How to Use Brand Storytelling in Marketing with Darlene Hawley


How do you share your story to connect with your audience? How does your story help you to find your perfect client? These are questions I asked Darlene Hawley, a Brand & Business Clarity Coach and storyteller

What you will learn in this episode:

  • How to tell your story and attract the ideal clients
  • How to stay authentic to yourself and stand out
  • The importance of authenticity and connection

About Darlene Hawley:

Darlene Hawley is a mother, wife, connector, storyteller and dream builder. She is also a Brand & Business Clarity Coach and the founder of and the host of the Attract & Stand Out Podcast.

Darlene helps ambitious, service-based entrepreneurs who want to give to others in a big way, spend more time with their family, and create a profitable online business. They’re afraid to share their unique life story but know they need to stand out if they want to build an authentic, and profitable online business. She helps them build a solid brand foundation so they can share their message with the world, attract dream clients and have the impact, freedom and flexibility they desire.

Connect with Darlene:



TP: Welcome to Step Up and Thrive, where you get quick and easy tips on business management, productivity, stress management, work-life balance, and marketing. I am Tuuli Paaksi, Personal Development Coach, and my task here is to introduce you to various ways to succeed in business... while keeping your sanity. And today we are speaking about brand stories. My guest is Darlene Hawley. Darlene Hawley is a mother, wife, connector, storyteller and dream builder. She's also a Brand and Business Clarity Coach and the founder of DarleneHawley.Com and the host of the Attract & Stand Out Podcast. Welcome, Darlene.

DH: Thank you so much for having me on. Such a great honor to be here with you and to chat about sharing your story and how amazing our personal brands are when we're growing these businesses. So thank you for having me.

TP: Thank you for coming. So you're teaching entrepreneurs how to tell a story and share that unique message. Can you share your story?

DH: Absolutely, I've had my business now since 2007, so just over 14 years and before I started my business, I worked in retail management. I was a single mom and I found that I was just overworked and overwhelmed and stressed out constantly because I was trying to balance. And maybe you can relate to this. I was trying to balance like being a mom and taking care of my family at home and then running a successful retail store where I was in HR training and development manager. And I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I had a lot of responsibilities. You were, I was, made to believe at the time, and I don't believe it now, but at the time I thought they couldn't live without me and retail management. I was never I never felt like it was OK to take a vacation or take time off or to not work a ton of hours. Like I felt like I had to be there to keep the store running. And I laugh now when I look back at it. Right. Because how funny is that? But that was like the mentality that they were teaching us at the time, because it goes against everything in my soul and my being like, I can't work all the time. I can't go nonstop. I need to be able to have like I don't even call it balance. I call it kind of like a harmony in my life where I work hard and I play hard. And some days it's more work stuff. And I'm running my business and doing podcasts, interviews and creating content, coaching clients. And then other days life happens. And especially if nothing else that we've learned with covid over the past year, like family comes first. And it's so important that we find that harmony to make sure that some days are going to go crazy and it's not going to go how we think it's going to go. And it's OK. And I wish I would have known that back in my early twenties when I was going so fast and trying to be so quick and working and balancing my family and all those things. But it was a couple of years after my second son was born that I realized that I didn't want to keep leaving, leading my life the way that I was doing. I didn't want to keep going non-stop. And I realized that I wanted to do something on my own. And so I started putting resumes out there and trying to figure out, like, I think the question every adult has, like, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" And I found business coaching at the time and I didn't even know what a business coach was back in 2007. Turns out I had been coaching my whole entire life. I was always the friend that people came to if they had questions or needed advice or needed a shoulder to cry on, and I would give them feedback and comfort. And then in retail management I was doing the same thing. I was motivating, encouraging and inspiring my employees to move up in the company or to find their passion and do what it was that they loved. And so it was a perfect fit. When I found business coaching and I bought a franchise, I got trained as a business coach and it's been an amazing ride over the past 14 years. And I absolutely love the work that I get to do every day where I show up and support my clients and creating profitable personal brands and businesses where they can really amplify their voice, share their message with the world, connect to their mission and their values and the things that really are important to them so they can make an impact and really show up as their true, authentic self and have fun doing it. Like owning a business is so fun and it's such an honor to be able to support my clients on that journey as they create a business, a life of freedom.

TP: You mentioned about why the story is so important. Can you talk a little bit more about why we should have this unique message and our own personal story to share?

