how to write an about page

How to Write an Amazing About Page

Ah, the dreaded About Page.

You know you need one…

But few people know how to create one that actually accomplishes anything for their business.

Here’s a good question.

What is a “good About Page” really supposed to accomplish?

Copyblogger says that it should answer three questions for your visitor:

  • What’s in this for me?
  • Am I in the right place?
  • Can this person help me with my problem?

The first thing that you should notice here is that, while your About Page is about your business, it needs to be catered to your visitors.

You don’t want to turn your reader off by talking about yourself too much. Make them interested in a natural conversation with you.

To answer these three questions and get your readers to pull up a chair and stay a while, there are a few steps that you will need to follow through on.

Let’s take a look at what they are.

company bio page

How to Write an Amazing About Page: Focus on Your Reader

As you go through each step, the importance of focusing on the reader cannot be overstated.

While your initial thought may be that your About Page should be about you, the fact of the matter is that your readers aren’t there for you. They’re there for them.

By understanding that your reader should be your main focus you can avoid producing an information-littered About Page that doesn’t accomplish anything for your business.

Go ahead and tell your story. Just don’t get so lost in telling it that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place.

Step #1 – Tell Your Story With Your Customers in Mind

There are thousands of examples of stale About Pages that tell weakly put together stories about the history of a company and what they offer to customers.

The thing is, people already know most of these things. They’ve made it to your page because they feel you might have the potential to solve their problems.

As Entrepreneur contributor Aaron Agius is quick to point out, “So many companies focus on business specifics in their About Page content, such as types of services and products offered.”

Agius wants you to look away from this boring strategy.

His recommendation is that, “Your About Page should illustrate your business’s humble beginnings and highlight the positive attributes of your team that helped you get where you are today.”

Here’s a good overview of the elements of a compelling B2B story:

True-Film-30-Second-Story-for-Companies-Infographic

All six elements outlined above play an integral role in ensuring that businesses see you as someone that they’d like to work with.

Make your About Page about your customers. Relate to them. Be memorable. Give them a reason to trust you.

Do these things and you’re well on your way to making a strong first impression with the people who matter.

Step #2 – Utilize Visuals to Strengthen

Visuals are a necessary part of any great About Page. And they’re especially effective when you’re attempting to tell your brand’s unique story.

This visual, showing why infographics are a great business tool, gives you a sense as to why. It grabs you, doesn’t it?

infographics-for-seo

Now, we’re certainly not saying that your About Page needs an infographic.

What we are saying, however, is that, if 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual, your page needs more than just words.

Visuals can include anything from images and videos to infographics and photographs.

MailChimp is one of many B2B companies that effectively utilizes photographs on their About Page.

Mail Chimp staff 1

When you see this photo, you immediately think of community. This isn’t a coincidence.

As you scroll down their page, they have a section about Community Investment and how they’re helping cities like Atlanta become, “better, weirder, and more human.”

They also feature a visual-rich section on their employees that looks like this:

Mail Chimp staff 2

When you see these photos, the word “fun” comes to mind. Now we know, without even reading a single word, that MailChimp identifies themselves as a fun, community-driven company.

They’ve told their story through photos and use words to supplement it. This is the power of visuals.

And it’s why they need to be implemented, and featured, on your About Page.

Video content is an excellent choice to consider for your About Page. Here’s how we did it on our About Page (our video story was filmed professionally and told by our founder, Julia McCoy):

express writers about us video

And if you scroll down, you’ll learn about each of the creators that make up a core portion of our team:

express writers about us

Step #3 – Use Social Proof

The power of social proof in the marketing world is astounding.

And while there are dozens of examples of how social proof can help you market effectively, it can also be leveraged on your About Page to build a strong first impression about your reputation.

But with so many different ways to show that others trust your brand, which one works best for your About Page?

This infographic shows eight ways you can use social proof on your website:

types of social proof

The type that will work best for your brand is, plain and simply, the one that will be seen as most powerful to your customers.

Gummisig, a freelance web designer, identified that listing popular clients that he’s worked with proved most effective.

gummisig

Ikea is a Fortune 500 company. Showing potential customers that a company like that has trusted his services provides immediate, and incredibly effective, social proof.

But maybe you haven’t had the pleasure of working with a client with that type of name recognition.

No problem. Use the customers you do have.

Providing quotes from testimonials is a powerful way to generate effective social proof. Including actual data about what you’ve accomplished for your clients can also work incredibly well.

Use what you have to provide social proof that your unique readers will understand and appreciate.

Step #4 – Give Readers a Next Step

If they like what they see, what are they supposed to do next?

