People have better lives on Facebook. They look prettier on Instagram. Their careers advance faster on LinkedIn. And, they all sound wittier on Twitter. Or do they? This award-winning short film shows the reality of the life some people have been living on social media: http://vimeo.com/97115097
Despite the hyperbolic nature of the movie, it shows how social media today can create a devastating experience for someone who cannot differentiate real life from the life that appears on their screens.
The reality is that everyone has a failure story. Everyone. Abraham Lincoln. Steve Jobs. Me. And probably you and your business.
However, let me share some good news: There is a world outside of social media where people are eager to learn from your mistakes. If you are honest with them, they will like, share, pin and retweet your ideas, even when they’re wrapped in a failure story. Fail is the new black.
Mature and accomplished professionals are not afraid of exposing their errors for others to analyze and benefit from them. They live by the motto “I err therefore I am.” They create engaging and compelling stories from their failures, in hopes of educating and persuading… and it works. Across generations and cultures, people who are inspired and motivated by stories of success are often more inspired and motivated by failure.
True leadership is the ability to influence others. If you share your failures as well as your successes, you are more likely to create empathy with your audience, who in turn will be happy to share their stories and ideas with you. In a world where people expect you to be richer, faster, stronger and prettier, not conforming to the norm can bring a breath of fresh air that people immediately relate to.
This is exactly what I did earlier this year in Istanbul. In a presentation called, “How we failed to win a 100,000,000 word translation contract and what you could have done different,” Diego Bartolomé, from tauyou, and I shared with audience members attending the annual GALA Conference the scope of the client’s request, how we structured our offer and the risk analysis we did internally. We then opened for debate and asked participants, “How would you have dealt with this prospect?” Below is the link to the presentation with my notes:
The result? The session had the highest attendance of the whole conference, and out of the people who responded the satisfaction survey, 59% thought it was excellent, 36% considered it good and only 5% deemed it fair or poor. It connected. It resonated with professionals that I view as colleagues and potential clients.
The Internet (and by extension, your inbox) overflows with success stories as sales pitches. This overuse of case studies, which once served to show your prospects the solution you found for a particular customer, today is like offering “new and improved” in your marketing material: everyone does it. Consider writing a failure story that engages your prospects with the knowledge gained, so it also demonstrates your expertise and solution-driven attitude.
The key to a great failure story is ultimately treating it in a positive way. Grab your reader’s attention with rarely heard negative phrasing. While at first they may think there is something wrong with your message, potential customers will view you and your company as more honest and transparent when you share a failure story and what you did to reverse the situation.
Failure stories can be good for your team, too. Knowing that your company is learning from its own mistakes reinforces a corporate culture where team members can make mistakes, everyone focuses on learning from them, and the organization works toward a positive outcome.
Building failure into your content provides some pretty important benefits. You can extend your professional network and increase the prospect pool for your organization. Your personal brand and your company brand can be enhanced tremendously by transparency and the aura of expertise that comes from sharing hard-won knowledge. Of course you should follow content creation and localization best practices when you’re developing your failure story, but remember that honesty and sharing experience cross language and cultural barriers.
I’d love to hear your failure story. Please leave a comment to share what you’ve learned through failure, and how others’ mistakes have helped you and your business benefit from the new black.