Have you ever tried to write copy for your social media, sales pages, or whatever, and felt like what comes out of your fingertips is kind of bland, dry, and just not very compelling??
Well, today I am talking with the one and only Tamara Melton, also known on Instagram as The Storytelling Dietitian.
She’s here to help us understand how telling STORIES in our business can boost our connection with our audience, hold people’s interest more effectively, and ultimately increase conversions as well.
What You'll Learn:
- What storytelling means in the context of business and entrepreneurship.
- Examples of how online business owners can (and should) be using stories.
- Why telling a story can sometimes be difficult for us, and how understanding what makes a good story can make it a bit easier.
- How to tell whether storytelling is having a positive impact on your business.
- A bunch of really helpful resources for learning how more about storytelling!
More About Tamara Melton
Tamara Melton an is an accomplished nutrition professional who has a passion for using the power of storytelling to advance the RD brand.
Tamara is best known in the profession as the co-founder and Executive Director of Diversify Dietetics, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to increase the racial and ethnic diversity in the field of nutrition by empowering nutrition leaders of tomorrow. She has over a decade’s experience in education and academia, having served a nutrition and health informatics faculty and administrator.
Tamara began crafting her storytelling expertise as a teenager, when she attended Douglas Anderson School of Arts, majoring in creative writing and minoring in film studies. Tamara has utilized storytelling techniques as an educator; in numerous public speaking engagements; as a media spokesperson and in written work.
An entrepreneur since 2007, she has studied the art and science of using storytelling to attract and retain clients. Tamara credits her success as a young faculty member and a nonprofit cofounder to her ability to craft and deliver a story that moves the listeners to action. Tamara has recently launched a storytelling training program for dietitians under her company, TSM Nutrition Consultants, LLC. Tamara is also utilizing storytelling in her new brand called Tamara’s TableTM, which is a consumer facing multi-media nutrition education platform for Black women.
Connect with Tamara
Please note that some of the following links are affiliate links. If you click those links and make a purchase, I will earn a commission at no extra charge to you.
- Diversify Dietetics
- Danielle Leslie
- Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall (affiliate link)
- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller (affiliate link)
- 3 Clips podcast
Episode Show Notes
Erica Julson: Have you ever sat down to write copy for your social media, sales pages or whatever and felt like what comes out of your fingertips is kind of bland, dry and just not very compelling? Are you feeling that internal friction that comes up when you know what you want to write but what's coming out just isn't it?
Erica Julson: Well, today I'm talking with the one and only Tamara Melton, also known on Instagram as the storytelling dietitian. She's here to help us understand how telling stories in our business can boost our connection with our audience, hold people's interest more effectively, and ultimately increase conversions as well.
Erica Julson: In today's episode, you'll learn what storytelling means in the context of business and entrepreneurship, examples of ways online business owners can and should be using stories, why telling a story can sometimes be difficult for us, and how understanding the elements of a good story can make it a bit easier, and how to tell whether storytelling is having a positive impact on your business. Let's get into it.
Erica Julson: Welcome to the Unconventional RD podcast where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income stream. We'll talk all things online business to help you start, grow and scale your own digital empire.
Erica Julson: Hi, Tamara. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I'm really excited to talk with you about storytelling for dietitians. I think that's such a cool thing that you specialize in and something we haven't touched on really at all, I think on this podcast.
Erica Julson: Before we dive into all that, though, I do like to start with some background on my guests. Could you give us like maybe a higher level overview of your career journey in dietetics, like where you started versus where you are today?
Tamara Melton: Yes, so I'm excited to be here. I will give a very high level because there's a lot of twists and turns that happened but I've been a dietitian since 2007, so about 14 years. I've been a practicing RD. I knew from the jump that I do not want to do clinical and I'm the type of person that once I'm like, I don't want to do it. I did my eight weeks bid, I call it, at the hospital and I was done.
Tamara Melton: After I did my internship, I knew I wanted to do something that was always outpatient. When I graduated, I did a combined program. When I graduated, I started working immediately in community nutrition and nutrition education, and then transitioned into corporate wellness, which I loved. I did that in a large pediatric hospital system here in Atlanta.
Tamara Melton: Then, I started my own Wellness Business called the LaCarte Wellness, where I worked with large corporations like Home Depot, Georgia Pacific. I wasn't crazy about one on ones and I also liked getting wires instead of individual payments. That's why I worked with corporations.
Tamara Melton: My husband is an entrepreneur, has been as long as I've known him. This was around 2010 that he had been hit really badly in his business. He works in real estate with the recession. With my business, I was kind of like working part time. He looked at me and he was like, "I'm going to need you to get a job like for real." We were also at that time starting our family. We really needed some solid health insurance.
Tamara Melton: I had been teaching part time this whole time. Since I was 23, I've been teaching at a university. I went to that university and was hired on to do admissions and recruitment for them. I did that and taught nutrition then that transitioned into me getting promoted to start a Health Informatics program, which I love. I had no idea what I was doing, but I love doing things that I don't know what I'm doing.
Erica Julson: What is that? What is health informatics?
Tamara Melton: Health informatics is health IT. It is, I call it they're professionals who are the space between what we call end users. In the clinical setting, doctors, nurses, dietitians, whatever clinicians, could be patients and then the coders, like those developers, the guys we think about, I say guys, it could be ladies too, folks who are like in the basement with those black screens, like coding, that's who it is. Informaticist are the people who kind of sit in between.
Tamara Melton: I had the opportunity at, I was like 28, to start this program, which if you don't have what's called a terminal degree, a doctorate at a large level one research institution, you'd never get this. This is like, never happened. Of course, I was like, "Yes, I'm going to do this," because my other option was to transition into becoming the chair of the undergraduate DVD program, which is fine, but that's like, I can do that at any time. That's the typical path. Let me go do something else. I learned a ton by taking that leap and taking that chance.
