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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E102. How to Leverage Storytelling on Social Media with Ash Rathod

Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.

Francisco Mahfuz 0:05

Welcome to The Storypowers Podcast, the show about the power of stories, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Ash Rathod. Ash is a story consultant, writer and certified brand strategist. He runs his own creative agency, and he's one of the founders of the storage team, alongside Michael Kirsten, who was a previous guest on this show. When he's not helping corporate clients or running one of his programmes, Ash spends most of his time going viral on LinkedIn, racking up millions and millions of views with his personal vulnerable stories. The rest of the time, he's busy telling all of us why there's no point trying to go viral. Ladies and gentlemen, Ash Robert. Ash, welcome to the show.

Ash Rathod 0:52

Thank you so much. What a great intro. I didn't realise I did that. But it's true. And you know what I don't, I don't purposely go out, trying to go viral is one of those things that happened. And I kind of figured things out. And it all boils down to story or the elements of story. I'm sure we're going to get into but yeah, and it's so true that going viral isn't the main thing about it? Well, it depends on what your objectives are. But from a business point of view, yeah, if you can go viral and you're on brand, then great. But yeah, there is the addiction to go viral. And it doesn't do anything for you or your business.

Francisco Mahfuz 1:34

If I'm not inventing information that I might or might not have researched about you in the last few days. The first time you I'm not sure if you'd call that viral. But the first time a post of yours really blew up was at a time when you you weren't doing necessarily well on LinkedIn. Right? I think you had just started you didn't have you didn't have a massive audience or anything in I think you did a post about your vitiligo and that one one went kind of crazy, right?

Ash Rathod 2:02

That was exactly yeah, I've been on LinkedIn for years. I can't remember how long, but like everyone else, you know, you have a LinkedIn profile. It's your, your CV online, I suppose it's a place where you go networking, and I'd log into LinkedIn. I don't know, probably once a month, once every two months even it wasn't the go to I wasn't even that much of a social media guy, you know, I didn't really wasn't really into Facebook I wasn't into definitely wasn't into Instagram. I was on LinkedIn, just to really connect or keep connected with the people that I used to work with. So yeah, going back to that specific post, it was I had under 1000 followers at that time. And there were just connections from previous jobs and things like that. And at the time of my skin changing, its, you know, losing its pigment, it was a time of stress. And that's why it's kind of kicked off. It's an autoimmune condition called vitiligo. And it was an autoimmune condition that I always had dormant, that lie dormant. But then it got kicked off, it kicked off with stress. So I've not always had this skin condition. I don't know whether you've seen any pictures, or I've posted any pictures before of me. Without the skin condition.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:24

I've seen some really weird pictures where your faces is all the same colour. And I'm like, Who is this bloke? It took me a while to match one thing to the other. Because it just I think we've all gotten so used to seeing your profile picture on LinkedIn that it took me it took me aback a little bit of the first time, the first time I saw it.

Ash Rathod 3:43

I love how you a little of how you say that I saw some weird pictures, because that's kind of when I look back at my pictures of how I have been for the last 34 years is now weird. To me. It looks it doesn't look like the same person. And funnily enough, my daughter also asked me recently, she's 13. And she said, would you ever want to because we were looking, we always look at photos and stuff. She asked, would you ever want to have that back? And he was like, I don't know. I think it'd be weird. I quite I've really leaned into it and I've really embraced it.

Francisco Mahfuz 4:20

It doesn't hurt that he kind of looks like a superhero mask. You know, you could you could look in many different ways, but the way it looks, it kinda looks like a superhero mask. So

Ash Rathod 4:31

yeah, you know, when I was funny with vitiligo, it's very much a symmetrical and I didn't know this until I saw my dermatologist. It's very symmetrical. So whatever happens on one side, it's pretty much the same. On the other side, not exactly the same, but that's what happened. So, you know, I've all my elbows, elbows, their knees and feet, everything's symmetrical. It's weird. So yeah, and different people have in different ways. But yeah, going back to that post about LinkedIn, It was a point where, even before the pandemic, I have my clients all around the world. So mainly Switzerland, America and parts of Asia. So I was having video calls all the time, there was a point. And then where I was making excuses when my skin started changing, I started making excuses not to be on calls, it started happening again, and again, and again, to the point where my clients were like, we've seen you in ages as what's happening. And one of my clients did actually ask that is weird now going back trying to think about the chronology of it all. But that was a pivotal moment in terms of really making me talk about it, because my wife also saw the change in me my confidence, my, you know, affecting me in a huge way. And then affecting, obviously, my business, because I'm cancelling calls, and things like that. But I was the type of person that never really ever wanted to talk to anyone about it, you know, counselling or therapy. I'm not against it. And in fact, I'm even considering it now. Because I think it's a great thing. But it was one of those things. Before, I used to think if I talk about it, it just puts too much focus on the problem. So what I did was, I knew my wife was right, so I decided to write this post on LinkedIn, because it was a place that I didn't really visit that much I didn't really care about, other than in hindsight, all my clients were there anyway. So I wrote this post. And it was that kind of that moment, literally, after I posted it, you know, you feel a little bit of remorse after posting. And you're thinking, What have I done? This is not the type of place I should be posting this type of stuff. And yeah, it like you say it wasn't viral, viral, but it was viral in comparison to my other posts, where, you know, they were doing about 400 500 views, impressions now, as they rightly called per post, and that one did 85,000. I think

Francisco Mahfuz 6:59

for most people's most people's experience with with LinkedIn, I don't know much about other platforms, but at least for LinkedIn, 80,000 views is, you know, it's a tonne of views. I know people who consistently post in do well and get engagement. And you know, it's very in my case, for example, it's, it's very common for me to get, you know, 7000 10,000 12,000, the occasional 15,000. I don't think I've ever gotten a post to do 80,000 views. So far. I think for someone who goes from 500 to 80,000, when you didn't have an audience where now you have 40 odd 1000 followers. Now, you know, arguably, you don't need that many people beyond your network to see it to get 1000 views back then. I mean, just the math doesn't seem to work. If you understand how the algorithm works. It's like how many people saw this post to begin with, that they pushed it out so much.

