Imagine it…

Your business is the talk of the UK media.

Articles in the broadsheets, slots on daytime talk shows, debates on radio phone-ins.

It’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy (or, rather, it would take MILLIONS to purchase).

If this sounds far-fetched, then let me tell you a true story that might  change the way you think about setting up your business and writing the material for your website.

Because no matter how far down the line you are with your business… you could be up and running or still at the brainstorming phase… the technique I’m about to show you is absolutely essential reading.

Oh, and as you’ll see, this will work for almost any business… whether you sell flowers and books, offer sales training or accountancy services, sell fitness DVDs or make animal print cushions.

Okay, so here’s the story…

The magazine they tried to ban (and failed)

What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You is a publication that offers readers information about alternative health therapies, as well as opinions on the medical news and scientific breakthroughs.

The service is co-edited by Lynne McTaggart, a respectable journalist and other of bestselling books including The Field.

For years it ran in the classic online publishing format that I know very well, as I use it myself:

* Website with updated blog and articles

* Weekly email newsletter

* Special reports, eBooks and webinars

Thanks to this tried and tested business model they built an audience of subscribers who enjoy their advice and happily pay for subscriptions and affiliated products.

But here’s the important thing…

As the title suggests, What Doctors Don’t Tell You isn’t just a website that gathers information.

It set itself up right from the beginning as a David Vs Goliath business.

It pitted itself against the medical establishment who often ignore people’s concerns and promote medicines made by the big pharmaceuticals.

It was an antidote to a mainstream media in hock to drug corporations and advertisers from the food industry.

And it stood up against mockery, scepticism and attacks from the scientific community on those who practised alternative medicine.
The business told a very simple, memorable story about itself:

‘The medical establishment doesn’t have ALL the answers to health problems, and there are remedies and therapies out there that you, the consumer, have a right to know about. What Doctors Don’t Tell You will find them and share them with you.’

It was doing well enough that in 2012 it created a print version of the publication to be sold in newsagents and supermarkets.

And that’s when the story turns darker….

In October of that year, The Times ran a damning article describing how scientists, doctors and patients were joining forced to ban What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

This wasn’t just criticism.

This was an active campaign to condemn and hassle shops for stocking the magazine, and get it off the shelves. It was about shutting down choice.

Suddenly there was a pile on as the media tried to get their piece of the story.

It was talked about on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, debated on BBC’s Five Live and criticised on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health where a GP named Margaret McCartney criticised the magazine for being “ridiculously alarmist”.

Meanwhile in The Guardian’s Dean Burnett wrote a sneering and scathing satirical broadside.

“In case the magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You is shut down,” he scoffed, “A resource of various things doctors won’t tell you has been created and placed here, freely accessible to all.”

Lynn McTaggart described it as “open season” on her publication. Almost everyone in the establishment attacked it, from doctors and scientists to journalists.

So what happened next?

In the years that followed, subscription rates increased.

It’s not because all publicity is good publicity. You deserve everything you get if you court controversy by being deliberately unethical, cruel, racist, libellous or any of those things.

Bad publicity can kill your business.

The reason What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You benefited from the bad press was that it had a very clear story behind their business: that alternative health information is attacked, banned, repressed and mocked.

The behaviour of GPs and journalists in the media strengthened that story, made it more interesting, emotionally appealing and far more widely told than they could have achieved with an advertising campaign!

Use stories to bond with you customers

Think of it this way…

The negative media articles appealed to those who were already cynical about alternative health. These people were never likely to buy the magazine anyway.

But there are many thousands of people who genuinely feel better because of treatments like hypnotherapy, homeopathy, reflexology and acupuncture…

They are many thousands of people who have lost weight with low carb diets, or feel better after cutting wheat from their diet, or use honey and lemon to treat colds….

And there are many thousands of people who have been patronised by their GP, misdiagnosed, had their nagging pain ignored, or been told it’s in their mind.

For those people, the attack on What Doctors Don’t Tell You was like a big fat promotional campaign. It told a story they recognised from their own lives.

It tapped into their very real emotional experiences of anger, frustration and fear. It connected them with What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You on a close, personal level.

Now that is genuinely what money can’t buy: a feeling of empathy between you and your potential customers.

And yet it’s something you can achieve for free. It just takes a bit of thought.

How to storify your business, products and services
Ask yourself, what’s your business story?

Do you have a clear and obvious purpose to your business and is this clear on your

About Me page, welcome emails, press releases and sales materials?
More importantly, does this story tap into the deeper emotional concerns of your ideal target customer?

I can’t stress how important this is.

There are so many businesses out there competing, both offline and online, you need to stand out and have a memorable hook if you’re to have a fighting change.

It’s vital that your story that connects your customer’s story. This is what makes them loyal even when you make mistakes, get attacked by the competition, or experience bad reviews, unfavourable press or other online challenges.

Here’s an example. During the anti-What Doctors Don’t Tell You witch hunt ‘free speech campaigner’ Simon Singh wrote an article in The Independent complaining that the publication threatened to sue him for criticising it.

Beneath the article is this comment

It is not ok to criticize the publication of this magazine. That is up to subscribers, who still have that right to make that choice. So personally I find you a whiner, whilst trying to limit rights of freedom of choice.

See? That’s exactly the kind of angry, loyal, impassioned response you want from your customers, fighting on your behalf because you understand how they feel.

It doesn’t always have to be a David vs Goliath story of course. Examples of business stories include…

  • [Nutritional advice service] Cookery book writer and Mum of three kids on a crusade to go 100% sugar free by 2017 
  • [Self-help webinar & live event business] Shy boy bullied at school overcomes his problems to become an expert public speaker and sets up a website to help others 
  • [Computer repair business] Former hacker now pits himself against the spammers, phishers and spyware merchants that threaten ordinary PC users 
  • [Etsy craft business] Jewellery designer so angered by ocean pollution that she makes her products out of washed up junk 
  • [Consultancy business] I started my business with £147.50 and now I run a £2m enterprise 
  • [Energy drink business] On an expedition in Peru, adventurer discovers an amazing energy-boosting ingredient and returns to the UK to help other people benefit from it.

As a rule of thumb, if you can imagine your business story being a headline in a newspaper article, or a feature in a radio phone in, then you’re onto a winner.

This is so important, I’ve prepared a lot more on this topic for the forthcoming issue of Digital Upstart, with plenty of practical advice for you.

So please look out for that, coming next week.