication consulting business that trains entrepreneurs, leaders, and change makers how to use the art of storytelling as a powerful communication tool. She’s worked with leaders across industries — social justice nonprofits, women-owned small businesses, tech start-ups and Fortune 500 companies — to communicate an authentic narrative through 1-on-1 services (now fully virtual) and the long running Tell Me A Story Live Show (virtual for the time being).
Hillary graduated from New York University with a degree in Vocal Performance and holds a certificate in Audio Documentary from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. She is an award-winning storyteller (NYC Moth StorySLAM winner and 2019 Rad Award for Storyteller of the year), was an artist-in-residence at Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC, and a recipient of the 2016 Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts. In addition to running her own business, Hillary is the producer and host of Rashomon - a long form narrative storytelling podcast where one family tells every side of the same story.
Hillary's website : https://www.tellmeastory.info/
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We connect with other people through stories, whether it's online or offline, if you watch any good speaker or entertainer or educator to illustrate what they communicate with stories. And if you're like most people, didn't you have a ton of stories you could tell? And if you did, it's turned out. We remember stories this week. My guest is Hillary Rae from Tell Me a Story. Hilary works with businesses of all kinds to help them discover and deliver the stories which can make them stand out, make their brand stand out, make them stand out as individuals, make them stand out much more deeply than any other, more superficial kind of content, which we're used to.
So hi there. And welcome back to Amplify the Digital Marketing Entrepreneur podcast. I'm Bob Tantallon. Every week I'm joined by amazing people who share what makes their business work. If you're new to the show or take a second right now to subscribe so you don't miss new episodes and you can grab some older ones when you're done with this one. Don't forget as well, you can join my Facebook community, just visit, amplify me, dot EFM forward, slash insiders and you'll be taken right there.
So welcome along. And let's meet Hillary. So this week, I am thrilled to welcome Hillary away from telling your story to the show. Hilary, welcome. Thanks, Bob. Thanks for having me. So, Hillary, for those who don't know you, why don't you start just by telling us a little bit about who you are, where you are and the kind of work you do?
Sure. I am a storyteller. I'm based in the United States, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I work with mostly entrepreneurs and folks in leadership on using personal narrative storytelling as their main powerful communication tool. And Tell Me a story also exists as a live storytelling event, which is on hiatus during the global pandemic, but will come back in some way, shape or form in the future.
I think what I like about what I'm seeing in aerospace that's quite unusual is that you're kind of on this seesaw in between entertainment and business, that the storytelling event that you you do, is it an event or is it it kind of sits on the entertainment side. Have I got that right?
Absolutely. And that's my background. I came to this work via stories for entertainment.
And me personally, 10 years ago, I began getting up on stage and telling stories from my life at comedy venues and on formal, more formal storytelling shows. And then this coming year will be the 10 year anniversary of Tell Me a stories live storytelling event. I always had entertainment at the forefront when I began this work. Great.
I'm glad I didn't misunderstand that. And you have your own podcast as well, which is it's kind of similar. It's it looks entertaining. It is entertaining. I would you describe it as also entertainment?
Yeah. So the podcast is called Rashomon. It's a long form narrative storytelling show. And the premise is that, well, when it started that each episode featured one family sharing every side of the same story. So it was an event that they all experienced together. And you hear the multiple perspective account of what happened. And I've done two full seasons. It was incredibly labor intensive. And so season three is taking a little longer than expected. But in season two, I actually spent, I believe, eight of the 10 episodes on one huge story that involved four, five families, 14 people, all connected because of an experience they shared together.
And I really loved exploring storytelling in that longer, slower unfolding.
You see, I listen to complicated podcast sometimes, and I think that just looks like so much work. This one is easy. I just talk to someone and we record it and it goes out with a little bit of sparkle, but you have to weave a thread through all of that. And that just looks mindblowing in terms of the amount of work it must take. How long does it take just to put on one episode of that?
Well, each season took about a year from start to finish. So, yeah, it takes about a year. I would say I'm six months behind on this new one just because I haven't built the time back into my schedule. But I have a lot of the recording done. I would say the most labor intensive part is the editing because I really go in and edit so that you're hearing all of the voices collectively as the story unfolds. So there's a lot of like quick edits and then me jumping in as host, filling in the gaps of the story.
