Marketing experts love buzzwords. Storytelling has become one of those mysterious “know-it-when-you-see-it” strategies that some brands can pull off marvelously while others struggle with copy that’s too dry, too sales-y, or just doesn’t connect. So is storytelling a lofty goal reserved for brands that can pay a marketing agency to put together a multi-faceted strategy, or is it something you can put into practice yourself as a small business owner with naught but a website, an hour or so of writing time, and a little expertise?
The good thing is that storytelling comes naturally to most people. We do it on a daily basis, with our friends and family, at parties, and even at work. So where does that glimmer of magic come from, that spark of engagement that keeps your audience hanging on every word? For those times when a great story doesn’t just fall into your lap, or maybe the information you have to share isn’t the most exciting on the surface, there are a handful of strategies you can use in tandem to create a spellbinding experience.
Tip #1: Meet the reader
Of course you want anyone and everyone to read your blog, but first, you need to focus on your ideal client. Chances are you know a bit more about your subject than they do, so it’s especially important in your first couple of paragraphs to meet them where they are and establish an entry point. What do they already know about your subject? What do they still need to learn? Do they have any preconceived notions and opinions about it that you might need to address? This will come in handy for solving the “blank screen” conundrum: begin with something familiar to your audience, then guide them forth into the unknown.
Tip #2: Have a purpose
You likely have a topic for your blog, and you might have an idea why this information would be useful for your audience, but what result are you ultimately aiming for? Sometimes it’s as simple as changing a common misconception about what you do or planting the seed of an idea that might turn into a purchase later on, but the more specific this is, the better. Are you looking to build thought leadership in a specific area? Can you end with a call-to-action to sign up for your mailing list? Is there an event coming up in the next couple of months you could be preparing your audience for? Writing a blog without any interest in what comes next will leave your reader asking “so what?” Or worse, they might bounce before they’ve read the last word.
Tip #3: Show a transformation or overcome something
The most exciting part of a story is usually the climax, when the conflict comes to a head and the end is near. This is the moment that puts us on the edge of our seats in a thriller or an action movie. It’s also one of the key moments that makes an educational or persuasive blog feel more like a story. Think of it as the “teaching moment” or the “aha moment.” Back when you learned to write a standard 5-paragraph essay (which, thankfully, might be on its way out), you were probably taught to put your most convincing point last, right before your conclusion. This guides your reader through a realization process, hopefully ending with a resounding agreement. The tone of your writing will be a little stronger right before you get to the “so what,” creating a natural build-up and release of tension.
Tip #4: Stick the ending
No part of a story is more important than the others, but you need a beginning, middle, and an end to make it complete. Even though you’ve made your point, possibly even more than once, you have to put a bow on it for your reader to feel a sense of closure. But contrary to the 5-paragraph maxim of “re-stating your thesis,” a good conclusion shouldn’t make you feel like you’re repeating yourself. Use your conclusion to add a different perspective to the revelation discussed in #3. What can your readers do with this information? What do you want them to do, and why? How might it make a difference moving forward? You might think of this as the “impact” paragraph.
Tip #5: Write the middle first, then add intro/conclusion
It might be difficult to meet your reader where they are if you don’t know exactly where you’re going. An easy way to solve this problem (especially if you’re pressed for time) is to write the “body” paragraphs first and then write the introduction and conclusion together to put the “meat” of your blog into context using tips #1 and #4.
These tips can be applied to any kind of blog you want to write, but the most important step in storytelling is taking a few minutes to strategize before you start. Review your topic, your audience, and your purposes in sharing your thoughts on this topic with them. All the decisions you make about what information you include and how you arrange it should support these goals. It’s okay to have some ulterior motives, especially if you’re giving free advice!
Taking the time to shape your blog into a story elevates it from a document to an experience. There are plenty of boring one-sided blogs out there, so injecting a bit of story to engage your readers will make your voice memorable.Tweet
Feeling inspired? I’d love to hear which points in this blog resonated with you. Get in touch with me and let’s continue the conversation!