Tamara Melton: I kind of went into the world of informatics for a while. I wasn't practicing in nutrition. I became a academy media spokesperson to keep afoot in the nutrition world. I did that for four years. Part of that means that I had to have a degree in informatics, if you were a chair of a program, it was just University requirement. I went to Duke University's Graduate School, a Nursing school to get a degree, another graduate degree in informatics. I did that. I learned a ton there and that really helped me to kind of get to know about data and using data meaningfully and using data to persuade, and all different sorts of things.
Tamara Melton: I'm kind of a data nerd and presenting data and storytelling with data, which we'll talk about but I did that for… I finished up that program. Then, I'm type of person where I don't like to be an educator who only knows something like the book smart, I need to actually practice it. I made the really hard decision, because I love teaching and students, to leave the university and I went to go work for Compass Group. I was hired on as their director, National Director of Health Informatics for Morrison Healthcare. I did that as a contractor for a couple years.
Tamara Melton: Then, also I came on as a full time employee. I did that for about as an employee for about 18 months. I think I was with them for like three years total. Then, the kind of the scope of the work change so it became much more analytical, which is not really what I want to do. I transitioned over to their K12 sector, which is Chartwells. I was there, hired on as their wellness and sustainability project manager, was my title. Then, I was six months later promoted to director of nutrition and sustainability.
Tamara Melton: That meant that I had the duties of still project management for all of our wellness programs or I should say, our sustainability programs within our, however many thousands of schools that we had and districts about 600 or so districts, but then I also had three different regions. I had some regional dietitians, who reported into my position. I had some management over operations as well.
Tamara Melton: Then, as life would have it, COVID-19 came along and I was laid off from that position at the time of this recording about a month ago, so October was when I was laid off from that position, but it has been absolutely a blessing because what some people might know me about, know of me from, is my nonprofit that I started amongst all this.
Tamara Melton: As a side hustle, I started a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Diversified Dietetics, which our mission is to increase the diversity of the dietetics profession. This recent change has allowed me to focus more on diversified dietetics and growing our organization there but then also to go back into entrepreneurship, which I feel like no matter where I've been, I've been entrepreneurial because everything… I have not had a job in the last several years that someone else had before me, which I like to tell people. Every job I've had since for the last 10 years, I was the first person to do that job. You have to be entrepreneurial and there's nobody who's in front of you doing that position. Yeah, that's kind of a high level of my journey and where I am today.
Erica Julson: Love it, so much amazing experience. Every time you said a new job, it's like, "Oh my gosh. It's so exciting." Yes, shout out to Diversify Dietetics. You've mentioned it on this podcast before but I love that you have the monthly donor option for people. Shout out to anyone listening. You can sign up to be a monthly donor and then consistently support that organization throughout the year, which I imagine is probably helpful. You have some stable recurring income to budget.
Erica Julson: Okay, through all of that, now that you're transitioning, what are you leading into now? How are you going to be helping dietitians?
Tamara Melton: Yeah, once I transitioned out, kind of got over, I think I was shocked for like a day that I was laid off. I was like, "Oh, good. This is actually really a blessing." I was ready. I knew I was going to get back to being a full time entrepreneur at some point. I knew I wanted to create a couple of different avenues for me to really focus on my passion. There's a brand I'm also working on that's consumer facing for black women in nutrition, but I knew I wanted to create something for dietitians as well to work with.
Tamara Melton: I did something that I've never really done before is I invested in my business. By that, I mean, invested in training for my business. I hadn't really done this in the past. I like bootstrap everything, figured it out. That's fine. I don't mind DIY things but I knew I wanted to also teach. I told you I love students. I love teaching. I absolutely adore it. I very much into pedagogy and adult learners and how they learn. I knew that when I left the Compass Group that I wanted to get back into teaching somehow, but I didn't want to go back to university. I don't want to work in that the politics of it and everything. I want to teach in a way that I want to do it.
Tamara Melton: I know online courses had become very popular lately. Yes, they have. I decided to, I'm like I know pedagogy. I understand curriculum, and I know, instructional design. I get that but I don't know the marketing of online courses and all that. I just never, we didn't get trained like that, dietitian and everything.
Tamara Melton: I invested in a course. I invested in Danielle Leslie's course. If you know Amy Porterfield, Danielle Leslie is the black millennial version of her, basically, and I'm her target market. I looked at Amy Porterfield-
Erica Julson: Amazing.
Tamara Melton: Yeah, she's great and everything but that's to tell you about your niche. When I saw Danielle, went to her lead magnet webinar, which is fine. I was like she was like my cousin, just everything about her, that was just me. I actually have, I've just picked up my credit card and paid and have never really done that.
Tamara Melton: Through the progression of her course, you go through kind of like a StrengthsFinder exercise, if you will, the worksheet that you go. She's trying to help you to find your course topic. I thought my course topic was something totally different. I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to teach nonprofits how to create a sustainable nonprofit." Woohoo. That's what I want to do but I thought that's not really necessarily in the nutrition field, because that's where I really wanted to focus my efforts to offer to dietitians.
Tamara Melton: Through the StrengthsFinder, she asked a question that I thought was really insightful, what have people asked you advice for in the last week? What do people compliment you on? What do people say you do really well? I had just given a talk at FNCI. I said, "Well, people say I'm a great public speaker. My students always had great evaluations when I speak. I love public speaking and people say that." I then wrote I love storytelling. I just wrote it out. I said, "The reason why I love speaking is I love telling stories." I wrote that out. I kind of looked back and I was like, I absolutely love storytelling.
Tamara Melton: It was just so interesting. I just kind of looked at it written down and I and I said to myself, "Tamara, you love teaching everything, but you love to do everything wrapped up in a story. You love to put data in a story. In your talks, you give a story. When you talk about the chemical structure of carbohydrates, you put it into a story. Everything's in a story."
Tamara Melton: Then, I thought, I really use it as a way to rally up the troops, if I'm trying to recruit students to a program, to get people to donate to my nonprofit, or to explain to donors what our nonprofit is doing or whatever it is I do, I really try hard to wrap up in a story. I love storytelling podcasts. I listen to a podcast that's about creating storytelling podcasts. That's how into it I am. That's where I settled in and I said, "I do not really see in our space where storytelling is used as a tactic and a strategy to be able to find your target market, bring them in, get loyal customers, all the things that really strong storytelling does.