But I really try to stay out of it and my perspective stay out of it and just help the listener get through like I helped them weave through each perspective.
And you can't delegate editing that kind of podcast. I imagine it's an editor's not going to understand your story.
Oh, no, I did it. All of it. I went and most all of the interviews were done in person traveling to people. But I actually really love the editing, which I think makes sense because I'm essentially in the work I do a tell me a story. I'm helping people edit the stories that they're sharing live and for like a spoken version of their story. And so that lends really comes into play when I'm editing the podcast and I learn.
I studied at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for two years and in a long distance training program. And so I did a lot of studying, of making audio stories before I really jumped into it.
Now, one of the reasons I was most keen to speak to you, because a lot of people would be listening to the show thinking digital marketing storyteller. Come on, Bob, now. And if if you're listening, thinking that one of the challenges I most frequently have with all my clients and I speak to my colleagues around the world, and what regularly comes up is this single question of how do I bring across who I am? How can I explain to people the spirit of my business, not just the the nuts and bolts and the values and the.
The features and benefits, but how can I really bring across the magic of my business and we're talking stories there, so that's why I was really excited to speak to you, because the story in your business is the beacon that will shine through your content. It's the it's what's going to attract that ideal customer. So how do you do this work with the entrepreneurs and what does that journey typically look like?
Yeah, I mean, the good thing is the word storytelling has been a buzz word in digital marketing and in entrepreneurial spaces for a number of years now. And so there's always an excitement around this idea of needing to tell a story or wanting to tell a story to convey the work that you do as the leader in your business or the products that you offer and all of that. And I think. There's a blessing and a curse to that, there's this enthusiasm and passion for this idea of storytelling, but then there's this also this idea of, well, I can't tell my story.
I have to make it about the story of the person on the receiving end of my work or the person out there listening or I don't want to be the face of my business. I want the work or the product to speak for itself. And I definitely push back on people when they come to me with that objection, because in whatever stage of business you are, the founder or leader of that business has a story that serves the purpose of the work that they do and helps others see for themselves how that work can change them, affect them, impact them, transform them.
And so I there's always this work of transforming someone's, what I call you language, like the language of speaking to the customer in second person, you flipping that to I language and sharing. Here's this experience I'm having as the leader of my business or an experience I had that relates to the experience you're having listening to me. And I'm going to tell you about that from the first person. And you're going to take what you want from that and and do this little mind map in your mind and translate it to the experiences that you have as the listener.
And to me, that is by far more impactful than this idea of talking at the person on the other end.
That makes a lot of sense. I think what comes out of that for me is a lot of questions. But one specifically is how do you move people past the point of I think most people, when they're looking at their story, they see a sea stretching back years into their childhood. There's an awful lot of stories within which there are some relevant business story landmarks. So one question is, how do you help people pull out the right elements to build their story?
And another problem, I think alongside that is we have one identity of ourselves that we hold from the inside, but the rest of the world and often those people who value us most, they see something completely different. So how do you cross that bridge from, OK, this is my self identity. I know other people have their own ideas, but I don't really understand what that is. And then throw on top of that imposter syndrome and really fragile egos.
How do you get people to the story that's going to serve them rather than the story that they think they need?
I'm so excited that you brought it up in this way, because this is exactly what I like talking about in my work and with my clients and in my newsletter and everything. So I'm very excited. I don't know if you can hear it in my voice, but I am.
But I want to touch on that identity piece first, because this has been something that I've been exploring all year. And I'm actually in the middle of a research project around identity, which I can jump back into and explain a little bit more. But yes. So I think storytelling comes in three forms. I think there are the stories we tell ourselves. And when we dig deep down into that, I think that that is where the imposter syndrome comes in.
And those, quote unquote stories we tell ourselves are really self limiting beliefs that can hold us back and and don't have much truth contained within them, their false narratives, I believe. So there's the stories we tell ourselves and then there's the stories other people tell about us. And that usually comes in the form of assumptions, perceptions, receptions. And as the communicator, we actually can't control those narratives that are being formed about us from external places and sources.
But then there's a third type of storytelling, which is the stories that you wholeheartedly want to share with other people. And those stories are the stories that will serve you in the present moment.
And when you shift, focus away from the worry and concern of how the story is being received.
