Content Marketing: Can Storytelling Sabotage You?

It’s become another overused, often misunderstood buzzword amongst content marketers, bloggers, copywriters, etc …


We’re asked daily if we’re telling our story. Our brand story, product story, personal story, bathroom break policy story.

Okay, I may have taken it a step too far with the final example, which leads me to the point and purpose of this article.

Can we take storytelling too far?

Can storytelling go wrong? Can we sabotage our story and, with it, our brand or business?

Yes! If you get a little too caught up in telling your story, the focus becomes all about Y-O-U. While the story should always reflect you, it should also draw in your audience with the allure of either a shared experience or a solution that fits their needs, suits their situation.

Storytelling That Succeeds

The story has to relate to your readers in a significant way or they’ll pass it off as needless and narcissistic.

The story starts to sabotage you when you forget you’re writing for the audience and start lauding yourself as the storyteller.

If your story resonates with your readers, taps into their emotions, causes them to reconsider or persuades them to pose a question … well, then it’s successful. If your story causes your audience to take any action except clicking away to something more suitable, I say you add a check to the win column.

However, far too many stories cause that calculated “click away.” Once a reader clicks away too many times they might consider opting out, hiding you from their streams or even, YIKES, unfollowing you.

Is Your Story Too Long?

A connection of mine recently spun out a personal story over several blog posts, social media posts and more.

The story was quite compelling. Something very relatable to a large part of the overall population and her following.

The problem? It centered solely on her experience. Which would have been absolutely fabulously okay for one reading, one share. But the story went on and on, with the same chapter and verse repeated over AND over again.

Instead of spinning the story in a different direction and drawing in readers by making it about THEM, she centered the story on herself.

The Story Killer? Self Congratulations!

This connection made a fatal error when the story stopped being about the story itself, a shared experience that could have touched many, and continued to share her own successes, tied to the story, in a self congratulatory way.

Put quite simply, the repeated postings started to sound an awful lot like bragging.

Stop Turning Stories Into Press Releases

If your story screams, “See ME, see how I prevailed,” it’s no longer a shared story that’s meant to spark discussion, create connection and build lasting relationships.

Consider this, is it a story or a press release? Are you broadcasting or sharing? Is it all about you, or is it about your audience and their experiences?

Stories can absolutely sell. But they first have to connect with your audience, building trust in your shared experiences. Otherwise it’s just a promotional blast that will fade into the noisy and forgettable content coffers.

How do you share stories without making them all about Y-O-U?

2 replies
  1. Carol Lynn
    Carol Lynn says:

    This is a great take on the dark side of storytelling. I’m a huge fan of story but there is certainly a way to take it too far and making it “all about you” is definitely one of those ways. It sounds like a paradox but ultimately the best stories are the ones you tell about yourself while making it all about the reader. An art for sure! I really like this topic, glad you opened it up!

    • Mallie Hart
      Mallie Hart says:

      I think most storytellers have the best of intentions, Carol Lynn. It’s just that they latch onto that good thing and take it that one step too far. Very easy to do and unless someone points it out, a little hard to see. Balance in all things content isn’t all that easy to achieve.

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