The fine art of storytelling…
Creating compelling stories
According to urban legend (and Wikipedia), Ernest Hemingway while lunching with friends at a restaurant, bet his dining companions ten dollars each that he could craft an entire story in six words. After the money was placed on the table, Hemingway wrote the following on a napkin:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Unsurprisingly, he won by producing a six-word novel, an extreme example of what is called flash fiction or sudden fiction.
Writing a novel and crafting copy requires different skillsets, but the likes of Hemingway can certainly teach us about getting the audience’s attention. In fact, it’s what is not said in his six-words that forms the basis of his baby shoes story
Hemingway was without doubt a good storyteller. The example above is clever, succinct, and leaves the reader wanting more, something today’s copywriters can learn from. We all know someone who can spin a yarn, whether it’s a mate down the pub, or a friend at the school gate. And it’s worth remembering these people if you want to tell a story about your product or service. Think about what makes a good storyteller.
Talented storytellers know how to engage with their audience, they can draw people in by creating interest, making something emotive – funny, sad, scary – and by making it relevant to those listening. There’s usually a beginning, middle and an end, where scenes are set, characters introduced and some sort of action takes place before the payoff or conclusion. Not everyone is a natural raconteur, which is why it’s good to talk to a professional wordsmith if you want to connect and engage with your audience. While good storytellers do not necessarily make good copywriters, good copywriters are naturally adept at telling good stories.
21st Century storytelling
It’s quite remarkable how far we have come from stories typeset in books to the multitude of opportunities to share information via the explosion of technology. Print and TV ads have been usurped by the notion of ‘content’ – that of producing specific copy on a specialist subject to educate, inform and ultimately persuade people to think differently about something. Indeed, sometimes we don’t even need words to say what we mean, just ask the 500 million people who have an active Instagram account. The word ‘content’ encompasses a myriad of storytelling methods from infographics, to animations, social media to videos and more. Whichever way you choose to talk to your audience, there are a few fundamentals that should be addressed before you commit fingers to keyboard.
Do you know who you are talking to? Remember there is often a difference between who will see your story versus who you want to see your brand message
What is the best way to talk to them? This includes anything from a phone call, letter or text through to a YouTube pre-roll ad
What hook can you use to draw in the audience? What will appeal to them and what will motivate them to buy your product/brand/service?
What makes your offering different or better than a competitors’?
What do you want them to do as a result of reading, hearing or seeing what you have to share?
You’re a customer too
One of the most important things to remember when telling stories about brands and products is the ability to recognise that you are a consumer. You can bet things that annoy you about advertising and marketing storytelling will just as likely grate with other people. Be honest and fair, don’t take advantage of your audience. Know when to speak and when to keep quiet. Avoid spelling and grammatical errors. Be responsive if they talk back to you.
Good storytelling is now measurable in so many ways. There’s the obvious increase in sales, likes, and shares, and of course good old-fashioned word of mouth. If you hear others retelling your stories in a positive way, you know your copywriter’s done their job,
Take a look at how we tell stories at Cavalry…