And you try the hardest to push aside those internal narratives that are self limiting and can spark all of that self-doubt and imposter syndrome when you really zoom in on. OK, here's what I want to share with people. Here's why I want to share it and here's how I'm going to share it. Then when you do that and when you share those stories with your audience, the stories that are being told about you become more in line with your story in.
A story you're taking ownership over and when you start to take ownership of your story, those self limiting belief stories go away.
I love that because it's very well aligned, something I try and get my clients to think about. And it's something I often have to come back to myself, which is there are stories told about us all the time. And the more visible you become, the more people tell stories about you and you can contribute to that, or you can leave it entirely to chance and to the whims of the psychological weather in the people who are telling those stories. And something I often come back to is this idea of trying to create your own legend in a very and not in a big headed kind of way.
But a legend is a story that lingers around after you're gone. And in intelligence circles, they talk about like a secret agent has to create a legend. This is identity that they're going to live into. And that's something they have to quite deliberately cultivate in order that when they're out doing their spy stuff, people assume that, well, that's the guy who works in the supermarket. He's told me about what he's been doing there. If you create and then that situation, it's a false identity, but it's a deliberate and intentional cultivation of an identity through telling stories.
So I really like that. One of the things, again, I'm particularly drawn to in your work is you're helping a lot of people, entrepreneurs in particular, move in to being very visible and often like eyeball to eyeball on a stage. And one of the things I was reading on your website was. About public speaking courses, that public speaking courses are great at teaching the idea of public speaking, but there are not a great way to learn public speaking.
And it reminded me a little bit of what was one of my very early podcast guests, Philip Vonda's. And he's a he has a very big YouTube channel. And I was sort of asking him, how do you how do you become confident doing that kind of video? How do you get good at it? And he said, if you want to be a great tennis player, you can hire a great tennis coach, you can buy great tennis balls, get all the good gear, watch great tennis players.
But until you start playing tennis, you'll never learn to be a great tennis player. And it's the same with anything and including public speaking. But it's one thing saying, how do you actually get somebody from OK, I've accepted the idea of public speaking through to knowing what they're going to be speaking about to actually cutting their teeth and actually making a commitment there.
Yeah, it's I think the key word is commitment. And I think it's making a commitment to yourself as the person who wants to expand the realm of visibility and putting themselves out there in a whole new way. I think it's making that commitment and saying, I'm going to wholeheartedly go for this. And if I fall flat on my face, that's fine because I'm all in and this is what I want to do. And then the spoiler alert most of the time is that you never fall flat on your face once you have the tools and the training to put yourself out there by sharing your story with other people.
And the way I help people, once they trust themselves, continue to trust themselves and to continue to commit is when I work with folks, there's pretty much a three step process. And there's this deep brainstorming that happens at the beginning of the work. There's then there's preparation and practice section, which is a lot of that practicing happens with me one on one.
However, homework is always given of you need to tell the story to three people. Here are the parameters and how you're going to approach telling the story as you're practicing. Here's how you're going to do a self-assessment afterwards.
So giving homework around that and getting people to really trust that they have to practice and keep sharing the story and a variety of ways to get it to the place that they want to be. And then that third section of working together is strategy and performance and performance can be as low stakes as a story shared in a social setting and as high stakes as a keynote or your own podcast and really just trusting that you've done the work. And then there's this element of letting go and being in the moment and finding the marriage between the two.
And the more that you do it, the easier it gets. The last stage fright comes in, even if it's a virtual stage. And that was my experience.
And even telling stories on stage in front of audiences was the more I just pushed myself to get up and do it, the less scared I was. And actually the more comfortable I felt being in my own skin and putting myself out there in this way because of the energy received by the people on the listening and in that deep sense of connection, of just sharing who I am and having a deeply listening audience on the receiving end is something I've found again and again that you worry about all the negative things that are going to happen and very rarely do they happen.
But we've very rarely focus on actually the impact that what we have to say can have, because we're so wrapped up in imposter syndrome and our own anxieties, we never think about the value somebody else is going to get from what we have to say. And a lot of the time as well, I find when you are doing any kind of storytelling or public speaking in particular, there's what you wanted to communicate. But then what somebody actually takes from that can really leave you.