DH: Yeah, absolutely. For me, it took a little while when I started my business to realize what was unique about me and what things I could use to stand out as an online or at the time I was an online entrepreneur. I was running my business completely on the ground. I'm going to networking events and I found that I was blending in really well. I felt like in high school we were taught to to blend in and kind of be like everybody else. And nobody wanted to be like different than anybody else. And so I always was trying to be like when then when the crowd not make myself too noticeable. And then as an entrepreneur, though, I was I realized I was like, "Oh, my gosh. Like, this is totally different than, like, the thought process I had around standing out in high school. And now you have to stand out. You have to be different". You have to find ways about yourself that make you unique and let people take notice that you're there. And so I started to realize that every single one of us has a person. We're all personal brands, whether we want to be or not, like especially with social media in this day and age, like we all people are experiencing us. They're setting their thoughts on what we are and who we are and how we show up to the world. And so I realized that it was important that I stood out. And so I started trying to figure out, like, "OK, what is it about me that makes me different from everybody else?" And that's when I realized, "Oh, it's my story". It's the unique pieces about my life experiences, my quirks, my skill sets, the things that I'm passionate about, the things that I've studied and trained on. Those things are what make me unique. And so when we show up as personal brands and we're sharing our story, people are going to really resonate and connect to that part of the story that we're telling and how we're connecting those pieces. And that's when you can really start to attract your ideal plans and stand out in the online space is by showing up and sharing your story, sharing your message, sharing your heart. And I think when when we as especially entrepreneurs, show up in that space, it really gives us the ability to connect with the right people. And we're we're attracting the right people who are also repelling people from our lives as well. Some people just don't they're just not a good fit for us. They have different personalities or different values, systems, beliefs that are like huge red flags, right? Like there's certain people that, you know, there are probably a really great person, but I'm not feeling the chemistry with that person or I'm not feeling connected to them where I want to sit down and have a cocktail or a cup of coffee and really get to know who they are. And that's the same thing in the online world as we're growing our businesses that we get to do. We need to show up as ourselves, be authentic, and let those pieces of us really shine so that we can connect with our people and really use that to separate us from everybody else. Because there's a lot of people and the online world, as you know, there's so many people out there. So how do we find those people that we want to connect with and really on ourselves at the same time? And sharing your story was one of the best ways I found that you could really do that.

TP: When I start sharing my story, I could begin from the day I was born. How can we sort of condense our whole life into this unique message or your story in shorter form?

As you're sharing your story as a business owner and setting the stage for your personal brand, you want to figure out which stories actually matter. - Darlene Hawley, Podcast Step Up & Thrive