Tamara Melton: That's when I stumbled upon, that's it. That's what I would like to bring to our dietetics community and fill that gap is to really go beyond storytelling because when people hear about it, they think public speaking, and that's not what it is. It's any sort of communication audio, visual, written that can be used where you can wrap up a story and that you can use it when you're working with clients or whatever. That's what I settled in on. Then, quickly I went out there in Instagram and grabbed the storytelling dietitian and started, set up shop and then started out from there.
Erica Julson: Yes, and I think you are so spot on. I have not seen anybody talking about storytelling. I feel like it's one of those things where it's so effective when it's done right and you almost don't even notice that it's happening. You're just compelled to read something or keep engaging with something but maybe you don't even realize that there is a strategy behind that and why that's working. I'm excited to learn from you. Already, your Instagram post, I know it hasn't been around for that long but each one is so helpful and informative. I'm like, yes, we need this as an industry.
Erica Julson: Okay, so let's dive into some of the kind of like actionable tips. Can you elaborate more on what storytelling means for businesses and entrepreneurs?
Tamara Melton: Storytelling for businesses and entrepreneurs, I like to say you actually articulated it really well. It's a way to get inside your customer's head or your client's head, whoever you're trying to get to buy your product or service. To get into their head and to get them to trust you, that way when they're ready to purchase your product or service, they think of you first. That's basically what it is when you boil it down.
Tamara Melton: It's marketing. It's a marketing strategy but it's not this very obvious, like, "Hey, buy my product," or "Hey, I think I'm great and you should come work with me." It's a way that you position yourself such that the client or the customer is the hero. They're the hero. They are the or this identifiable characters what some other storytelling experts say. You create this way so that they, as they hear you talking and they hear you expressing whatever your story is, they see themselves in your story and if you can get someone to see themselves in the story that you're creating for them, you literally are getting into their head.
Tamara Melton: It's using psychology. You'll see storytelling and I'll use this brand because they're phenomenal at it is Apple. Apple is a really phenomenal brand who really does storytelling very well. You'll notice most of their marketing that they do you don't see the devices, right? You see people doing all the dancing and being creative and all these sorts of things and the device is just kind of there to help them to get to that goal of whatever the hero of the story wants to do.
Tamara Melton: I thought it was interesting and a book that I read and it's one that's really well known by Donald Miller about storytelling. He said that Steve Jobs put up this ad, like a nine-page ad in New York Times selling one of the early model of Mac and talked about all the different features. It had probably like a floppy disk drive or whatever it was back in the day, right? Nobody bought it, right? It was a flop.
Tamara Melton: When he left Apple, he went to Pixar, storytellers, learned at Pixar, came back to Apple, completely transformed the company. The ad that he ran said, "Think differently." It's all said. He learned how to center the client or the customer for them as the center of the story.
Tamara Melton: That's the strategy behind it is that you're creating a way that someone can really connect and it closes the gap, especially in our profession is really helpful of them not understanding what you're offering, what you're talking about, what you're doing, because you're wrapping it up into this bow in this package of a story, which is a way that humans learn.
Tamara Melton: Children learn from stories. That's where we all started learning from. People pass down oral histories through stories and that's what we know. That's what it is taking that storytelling in a broader sense that we've seen like really in ancient history and using it as a marketing strategy.
Erica Julson: Stories are so memorable too. I feel like they stick in your head. That's another benefit probably. Okay, if someone is a maybe like ... most of the people listening to this podcast are entrepreneurs or online entrepreneurs, especially, in that context, where could they be sprinkling in stories, in what parts of their business?
Tamara Melton: Everywhere, so everywhere. People are kind of like, "What do you mean?" I mean, in your Instagram captions, in your Instagram stories and the reason why, right? You can be doing it in public speaking. The about page on your website should be a story. That should be a story there.
Tamara Melton: One of my good RD friends, Jaime Schwartz Cohen told me she uses stories in her disclosure slide when she gives presentation. Anywhere, you can be using the story to get across the information that you're trying to get across. Literally anywhere, it can be in video, it could be on podcasts, anywhere.
Erica Julson: Yeah, and I do think it's just like something you have to learn. It's like a shift. It's like a light bulb goes off and then once you're aware of it, you're like, "Oh, okay, stop." I don't know about you but for me, my brain is very analytical. I start typing something super boring sometimes. Then, I'm like, "No, no." inaudible.
Tamara Melton: Right.
Erica Julson: What are the benefits of doing this? What are the positive outcomes that it can help people achieve in their businesses?
Tamara Melton: Yeah, it closes that gap much more quickly, right? We all know, we're trying to get as much as we're trying to help people, we're entrepreneurs. We're trying to get somebody to buy our product or our service. That takes a lot, right? It takes a lot for them to decide. I'm going to work with you, one, as a dietitian versus somebody who's not. Then, even in our profession, you as a dietitian versus your colleagues over them.
Tamara Melton: Your benefit is that you're closing that gap because you're creating a sense of trust because the person who's listening to your story knows that you understand that person. That's what you're trying to close that gap without overtly saying, "I'm the best. I have all these credentials and everything."
Tamara Melton: You're giving them a story to say, "I understand how every Sunday night is like your last hurrah because every Monday morning, you're getting ready to start that final diet and it's so depressing, but you do it and you kind of power through the day and have that salad and you get to the end of the day. By Tuesday, you're eating pizza, Oreos, beer and all the things and then feel like crap, and then Wednesday is all downhill from there. Are you tired of that?"
Tamara Melton: Well, that's telling them diets don't work but in a story. That closes the gap. They can see themselves staying in the kitchen. They know what it's like to be there on Monday morning, ready to go but by Wednesday, everything's all out the window. That's what you're doing is you're closing the gap there.
