Here’s The Thing About Personal Drama And Trauma On Your Business Blog

vintage woman at typewriter I'm blogging thisIn short, it’s a mistake.

I feel your pain.  I’ve also grieved the loss of a beloved pet.  But may I ask what the death of your parakeet has to do with XYZ? 

You know, the social media marketing methods I came here to read about.

Your sister is expecting triplets?! I gave birth to twin girls twenty-two years ago and I’m still trying to recover.  I could probably give your sister a few good pointers.  But may I ask what this glorious piece of news has to do with XYZ?

You know, the healthy low-fat recipes your blog promises to share. 

I fully understand what it’s like to end a long term relationship.  It’s crappy and crummy and sends you on a depressing trip to Shitsville!  But may I ask what your break-up has to do with XYZ? 

You know, the public speaking niche your blog was designed around.

Happy birthday and congratulations on your new car!  I drive a Honda and I love it.  Good choice.  But may I ask what your new ride has to do with XYZ? 

You know, the self-publishing tips noted in your blog’s tagline.

Have I convinced you yet?

It’s rarely a good idea to share personal issues on your business blog. The last thing you want to do is confuse new visitors, subscribers, or your loyal readership.  Many are already confused enough.

The exceptions to the rule (just so I don’t have people throwing rotten tomatoes at me or inciting a riot):

1.)  If you’ve made it CLEAR you’re going to write a combination of personal and business-related posts, go for it.  But be sure that announcement resembles neon-sign advertising. 

Do whatever you need to do to ensure people landing on your site know what to expect.  Otherwise, run the risk of criticism and folks who won’t return for more mixed bag content.

2.)  IF you can tie a personal story or happening to something biz-related, that’s A-Okay.  For example, if writing about your Aunt Emma’s cranky disposition ties into the professional services you offer, feel free to write about her and work to show the connection.

Times when personal stories work best on your biz blog:

If you’ve purchased an info product or a course you love, worked successfully with a business coach, received an invitation to speak at a networking event, or helped a client reach his/her goals, then by all means, share your personal stories, accolades, and victories. (Oh, and the not so fun biz stuff, too.)

But please don’t confuse or annoy your audience (or gross them out, attempt to draw them into your personal drama, air your dirty laundry, engage in public arguments, or pull skeletons from your family’s closet). 

Play it safe (and smart) and stick to writing about what your blog promises to deliver. 

Give the people what they came for and they’ll come back for more.

Hemorrhoids can be very uncomfortable.  I’m sorry you can’t seem to find any relief.  But may I ask what your bottom’s misery has to do with XYZ?

I’m confused.  And I’m starting to feel rather uncomfortable myself.  Unlike your hemorrhoids, I’m gone for good!

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  • Yes, I think the important message here is to connect whatever personal experience you’re sharing to some added value for your readers. If you help them make that connection, then they will be able to make your message relevant to them – and that will keep them coming back for more relevant info from you.

    • Absolutely, Jessica!

      Everyone loves a good personal story, right? We humans tend to roll like that. 😉
      But sticking to the “purpose” of your blog is pretty darn important IF you’re blogging for business.

      Thanks for lending your input!

  • Oh boy, thank you for this! I have really been struggling with how on earth to do this the right way. Unfortunately I think I’ve been doing it the wrong way (oversharing….cringe!), but this post really makes it clear to me.

    Now if only i could figure out ways to tie personal experiences to my lessons in design….. hmmm…..

    • Very sweet of you to join the conversation, Marianne — thanks for dropping in! 🙂

      “Now if only i could figure out ways to tie personal experiences to my lessons in design”
      One way, for sure, would be to blog about your designing “goofs”. Have you ever made some design mistakes? Share those with your readers. People love to know they’re not the only ones struggling with design. Also, share success stories of clients you’ve worked with — the details of how you took someone from Point A to Point B. And be sure to show “before and after” photos. Everyone loves those. And who doesn’t love a good story?! Another idea might be to share your favorite colors as a child and why you liked them best — and then how those colors carry over to your adult [biz] life now.

      Really, Marianne, the sky’s the limit. Have fun!

      • Wow those are really some great tips Melanie, thank so much! I never thought of sharing my past mistakes or goofs, but that’s a great way to further show my readers I am human 🙂

        Love what you share here Melanie! I’m going to share it on my FB page this week.

  • Love this Melanie…I have wanted so many times just to vent and be personal and a few times, I have intertwined personal into a business post as I think we do naturally. I have strayed away and remembered that was not my purpose and to use other avenues (new blog/website) for the personal passionate side as I think I need that personal therapy at times. I love how you basically said be clear with your writing and intentions for your blog and there will not be any drama if you stick to it…Love it!

