There are a lot of great content marketing resources available for entrepreneurs, but one critically important thing that’s hard to get a handle on is an issue that’s less science and more art.
The simple truth is that your articles can be technically perfect, but if they don’t tell a great story, you won’t connect with your readers. Fortunately, it’s easy to learn ways to tell better stories. Below are five way to do that.
Ways to Tell Better Stories
Know Your Message
The first thing to determine as you get ready to tell your story is what your ultimate message should be. Consider this the proverbial moral of the story, if you will.
When crafting your message, ask yourself who your audience is and to what kind of message they’ll be most receptive. In some cases, you might be looking to move prospects closer to making a purchase from your company. In others, your goal might be to educate, entertain, or inform your readers.
Once you know your audience and the message that’s most likely to reach them, you’re ready to begin crafting your story.
Know Your Key Characters
All great stories have a plot that involves key characters. There’s a hero, a villain, and an almost-impossible challenge. Many times, there’s also a victim in distress that needs to be rescued. Think about these characters as you craft your article.
How many of them can you bring in? Can you talk about a challenge that almost derailed your success, until you rallied to win? Can you discuss how your company or product rescued a client from almost certain failure?
While you don’t want your story to fall into the trap of being over-the-top dramatic, you can think of subtle ways to integrate these characters into your writing. Everyone wants to root for the good guys, see the bad guys lose, and watch the victims rescued. How can you meet that need?
Bring in Emotion
Carl W. Buehner wrote in 1971, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
In the more than 40 years that have passed since then, the truth of this adage hasn’t changed. When you include emotion in your writing, its impact will linger with readers for far longer than facts and statistics will.
If you’re having trouble thinking of ways to tell better stories and ways to bring emotion into your story, think about personal experiences you’ve had that relate to your message. Sharing a personal story can be a great entry point into the emotions of your audience, and has the additional benefit of showing your vulnerability and humanity to prospective customers.
Don’t Be the Star of Your Own Show
You shouldn’t be the star all the time, anyway.
While case studies and stories about the effectiveness of your product have their place, most of your writing should revolve around your audience. Think about their needs, their fears, and their desires, as well as how you can speak to those issues.
Inform, educate, and entertain, but make sure you’re not always the hero who saves the day.
The ever-popular 80/20 rule can be a helpful rule of thumb when finding this balance. When applied to your writing, this rule suggests that only 20 percent of your writing should be promotional, or focused on your company or product. The remaining 80 percent should be more general in focus. That said, both types of writing need to focus on your customers’ needs and desires in order to stay relevant to your readers and to make use of this tactic as one of the ways to tell better stories.
Keep it Simple
A story doesn’t have to be a heart-stopping thriller to make an impact. Don’t try so hard in your storytelling that you become inauthentic or put in too much of the wrong kind of detail. Think about the stories you still remember from your childhood. Chances are they’re simple, straightforward, and fun.
At the same time, don’t feel like every post has to accomplish your entire marketing message. Think of your website as a running commentary over time that sets the mood and tone of your overall message. Each of your articles only has to accomplish a little bit for your site to be very successful overall.
One of the most powerful stories ever written has only six words. In it, Hemingway wrote, “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
The reason the story is so powerful is that it has a strong message, carries incredible emotion, and is exceedingly simple. Whether your stories are long or short, they’re sure to connect with your readers when they include the five elements discussed above.
Do you have any ways to tell better stories, and how do you create an atmosphere of storytelling in your writing?
Storyteller Photo via Shutterstock
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Story telling is a must these days. More than sharing information, people love to know what is the story behind a particular phenomenon.
Could you list some small businesses / solopreneurs that have been good at storytelling.
Great article. I’ve been trying to truly understand what it means to tell a brand story, and how I can apply that to my company’s brand. This article gives me some great insight!
Like Martin, I’d like to see some examples of smaller enterprises that have done storytelling well if you have them?