Tamara Melton: When it's time for them to think about who do I want to work with, when it's time for me to look for this product or service, they will hopefully think of you first and it also can help when you're working, let's say one-on-one with clients, absolutely if you're doing any sort of online course or group coaching, you should absolutely be using stories to teach people on and it just helps people to understand things, your concepts that you're explaining to them a lot better.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I'm in Caitlin Bacher's Scale with Success program right now. I've been totally revamping my all. It's not out yet but I've redone my entire sales page and now it's exactly what you're talking about. Oh my gosh, I look back at my current sales page and I'm like, "Oh, why did anyone buy this?" It's so much better. Just like you said, all these stories and examples and getting into people's heads. It's so much more effective, I think.
Erica Julson: Why do you think in general, though, that people like dietitians have trouble telling stories or it's not, it doesn't come naturally?
Tamara Melton: We're not trained in it. I think it's kind of this reoccurring theme that we don't get marketing. There's a lot that somebody coming from Academia who works with us and there's a lot to get in, in the four to six years of education that we have. The fact that marketing is not in there, except for a few programs, is very understandable but even after we get out of that, it's just not something I think that's really talked about.
Tamara Melton: I think, honestly, for our professional, because we're so in really focused, right? We like to learn from each other and here I am talking about creating something for dietitians that we learn from each other but a lot of us, not everybody, but a lot of us like to just learn from other dietitians. We're this echo chamber of the same concepts, the same ideas, and we don't really go outside. There are other industries that have like, "Oh, we need to do storytelling but you don't go and talk to somebody else, we're not hearing it within our industry."
Tamara Melton: I think there's those couple of things going on. We just don't have in our training overall and then we tend to be very in really focused in our resources that we get to kind of train ourselves in and growing our businesses and things like that.
Erica Julson: I also feel since we're kind of like a science-based field, I see it so often where people are like, there's 25% of your vitamin K and blah, blah, blah.
Tamara Melton: Nobody cares. Yes. There are so many things that we talked about that the public does not care about.
Erica Julson: Well, okay. Let's get even deeper into what stories are. Is there a framework that people can use? Is there certain elements of a story that make it good and eye catching?
Tamara Melton: There's different frameworks. It depends on who the storytelling expert that you go to. The one that I like, I've read Donald Miller's book and he talks about storytelling for inaudible or something, I'm totally murdering that but it's a very well-known book. He has a podcast, which is really great. inaudible or something like that but I stumbled upon a book recently by a woman named Kindra Hall. She talks about storytelling. I really like the way that she breaks it down because it's much more simple.
Tamara Melton: She talks about every story should have a relatable character, not necessarily a hero, but a relatable character. It should have specific details. Specific details are what your listener, helps your listener or your viewer to form this in their head. You give inaudible the example I gave earlier, standing in your kitchen, Oreos, pizza, beer, those sorts of things are specific details, authentic emotions that people can feel, the frustration or the excitement, or the fear or the anxiety or whatever it is and then, some significant moment, which in storytelling, you have to have some sort of a climax.
Tamara Melton: There's always something because that's what gets your listeners to kind of follow. They want to see how it ends. If there's no tension and there's nothing there that really gives you any sort of tension, we don't tend to watch. It's just another day going by that's kind of going on. It has to be something that has those moments.
Tamara Melton: I love the way that Kindra Hall packages it and kind of creates that framework for stories. Like I said, there's other frameworks that are out there but I feel like that that one is, I find to be more applicable in a lot of different types of stories.
Erica Julson: I've talked about this before on the podcast, understanding your ideal customer and all that doing that type of work, is that helpful for getting the details?
Tamara Melton: Absolutely. It's critical. You have to know and this should be any entrepreneur, this should be front and center, what problem are you solving for them? Not only the ideal customer, so that's great, whatever. You might think you want to know who you're working with but if you're not solving a problem for them, they are not going to be paying for whatever it is that you're offering them because what do they need it for?
Tamara Melton: You have to think about what their problem is, what affects them and then those having that ideal customer mind helps you to figure out those specific details. What is it that they… Where do they live? What do they look like? What's the climate like? How much money do they make? Who are their friends? Do they have kids? All those sorts of things are those details that you would sprinkle in. You want to know who that ideal customer is and you should know for your business what problem are you solving so you can center and have those details in every story that you create for them.
Erica Julson: Do you have any recommended kind of like workflow? I'm just imagining someone listening and they're like, "Yay, this sounds great." Then, they're like open up Instagram and they're like, "Ah, I have no idea what to write."
Tamara Melton: Somebody messaged me the other day and she said, "Should every post that I do need a story?" I said, "No." You don't have to do it all the time. Informational posts are sometimes necessary, but there could be a story in infographic that you put in there. I kind of wonder like, maybe you could put it in there but if you're thinking about it, start from that, hopefully you have your ideal customer in your mind but think about with this communication that I'm creating, what's the problem that I'm trying to address and then show them that I can solve because that's what you're trying to do.
Tamara Melton: Craft your story around that. Whatever that problem is, that's the struggle that's going on. That's the tension in there. You're trying to figure out and it doesn't have to be, let's say, you're somebody who works with clients who have diabetes. You might think, well, that's their problem. There's a lot of more problems underneath that: managing my blood glucose, figuring out what to eat when I travel, the fingerprints that I have to do, all these sorts of things I may have, the neuropathy that I'm worried about, all these sorts. You have all these subsets of problems that you can create all this content.
Tamara Melton: When you start thinking of it that way and then put your creative writing hat on, go back to third grade, the sky is the limit at that point because when you look at it from that perspective, you're really showing them I can touch on all these problems but when you start to do that and if you have followers who are watching you over time, over and over again, you're saying to them, "He or she understands me. You understand me. You get me. You get me," because over and over again, you're telling them in detail, I get all these little pieces of you. I can really address that problem.
Tamara Melton: That's what you're thinking of. What's the problem I'm trying to solve? That's the overarching problem. There's all these different little problems underneath there that you also help solving to.
Erica Julson: That's a really good advice. Do you keep a journal or something or just like a giant brain dump of everything you could post about?
Tamara Melton: Absolutely. I would say sit down, do a brain dump or think about your past clients as you work with them and you're going about your day. If you work in the media, what are the questions that they ask you about, those sorts of things and I like to use my phone and talk into it and transcribe because it's faster but if you're a person who likes to write, write it down but initially, if you're trying to come up with content, if you want to like batch content and create it, do a brain dump. Think about your clients. What have you talked about to your clients in the last week or month? What challenges have they had?