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of creating a strong B2B About Page. After all, isn’t the objective of your entire website to convert users?

To answer the question of what you want them to do next, your focus should be on what stage of awareness the reader is in when they get to your About Page.

Eugene Schwartz lays out five potential stages of awareness. They include:

Stages of Awareness

Since they’re attempting to learn more about your business, your potential customer is likely already in the product or brand aware stage.

They understand their problem, know that there are solutions, and are now on your brand’s page because they see you as a potential solution.

The goal of any copywriter is to get customers to the most aware stage and convert them when they get there.

So, in order to convert them, you need to think like a copywriter.

When customers are on your About Page, and they’re intrigued by your story and the social proof that you’ve provided, they’re only steps away from being most aware.

Take advantage of this by implementing a call-to-action at the bottom of your page that provokes them to take the next step NOW.

Digital strategy firm Nerdery provides a great example of how to do this.

Their CTA is simple:

Nerdery CTA

Their goal is to start a conversation with potential customers so they can eventually follow through and bring them on as a client.

And they’ve made it easy for readers of their About Page to start that conversation.

Find out what you want readers to do next and ask them to do it. It’s really that simple.

Conclusion

In the end, there are a lot of elements that go into creating an amazing About Page.

You want to tell your unique story and use visuals to tell it in a more compelling manner.

You also want to show readers, through social proof, why they should trust you over the dozens of other brands that offer what you offer.

What you don’t want to do, however, is get so caught up in doing these things that you lose sight of the fact that your About Page is about your reader, and what they’re looking to get out of it.

And while the line between telling your story and focusing on the reader is a fine one, it’s one that I’m confident you can overcome by using the steps above.

If you’d like some assistance in walking this line, we have a great team of experts that can help you create an amazing About Page.

engagement cta

creative copywriter

My Journey as a Creative Copywriter

The fall of 2014 seems like such a long time ago.

It had only been a few months since we made the move to the Dallas area, and for the life of me I could not find my place in the land ‘o heat. Aside from my in-laws, I knew no one. I was looking for a job, something that would allow me to stay home and be available to our 3 boys, but finding something with that kind of flexibility was difficult.

And then I ran across a blog titled “Stay-at-Home-Moms: Could Freelance Writing Be the Income You Need?” from Red and Honey. The blogger gave a short blurb about Express Writers, one of her recommendations that she described as “very active…with lots of work.”

Take a writing test? I thought. Easy. They assign jobs to you? I can handle that.

So I leapt. I filled out the application, took the writing assessment, and lo and behold—I was a writer!

Well, kind of.

Over the next 7 months or so, I spent my days churning out blog posts, web content, and trying to hone my skills as a creative copywriter. Let me tell you, it was a rough beginning—and I’m not talking about the workload.

Thankfully, they have been patient with me.

marcie's journey as a copywriter

A Day in the Life of a Creative Copywriter

I have always wanted to be a writer. From the days of third grade, when I won a Young Author’s award for my story about the fisherman who kept his catch as a friend rather than as food, all the way through my days of journal-keeping in college, something in me has always wanted to put pen to paper and create.

marcie 1

After getting married and having 3 kids in 3½ years, not to mention a decade’s work with my husband as a non-profit administrator, writing took a backseat. I was faced with the task of a regular speaking schedule, which meant I put together manuscripts for delivery, but it was not the creative copywriting I knew could be developed in myself.

And then our move to Texas changed everything.

I went on to write for EW until the summer of 2015, when I began working for a local non-profit. While I loved serving the impoverished and homeless, a leadership change in the organization was my cue to exit that position.

So there I was again, earlier this year, without a job and once again unable to find my place in the land ‘o heat (funny how things come back around). So I sent an email to Express Writers, asking if they had any open positions.

What is a Creative Copywriter?

After I meet someone new, the next question is usually, “And what do you do?”, and after I answer, they usually come back with, “So, you have a blog?”.

Not exactly.

Although a creative copywriter’s job may sound simple and mundane, every day does not look the same. Here are some highlights of my workload in the past few weeks:

  • Social media management: One of my favorite tasks!
  • Blog posts: A couple of 1,000 word posts with a keyword emphasis that required research and finding authoritative voices to back it up.
  • Video transcription: I summarized the key points made in a media presentation.
  • Encyclopedia-like content articles: Rather than present content in a blog format, I took a third-person approach and wrote more encyclopedic content.

A creative copywriter takes on a variety of roles, depending on the needs of the client and their industry. The approach is always changing, and in order for the content to be effective, there must be thought and creativity behind the writing process during every step of the process.

What is a Creative Copywriter Made Of?