Ash Rathod 7:52

Yeah. And you know what, let me be clear as well, at all of my posts don't, you know, I get the 10 1000s I get 5000s I get 20,000. Fake 1000s Average is probably around about the 30,000. Mark. LinkedIn is quite accurately generous. I know, some people might not agree with me. But I think it prides itself on relevancy. And that's important. It's and it's important, not only because it gives everyone a chance to create content that can be potentially seen by their audience that's relevant to the audience. Phase. Also important in terms of, you know, it keeps you on edge, like you just don't become complacent. Now, don't get me wrong, you'll get accounts that are just a half the hundreds and 100 1000s of followers, and quite rightly so these accounts like I'll name a few. There's just in Wales, there's Lea Turner. They're amazing content creators, but they put their work in, what they've done is they've they've taken their audience on a journey up until the point, you know, well today, like so every time they post is less about knowing how the algorithm works, and more about the tribe that they've built up. And that's massive in well, not storytelling as such, but brands work that I do as well, brand strategy. So you know, it's also important with storytelling as well, you've got to have all storytelling on social media. You've got to have those engaged followers. It's not just about followers, is that word before that engaged followers. And that's how you do it. It's like, you know, you bring in people into your world that connect with you on a deeper level. It's almost like yeah, that they'll they'll you show up for them, and they'll keep showing up for you. That's the way I see it.

Francisco Mahfuz 9:38

I can't remember if it was that post, because going back it's difficult to find posts that are that far back, but there was one post of yours that was about vitiligo that also, if didn't go viral at least got a tonne of traction, which was the one that made me realise that your wife is a much better human being than my wife because you because this is the post about how you had waited a very long time to go to this Skin Clinic, and they basically painted your face to make the whole thing look the same colour. And then you got back home probably feeling pretty chuffed about yourself. And then your wife went like Ash, this is not you. We were happy with the way you were right now. No, I don't I don't have vitiligo. But a couple of years ago, I started getting my skin started getting really red, from from maybe too much skin over the years. And then I you know, I had some sort of treatment. And then my wife said, Oh, that seems to have worked perfectly well, because your face is all kind of the same colour now. And I said, Oh, no, it's because the sunscreen that they applied right after she asked me if I wanted it with colour or without, and I was like, you know, let's try the colour. Let's see what that's like. And she's like, Oh, is that what you're wearing? Now? I was like, Yeah, can you keep doing that? Sure. I'll put the sunscreen that hasn't been of colour. So my face looks all the same. If that's if that's what you want. There you go. See, you know, these are the things you find out that you're not looking for when you do research on other people's content. Yeah, exactly.

Ash Rathod 11:11

Exactly. Yeah, that post, again, the chronology of it. I don't remember but it was definitely I posted the after I posted that first one. And it just made me feel that I can just be vulnerable. I can and that's that's an important thing to be. I'm not talking about contrived tear jerker stories just for the sake of it. I'm talking about stories that come from the heart. And we all have them, right. We all, we all have them, we just need to mine for them a little bit more. If you're the type of person that thinks I haven't got any stories, you have got stories, everyone's got stories, that post did phenomenally well, I think, definitely over a million views. And that was yes, specifically, there were those moments, they're going back to that first post, I naturally write like that, just because I have just done storytelling, you know, that's part of my university course, I have a passion for storytelling. But I then put two and two together, I'd when I actually then look back at that Spitfires post, I was like, oh, that's got a little bit of a story arc to it. And like, and then the post afterwards, I posted, it was something ridiculous, I can't even remember what but it didn't do as well. And I was quite arrogant about it like, oh, after this one, I'm just going to keep building and building and it wasn't the case. So and I'm not saying it's just about stories, like there's content out there that is not written in a story format. It's definitely helped me and going back to that post about my wife, and you know about my skin makeup, me trying to hide the fact that I've got this skin condition and be the man that I used to be there all the right elements, because I knew that story was working. So I wrote it in a way that would be communicated in the best way. And that is by story. Yeah.