Tamara Melton: Go nitty-gritty. Go to the things that hurt them the most, that excited them the most, that evoked the most emotion. That's what you're trying to get at is getting to their emotion and that's what you want to be talking about. Then, how did you help them to solve that? How did you make a difference in helping them especially if they went to somebody else in the past, try their own and they weren't successful? You want to hone in on how you did that?
Erica Julson: Really great advice. I know I don't post that. I hardly ever post on Instagram. This is like on my to-do list. I'm like, okay, mental notes but then I imagine you can start to see patterns, I would guess what posts are performing best and then you can further hone your strategy. I've seen people talk about that before where they look back at what performs the best in a certain timeframe and then what performed the worst and 9 times out of 10, the one that performed the best is some sort of story-related posts. Then, the one that didn't is some weird fact with nothing else or something like that.
Tamara Melton: Right. Yeah, you'll get like a lot of in the comments section. They'll just start, "Oh, this is," and that's so rich because we want to be social on social media. When they like, we're like, "Thanks," but when you get them in the comment section, they start talking back and forth and like, "I had that happen to me too," or "That's exactly what's going on with my sister," or something and you can talk back and then you start to build the trust with them because they're having this conversation with you.
Tamara Melton: I think, really listening people we know how hard, especially like on Instagram, is to even get eyes on your posts because the algorithm if you can get them to engage and respond back because you have really done something for them to take that time to do that.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Again, I'm not like super into Instagram, but I believe if they engage with you and DM you even or comment on your stuff then it's just more likely that your posts will show up in their feed later.
Tamara Melton: Absolutely. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Then, I had a question about storytelling. When I first think of storytelling, for some reason, my brain goes to personal stories and kind of sharing your story or whatever, is that important as well?
Tamara Melton: That's probably the least amount of stories you want to tell, yeah, because remember that you're trying to solve the problem for your clients. I'm glad you brought that up because when I first started my storytelling dietitian account, people were like, "Oh, I don't want to share my story and everything." I said, "Don't." Don't share your story.
Tamara Melton: Then, I mentioned about sharing client stories and somebody was like, "Well, you need to make sure you ask for permission." I'm like, "I understand. Yes, that's a given." You want to ask her permission but you also can create a client up in your head because people don't know if this person is real or not. You're creating a story, really get creative.
Tamara Melton: You guys, go back to third grade and know that you're creating something but the less that you talk about yourself, they're not coming there to be like you. They're coming there for you to help them. They might be attracted to you because you're similar to them, right? They might like that about you but you're going to be able to attract you craft a story for somebody who's exact opposite of you. You can attract that person to you because they start to see themselves in your story.
Tamara Melton: That's probably your own story on your about page and your website. Even when you talk about yourself, it still should very quickly turn back into a story of how you wanted to work with that type of client and help them with their life and how you got to that point. Our own story should be the ones that we tell the least.
Erica Julson: Great advice. Yeah, I feel like as I'm learning more about selling into frameworks and stuff, my impression is if your own story relates to what you're teaching, maybe it can be tied in a little more easily but not everybody has their own personal journey related to what problems they solve for other people either. It probably depends, as well.
Tamara Melton: I think that also reduces the pressure and feeling if, let's say, you're working with a group of clients who have a condition that you don't have, that people feel like, "Oh, I don't relate." Well, that's okay. I mean, people go to an OB who's a man, who does not have the ability to have a baby but if he's able to practice, you can do the same thing, right? You're able to practice and be relatable to them.
Erica Julson: I remember getting an email, I don't remember who sent this, but obviously it's stuck in my head but they did, like you were saying, about making up stories. They sent out an email and it was like, "Who are you, Karen or maybe not Karen?
Tamara Melton: Right. I'm not her.
Erica Julson: Sally or Katie or something and then they put out the comparison of like, "This is Sally and all the struggles she was going through." Then, Katie was the one who'd solved everything kind of and then that was super effective trying to get you to envision where you are now versus maybe where you want to be. I thought that was innovative.
Tamara Melton: Yeah.
Erica Julson: Okay, focusing on stories about how you can help the other person versus your own stories, which I agree takes away some of that fear if some people feel like, "I can't tell my story because I'm too private," or I don't know. I even sometimes think people feel like, "Oh, it's crossing a professional boundary," or something weird. I don't personally feel like that.
Tamara Melton: Yeah, I think that people, there's definitely some level of relatability you want to have with your clients. Telling a story, if you are, I think it is helpful to have something like that and that just goes back to clients wanting to work with somebody who is like them, but they want to be the hero of the story. If you're talking about yourself, you're the hero. That's the thing. You always want them to be the hero and make themselves feel like that. That's why I said even if you talk about yourself, you then turn the story back to them and how you wanted to help them because that makes them the hero of the story.
Erica Julson: Another side question, what if you don't have any stories? What if you're new and you don't have a whole bank of people that you've helped yet? What suggestions do you have then?
Tamara Melton: If you're new, let's say, you're a new dietitian and you went through a dietetic internship, you saw clients and patients there, take even bits and pieces of them and make up a story. You can know what it is that, when you start working with same groups, there's themes across it's what makes us specialized. You can start to truly make it up. You don't have to act like it is a client or a patient that you work with. You can be very honest and say, "Can you relate to this?" Then, create a story from there.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I think that drives home the point that a story's not necessarily like a testimonial. Could you maybe elaborate on the difference?
Tamara Melton: Yes. Back to Kindra Hall's book, she has this, she talks about four different stories, and one of them is a customer story. She talks about how powerful that story is because it's trustworthy. Testimonials can, we know what we do. We're like, "Hey, can you give me a testimonial?" They're like, "Tamara gave a great service. She was prompt and on time," and da-da-da versus them explaining what real life was like before they met me, let's say, if I was the dietitian they were working with but they were struggling with. Once they came and worked with me, why now I'm able to travel with my family, have a baby, whatever that is.