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DH: Yeah, it's such a good question and I get this question all the time. Like, we we all have these lines that we lead and we're like, which pieces of them actually matter when it comes to growing our business? And so we don't want to just share every single story, every single thing that's ever happened to us. I like to joke. We don't want to share like every skeleton in the closet because we all have pieces of our lives that we hold close to that are pieces of us, right, that may not be very valuable to our ideal client, so as you're sharing your story as a business owner and setting the stage for your personal brand, you want to figure out which stories are actually like, which stories actually matter and can connect to your ideal client in a way that's going to pull them in a little bit and intrigue them, lean in and be inspired by what you're talking about. So I talk a little bit, and I didn't even share this when we opened our podcast today. But one of the stories that I talk a lot about is losing my mom. I lost my mom in a tragic accident back in 2001. And that was right about the time that I left retail management. That was one of the big aha moments that I had for myself when I realized life is so short. I can't I couldn't keep leading the life that I was living and feeling that tug of war between my family and my in my work. And so that was a story, though, that in the beginning I couldn't share. It wasn't a story that I was ready to share because I got emotional or my voice would choke, or sometimes I would go back to some of those vivid memories and I'd break down a little bit. And as I as I've grown as a person and I worked through some of those different things, I can share that story now and how that was when I had that moment. Like, I can't keep living my life this way. It's time for a change. Life is short. And that's when I started my entrepreneurial journey. And I think it's important to note, too, like when you're sharing stories, especially if you're going to connect them to your ideal clients and into your business, you don't want to share them when they're when they're raw, when they're really when you're going through the moment, you kind of want to be able to have come through the moment so that you can share it with your ideal client to say, OK, used to be over here and this is what was happening. And this is why I'm over here now and you can walk your clients through that journey with them. Rene Brown has a beautiful quote that I feel like connects with that perfectly. And she says, "To share from the scar, not from the wound". And I was like when I heard her quote, I was like, "Yes, I was like, that makes so much sense". Because when you're sharing things that are going on in your life, whether it's something tragic, like something that happened, like with my mom, that sometimes it's the little things like maybe you're going through a lot right now, maybe your home life isn't feeling good, or maybe you're overwhelmed and stressed and you don't want to share it necessarily in the moment because it might not it might make you look messy, right? And sometimes that's OK. Sometimes your audience needs to hear that you're messy and that life doesn't always go the way you need it to. But if you're, you'll know if you're ready to share the story, if you feel like you can talk about it with a view, a different viewpoint or a different lens on it so that you're able to connect the journey. But yeah, I think a lot about the storytelling when it comes to your business. As I always tell my clients, do some brainstorming, sit down and like take 15 minutes, 30 minutes and just journal like think about every single thing that's ever happened in your life, like get it all out there, like you were saying, like your youngest memories to your elementary days, to your high school days, to your college days, to your young adult life, like write down all those memories and then start circling the ones that you can see a way will connect with your ideal client. And you're like, oh, "If I shared this story like I was a teen mom and I worked like I was telling you, like 60 plus hours a week and retail management" and when I talk about that now, my audience connects to it because most of my audience are people that are overworked, they're tired, they want some more freedom in their schedule. They want to have some flexibility in their life and they're not sure how to find it. And so that's a story that when I share, it connects to my clients because they're like, "h, they might not be a team. They might not have been a teen mom like I was. They might not have worked retail management or even 60 hours a week, but they might feel overwhelmed and stressed and know that there's more that life can offer". And so that was a story for me in that I talk about often and it connects to my audience. And then I also in my business, like I talk a lot about when I first started out not knowing how to connect with my audience, not being like I was the most popular person at networking events, like I knew everybody in the room, everybody knew who I was, but I wasn't getting clients from it. They knew who I was. They loved me, but they didn't really know what the heck I did. And I always joke back, like back in 2007 when I first started my business, most people would ask me what sport I coached. When I would tell them I was a business owner. And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, what is wrong with my messaging? Why am I not able to connect my message to get people to really understand who I am and what I do?". And so, like two years in my business, I just remember having this big breakdown moment where I journaled my little heart out and I wrote everything I could possibly think about down for, like changing my business and looking at my messaging and how I wanted to move forward. "And it was during that time that I realized, holy crap, Darlene, like you, you're speaking to everybody". I was trying to talk to every single business owner in the whole entire world. No wonder nobody knew that I was talking directly to them because I was so broad in my messaging. And it was when I really crafted my message in a different way. And I reached down and became clear like, I love working with service based online entrepreneurs. That's my heart. That's my passion. Yes, I can help all kinds of other different types of businesses, and I still do occasionally. But my passion is service based business owners and now it's online service based entrepreneurs. And so I've been able to crack my messaging in a way where people still love me, they still know who I am, but they also connect the dots and they're like, "Oh, I know who I can refer to you. I know who to send to you". Or they raise their hand and they're like, "Hey, I need your help like that. What you're saying makes total sense. How can I get more of that? How can I have that in my business? And so I think that when you share your story, you're able to connect those dots in such a beautiful way and you find the right stories that are going to connect at different times. And often I tell my clients to have what I call a story bank. All of those other stories that you don't use as part of your personal brand story, your origin story, you can share those little stories at the right time. When you have, like the right piece of content, you can start with a story there. People are twenty two times more likely to resonate with you and your content when you share a story in that. So everything that you create as an entrepreneur should have a little bit of story. It could be one sentence of story or it could be like paragraphs or a whole entire big piece of the story. But when you share a story, people are really going to lean in and that's when they're going to resonate with what you're sharing. And so sitting back and just brainstorming and finding all those stories and then connect the dots backwards and figure out which ones of these stories really are going to make my client go, oh, yeah, I want to learn more about what you're saying.

TP: Thank you. And at the same time, if you have this story and if you tell the story, but you are still like hiding yourself, I guess it doesn't help a lot like you told about your college years, then we had to be similar. We couldn't stand out. So do you have any tips for how to shop and how to stand out, how to be visible?Not with this story, but with the whole thing.