Francisco Mahfuz 12:58

So this is something I find quite interesting from trying to analyse your content. And we're gonna get into some of the stuff you teach other people because one thing that I find very different when I'm looking at the stuff you write, and the stuff I write, for example, is that there's a few things. One is that a lot of the times you post just a story, in not you talking about story, are you talking about other things you learned, those tend to be of the like, slightly bigger, more vulnerable type. So there's there were some some about vitiligo, there was some about you lying to a customer, that one did pretty well. So there's a lot of them that are about sort of bigger failures or, or bigger moments in your life where you felt that you weren't good enough, what I didn't see as much at least in the as far as back as I could I could do the research was something I do all the time, which is I tend to I think I post, like on an average, I tend to post more stories than almost anyone else I see around right now, almost always Mo. So I have posted about mental health challenges, and I've posted about other things like that. But I tend to post about something my kid said, I tend to post about something I just stumble upon at work, just because that's now how I I've learned to communicate, particularly when it comes to LinkedIn or when I'm speaking or training other people. Now, when you're talking to the people you work with either through the story converter, which was the original programme you had and now the story, Jim, are you focusing on the more vulnerable slightly bigger stories? Or are you trying to help people with the smaller stuff to Great

Ash Rathod 14:38

question, it doesn't have to be the vulnerable. And one thing that when me and Mike started the story, Jim, we said and I've said it on a couple of posts as well and comments. The story gym isn't about people coming in and being like me and Mike is about them being more than so you know, having the confidence to be them. have the confidence to talk about the things that they want to talk about have the confidence to create content that aligns with their objectives. Now, yeah, those stories have worked for me, and is a big part of my, I suppose the my brand values, my brand values or being kind to yourself being vulnerable, being transparent, just embracing the real you. That's what my kind of personal brand and personal philosophy is about. That's why those stories I do more of, but going back to your question, it's not what we teach all the time. It's like, what we do teach is we teach the fundamentals of story telling. And that might be storytelling from a brand strategy brand. Overall thing, you know, your positioning, how does your bigger narrative for your, your business, for example, align with your customers stories, because at the end of the day, is the customer story that we should be focused on when it comes to business? How do you help them, I do say, don't be scared to be vulnerable, but you don't have to be, you don't have to share everything about you and your life. I think you do it? Well, I think you do it well, in terms of the smaller stories, like they don't have to be kind of real vulnerable, personal, they just moments of your life that kind of build up. And what we do teach in the story gym, and you know, in my framework, generally, is that, especially when it comes to LinkedIn is that you have that bigger narrative, you have that bigger story, let's focus on what that is first, and then start mining for these smaller stories that fit into this bigger narrative. And the way out the analogy that I use is like that jigsaw puzzle, jigsaw pieces, so you have that bigger picture, make sure you know what that bigger picture is. And then start feeding your audience with the little jigsaw puzzles and pieces, and let them build that picture. And soon enough, they'll see it because we see that mistake, don't worry a lot in especially social media, because it's really a challenge to write a story that's succinct. And that's going to resonate with people that are pretty much time poor. Scrolling through, we try putting everything in that one post, we just have so many things going on. And that's a huge mistake, you've got other opportunities to do that. You've got other jigsaw pieces to give to your audience. And once you start building them over time, that's when you know that they'll see that bigger picture. And that's when you'll start building your tribe,

Francisco Mahfuz 17:33

what I keep struggling with. And this is not just me, but but almost anyone that I know that that knows how to tell stories well is I'm always surprised that what has happened to me hasn't happened to other people in that, I find that in general, being a good writer is much harder than being a decent storyteller. Because if you're a decent storyteller, usually that just means finding it something happened, you realise, okay, this is interesting. Other people are going to find this interesting there is there is some major angles for a business point here. And then usually, all you're doing is relating what happened and if What if what you found is a conversation, then it's even easier, because you don't have to have basically any writing skills to just say, you know, I was talking to my wife, and then she said, blah, blah, blah. And then you say something, she says something you say something story is pretty much over. And then you have a few lines to get your business point, I find that once you know how to find the stories to be much easier, then trying to compose a post out of ideas in lessons and finding a voice that is entertaining to read through. But is not bossy, or that doesn't sound you know super arrogant or something. And some people make the the the arrogant voice work. And now the thing deglosser and I'm thinking of you, there's a very particular style, it takes a great writer to do that, and amused people and not just people thinking who is this knob? Likewise, how does he get to talk to me like this? So I'm always, I'm always kind of surprised that that a lot of people don't particularly know how to tell stories. They don't do the This is a story. Here's my point more than than the writing, in your case, reading through your stuff. Um, I was a bit surprised because you do tell a lot of stories, but they tend to be the bigger ones. And a lot of them was like, Do you really find it easier to just write out the post with a framework which I think you use the one you use often is the hit them framework, then actually just find a little story to illustrate the point.

Ash Rathod 19:44

Yeah, so the little story is I think it's important to know the difference between anecdotes and stories, right so you can get anecdotes that aren't generally stories. There might be a moment in your life where you went to meet your friend you had a drink with your friend, he'd lost his key. And then that's it. That's kind of what happened. Like the little anecdotes or moments in your life that you kind of zoom into for detail that may then create a cause you do this well, they create a change in your way of thinking, or they has a message and that's a story. And don't get me wrong. I have done those small pieces. You just don't remember them. Maybe because they didn't do as well. And a lot of the time as well. I'm not ashamed to say this. I do repost a lot of my old viral stories

Francisco Mahfuz 20:33

I have noticed. Yes. Go back long enough. You started seeing several years ago, I'm sure I've read this word before.