Surprised you think I spoke for 20 minutes about I thought I was speaking about one thing, but you're telling me you took something completely different that I'd never anticipated. And it's a magical thing, because once you start expressing yourself, especially if it's in a nicely logical, practiced, structured way, these synchronicities can start happening, that they just can never happen in any other way. And one of the things I run a challenge in a Facebook group the other day and I had to do some preparation.
And one of the quotes that I came up with was from Seneca or Greek guy, and he said that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. And that's your business right there. It's helping people be lucky. So I love it. I'm very enthusiastic about this, but the idea still makes me super anxious. So you've got the brainstorming at the. Again, you've got the execution in the middle. I'm curious to know a little bit more about the brainstorming.
How do you help people draw this kind of line through a story that takes you to a logical place rather than. Here's a random thing that happened to me.
Hmm. So I have a very specific framework for doing this and a very specific brainstorming process, but it's grounded in experiential learning. So a lot of the exercises are designed to where I give vague instruction up top to really let the person going through the exercise trust their gut and tap deep into their memory and their experience to see what comes out. And so there's a sequence of exercises like that that build upon each other. And then there's this moment of release where I say, OK, now it's time to write your list of ten.
And so what the list of 10 is, is, are the 10 story ideas that are coming to your mind after doing all of this brainstorming work that might feel a bit wacky while you're doing it, but there's a method to the madness.
And it's so funny in the in the last six months, all of the people that I've taken through and they've gotten to that list of 10, they've had 20 or more stories written down, which I never expected, because in the past, when I did it, people were even like struggling to get to the 10 in the in the time constraint. And so that's the starting place. And I really start from this broader brainstorm of of this larger context of who we are and all of the experiences that shape where we are presently in our lives.
And then once we have that large brainstorm, then everything starts to get filtered through the lens of, OK, what is your stories, the story that you want to work on now? What is the purpose of it? Who do you want to share it with? Do you have an event booked that you need to get ready for?
Is this an origin story that needs to remove itself from the stagnancy of the way that you're sharing it now and kind of find a new starting place for your origin?
So it's really like honing in on the specific goals of who I am working with. But I think it's also like, again, it's like that trust of like, OK, I'm going to go on this wild series of exercises knowing that it's going to get filtered through once the brainstorming is done to to prep and practice and craft the narrative and then build the strategy around it from there. I think if there's too much strategy or expectation set at top, it can limit your brainstorming and it can limit the, I guess, the capacity of what you really have to share with people.
Yeah, I guess it also limits people's own internal permission to play. Mm hmm. Because if you're talking stories, you're talking playing really and not sort of prejudging all your ideas and structure would tend to do that.
Mm hmm. And then it also goes back to what you said about the people listening are always going to take away the message or moment in your story. I call those stories snapshots. If someone listening is taking a picture of your story, what's sticking with them? What are they carrying away with them? That's out of your control and out of your hands. And so worrying about what you want someone to hear, what message you want to convey, like worrying about that stuff too much is trying to take control over something that can't be controlled.
And often in storytelling, I've heard a lot of especially there's a big organization called The Moth, which is a big national in America national storytelling organization. And they're brilliant. And they they do a lot of wonderful programming and feature a lot of wonderful stories. But after a while, there's always this sentence pattern of people saying, and at that moment I realized dot, dot, dot. And they deliver the moment of realization or literal message of their story to the people listening.
And I'm always so disappointed because I just want to be able to take away what I want from it and create my own message and have that moment of realization with the storyteller with them.
If they're bringing me into the scene and showing me what happened instead of telling me what happened. And so I think having too much strategy or too much focus on the messaging before you begin the storytelling work can hinder the impact and power of it.
So when you're working with entrepreneurs, there's there's a spectrum of personalities from the very playful and open through to the to very conservative and uptight. I'm I'm sort of I'm.
Yeah. What do you call that reticent or.
You know what I mean I guess is I'm stereotyping. Oh, I see what you're saying, but stereotypes are quite helpful. Mm hmm. What do you find are the most common. Barriers people have to getting through this or giving themselves permission to tell the story.
Yeah. So I think I love working with entrepreneurs because of all of the spectrum of personality types and energy that come with the territory.