I have the advantage of working from home, which always includes a full pot of coffee and a variety of comfortable yoga pants (my husband is not convinced that these are considered a business expense).

marcie 2

When I first started with EW, I was looking to earn a supplemental income for my family and be available when they needed me. This second time around has been much different, and I think it’s because I’ve realized that a creative content writer can’t be as impactful if he or she sees the process as “just a job”.

While I do love the flexibility (and the work attire), I have also seen growth in myself as a writer. I have learned that to be effective in this industry, there a few characteristics that must be present:

1. Research

No content creator comes up with authoritative content on a whim. Even the experts have sources on whom they rely for accurate information and statistics. Content without research holds little power for the audience.

To the non-writer, coming up with 500 words may sound like an easy task. In reality, it depends on the topic at hand. If I am creating content for a long-term client for whom I have written in the past, it probably won’t take long to develop a post or article. However, if it’s a brand new client in an unfamiliar industry, the research will be more in-depth.

2. Creativity

Every week, I sit down and picture myself as one of the followers of the social media pages I manage and think about what I would like to see in my newsfeed. I create images, find interesting articles and posts, and present them to specific audiences for their sharing and retweeting pleasure.

Creativity means getting outside of yourself and into the mind of the reader. It’s always about taking a unique approach and drawing others into the story.

3. Focus

Sometimes, the topics that our Content Manager sends me can feel drier than the Texas heat. I have to admit that there are times I have had to dig very deep in order to make an extraordinarily boring topic sound exciting.

Focusing on the topic at hand might mean an extra cup of coffee or a walk around the block in order to reset your mind. This is especially true if the words start to jumble together and you find yourself running out of something meaningful to say.

4. Growth

If I’m being honest, there are times that I couldn’t care less about the subject I am working on. And there are times I don’t always give my best (hello, revisions) and I know my work isn’t as good as it could be. That is where a team of editors and directors, aka accountability, becomes invaluable.

The willingness to change and accept critique makes up a big part of being on a team of writers. One of the reasons I love EW is because I know I will receive honest feedback, which helps me develop as a content creator.

A Journey of Discovery and Meta Tags

I have no idea how many thousands of words I’ve written in my lifetime. Between school and work and raising a family, there has been little time to reflect on just how far I’ve come.

Through these past two years, the countless hours spent writing, rereading, revising, and analyzing have taught me so much about myself and my ability to put thoughts down on paper. I confess that I still don’t quite understand all of the lingo that goes along with being a content developer, and I wish someone would make a Meta Tags for Dummies cheat sheet.

Remember That Life’s a Great Balancing Act

Dr. Seuss reminds us in his classic book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go that “it’s opener out there, in the wide, open air.”

The journey of a writer is just that—a journey. There are obstacles and open doors, as well as times of defeat and times of victory.

No one stops learning, and no one has ever “arrived”, especially in the ever-changing world of content development.

And with the right tools and the right team, we are made that much better while we travel.

marcie cs lewis quote

Marcie is a consistently high-rated copywriter at Express Writers. Want her to write your content? Order through the Content Shop or Talk to Sales and request her on your copy!

brand story

Are You Writing a Great Brand Story? How to Explain Your Brand & Solidify Your Online Presence

Everyone loves a good story.

Just think about it this way…

It is extremely difficult for many of us to resist answering the question, “So, guess what I heard?”, when someone asks.

A good story is why we love social media, reality television, and People magazine.

Whether we are reading it on Facebook, on the Kindle, or from a website, a good story draws us in, paints a picture, and makes us want more. There is a reason so many books shoot to the top of the bestseller lists, stay there, and are followed by sequels and movies: they tell a compelling story.

writing a great brand story

A Brand Story of Self, Us, Now

Marshall Ganz is on staff at Harvard University and teaches what he calls “public narrative” at the Kennedy School of Government.

During his teaching, he emphasizes the idea of “self, us now” as it relates to public narrative. He notes that we all have a compelling story to tell, shaped by our choices and our challenges.

  • Our “story of self” reveals something about us and our values, the “key shaping moments” in our lives.
  • The “story of us” tells others about specific people and moments of choice that helped to shape a community.
  • A “story of now” encourages others to take action and join us in carrying out a specific purpose.

So what does this have to do with storytelling as it relates to a brand? So glad you asked! Let’s delve in further.

Activating purpose is impossible without storytelling. – John Coleman

Revenue as a Byproduct

No matter what the business, blog, or product, at the end of the day, we are ultimately dealing with people. On the other end of the phone and the computer is a person who has his or her own story, who has questions and needs answers that hopefully you can give.