Ash Rathod 20:40

I've got to be careful with that, I suppose. But because what I'm doing is I'm helping people to tell stories just like yourself. I think those bigger stories that are do really well, they serve as a great example. So that's why I focus on those whether it's trying to write them and also reposting them. You don't need

Francisco Mahfuz 21:01

to be careful with that at all. So I repost stuff all the time. Like I don't have to repost stories, but I have reposted videos I got lazy this year with with filming this creative stuff that sometimes I do with skates and special effects or whatever. And I've reposted I think six or seven of those videos that were kind of a year old. And most of them do as well. We're better than the original ones did. And then I was listening to iPhone I think was Richard Moore who was talking about this or wherever you listen to this is a no Richard Morris is like I post a lot about sales and LinkedIn stuff on LinkedIn. reposts every three months, like every three months in the The truth is even like the people that are you kind of your fans and your community, they're probably going I think I've seen this one before. Right? But you know, if you're posting every day, I don't think anybody be graduating from like, I think I read this one six months ago, I was like, Sure.

Ash Rathod 21:55

I posted a post and so okay, I'll just let it go. And then I had a conversation with someone in my group about reposting old posts. You know, he was in the same predicament where he had lots of work. And sometimes it's difficult to be creative. Well, a lot of the time, it's difficult to be creative, and Asad start reposting old posts. And he had this thing, like many of us do is like, Yeah, well, that's just cheating. That's not original. And, and I'm like, No, it's not because it is your story. And I come from an advertising background as well. Remember the amount of times that you see an ad on TV circulating, or hear an ad on radio. At the end of the day, you've got to think like a marketer. If your message is about your brand, then you want to keep reinforcing that. I then saw him like and comment on the post that I reposted four weeks ago. And I said to him, do you remember me posting that? And he said, No. And I said, Well, there's a repost. So I've proved my point. And he said, I didn't see that before. And I said, Well, this is the thing a lot of your first connections might have not even even if they were first connections in my I have not seen the post. And he said he had no I definitely didn't. So I dug a little bit deeper as well. I went back to that post. And there he was commenting and liking that post so we didn't even remember. So the fact that he you know, didn't see it. He just didn't even remember so yeah, I mean,

Francisco Mahfuz 23:19

I am now rewatching the whole of Seinfeld. And I've gotten my wife roped into watch it from the beginning and I still find it as funny or funnier than the first time in so does the world because that show has been making. I forget the number I think is $60 million to Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David every single year based on reruns. And I think even things if you remember it, it's funnier or more entertaining, because you know, you kind of remember it is become an inside joke now. And even if you don't remember, you still see value in it. So I think there's a bunch of stuff in there. You know, not everybody sees everything you post. If they see it, they're unlikely to remember and if they see it in reverse like out the physical just reposted this Fred Flintstone thing I definitely saw this one you still get a like they're gonna scroll up as opposed to get a like and then move on. It's like I don't know I can't be bothered commenting on this one again. But sometimes as I'm sure as I know happened to you, you post something that did okay the first time and now it just goes bananas. I did one I mean there's no one didn't want to go viral or anything but I there's this picture I have in front of the set of friends as I'm sort of playing guitar at Central Park which is the cafe that they spend all the time playing in a room the first time I posted that I've got like 80 likes and 80 comments or something like that. It was okay post and I reposted with the exact same taxed. I didn't change a thing in the last I checked that was like 180 likes and comments and have gotten like 15,000 16,000 views exact same post. Well, how

Ash Rathod 24:55

long ago was it a year? Give or take? Okay, so you posted reposted the year after. So you must have had more followers more,

Francisco Mahfuz 25:03

but not as many, but not that many 20%. More maybe.

Ash Rathod 25:06

Right, right. And there's different things that happen. How many people are on LinkedIn, which first percentage of your first connection see you because that's what happens with LinkedIn so that you post something, and they test it to a small percentage of your first connections. If it does, well, engagement wise, then it gets pushed out further and further. So you that's one thing that we can never control have that recently, I bet I did change the post. And the first time it did 18,000 views, and I reposted the post without the image. So I had a screenshot of because I would promote in my book, and I just took that out of it and just had the writing. And that did like 250,000. And the reason why was because because I added that picture. It took a wave that took away the most impactful thing of that post, which was the last line. So it kind of distracted the audience. So it's definitely well worth reposting maybe without videos or different formats carousels. And because people just and that's another thing people different people consume content in different ways. Some people like reading some people like watching videos, some people like carousels, you know, it's it works differently for different people

Francisco Mahfuz 26:20

when you're working with with anyone either in the storage team or directly. When it comes to storytelling in particular, what do you find? What is the most common difficulty? Or or the most common mistake that you see this students doing? In the beginning? What what do they what are they getting stuck on?

Ash Rathod 26:39

I think it's maybe just not having that structure. It's always your, you've got a you put pen to paper and you just write away and you're probably flooded with kind of anecdotes and details and stuff. But there isn't a real structure, there isn't that story arc, which Every story needs an arc, Every story needs those elements like yes, later on, you can bend them a little bit, and you can change things around. But you need to have that foundational knowledge of what a story is, and what makes a story. And I think it's just that. So I've had people come into the story gym or work with me. And they they're great writers are going back to your point as well. I'm not a great copywriter. But I know story well enough. So I've seen writers that have just write the beautiful with words, but the never gets to that point, they will never has that climax, it never has that resolution, it never has that end kind of takeaway message, it doesn't have those stakes, it doesn't have a lot of those, you know, storytelling elements, once they start learning that and rewrite, and with that infocus their content changes, their confidence changes. And they're able to write even more and more, I think mainly Is that is that structure, and also that emotional element as well. Every story has to have emotion, we have to elicit emotion, at least, we don't have to tell an audience how to feel. But there has to be those certain things that that will elicit emotion, whether it's conflict, whether it's states, whether it's that transformation that people can resonate with. And once you know you have those elements, and you're aware of those elements, you'll start using that within your content.