And I think part of it is identifying each individual's communication strengths and communication challenges. And I actually sit with people and create a unique set of story ingredients. So it's not your story has to have a climactic, like rising action to a moment of climax to a tied up, happy ending resolution. It's really OK. What ingredients do you want to include? Are you someone that loves to share about your life with humor attached? Do you like to state things simply?
Do you want to build curiosity and suspense within your story and really identifying all of the elements that will serve each person and work on that ingredient list with them? And so there's that. And then there's also just the getting over the hurdle of, well, I'm not ready to tell my story yet because I'm not at my desired ending, which can often happen and hold people back like, oh, well, I don't want to talk about this this moment in my life that I don't have clarity around or I'm not like making eight figures.
This is like a fairy tale, like making eight figures and like working on my laptop on a beach in the Maldives or something. You know, there's always like that end goal that a lot of us think we want or think we know or think we're on the path to getting to. And so we want to wait until we've gotten over all the hurdles before we share the story. But actually, there's always an end. There's always you're always at an end and you're always moving forward.
So it's really identifying, OK, you're not in the Maldives and maybe you'll never get to the Maldives. So that's not an experience that's serving you. So what experience is serving you? Where are you now and how did you get there or what message are you trying to convey to your audience and what story from your life really illuminates that bigger idea that you're bringing forth?
And so I think it's that giving people permission to let go of the fairy tale ending because that's boring and it's also never going to happen.
I love that. And I think it's something that I meet all the time that I was speaking to a business owner today. I don't normally talk about my business, but you would think my business is all about digital marketing. It's tech tactics strategy. But most of the time when we're talking about digital marketing, it's it's positioning. It's how can we make you visible with authority to the people that are going to be influential enough to make things happen for you.
And sometimes I get I'm too old. I don't look like a 35 year old. I was speaking to a 35 year old today. I think he was saying people don't take me seriously because I'm not 65. I think it's really what you were talking about there, that your end point, you're never there. You have to make the absolute best of where you are right now, because right now it is the end of time as far as time is concerned is done today.
And it's you will only ever find your opportunities today, not tomorrow or yesterday. So, yeah, it's a bit of a ramble, but I'm not an old one. But it kind of resonated quite strongly with me that you're never ready ever. Nobody I know in business would say they're ready to take their next step, but they step anyway.
Yeah. And I think that's the important part. And I think I you weren't rambling. I, I resonated with everything that you were saying. And I think I've made this in kind of a joking way to people in conversation.
But I've said in the past that you're only ending is death. So why worry about wrapping everything up into a bow and really find like it's it's this idea of who do I want to become versus what do you want to be known for? And I like to focus on the what do you want to be known for?
And that slight tweak in prompt really helps you dig through what you've already experienced to show people where you're heading versus the who do I want to become, which feels so fantastical or aspirational and kind of boring compared to talking about what you want to be known for.
Yeah, you put bigger. Yeah. So I'm curious to know a little bit about your business then. I think we've got a good handle on the value that you bring to the world and who you bring it to. And I totally get that. I think, I think anybody I know as an entrepreneur would be excited about that. And if they're not, they should be.
Yes. But how did you get to this point, because you come from a sort of theatrical entertainment space? What's what's your story?
Yeah, so I my background is in theater, and I went to school for musical theater thinking that I was going to get up on a New York stage and be in musicals. And very soon into my four years in university, I realized that I wasn't comfortable in the skin of being a musical theater performer. And I think a lot of it had to do with my education, but a lot of that had to do with the discomfort I felt getting up and using my voice.
And in a weird turn of events, I developed a crippling stage fright while in school for performing on a stage. And I really did lose my voice sometimes physically, like I my voice would crack when I was singing and I didn't understand why, or I would lose literally lose my voice. And I felt so uncomfortable. And so I took a step back from it and not like it didn't feel like I was like giving up on a dream. It was just like, OK, like what else is out there?
And a few years came in between.
But I eventually found myself on a comedy stage thinking that I was telling jokes. But really I told a full story from a beginning, middle and end. And the first time I did it, I brought my own laugh track and I handed it I think it was on a CD, like a boombox. And it was it was 10 years ago. And I handed it to a friend and I said, Can you hit this every time you think there should be a laugh?