Tamara Melton: Testimonials are different than stories, but it brings a trust factor in to potential clients who might want to work with because they can see themselves in that other customer client of yours and they really trust that that person is saying is true because there's so many details in there, right? This is just for teaching purposes, not that we're saying that you're lying. They say some of the best liars are people who have details in there because it just really throws you off because you're thinking like, "They have that detail. It has to be true."
Tamara Melton: The same thing goes with storytelling. The movies that we like the best, the books that we like to read, have those details in it. It's a very, very different thing to ask people for a testimonial versus a story and ask them who did it. I know I'm plugging. I get no kickbacks from Kindra Hall's book but it's a really, really good resource and she explains how to create on your website, how to elicit those from your or an email that you send out how to elicit that and create a framework without realizing it's a framework for your clients to be able to have them craft a story instead of writing just a testimonial.
Erica Julson: Yes, I feel like I accidentally did that because I found myself in the same position. I don't work with clients anymore but back when I did, you're so right, if you ask someone for a testimonial, it ends up being this really bland, not exciting thing. I actually did that because I was frustrated on kind of what people were sending me back. I was like, "I don't want to put this on my website. This is not convincing."
Erica Julson: Then, I changed it and I was like, "Suggested format." Then, I said, "What was your life before we started working together? What is it like now? Would you recommend this to other people," something like that and then I could take each section and mush together and it was some more of a cohesive story.
Tamara Melton: Exactly.
Erica Julson: I actually think I put that up on, I don't know if you're familiar with RD to RD, talking about this podcast a lot but it's like a free website or not free, but they have some free resources and some paid resources to download stuff that dietitians have made. I think I put that up on there for free.
Tamara Melton: That's crosstalk.
Erica Julson: I'll put the link in the show notes. Yeah, even though I'm not using it anymore. I'm sure Kindra Hall's is probably way more.
Tamara Melton: It's pretty much the same thing. I mean, you're spot on. That's basically what she was saying too.
Erica Julson: I'll put a link to her resources and book and everything in the show notes too. Anyone listening, just go to my website, unconventionalrd.com and click on podcast and find this episode and all the links. Everything will be there. Yeah, I think that's such a common trap, though, the not quite great testimonial.
Tamara Melton: Right. You know what? I'll start inaudible. "Oh, she was great. I loved it." It's not really, it's not serving your purpose, not that you don't want to hear back from your clients and you do want to do a great job but there's a reason why you're asking them for this. Help them along, craft them and then ask. I think some people don't ask either. Have a habit of asking so that you can constantly have that kind of, in your coffer, if you will, and can bring those stories out.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I actually, for my courses, they're all approved for continuing education units. They have to kind of pass this quiz to get auto generate the certificate. Then, now CDR has implemented some other layer of questions that we love to answer is yes.
Tamara Melton: Exactly. Oh, yes. I have a sister inaudible.
Erica Julson: Yes. You have to get like feedback. What I did was I just added on to the set of questions that they make you ask and then I put in some more testimonial-type related questions. Then, if someone wants to get the CEUs, they have to fill out the feedback. Then, one of them is like, "Do you give me permission to share this?" blah, blah, blah. That's been a great source. That's sort of automated as well. I don't have to like constantly ask.
Tamara Melton: Right.
Erica Julson: I'm sure that people could take that and work it into their workflow probably. Okay, let's bring it back to like the quantifiable benefits. What types of metrics or things should people be looking at to see if their storytelling is working? What positive outcomes should they be measuring?
Tamara Melton: Yeah, I'd say if you're giving your storytelling, first of all, know what your goal is of your story. If you're a public speaker or somebody who wants to get asked to come on podcast or whatever, see how many of those that you book, right? Check out the evaluations and see what the feedback is from the evaluations.
Tamara Melton: For public speaking specifically, I would say, don't just ask people like, "Hey, do you think the speaker was good," or whatever those kind of canned questions are but ask them, know what's your goal in your talk was and ask them, "What was the most helpful for you that you can use in your daily life?" If they answer, basically, what your goal was, you did a good job in that talk, right? You're trying to get that from them.
Tamara Melton: If you're using it to convert, you want to be able to attract clients or customers, track that story that you sent out there and whatever that marketing was and see if it attracts a client. Now, here's the thing, it's not going to necessarily convert them right away because you're telling them stories over and over again. You have to have more than one touch with them but does that make them start to engage with you. On Instagram, click on your email, click through the links, whatever that is so you can get that hard data to see if that actually starts to get them to interact with you. Then, if you can follow the lifecycle of your actual client to see if that converts, that's really powerful.
Tamara Melton: If you have that messaging video, a post or something like that, and you can follow that person through, that's another way of tracking to see if your stories are effective. I mentioned the comments, the comments that you get back from people. If you're using social media Facebook or I've never actually literally been on TikTok but I don't know if there's a way to get feedback from people but TikTok or something like that but if there's a way that you can see if people react to it, like you said, if they DM you, if they put comments in there, if they start to just really start to speak to you now, I think that's powerful data to have as well to see if they're, because what you're getting your story is, you're building trust.
Tamara Melton: The goal of the story is you're building trust and you're starting to get inside that client or customer's head and then you're going to be able to convert them when they're ready to purchase your product because we have to remember there's a long game that's right. We think, "Oh, I'm talking about nutrition and everything. Somebody just want to work with me." They're going to work with us when they have a problem. You want to be the person that they think of when they have that problem.
Tamara Melton: If you're measuring that, then that should be able to see like, "Okay, this was effective or it wasn't." There's other those kind of metrics that you can use.
Erica Julson: Anything that I'm selling, I always put a box like, "Where did you hear about us?" That's so helpful because even if it doesn't tell you maybe necessarily what they clicked on to then buy, which is another type of metric you could measure, but at least it tells you where you're capturing people's attention and where they're connecting with you. For me, it's mostly Facebook right now because that's where I spend most of my time but, the podcast is starting to tick up. At first, it was like one person. Now, it's a few more.
Tamara Melton: Right?