Francisco Mahfuz 28:24

Yeah, what I find is, you know, I think it's debatable the people you're describing if they are actually good writers, or if they're just have a good grasp of vocabulary and rhythm with the writing. Because because a lot of the things we're talking about that apply to stories apply to other types of writing. And I think the the mistake for a lot of them is they don't know what the point of the story or the post is before they start writing if you don't know that you've already started wrong, because at some point, you're gonna have to find the find the point. And typically, if you tack tacking that on at the end, it never feels it feels like okay, fine, you really trying to hammer a point to to ram a point into this story or this piece of writing, but that's not what it was about, necessarily. And a couple of other things you mentioned there, which are, which are the stakes, which is a very storytelling word they think. And I tend to say to people when when you're doing sort of a checklist after you written the stories, okay, why do the characters care about whatever's going on? Right? Because if there's not a very clear paying for them, like, you know, this, this thing, this project I'm trying to do for work, if this fails, this is terrible. Why? Because if that's not very clear, it's going to be very difficult to elicit emotion and empathy for the character. Because it's like, fine you know, stuff goes wrong at work all the time. But is this the last one before you get sacked? And your family depends on you to pay the bills or it doesn't even need to be something as dramatic you could just be, you know, you always thought of yourself as a really capable in your job. And now you have two bad projects. And if this one goes bad, too, this might be the, you know, the last nail in the coffin of yourself of your professional self esteem.

Ash Rathod 30:12

Exactly, and that you've hit on a point there. So that second part of that story was a little bit more that I think a lot of people would resonate with, because it wasn't just about that outer journey, right, you're talking about now that inner journey is like the thing that we all relate to, I think all of us do relate to imposter syndrome, I think a lot of us do relate to not having the confidence at certain parts in our life, I know that a lot of us relate to doing things for our family or our loved ones. And, you know, once you start adding those elements, which is why I called the human elements and the emotional side parts to your story that a wider audience will relate to, then it doesn't matter really what those details are going to be. It's those feelings that people are going to relate to.

Francisco Mahfuz 31:03

Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. We don't relate. So when sometimes when we talk about story elements, we talk about, you know, a relatable character, but the characters are not relatable for who they are. Typically, I mean, sure, if you work in, in a creative agency, maybe that's relatable to me, if you believed in the lever lived in the UK, that's relatable, you spend a lot of time on LinkedIn share those things that are relatable, but what's really relatable is how you feel. And that's also much better, because then you can make almost any character or you relatable to almost anyone else, because most people have the same similar fears and similar challenges. And in that's what I think people don't get, if you keep trying to, to make a character relatable based on external circumstances, you have to become a fiction writer, because there's just no unless you have a very niche audience, and you are war exactly like them. But even so, it's how you feel that they're gonna find relatable. Because if you're always super capable, and then you decide that my time is better spent being a consultant, or coach, instead of working for a corporate, because I'm so good at this, that I need to help other people, they're not gonna relate to you.

Ash Rathod 32:19

Right, exactly. But even even to that point, as well, you know, you can write about something that's very niche and specific to your audience. And maybe it'll work if you don't think about those other elements like those human elements, I think it's still hard. Let me take an example of a book that I picked up from a mentor of mine and a coach, a guy called Marty Neumeier. He's written a lot of books about brand strategy. And he's never written a story like a fictional book. So he decided to, I can't remember what a couple of years ago might be a bit longer. He's decided to write a thriller. And it was he positioned it as a business thriller. And in my head, I was thinking, I'm not feeling this. I'm not sure. But I love Marty's writing. And I know if anyone could pull it off, he could I read it, because I'm a brand strategist. And I wanted to see how they were doing brand strategy in that story. But then he tapped into all of those human elements of all of these different characters felt, and that just made it more real, you know, and it just made it more relatable on a human level. I think it's important that we do that. Now on social media is very difficult to do that in short spaces and short posts. And I think that's going back to your question about, you know, the big mistakes people make, that we either try cramming too much into our stories, or we make them refraining from saying this little bit is long winded, because I don't think there is a problem writing long post if the story is right. But sometimes, we just write and write and write because we feel we need to get more and more in versus the right structure and the right way of writing.

Francisco Mahfuz 34:14

Yeah, yeah. So I, the way I fix for myself, and try to teach other people to fix the long the supposedly long winded issue is that I always say to people, you know, your story should start, the best place to start a story is as close to the end as possible. So if you know what transformation your character is going to go through at the end, how close to that? Can you start the story? Because people and what people a lot of times do is they don't start with with a scene, or a moment as we normally call it, or they don't start with a type of action. And they don't start a dialogue. They start with exposition, and exposition is the worst way to start a story because it's so easy to feel that to explain the context I now need to give Two, three paragraphs. Whereas I found with very practical experimentation, that I could turn one page story that I had in my public speaking book into a 15 line story on LinkedIn, by having more dialogue. Because all this stuff that I felt I needed to explain about my crazy uncle and how he thinks is the greatest cook in the world and all that stuff took ages as exposition, but between me and my brother having a laugh about the craziest stuff, Uncle Victor, did you just like you say, two, three lines to go on. He's in configurated. Again, you know how it is. And you get a feeling for the character and doesn't need to be perfect. But you do cover the main points with that. So I think sometimes that's the problem is people are people that are using dialogue, they're not using actual action. And then it's very difficult to relay all these things they think are essential, right?