And so people were laughing. But my friend also did that, which then became a part of the experience. And instead of it being an experience where I was like, oh, I'm comfortable because people are laughing and they like me, I, I was thinking, oh, wow, this there's an exchange of energy here and I'm just being myself and I do like being in front of people, so how can I explore that more? And that's how the performing aspect came in.
And I had this weird experience like a few years into that, where I was invited to tell a story on stage at a Victoria's Secret sales conference in Las Vegas.
And I actually was invited via like a marketing focus group.
And I never said, oh, I tell stories on stage. I just had a really good story to tell about shopping at Victoria's Secret. And so I was flown to Las Vegas and wined and dined. And all the things were pretty amazing.
And I really my goal was just to go there to get all the free stuff and to get the free trip to Las Vegas and to have fun telling a story on stage. And it was then this huge conference hall with 2000 sales managers from all of the Victoria's Secret stores in America and all of the, you know, executive staff from the company. And they had the whole conference set up as if it was like a lingerie fashion show, like there were pink striped cylinders that we came out of.
And we had Britney Spears microphones and there were Jumbotron things with our faces. We were wearing clothes, though not under like laundry. But I told the story that I didn't really even care about. I knew it was funny. I it was the story that got me the trip to Las Vegas, and that was the goal.
And when I shared it on that stage, there was a standing ovation from all of the sales managers. And it was one of those light bulb moments of, wow, this is a really powerful and effective communication tool. I'm very impressed with Victoria's Secret looking back that they were so savvy about that and for however long ago it was. But I got excited about exploring that. Like, what if I did actually share a story to these people that I cared about?
It was relevant to them. But what if I also cared about it? What would that do? And the wheels were turning because I did want to do storytelling.
I wanted storytelling to be my livelihood. I didn't necessarily want that to be a performance based livelihood. And so that really got the wheels turning. And that's how I came to thinking of it as a communication tool instead of a performance medium.
See something that jumped into my head as you were talking. And it sounds like a really powerful experience. I sort of don't want don't want to move away from that without acknowledging it. But what popped out to me there was you had a funny story and people found it really, really engaging and different people's idea of funny. Yeah. People's idea of what's funny. Yeah. It ranges from it's actually not funny through to. That's just ridiculous. That's just downright offensive.
How do you police funny with your clients. Hmm.
So I know that humor is one of my storytelling ingredients and that is something that is a strong suit of mine. And it's never like I'm not sitting there crafting these punch lines, but I know that the lens in which I see my life has a filter of of. Humor, now that there's perspective on things and I can shine in those moments, but if someone's coming to me and they're like, I want to be funny, I can't help them do that, but I can help that pull from the way that they are already communicating the the stylistic elements and the content elements that will support that goal.
And often that's just comes from telling the truth and zooming in on small moments and details in a way that brings joy and energy and light into the conversation and into the way that you're sharing. And so that's how I approach it. And I really and it's like what you said, people are going to respond differently to things. They might not think it's funny or they might laugh at a place that we're not expecting people to laugh. And so it's never the goal to work with someone on their story, like packaging it up like, oh, now you're a stand up comedian, but it's really finding the truth and the humor.
And usually that comes from a perspective on an experience, looking back on it as the storyteller and then at the same time bringing us into that experience as the character.
Yeah. And how do you handle I guess some people are just boring. How do you help them out of this identity? If I'm a boring person, I have nothing interesting to say.
I see. I don't think anybody is boring and I know nobody's really boring.
And I think, yeah, there's that there's sometimes that, again, self limiting belief of like, I don't have anything worth sharing because nothing in my life feels monumental or maybe not even feels monumental, but could be interpreted as monumental. And so I often say, like, your story doesn't have to be that time that you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while blindfolded.
In fact, if the more you can zoom in on those small moments that illuminate the bigger story, the more impactful it will be for the people on the receiving end.
And that is like I excel at small moments stories because I haven't had any of those Mount Kilimanjaro moments in my life.
But I love bringing drama and perspective into something that maybe was so small at the time. But looking back on it as a storyteller, I know that it tells a bigger story.
And so to me, the joy in communication comes from really digging in to those smaller moments.
I love that. I don't think anybody listening will know that when I am talking about people who think they're funny but aren't or people who are really boring, I'm actually looking in the mirror. So it's all about me.
