Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Lisa Robbin Young.
As Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes started making the rounds, people began talking. Her well-crafted speech had one point everyone could rally around, regardless of their stance on the politics of the day.
“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Regardless of your position or lot in life, you have your truth. You also have the power to share it. Sure, the scope and reach of your platform may not rival Oprah’s, but you still have power to wield your truth. And wield it you must. Voices all over the world are being squelched. We need your perspective, because sometimes we can’t (or won’t) see it until you point it out. (Tweet this)
“Okay,” you say, “but how? I just want to make a good living doing what I love. How do I say the right things to get my audience to buy from me?”
In my experience, this anxiety stems from a sense, somehow, that creatives are not allowed to be transparent, authentic, or otherwise genuine about their life and work. That they have to pick one or the other, to appear “put together” or a “certain way” if they are to meet the expectations of their brand or their audience.
Let me remind you: YOU are the business owner and you can build this thing any way you want!
You get to choose your persona, your public identity and how to share your truth. The context of your life as a human being informs your creative work, and vice versa. It’s why I believe that the more you share the truth of your “warts, sparkles, and all,” the easier it is for your right audience to connect with you and ultimately buy from you. How can you be truly successful if you can’t be true to yourself?
To that end, here are five ways to help you connect with and speak your truth to your target audience.
1. Practice Safety First
That is, give yourself a chance to practice sharing your truth. Find a community of supporters who will let you speak what’s on your mind without judgement or shame. Learning to share your voice and speak your truth for the first time will rarely be as eloquent as Oprah. Because of that, be awkward in the privacy and comfort of your own circle or platform. You can say things in a wonky way until they come out right.
Also be willing to experiment with phrases. I have a tendency to use “y’all” a lot on social media but not in my emails. I wrote and spoke about the “Noble Empire” a lot before I felt comfortable enough to put it in my book. The things you say today will be a part of your past tomorrow. Some of it, over time, will become cringe-worthy if you’re growing as a human being. That’s life. Your past is a piece of you, but it’s not all of you. And as you practice speaking up in safe spaces, you’ll develop the confidence to start speaking on other platforms (see below).
2. Talk about Yourself
Pretend I’m a potential client. As one, your “why” only matters to me insofar as it helps me attain my goal. But who you are as a person, how you share your voice, and what you’re about outside of your company matters a whole lot more. It’s also becoming increasingly more important to potential clients. In some cases, it’s sometimes MORE important than your offer itself. Just look at the number of incredibly talented actors who have been dropped from projects or ejected from the industry for bad behavior off screen. They were excellent at their craft, and yet, the public outcry about who they were in their daily lives overshadowed any Academy Awards they may have earned.
Tell us about your core values and beliefs — and live them out so we can see you in action. Share the stories that have shaped you and your business journey. Tell us what matters to you. Let us get to know who you are so we can decide if we know, like, and trust you enough to deepen the connection. If you’re pretending to be something you’re not, how will we ever fall in love with the real you?
3. Remember Your Audience
People can sometimes handle talking about themselves. However, they typically get anxious when they remember they’re talking with an audience. “What if I say the wrong thing?” they ask. But they’re asking the wrong question. They should instead ask, “So what? Why does this (whatever it is) matter to my audience?”
By asking “so what?” you create “guardrails” for your personal stories. The rails keep you on track, sometimes literally, and force you to be clear about the message you’re delivering. If you can’t articulate why they should care, you haven’t done your job as a storyteller. Figure out why the story matters. The power of its truth will come through fully if you do.
There were so many examples I could have shared in this post. I deleted most of them because, while they mattered to me, they didn’t offer you any more benefit. Part of what Made Oprah’s eight minutes at the Golden Globes so powerful is that she knew exactly who she was speaking to and packed those eight minutes with stories that mattered to her audience.
4. Keep Squeaking, Wheel
Creatives can be boat-rockers, snow-globe shakers, and tippers of apple carts. That can make it scary to speak your truth.
Speak it anyway.
Yes, it will take courage to stand your ground in the face of people who don’t believe or understand you. Some people might think you’re a bit crazy. But some people will listen. Your truth resonates. So squeak on, wheel. Use your platform to share your voice and speak your truth. When you’ve gotten some confidence, start sharing your voice on platforms where your target audience exists.
5. Remember Who Owns the Platform
Speaking of platforms, you won’t be right for all of them. That’s as it should be. Platform owners like YouTube and Facebook have an agenda. That isn’t necessarily as nefarious as it sounds…but you should be aware of it. If you fit the platform owner’s agenda, you get to use that platform. If you don’t, well…
When an unknown person started reporting a colleague’s Facebook posts — posts that were entirely appropriate and did not deviate from anything she’d been sharing all along — Facebook temporarily suspended her from their platform. She did nothing wrong, and yet, Facebook was entirely within its rights to block her.
Why? Because they own the platform.
For better or worse, that’s the risk of choosing to be on a platform you don’t own. It’s a strong reminder why you shouldn’t rely solely on other platforms to spread your message or grow your business. It’s also one of the main reasons why I advise clients to build their own platform, then use other platforms as outposts to invite people back to their home turf.
I get to appear on Productive Flourishing because I create content and share ideas that matter to you, and because it’s valuable for Charlie’s platform to have me here. Thousands of other people could take my place, but, because I play by Charlie’s rules, which were designed for his benefit as well as yours, I get invited back. (Thanks, Charlie!)
Don’t Expect Miracles
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. As a musician living in Nashville, I can attest to this. I know that if I want to perform, I have to be ready when the call comes. That means I practice when nobody is looking so that I’m prepared for when they are. It’s foolish to expect an invitation to speak on a big stage or guest post on someone’s platform if you haven’t done the work in the first place. Can it happen? Sure. But “overnight success” is more often years in the making.
By practicing now, when almost no one is watching, you’ll be equipped when your Golden Globes moment comes. You’ll stand with poise and confidence and speak your truth.
And we’ll all be watching (and cheering).
Linda Ursin says
I wholeheartedly agree with you Lisa and speaking your truth, being yourself is so much better for you too. Both for your mind and your overall health.
Lisa Robbin Young says
Yes!! When you’re trying to shoe-horn yourself into someone else’s mold, it makes it hard for people to see, let alone fall in love with, the real you.
It’s not always easy. I’ve had my share of jobs lost, relationships ended because speaking my truth was more valuable to me than what I was losing in the process. Sometimes I was wrong and had to clean up a mess. But the rewards were always greater than the losses. ALWAYS.
Susan Kuhn says
I like this post very much. I’ve recently made relationships with a community foundation and a monastery that are warm, friendly and promising by telling my story. I didn’t at all know what I was doing. I am certain I will get more polished, but polished expertise will never replace making a personal connection. And just as you said, it wasn’t about being “expert” but about genuinely caring about them and having something authentic to say.