Ash Rathod 35:58

We've we've talked about this before, a common friend of ours, Eddie, from very good copy as a friend of ours, but peep someone that we know, well on LinkedIn, actually had a conversation with him last week. And we were going to get on a live together. I think Eddie was just saying, shall we just do an intro call? And we wish we recorded it because it went on for an hour. And I, the reason why we didn't actually record it was because we're very similar in the way that I don't do many of these calls. Actually, one of the reasons is because, yeah, I'm quite busy doing my other work if I'm not doing LinkedIn, the second reason, and I don't know why I should, but the second reason is because I'm quite an introvert. And Eddie was the same I feel. And I, the reason why I write so well is because I have time to process my thoughts here. I've, I've got better, but I feel like I try to fill in a lot. And a lot of people do that with their writing. I suppose you're going to

Francisco Mahfuz 36:56

relate more to it now. Because Eddie, Eddie broke my heart, my podcasting heart, because of heaven with it is I get in touch with him a while back, I think I got turned on to him to his work through James Lorraine, and Joe Watson. And I love his stuff. I sign up to his newsletter. I think he's an amazing writer. And we started talking about in the podcast, and and he agreed this was the time he was about to have a kid. So we waited for the kid to be born. And then I think he got COVID. So the thing has been pushed back and pushed back in. Then when we were like a week away from recording, he finally went and listened to my podcast. And he is like, oh, you know, it is it's very extemporaneous. You're clearly going in all sorts of different directions. It's not, you know, it's not like a very structured podcast in the sense that like, I will know the answers to all the questions because you're not going to throw anything out of left field to be in and I in I don't feel comfortable with that. I don't think I communicate well in that format. And I said, Eddie, I've seen you live, and I've seen your writing. I'm pretty sure you underselling yourself. I'm certain this will not be the case. But you know, he kind of just said he didn't feel that he would show himself in the best. That that's how he communicates. Well, that's age. Yeah. And

Ash Rathod 38:15

I totally get it because I am exactly the same. And it's one of the reasons why I did start the soda shorts live my life, which actually get you on as well. It was more to have less focus on me and focus on my guest book because I knew I had to do more of this or I felt like I had to do more of this because I was on social media, shaping my personal brand. Yeah, stories do well, writing as well. But I think there needs to be those other layers as well. Going back to Eddie is a very smart guy very good at what he does very experience, but I totally understand where he's coming from.

Francisco Mahfuz 38:51

Yeah, I mean, I you know, I love I love to have his writing. I haven't unsubscribed his newsletter out of spite. But But yeah, I totally get that some people don't feel comfortable in ways that they're not used to communicate him. He's not in not tonnes of podcasts and interviews that there's a reason for that, because I'm pretty sure he gets tonnes of requests. But I think people also sometimes and I don't know if this is his case, or yours, but I think sometimes people they think that the how they communicate in something like this in a live in a podcast needs to be as precise as you know, I they need to be as expressive on alive as they would be in the written work and that and that is just clearly crazy. I'm nowhere near as precise as I mean, for the people listening to the podcast, I probably am because there's some editing that goes on. But I started three sentences sometimes before I finished the first one. And I talk all over myself. It's just normal. It's just how people talk. And I remember in the beginning, I started trying to edit those out. And then you just sound weird. Unless you're Sam Harris, no one speaks that way people make mistakes, they trip over their own words. Sam Harris, for anyone doesn't know, it's a very well known sort of intellectual in the US. And he speaks like he's reading an audiobook. It's kind of Uncanny slash creepy at times. Most people don't communicate like that we make mistakes all the time.

Ash Rathod 40:23

Yeah. And that's why I think these podcasts or podcasts in general work the longer form because you have that space to just have that conversation. And it just seems natural. So it doesn't feel like an over produced thing. And, and I definitely had to get my head around that I felt like me coming on a podcast as a guest or as a host, was, I had to put on a show. And once you start doing that, too much, yeah, there's that element of it. But once you start doing that, it starts becoming fake, and it becomes less of what people came through here. And that authenticity. And you know, those, that's why I think those audio conversations like whether it's clubhouse or Twitter spaces and allow LinkedIn or work really well, because it's that conversation people just want to eavesdrop into. And you know, they don't, they don't necessarily want to show every time.

Francisco Mahfuz 41:17

Yeah, there is another angle to that another approach, which is something I do, to some extent, at least when I'm the guest and not the host, which is, again, when we go back to stories, if we get asked the same questions over and over again, which is very common, when you go in a lot of podcasts. A lot of people ask about your story, they ask about the work you do with clients. And I'm not saying you are going to repeat the exact same stories every time. But it probably shouldn't be a brand new answer every time. So I get asked about how I got started in today. So how did I find about storytelling? So I've got two or three stories that work perfectly? Well, I can tell them in a couple of minutes. And if I'm getting the same stock question I just answered with one of those depending on which one I'm feeling on the day. If I'm asked about the work I do with clients, I have some examples that I know, explain perfectly what I do. And don't take 15 minutes to narrate. So sometimes people talk to me about like, I would like to go on podcast, but I don't know if I'm ready. And I'm like, when you'd be silly to like what are the two or three most important things you want people to understand about you if you go on a podcast and you're being asked about your expertise, okay, with this one to these three things. Okay, fine. What's the best client example or or story you have that illustrates that and if you just work on that, you're you've covered for the most important things and the rest, you just feel free to improvise, because it's just a normal conversation.