    • Great to see you here, Michelle, and thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

      “I think I need that personal therapy at times” You, me, and everyone else, I believe! And it’s not that some of our readers wouldn’t appreciate a behind-the-curtain view of our lives … BUT … it’s just too risky to get that intimate on a business blog. I try my best (and sometimes I fail) to craft posts with the first-time reader in mind. I try to remember that some people will be landing on my blog for the very first time and my goal is to make a good first impression. I can only imagine what they’d be thinking if I was talking about hemorrhoids! LOL!!

  • HI Mel, you have hit on such a key lesson for bloggers. Have you read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly? While discussing vulnerability she talks about people mistaking oversharing for being vulnerable. While being able to be vulnerable is a measure of self worth, oversharing is the opposite. And it tends to make people turn aside rather than toward. It is greatly different when personal details are included in a story to validate it’s content or make a point than gratuitous tit bits for no purpose at all. Thank you for writing about this in your inimitable style.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Sandy!

      I’m familiar with Brene Brown but I haven’t read “Daring Greatly”. Sounds like she and I are kindred spirits. 🙂

      No question about it …
      ‘Oversharing” is a ship sinker!

  • Melanie this is probably the first and only time I’ll be recommending a post BECAUSE hemmroids are mentioned. Triplets, break-ups and family secrets – did I stumble upon a soap opera? For me stories (particularly those that are funny) if tied to business are good. However I’m at a business blog to be energized not depressed or embarrassed. I never did like soap operas because there was always another calamity. Who needs that? I have enough in my life. Now a tale of overcoming calamity (minus any details protected by HIPPA) is a winner for me.

    • Never considered this one had a “soap opera” ring to it, Nicole, but I think you’re right! 😉

      LOVE these words from you …
      “I’m at a business blog to be energized not depressed or embarrassed.” Amen to that!

      I totally enjoy a good story as much as the next gal. And I wish more biz bloggers would learn to be better storytellers (Hello Tea Silvestre — are you listening?) But only IF their stories relate to their business.

      Thanks for swinging by and sharing your insights — much appreciated!

  • LOL and applauding. Love this, Melanie.

    I’ll admit, in my early days as part of a 30-day blog boost, I shared more personal details – but definitely NOT that personal. I set up my personal blog because I did want a platform for my musings, BUT in no way did I want that creeping into my business blog..

    By the way, Sharon, I have a health care blog, too (as it’s my niche – as you know ;-)), but even there I cannot imagine sharing stories about my hemorrhoids – not that I have any to share – eww… 🙂

    • Thanks for the applause, Cathy — it grabbed my attention and pulled me away from that proverbial rabbit hole known as social media. LOL!

      Good for you for putting the time and energy into setting up a personal blog. I think it’s a really smart move to keep business separate from the rest of our lives … unless you can truthfully and tactfully marry the two.

      Appreciate the visit! Always a pleasure to find you here. 🙂

  • Oh, how I hate vaguebooking!

    Personal yarns with a business lesson however, I could read those all day. Especially the kind that air dirty laundry. When distilled down to the facts, those horribly painful, Itchy, irritating business blunders and client catastrophes are truly wonderful teaching (and learning) moments for most small business owners.

    They should be shared, openly – and without fear, guilt, or shame.

    The fact that it’s so hard to distill out the emotion from the facts, and then to get to the heart of the lesson, is precisely why most small business owners shouldn’t air their dirty laundry. Even I sometimes go too far. Even so, I’d like to think that most of my business lessons, hard earned as they might be, came as a result of me doing my best while in the midst of expectations mismatch or communication confusion – and never because I was doing something deceitful or wrong, or somehow mislead someone. And that’s why I usually opt to talk about them rather than not.

    All my contracts are in plain english (vetted by a lawyer, of course) precisely because I do not want any confusion. Every client walks through the contract with me before they sign it. Every client signs off on deliverables. So when they come back to me and say, “Well, you didn’t do this,” (which has happened a grand total of 3 times since I started my business 5ish years ago) I can only guess that they must have blacked out while signing the deliverable sheet. When I show them the proof, the real root of the problem comes out: fear over money or impatience over how slow good marketing progresses when done right. Weekly pivots might be shiny and fun, but they don’t tend to pay the bills long-term.

    Anyway, just a bit of a detour 😀 Great points!

    • “Oh, how I hate vaguebooking!” That’s two of us, Nick.

      And it’s okay you took a little detour here. I love your stories!! 🙂

      Not sure what this says about me but …
      I navigate toward “client catastrophe”-type tales. I want people to tell all! I think it’s because I love the lessons shared. (You’re really good at that, by the way). However, I’m glad you’ve only had miniscule experience with not-so-great clients. They drain every last ounce of energy reserve you possess 🙁

      I appreciate you. Thanks for the visit!

  • Love this, Melanie. Oversharing is a sin. However, relevant personal stories can help create a good relationship, but “relevant” is the key word – unless you’re running a personal health blog then hemorrhoids are a no-no!

    • Seems there’s a lot of sinning going on in the blogosphere, Sharon. LOL!