DH: Now, every single one of us needs to share our story so that we can attract our clients. But we also have to have a really strong client attraction marketing plan in place as well for being visible, for showing up in the right places where our dream clients are actually hanging out. So it's so important that you find a strategy that works for you in your business and it'different for everybody. None of my clients work the exact same strategies. One thing that I have found over the years is that most people strategy is watching what other people are doing and their industry and then going, "OK, well, this person's creating a podcast or this person's doing YouTube videos or this person is speaking on stages". So that must be what I have to do. And sometimes, yeah, that's a great strategy for you to do. But I think it's more important that we take a step back from there and we really look at all the different marketing strategies that are out there in the world of different ways that we can show up and connect with our our clients and figure out which ones really might make us excited to show up in our business. Because the worst thing that can you can do is if you hate video then don't do videos like in this day and age, you probably should get used to videos because video is definitely the way of the future. But at the same time, like if you have to write, write a blog post, guess post for other people's blogs, pitch yourself to Entrepreneur magazine or Thrive Global or a Medium or authority magazine and write for those publications so that you can get in front of your ideal clients and lead people into you. But if you love and if you love to do videos that absolutely have a YouTube channel. Put yourself on like stages, like virtual stages where you can share your message with the world, share your stories, tell people about the type of work that you do, but finding strategies that really light you up. I think it's like the secret ingredient to being successful in marketing. There's nothing worse than finding a strategy that you commit yourself to. And then when it's time to show up and do it, you're not happy about it. You hate doing it like you like stomp your feet like a two year old toddler. And you're like, "Oh, I'm so not happy with this. I don't want to do a video or I don't want to do this podcast interview". That's not me. I love podcast interviews, but some people don't love doing podcasts that makes them nervous. But then they sign up for it and then they don't have fun. And then it comes across, I feel like in your messaging and then your marketing when you're doing something because you feel like you have to, not because you want to. So I think it's important that we find the right strategies for ourselves and then do a lot of them, like find five to 10 marketing strategies that you really love and then only focus on those five to ten for that quarterly plan and really do an amazing job at it. Like if you want to be on podcasts, like put yourself to five podcasts each week. And like, have fun during those interviews, let your light shine through those messages. So, yeah, I think a big piece of the visibility strategy is just finding out what you love doing about staying focused on it. And then that's when your story starts to shine. That's when your dream clients find you. They're like, "Oh, like I just listen to you on a podcast. I'm so excited. I've heard your message. Thank you so much for sharing this. I really connected with X, Y and Z". And then all of a sudden they're on our newsletter list and they're consuming your content. And two weeks from now or two months from now, or sometimes two years from now, when they're ready to buy whatever it is that you sell, they're going to they've been following you for all that time. They're going to come to you and say, "OK, I'm ready. How do I work with you? What do I need to do?" Where the worst thing that can happen is people come into our world and they only stay for a short time because we stop connecting with them. We stop creating valuable content. We stop that consistent communication with them, that when they're ready, when they're ready, somebody else pops up on their Facebook ad or they attend a virtual summit with somebody else. And instead of going back to that person, they haven't heard your name for a while. So they go and buy from somebody else because they're already there. So it's important to be visible, to stay consistent, keep showing up and have fun with it. Your dream plans are going to connect with you because you're the right person for them. I think there's I don't know I don't even know how many people are in the world these days. There's tons of people in the world. I can't service every single one of those people. You can't service every single one of those people. So knowing and holding out the fact that you're going to attract the right people, your people to you and that and then they're going to buy from you when they're ready.

TP: Thank you. Yes. Having fun is actually a really good thing. Yeah. And now it's time for our Quick Tips section. This is something what we do regularly on our podcast and my question is, Darlene, what is your biggest revelation about brand stories?

DH: Yeah, I think the biggest revelation is that you just need to be you, show up your true, authentic self and have fun with it. Don't like, if you snore or if you have an amazing giggle or whatever your quirks are about, you like lean into those and let people really see you instead of trying to hide and trying to be like everybody else. Let those pieces shine because there's only one you. So there's no point. And it's actually really hard. I feel like now that I've been showing up as my true authentic self right for so long and I can't not be me like, it's really hard to even imagine, like trying to be something else or trying to like put a facade or a mask on. Like it's important, just like just let yourself shine people. The right people will see you and they're going to be attracted to you.

TP: So fake doesn't help you or your true self.

DH: Absolutely not. Don't be fake. Please don't be fake. There's nothing you can you can spot a fake person a mile away. Right. Like can you imagine like, if we were to get together for coffee when covid leaves and we're able to see each other again and get on a plane one day when I meet you, I want to feel like I already know you, even though I've never met you in person. So how like most people that I meet, like they're like you're exactly like I thought you are going to be like like maybe people might think I'm taller or shorter because we only see you like the zoom screen these days. But they should feel like, "Oh my gosh, I already feel like I know you", like there's not that awkward get to know you stage. They already feel connected. They already feel like they are your best friend.

TP: Yes. Thank you so much, Darlene. These were really great tips, and I really wish that everybody would listen that episode over and over and over and mark down all those good ideas. So thank you, Darlene. And if our listeners would like to know more about you and follow you, where can they do so?

DH: Yeah, the best place to follow me is head over to my Web site, which is . And I have a ton of resources. I have a podcast called Attract and Stand Out, or you can hear weekly interviews as well as like createheart-centered weekly content, whether it's on YouTube videos or blog posts, different things like that, where you can connect and really start to understand how I work with my clients and the different things that I talk about, like creating a personal brand, knowing how to create that strong client attraction marketing system, and then how to have heart centered, authentic sales in your business and actually take people from a cold prospect all the way over to a paying client 

TP: Thank you. And all the links you, of course, find in our show notes page. So please come back and you'll find all those great offers from Darlene. Thank you again, Darlene. It was so great to have you here in our podcast and thank you for joining step up and pray with Darlene Hawley. I'm your host, Tuuli Paaksi. I wish you all the best.

DH: Thank you so much for having me. It was so fun to be here.

TP: Come and check all the show notes and transcript at Thank you for joining. Step Up and Thrive with Darlene Hawley. I'm your host Tuuli Paaksi. Tune in in two weeks.

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