Ash Rathod 42:46

I think many of us underestimate, especially when it's our, the thing that we've been doing for a long time. And we underestimate how much we do know that again, that comes back to that imposter syndrome. In a like, I'm 40 or 4344. I don't even know I've lost count. But you know, I've been doing marketing advertising brand. For years, like over two decades like this. There's something I know. But I still the back of me. Before it was that thing is like, Am I really am I gonna get called out? Everyone has that feeling. Everyone that I've spoken to still has that feeling. And that's not a bad feeling to have the idea that you're still a work in progress. I don't ever want to be complacent. I want to keep growing. I want to keep learning. And you know, even now I read stuff on storytelling. Like there's new ways of doing things. Yeah, the foundations are still 1000s and 1000s of years old. But the way we consume stories now with technology is all ever changing. So there's no way you're ever going to be the the expert with 100% knowledge.

Francisco Mahfuz 43:54

I think part of the reason we feel this, this impostor syndrome is to do with the fact it's to do with the Dunning Kruger effect. So is this a this is something that I believe has been proven by science, that the more you know about the subject, the more you are aware of all the things you don't know, because, you know, the field of knowledge is is very broad and deep. And the last, you know, particularly if you don't have much interest in knowing more, you tend to think you know, enough, which is why people that have never done say marketing, for example, might have very strong opinions about what works and what doesn't work in their confidence marketing in their talking to you for example, and you know, that you can clearly see that they they have very shallow knowledge on it, but they feel very confident about it. They're expressing it very confidently in your thinking of all the honourable What about this thing? They're not considering this other thing and there's this other case. So I think if you take storytelling for example, it's very difficult for me to to Someone asks me about, like, what's the best structure for a story, right. And I know that there's, I have to give them 25 Different disclaimers before I can say this one is the best one. But someone who only knows the one structure is going to say this is the best one, you do this one, this one's going to work 90% of the time. And sometimes that is the approach we need to take, because otherwise people will think you're not sure. And it's just that there's too many things to consider to be so decisive about.

Ash Rathod 45:30

Yeah, on on that point, as well. It's, it's the way I've learned storytelling is probably different. And we're having a guest here, but he's probably different to how you've come across story and learn storytelling. Another thing is, you're a presenter, you speak a lot, I never do that. So there's there's nuances there. I've learned through script writing. So that's where my love for storytelling comes, you know, like that Hollywood formula of storytelling, where, again, I don't know how you've learned, you're probably aware of that way. But you might have learned in a very different way. Then there's the the idea that, you know, I tell everyone that we're hardwired for story, which is true to an extent. But there are also differences between the way some Eastern cultures tell story. And Western cultures tell story, the ones that were used do, or the Western Hollywood style and those story arcs, for example, is a lot about the individual and resonated with the individual. Some Eastern cultures have storytelling frameworks that are more about the collective and the community, like so if someone dies, but sacrifice is good for the whole community is better than a story that we're kind of used to seeing, or re seeing on movies and reading books. So yeah, there's a lot of differences. And it's interesting that you picked up on that, like, there are different ways of story telling, how do you find that then is that do you? How do you simplify when you're working with your clients? Do you start with the basic frameworks and then introduce things later on?

Francisco Mahfuz 47:08

No, I, I used to be stronger on structure before and the structure that I usually explain to people and I still use this structure when it comes to typically presentations and company strategy, for example, I just give them a structure which is before, but so after, that's it. So before things were what life was one way, but then something happened. So we had to act because of it. And after that life was different. Any story will for any good story will follow that one way or another because there's going to be changing the story, there's going to be a bit of a problem in the story, almost certainly, there's something you did because of that problem. So that is a very, very, very basic structure. What I tend to find with most people, and I've said this a tonne of times on the podcast is, I find that most people get in trouble because they're trying to write a story. Instead of find the story. I think most cases you find the story, you figure out a point, you take away everything that is not relevant to that point, because otherwise, you're just cramming too many things in the story. And then you just need to make sure you highlighted the right things. Have you highlighted the emotion? Have you highlighted why the characters cared and the stakes of the story? Or have you started as close to the end as possible, when you're doing those things, to me feels awful is like writing a story and a lot more like taking stuff away to just leave what's absolutely the truth of the story. So what I tend to do with people is, is more of a volume approach where I want them to find lots and lots of different small stories, and then put them together with a clear point and you know, clear motivation for the characters. But this is okay, tell me the story. And they'll tell me today, five minutes. And then second, what's the point of that story? Okay, what do we need for the point, okay, we need this do we need that, as of now take it out, okay, and just have taken are taking it out, and then you end up with something that is a lot tighter. And there's a fine that that you could tell that in 90 seconds, you could put that in a post, and it will work fine. You could do this on a video. And I tend to find that for most people, that is an approach to storytelling that allows them to use it as a form of communication. Now, if they're trying to figure out their story, you know, their origin story, or the signature story, that is like there's a longer process that goes in there, that story is going to be more difficult to craft, there's going to be some writing involved, but I think a lot of people, they either don't have that and that's not really what they're trying to do, or they should work up to that one or work with someone to get that one done. So you know, I find that the templates and the structures, they work better as a checklist than necessarily a writing to so put it out. There's more or less follow that structure. No, it's kind of all over the place. Okay, can we rearrange things so it's an Right place, I tend to find that that works a little better.

