Hey baby won’t you look my way, I can be your new addiction
Hey baby what you gotta say? All you’re giving me is fiction
I’m a sorry sucker and this happens all the time
I found out that everybody talks
Everybody talks, everybody talks
—“Everybody Talks,” The Neon Trees
Everybody does talk. And they often talk about other people … the more famous, the better. As communications professionals, we often try to control the story for the organizations we represent. If you’re going to talk about these groups, we want you to say good things.
But, what Vanguard tells our clients in our persuasive storytelling training is that there is no story so powerful as one’s own. It ensures that you determine the message. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of individuals who have mental health challenges. Jenny Lawson, otherwise known as The Blogess and author of the best-selling book, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” writes side-splittingly funny blogs about her family life. But when she is not making her online audience cry with laughter, she is moving them with anecdotes about her honest ongoing battle with anxiety disorder. Her fans have formed an informal online support group, and because The Blogess has been so honest about her experiences, her readers laugh with, and never at, her.
Similarly, gossip abounds about young starlets partying and crashing cars and then denying — usually through spokespersons — that there may be a larger problem. Contrast that with “X-Factor” judge and singer Demi Lovato. Sporting a tattoo to “stay strong,” Ms. Lovato has been frank about her battles with eating disorders and bipolar disorder, and her continuing struggles to be herself in an industry dominated by ”image” rather than reality.
In an interview with SELF magazine, she talked about why she wanted to share her story:
“I want girls to know that it’s OK when they grow up and their body changes. I want them to be aware that certain things they might do to lose weight can be dangerous — life-threatening, even.”
Everybody may talk about these two women’s stories. But the conversation is likely to be about how brave both women are, or even about the issue of mental health. Because, when someone takes charge of their own story, they take charge of all the talk, too.