I'm going to channel it now. I would challenge all of that. And and I would challenge you to think differently about that, because I don't think I don't know. I just don't think boring exists if there's authenticity or or if there's purpose.
No, it doesn't. And I'm super rad. Just everyone needs to know. So before we started recording, I asked you a question and I thought, oh, this is going to be awkward because this is the digital marketing entrepreneurship. We're all about personal brands being super visible, online ads, blogs, YouTube, the whole Internet. And you're like super quiet online. And I thought, oh, what am I going to do here? Because Hillary is like almost nonexistent on the Internet.
You have an amazing website. Everyone needs to go and look at that. But no, no Facebook, very little Twitter, no Instagram. I thought this is weird, but when we were speaking again, we kind of touched on this earlier. I say I'm going to ask the question because I've almost answered it myself. But everybody that I have on the show, I often ask them work and opportunity can come to us in one of many ways.
Well, one of actually a small number of ways. It either comes through open sales activity. So you, you know, cold calls, you do doorstep and you you have a traditional sales machine, if you like, or it comes as the fruits of inbound marketing. So people consume your content, they discover you on the Internet, they go, I like the look of that person. And they they find their way back to you or it comes through ads and paid content.
And then there's referrals and word of mouth. Now, I often ask them to sort of out from you. How does that mix usually work for you? But I know for you it's it's going to be word of mouth, am I right? Yeah. And what we were talking about earlier when we were discussing this was that stories travel and the more powerful you tell a story, the more that story is out there in the world working for you.
And I think probably that's really you live that it's not just a hi, I'm Hillary. I help. You discover and tell your story, but your whole business is the story, if you don't have a story yourself, you don't have a business. I love that you really put your money where your mouth is there. Yeah.
And this is a sort of new angle or new action stuff that I've taken. I spent maybe twenty eighteen and twenty nineteen really doubling down on social media, growing my Instagram, which I think at the time I made the decision to grow it was that like 300 people on the Tell Me a story Instagram. I didn't put any effort into it and I wanted to grow. But I but looking back, I don't know if I really had a goal. I was like, I need to be bigger.
I need my Instagram to be big. And so I put a lot of effort there. I put a little bit of effort in Facebook and I really like liked Instagram as a user and really admired people that could really use their Instagram to showcase their work, showcase their business. But the more I tried to do what I thought I needed to do or tried to tell stories the way I like to tell stories within the confines of that platform, like word count lies image wise, and then for how quickly the it changed with like what they call stories and figuring out like, well, what can I actually do with this?
The less I enjoyed it. And it felt like a chore that didn't lead to. The type of engagement that I really wanted, which was a conversation, a moment of connection, a sale like a show where there were likes and things, but it wasn't worth it to me that I didn't need that external validation. It wasn't worth my time. And then I just started to question the ethics of Facebook and Instagram a bit.
And so, like from a personal value standpoint, I made the decision at the end of July to just go dormant and leave the profiles up, say, you know what, the best way to learn about Tell Me a story is to sign up for my newsletter. And I already was really proud of my newsletter. It's called The Speak Up, and I was sharing stories. They're sharing resources there. And I was having a conversation with people. People would reply back and share things with me and I found that really wonderful.
And when I really looked at who was working with me, it was word of mouth.
And a lot of it was like, I've been listening to your stories for X amount of years. I saw you speak at this event two years ago, and I wrote your name down on a piece of paper saying I wanted to work with you and now I'm ready to work with you. And so it's a lot of like it feels like a long game. But I, I know that I have planted lots of seeds just by showing up and sharing my story and sharing what I do, and that now it's up to the person to be ready and to commit and to trust themselves to do the work, because it's I think it's fun, but it's also hard and it's also like deep work.
And you do have to go along and go all in for it to get the results and to feel the impact. And so I know that there's that long game and the Instagram Facebook aspect just I didn't have the energy to to upkeep it and then I didn't really believe in it personally. And so I've let go and yeah, it's it's word of mouth. But again, yeah, I think my stories are traveling and I share every week on my newsletter.
I share a story, I share a communication tip of the week. I share a podcast episode of the week. Like all things that are related to the work that I do, and I've been doing a lot of virtual workshops and presentations like going in and introducing myself to new groups and communities. And it's funny with those two, there's a connection happening in the like if it's on Zoome like in the private chat on Zoome So people will be chatting publicly and sharing.
