By Sue Brady
If I asked you to click on one of the three ‘first sentences’ below, which one would you choose?
“The weather was perfect, we had a full picnic basket, and the children were happy. What could possibly go wrong?”
“It was just a faint glimmer really, so faint that I wasn’t sure I’d actually seen anything unusual. Very slowly I started to push the door open.”
“After effectively running my first webinar, I decided to give SlideShare a try.”
I’m guessing your choice would not be the third option. Why? Because everyone loves to read a good story. If it’s interesting/engaging/compelling, people will read it.
But sometimes, you might say, it’s hard to tell a story when I’m just trying to sell a widget. And that’s where you’d be wrong. Let’s say I had to sell Internet service (something I did for several years!). I could take this approach:
“Internet Service XYZ lets you connect to the Internet and enjoy faster upload and download speeds. Our unique service uses nano-technology to allow you to stay connected while enjoying the fastest speeds available. You can look at pictures, connect with your friends and shop online from the privacy of your home! We’ll even provide you with 5 email addresses and 10 gigabytes of storage.”
Or, I could use this one: “Sally Jones won the science fair contest four years in a row. She showed how photosynthesis worked, studied the impact to plants of clay in the soil, evaluated projectile speed as related to the arc of a trebuchet and studied the effect of salt on wood. When Sally grew up, she created a line of children’s science games. As a 100% online business, her Internet connection was her lifeline and eventually helped her earn her first million dollars. We are so proud that xyz company played a part in Sally’s success. How did we help? …”
See what I did there? Rather than telling you about what my product does, I showed you what it does by relating a story that showed how it’s used.
As a marketer, it’s your job to tell your story. As with all content marketing, the trick is to make it interesting, relevant to your audience, and engaging. You want them to read what you’ve written, and perhaps come back for more as they proceed through their buying cycle.
Gini Dietrich, founder of her own communications firm and author of the SpinSucks blog, is really good at storytelling and provides some great tips on how to write a great story here. She talks about the five essential parts of a good story: Passion, the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the Revelation, the Transformation. She explains how you can tie those pieces together to create your own brand’s story. It’s a great guide for you as you try to start writing stories your audience will want to read.
You can find many other lists on the Internet of the components that make a good story. The good news is, they’re all similar:
- Know what you want to convey
- Use your own experiences (or that of your customers)
- Have a problem
- Have a hero
- Resolve the problem
Famous filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Toy Story) did a Ted Talk on storytelling a couple of years ago. One of his key takeaways was the importance of “making me care.” If your audience doesn’t care, they won’t listen to your story. Set aside 20 minutes and give this a watch. And then I challenge you to tell a story for your next marketing campaign.
It was a dark and stormy night…