Erica Julson: Yeah. That's nice to see as well. I don't know. I want to ask you about your favorite resources for storytelling but I heard you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast as well some suggestions for presenting data.
Tamara Melton: Yes.
Erica Julson: What stories? Can we touch on that?
Tamara Melton: This is a data nerd in me coming out. I actually learned this about myself when I was at Duke. I went through, it was a summer class that I was taking. It's called Data Analytics. I thought, before I went into the program, that I love data analytics and I had a one-year-old and a two-year-old at the time. I have never cried so much in graduate school. I was just like, "This is really hard." As a program director, new mom, all the things.
Tamara Melton: I was getting to the point to where I had to decide in a practicum to do like a capstone project at the end. I said to my faculty advisor, "I thought I like data analytics." She said, "You like data and people. You like helping people use data meaningfully." I was like, "You're right. I do like people a lot. I don't like the analysis side." That's when I learned about data storytelling.
Tamara Melton: There is a book called Storytelling for Data. It is like my Bible. It's for data visualizations. It goes into the psychology again of people who are consuming data and how humans like to receive data when it's visualized for them.
Tamara Melton: The writer of that book whose name is escaping me right now, but she has a blog as well that's super helpful, has a ton of resources. It's really, really active. There's a whole DataViz community out there of people and these are people working in all sorts of positions because the idea is that you are using your data to support your story.
Tamara Melton: We, as a profession, as you mentioned, are very evidence-based. We present a lot of data. A lot of it's really bad. It's just not that good. There's way too much text. There's all sorts of pie charts and line graphs and 3D images and all sorts of things. It couldn't stand on its own. If you were to put it out there, nobody would really know what it says but data is really, really helpful, especially when you're giving talks to peers or you're giving presentations. You're trying to get an investor or whatever but you want to make sure that the data supports your story. What kind of data are you presenting? How are you presenting it.
Tamara Melton: There's this whole subset that I really started getting into and really studying and using and practice around data storytelling, because I just found in our profession, we do that a lot. We're using data to support our stories and you want it to support it and not distract from the stories. That is a whole another world. I think that is not really talked about in our profession that much but it's a skill that's acquired, takes practice but once you get into it, you start to learn and let me tell you, people are like, "Oh, do I have to go and get fancy software and do everything in Excel?" Everything. There's no fancy software for the inaudible.
Erica Julson: Do you have an example maybe to flush that out? What would not great data presentation look like versus what would be a way to do it better?
Tamara Melton: I actually just did an example, before and after on my Instagram. I saved it in the highlights. You can look under DataViz but what I did is I took CDR's numbers on because of what I work in. It was the breakdown of race and ethnicity of dietitians. If you go on their website, they have like a line graph. It's okay, right? But it's hard to read. I would imagine that somebody in there talking like, "Oh, let me just skip that and blow it up," but you can't really read it. It doesn't say anything.
Tamara Melton: Then, I did version two of it, which had a little bit more directional cues. There were some numbers. I put the numbers of dietitians next to those white dietitians. I put that number right there because you want that I did not have to move all over the page to see the data that is that it's supporting. That was okay, right? That was fine, but on its own, depending on the talk that I'm giving, it's probably about how there's not too much diversity in our professional, but it may not be, you can't really look at DataViz on its own and know what it says.
Tamara Melton: The third iteration of this, which I just did recently before this post, is that I put a headline and said, "The diversity of the dietetics profession does not mirror the US population," or something like that and I added in US Census data because you need to know what the US population is and what that looks like versus what RDs look like. That's on there.
Tamara Melton: You can see how that headline lets people know this is what this data is supporting, this statement right here, and you kind of go through it. For us to be listening and looking at it, hopefully that helps you see it, but you can absolutely go to my storytelling dietitian Instagram and click on that highlight for DataViz and you'll see that example of those three different versions.
Erica Julson: The psychology of learning is so interesting.
Tamara Melton: Yeah, it is.
Erica Julson: I'm following closely because I know, I'm sort of teaching other inaudible like SEO and stuff like that. I'm not really doing nutrition-related stuff, either but every year, I'm like, "How can I make this better? How could I make this more clear or easy to follow or less overwhelming?"
Tamara Melton: Right. Yeah.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I'm always looking for new tips on that type of stuff. In terms of resources, I know we talked about Kindra Hall. We talked about Donald Miller's book. Was it Danielle Leslie? Is that the one?
Tamara Melton: Yeah, Danielle Leslie is who, I purchased her course.
Erica Julson: Yes.
Tamara Melton: She teaches about online course. Then, she gets into instructional design. She actually spent five years at Udemy…
Erica Julson: Oh cool.
Tamara Melton: … because she started with-
Erica Julson: I went to high school with one of the co-founders.
Tamara Melton: Oh, wow! Okay, cool. Yeah.
Erica Julson: He's not in it anymore. He got kicked out.
Tamara Melton: Okay. as it goes right with startups. She was a failed startup founder, which is the best people to be around, honestly, if they keep on going because they know so much. She was trying to launch, I think, like an online course or something like that. When it failed, she said, "I need to go back and learn this." She went and learned for five years.
Tamara Melton: Then, she went back out. Now, she's doing really, really well but that's Danielle Leslie. I highly recommend. I know Amy Porterfield folks love her and she is great but I really, really like Danielle. You learn a lot, a ton about marketing, especially if you're somebody who likes Instagram and using that as marketing, she utilizes that quite a bit.
Erica Julson: Any other recommendations?
Tamara Melton: I mentioned the podcasts, about storytelling podcasts. I love this podcast. It's called 3 Clips. I fangirled out on this thing so much. I found him on Instagram. I DM'd him. I was like, "Oh my gosh, I love your podcast," but he really, he owns a company called Marketing Showrunners. He does workshops for creators who are creating their own podcast and really teaches, they break down what makes a good podcast. I mean, they like break it all the way down, the transitions and the music and how to create a story of something that it seems like it's just mundane. How do you get the listeners to the end? That's their gold star? How do you get the listener to the end?