Ash Rathod 50:02

I think you're right there. I think the biggest issue like going back to that earlier question that you spoke to me about, and now listening to what you just said, that is a common thing with the people that I work with, as well is so structure is, you know, is sometimes it's a revelation to them. And it's like, wow, that's a game changer. But really, the first step is mining for those stories and finding those right stories. And sometimes we think about the stories that we have, and you think that that's more important. That's not That's not important. It was important to me, and it probably meant something to me. But people are going to be interested in that. Yes, what you think but why you find most of the time when it is important to you, and it did have that pivotal point for you in your life, you will find it will be important to someone else as well.

Francisco Mahfuz 50:57

Yeah, the feelings and the fears, and the frustrations, the failures. They're all common to one degree or another. We're all human beings. Most of us at least there's some politicians that I think is trained that definition.

Ash Rathod 51:12

There's some lizards amongst us.

Francisco Mahfuz 51:15

Yeah, there's there are some lizards for sure. But yeah, in this, this is what people don't get. This is what people don't get is that. What did you feel? Do you think other human beings occasionally feel that? Yes, well, then it's a relatable story, as well, doesn't matter if you're, if you're a millionaire, talking about his high stakes, corporate merger, but you're getting impostor syndrome, because this is going to make your company one of the top 50 companies in the world and you're not really sure you're good enough. Even that very unrelatable character is still going to probably get other people going. You know, I mean, there's not a low mass because of robots. That doesn't count for him. But, you know, Elon Musk feels the same way about his massive merger than I felt when I was taking on the biggest project of my career a few weeks ago. Hmm, I wouldn't have thought that in all of a sudden you feel differently about Elon Musk? So and that's, I think that's what people don't get

Ash Rathod 52:12

totally 100% agree, I find just changing the subject slightly. I find as well that you talked about that formula, what was it the something before, but then after, it's similar to the very simple framework that I use in my head, it's character, plus desire, plus conflict equals transformation equals a story. So within that, then is that reframing of something as well, that I think is really powerful. And the reframe usually happens when it's, we're tapping into that, that internal transformation, like, you know, you thought about something in a certain way. And then by the end of the story, it was totally different, and actually change your maybe how important that thing was for you. Like, for example, that's why the story about my skin really worked and resonated with people, because there's like, my skin was the external thing that had to change. But actually, no, it was how I viewed that and how I viewed myself and then, like, my skin has become irrelevant now. Because I've seen a much bigger transformation. And that's just me fully being myself and fully happy with myself. And you know, that's one of the reasons why that post really did well and then changed my perception of LinkedIn as well, because I got so many different messages in my DMs in my comments, the messages that really meant a lot to me was people saying how much it changed how they looked at themselves, you know, how they had confidence issues for different reasons, not because of obviously the skin thing. And I just thought that there's, you know, we talked about those elements that relate humans relate to it was those things that really, and a lot of those people from back then are still followers of Mine now, and they helped push my content further. You know, that's a totally different story. But the fact that that's what really on a deeper level connected me with them, and it helped them think about their own lives. And they're still here with me, and some of them join my beta group, some of them good friends like Michael Kirsten, you know, it was all through the power of story.

Francisco Mahfuz 54:30

I think I've read someone that might know a thing or two about stories saying that a good storyteller reads your mind and writes your future that might or might not have been your ash. And on that, on that positive, encouraging uplifting note, since we've come full circle to that email, and I realised we've both up against the time we expected for this to take. So if people want to find out more about the stuff you're doing, I mean, obviously they can look you up on link then that's your that's your main platform? Do you want to send them anywhere else? Or is that LinkedIn the place to go?

Ash Rathod 55:05

Follow me on LinkedIn, it depends what they want. Because I'm not into just selling things. For the sake of it. I like to have conversations with people. I've got my storytelling book, if it's specifically LinkedIn, if it's brand strategy, then let's have a conversation what it is that they need, I think that that's the best place. And one of those, like, my main job is the agency that I've run. I've not even got a website or landing page for the storytelling stuff that I do. So it's always through just my LinkedIn profile and conversations that we have.

Francisco Mahfuz 55:38

For anyone who's in any doubt about that. I have no problem with just selling stuff, showing the conversation. I can have the conversation, but I'm okay with just selling stuff. I don't have the qualities that Asness

Ash Rathod 55:51

Oh, no, I didn't have a problem with selling stuff at all. I just want to make sure that I sell the right things right.

Francisco Mahfuz 55:56

Off, guys. All right, man. I'm glad we recorded this one. Because the last time we spent an hour together as as you did with it, we didn't record it. At least this time. It's there for posterity. For anyone who I'm sure will find some useful stuff in this conversation.

Ash Rathod 56:12

Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed this conversation. As you know, we've tried to get this in the diary for so long. And we did have a again, we had an intro call didn't win, which lasted an hour, which we didn't record that time. So, ya know, it's been really enjoyable. Thank you very much.

Francisco Mahfuz 56:28

All right, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.

I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tap. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website

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