      Too true …
      “Relevance” is the key.

      Many thanks for stopping by!

  • Yes, yes, and yes. Some people are just natural over-sharers (remember the acronym TMI? It still applies.), and when it comes to a business blog, this can be dangerous territory. It’s a tricky line to draw, however. Some of the most memorable—and meaningful—blog posts that I’ve read (albeit coming from brands that unapologetically speak the truth about life, work, and everything in between, and have worked their branding around this fact) have talked about suffering from depression, slumps in the workflow, etc. These posts give the reader personal insight into the business owner, but in ways that make that person even more real and relatable. This can be good. Anything about hemorrhoids, on the other hand? Never good!!

    • I hear ya knockin’, Molly, and ya can come in! 😉

      Sometimes it’s a very fine line that delineates sharing just the right personal story with your audience and sharing Too Much Information. I figured the reference to ‘hemorrhoids” would do the trick here. LOL!

      Here’s a fine example …
      Tea Silvestre recently posted a personal story of her son’s dilemma and frustration in seeking an internship. What made the story applicable and acceptable on her biz blog was how she related his story with her own. Super post. The woman is pure genius, by the way. 🙂

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

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  • I’m a huge advocate of sharing personal stories WHEN they’re relevant to a lesson or a point I’m trying to make. I think there’s a lot of folks screwing this up in email, too.

    One of my clients is currently experiencing some major health issues and she wondered whether or not she should share what she’s going through with her readers. Because she’s a life coach whose focus is mid-life women who are dealing with all sorts of crazy (like health issues) it makes sense for her to share a bit of this with them. So she can help them see that she’s like them — and that she’s not living a perfect life. But we don’t need all the gory details to understand the relevance. I think that’s where many folks cross the line.

    • “I think there’s a lot of folks screwing this up in email, too.” You betcha!

      Valid point about your client with health issues, Tea, and I tip my hat to her for having the courage to share her story. From my perspective, it’s a way to be helpful to her readers and clients and makes total sense since she’s a life coach. As I always say, “Life strikes” sometimes … and not always in pleasant ways.

      Thanks a bundle for sharing your insights!

  • L. O. L Melanie. First of all, Hemorrhoids. Just… Hemorrhoids. I love your whole approach to the XYZ thing, you made this both amusing and helpful. And I totally agree that personal stuff doesn’t belong on a business blog. You can have a personal blog for that! (omg, 2 blogs, imagine…)

    You see that a lot at holidays and elections. Some people can’t seem to shut up and keep their opinions to themselves so at election times you get a whole slew of unrelated political commentary. And at holidays suddenly everyone’s business blog becomes a repository of family recipes. It drives me nuts but it happens a lot.

    I hate to be mean and say I don’t care but… I don’t care. At least not in that context. And I think I might even go so far as to say not to mix business and personal AT ALL, even if you disclaim it. Just get a personal blog. It’s not that hard!!

    • Right on, Carol Lynn! Sending over a big hug for your remarks. 🙂

      I couldn’t resist mentioning that little “health” issue. LOL! It really bugs me when people start sharing stuff that’s WAY too intimate and, by the way, not needed. I’m with you … I don’t care.

      Politics, puppy poop, perspiration problems …
      Be gone from biz blogs! 😉

      Thanks so much for weighing in.

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  • Oh, so true! I tend to go too far the other way, but on the rare occasion I work something personal into a relevant post (as you mentioned), it really goes over well. Balance is the key!

    • Hi Alisa — thrilled to see you here and thanks for the visit!

      Seems “relevance” is the word of the day. 🙂

      And it doesn’t surprise me the personal tidbits you’ve tossed into some blog soup have been well received. I think it’s great when biz bloggers can relate something going on in their personal lives to a topic they normally cover in a non-personal arena.

      Unfortunately, some biz bloggers veer way off track and, in turn, turn their readers off. 🙁

      • Haha, yes! And, hemorrhoids? Unless you’re a doctor who specializes in that affliction, there just isn’t a place for that. I might go so far as to say, even if you ARE a doctor, best to leave it alone. 🙂

        Really fun post with some good food for thought. “Blog soup.” I like that!

        • Let’s face it, Alisa …
          There are just some topics that should never leave your head …
          Or the other end of your body. LOL!!

          Thanks for coming by again — you’re a keeper. 🙂

  • I agree!
    I’d love to write about my new grandbaby but there’s no business reason to ( unless I decide to sell a few books I suppose). Every day I see it happen and now I just walk away… You’re right. We don’t care unless it’s relevant.

    • Hey Sarah!

      Thanks a heap for joining the conversation. (And many congrats on your new grandbaby!) 🙂

      Good idea …
      Just do a u-turn and head in the other direction when someone is spilling their [personal] guts on a business blog.

  • Hi Mel
    “In short, it’s a mistake.”

    Thank you and good night.