Tamara Melton: I would suggest, if you're somebody who has a podcast, I'm wait for some dietitian to create a storytelling podcast because I don't think that we have it yet. This is, if you're not familiar with it, This American Life is the most well-known storytelling. The reason why they are so engaging, they're storytellers. That's what they're doing.
Tamara Melton: Outside of that, I mentioned about the data storytelling book as well, for me, I've kind of like piecemealed, everything else that I learned through the internet. I was gone out there and looked outside. Those are just some books that I've read recently.
Tamara Melton: For myself, I have been writing. I went to an Arts High School. I was a creative writing major. I learned writing at the very basics of it. Sometimes even learning about writing is really important because any storytelling starts with a script, every story, video, verbal, anything like that starts with a script. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of it, creative writing workshops are helpful. You'll notice I'm not saying Toastmasters. I'll do like, "Oh yeah. Screw the Toastmasters" or something. I'm not mentioning that because I'm talking about something different, which is writing first and then from there. That's that I think understanding the elements of really good writing is really helpful too.
Erica Julson: It feels like all the pieces of your past experiences are kind of coming together with this current endeavor. It's really cool. Okay, let's close off this episode today. Do you have like three key pieces of advice that you would really like people to take away from this podcast? What are three things maybe that they should do after listening to this?
Tamara Melton: First thing I would say is keep the problem in mind. You want to lead with that. What problem are you solving both in your business and in your storytelling? Keep that in mind. Do find some sort of framework that works for you and works for your audience. I mentioned a couple of ones. I'm sure somebody he's going to inaudible me and be like, "Somebody else says this," I'm sure they do but find one that works for you. Use that framework and test it on your audience and measure the data and see what resonates and what doesn't.
Tamara Melton: Then, once it does, it gets a lot easier. Just keep using that same formula. Because I know my fellow dietitians, my last one, is do not overthink it you all. Don't overthink it. This is the same thing as you hearing stories as a child, as you're reading stories to your little cousins or your own kids, this is not something that you have to overthink. It is something that comes with practice. Give yourself some time to see what works and what doesn't and you will absolutely get it.
Erica Julson: Totally like step away from the analysis paralysis.
Tamara Melton: Yes. Just put it out there, put it out there and see, there's this thing in text-based when they learn about failing fast, put it out there, see what works, what didn't, iterate, iterate, iterate. That's how you start to grow very quickly. I wish more RDs would do that as well.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I feel like if you overthink it, it's probably going to come off maybe a little robotic, like trying to hit the formula. Yeah, balance. I know you mentioned too getting feedback, even like serving your audience. I tried to do an annual survey, not specifically about storytelling, but I'm sure you could weave in those types of questions to see how it's connecting, do you have anything up and coming that people could maybe check out to get more help with this?
Tamara Melton: Yes, I am working on my website. I like to build websites too in my spare time. I'm working on my website, which will be tamaramelton.com. It's going to have resources for dietitians. I just recently accidentally launched a new service because several people have asked me about doing storytelling audits for their presentations that they're giving, for their websites and things like that. I'm really building that out to offer that.
Tamara Melton: I mentioned that I was building a course. I wanted to create a course and actually expand a little bit just from storytelling. I saw also there was talking to my ideal clients, there's kind of a gap in the kind of B2B RD space that talks about strategy, starting a startup. How do you start a startup? I've talked about it, I love starting startups. I didn't want to university. I did a nonprofit. I love starting startups that are in the black from the get-go. That is my goal, making money and helping people but also making money.
Tamara Melton: I will be in this course and probably at the time that people are listening to this will be up and going on my beta course, for my first group and cohort coming through, but really teaching how to use storytelling for startups because I see in our space, there are startups and side hustlers who are exhausted, overwhelmed by all the things and I think it's because folks need a little bit more help with that strategy part and really getting that foundation that really allowed them to grow no matter if they're full time or side hustlers and everything. My course, which at this time is yet unnamed, will also be offered, but you can find everything at tamaramelton.com.
Erica Julson: Perfect. Yeah, I totally agree. I feel like shiny object syndrome is real in our industry and can kind of slow people down.
Tamara Melton: Yes.
Erica Julson: Getting distracted by too many things. Yeah, I think that hand holding and the like. Just focus on this. Be consistent. Yeah, for sure. Yeah but I think also, I love that you're kind of a serial entrepreneur. I relate to that. It's like, it's so fun getting it all set up and then you're like, "All right, now it's kind of boring now that it's done."
Tamara Melton: Yeah, I did that. inaudible on.
Erica Julson: Yeah, I feel like there's totally different types of entrepreneurs and that type is you get all the excitement out of the new thing and you're watching it grow. It's so much fun. Anywhere else that people should go to check you out? What social media handle are you most active on?
Tamara Melton: For storytelling, Instagram. The Storytelling Dietitian, you can find me there. I mentioned my websites, I'm heavy on Instagram. I mean, you'll find me at Erica's group on Facebook. I'm there too hanging out but Instagram is my thing. I thought about doing my Facebook group but you know, just like you said, you got to do what works for you. I do for me is what works for me right now. I'll have that group for my books for my course. Yeah, I like IG in the way I can kind of connect with people so that's where you can find me at.
Erica Julson: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here today. I know people are going to love this episode. Thanks for all those actionable tips.
Tamara Melton: Thank you.
Erica Julson: As always, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I know I had a lot of fun with this conversation. Just a heads up, I will be opening enrollment to my SEO Made Simple course in just a few weeks. Stay tuned for more information on that.
Erica Julson: This is the course where I teach you my four-step framework to getting more visitors to your website so that you can stop publishing to crickets and start getting thousands of people coming to your site every single month, which can then be leveraged to earn things like ad revenue, affiliate income, brand work, selling digital goods, offering courses or memberships or even booking more one-on-one clients. I've poured everything into revamping and updating this course for 2021. I am so freaking excited to share it with you all.
Erica Julson: In a few weeks, I will be inviting you to join me on a free webinar if you want to learn more. Be on the lookout here and in my Facebook group, the Unconventional RD Community on Facebook for more information about how to join that webinar and everything about the SEO Made Simple course. Looking forward to it and I'll see you next week.
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