But then there's all this extra private chat that happens between me and the participants and then in my mind I'm like, Oh, I hope that this is also happening from participant participant and people are connecting via story sharing and sharing more stories in these private, more intimate conversations. And to me in the digital world, that is really exciting to me.
And this is something I hear quite often from some people that you would think are a pretty big Internet people that actually the story is really what matters. And a lot of them that the social media profiles that people see, that's the busy work. It's actually not that productive for them. They do it because that's just part of the routine. That's part of what you do. But what sells is their story. And I think a lot of people who don't find success online, it's not because they haven't got social media sorted out.
It's because they haven't got these stories that really resonate with people. They haven't got their legend created. There's there isn't something out there in the world for people to look at. Go. I love that. And I think we could all do with spending a little bit longer thinking about our stories. And hopefully some people listening will think they want to come and work with you to do that better. If they do, how would you like them to do that?
Yeah, so I work with people all fully, virtually now and fully and a one on one capacity. And I have three different crafting or narrative programs. One is a is a brainstorming session. And so you leave with that list of ten or maybe it's a list of fifty depending on how you're brainstorming goes. And then I have a solo retreat, which is my favorite service that I offer, which is includes up brainstorming with. Then you really go deep with working on one story that meets your specific goals.
And then while working on that story, you get all of the tools and skills needed to repeat that process. For other stories on your list of ten and really stories that can cross all channels, podcasts, getting up in front of an audience, live in person, in the room or on Zoom. And then even like I think once people really have that story and they also really love social media as a marketing channel, then once you have that story, you can use all of your other social media tips and tricks to really bring that story to life in a cool way or work with a digital marketer to really bring that story to life in the way that it needs to on social media.
So I think that is exciting, too, that it's not one or the other. But I think that there's a lot of the initial story work that needs to really happen and need to be done by the person whose story it is before it can go out into the world via social media. So any way that can all happen in the solo retreat. And then I also have a longer seven month package for folks that are all in on their public speaking.
They have a podcast there on other people's podcast. They have a book tour. They give a lot of keynotes, all of that. So it's giving that ongoing support in that capacity.
And if people want to find out more about you, what can they do that? So the website is tell me a story, dot info info. And there's a work with Hillary Tab right at the top of that homepage. And you can check out everything there and Hillary to bring things to a close.
What's one thing you do now? You wish you'd started five years ago? Hmm.
I would say I trust myself a lot. Like I wholeheartedly trust myself who I am and the work that I do and my purpose for being here and like as a human. And I feel fully aligned. And, yeah, I'm sure that that takes growth and aging and life experience to get there.
But I would say five years ago, which is almost like just shy of when I went full time with Tell Me a story as a full service communication business, I don't think I trusted my uniqueness and trusted my own perspective on storytelling. I was really scared that what I thought and what I taught and that I was what I believed in was too far out there and that it wouldn't resonate with people. And so it felt safer to blend in and to doubt that uniqueness and doubt that ability.
So, yeah, looking back, I wish I had just gone all in and trusted myself at the beginning, but I'm grateful for all of the self-doubt and I guess the I like not so much imposter syndrome, but self-doubt or those internal narratives that might have steered me off course.
I'm grateful for that because now there are stories I can share and now I really come into my own. And I'm sure that there's even more trusting and growth that can happen from here. I love it here in the range. You've been awesome guest. I've had great fun. I've learned so much. Thank you so much for your time. Yeah, thanks again for having me. This was such a wonderful conversation. Since speaking with Hillary, I've been much more mindful about the stories I use in business and more importantly, the stories I could be using but don't they're not yet part of my illustrations in my vocabulary, but because I'm capturing them, they soon will be before I go.
Just a quick reminder to subscribe. And if you haven't already joined the Facebook group, you'll find a link in the show, notes or visit, amplify me forward, slash insiders. If you would like to connect with me on social media, I would be thrilled. You'll find me wherever you hang out at Bob Gentle. And if you do message me, let me know and I'll follow you back. If you enjoyed the show, then as always, I would love a review and iTunes.
It means so much to me and it's also a great way to help me reach more subscribers. My name is Bob Gentled, thanks to Hilary Rosen for giving us her time this week and to you for listening and see you next week.