Neil Patel and Ritika Puri note that “human-to-human connections are the heart and soul of business.” Revenue, in whatever form that may take, is simply a byproduct of good business practices and quality customer experiences. In the midst of transactions and numbers, storytelling connects us.

Are you writing a great story? Can people in your sphere readily see what your brand is all about? Is your online presence captivating and connecting?

How to Use Storytelling in Your Online Presence

Marshal Ganz gives us some things to think about, especially as it relates to our brand’s online presence and storytelling.

While you are contemplating how it all fits together, ask yourself these questions:

1. What is my story?

With the exception of the Kardashians, most of us don’t like to talk about ourselves. Probably the people we like the most and surround ourselves with are those who aren’t self-centered and don’t ramble on about their own lives. Ganz isn’t sending a message that we need to be entirely self-focused, but rather that we highlight those moments of growth, courage, and poor choices that ultimately make us who we are.

Do you run a small business? How did you get to that point? What mistakes did you make that ended up costing you? The good, the bad, and the ugly-those are the moments to which we can all relate.

2. What is my community?

Who is your audience? Whether you are a motivational speaker, a small business owner, or a student leader, you have a community. It’s made up of your audience, your customers, your classmates, and even your family.

In telling the “story of us,” we are relaying the message of the “why”- why we are writing, why we are creating a product, why we are studying. What shapes this community? Somewhere in there is a common need or search for answers, and maybe even a common goal that needs to be met.

3. What is our purpose?

When Suzy started the Poo-Pourri brand, she knew her purpose. In her words, “Poop happens, and it stinks!” Although her marketing may sound a bit stinky (as in, we’ve “got more important crap to worry about!”), her purpose was clear, and it sold.

poopourri

4 million products later, these spritz sprays made for the most intimate room in the house are a hit.

And why?

Suzy knew her purpose and she mastered the art of genius storytelling, from uncouth videos to vibrant and colorful photos, she went forward with her purpose of providing a practical product for a need we all have.

It’s All About the Audience

As Patel and Puri point out, brand storytelling is not an essay about how your company came to be, a PR stunt, or tool for manipulation; it is, however, direct, transparent, and all about your customers or audience.

It’s not boring. The story has to draw people in, or they won’t want to stay.

It isn’t a single blog post. Although creative and well-written blogs are enjoyable to read, writing one isn’t necessarily conveying the story.

It is real and human and authentic. What is true about your brand or industry? That’s what people want to hear.

Take a Cue from Television

When the television show This is Us premiered in the fall of 2016, no one could have predicted how high the ratings would go. With almost 10 million viewers, the dramedy beat the rating odds, and continued to bring in the same numbers as the date of its premiere.

Why such a powerful draw? The show tells a story of 3 siblings, chronicling their lives from childhood into adulthood and back again. Viewers have been pulled into their story, and the message is clear: family is hard, but it matters. We fall, but we get back up. Everyone has issues, but at the end of the day, we come back to family.

Are You Writing a Good Story?

Storytelling involves creating a connection through writing. In order to write a good story, your audience of readers, customers, and followers must connect through real, intentional words. They are looking to find out who you are, what type of community they are a part of, and the purpose of the brand.

If you need help telling your story, Express Writers can help. Connect with us today to find out how!

poo pourri

A Tale of Crazy Good Marketing Storytelling: Poo~Pourri

We’ve got a pitch for you.

Imagine this: a tiny bottle of magical mist you can spray into the toilet to cover up unpleasant bathroom odors. People will love it, right?

If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking, “That’s a crazy idea.”

You’re probably also thinking, “Aren’t there already 10,000 products identical to that on the market?”

You may even be thinking, “There’s no way that would ever sell.”

You’d be right on the first two and dead wrong on the last one.

Here’s why it would sell. Let your mind be BLOWN…

Be introduced to Poo~Pourri, a wacky “spray before you go” bathroom mist that’s gone viral and sold millions of products. “How,” you ask? Because of its incredibly creative use of brand storytelling.

I’m going to dissect just how this crap “made it” (so well, in fact); and five essential lessons you can learn from the way they’re winning. Let’s proceed!

poo pourri

Who (or What) is Poo Pourri?

Head to the Poo~Pourri website and you’ll find a page that immediately resembles something from Alice in Wonderland, complete with an embedded video of a pretty princess who is, presumably, squatting on her porcelain throne. The entire page, from the font to the color scheme is decidedly elegant and playful. And, at first glance, the only thing that really clues you into what the product is all about (besides the name, of course) is the slogan beneath the brand’s logo: “Spritz the bowl before you go and no one else will ever know.”

Before we hop down the rabbit hole of what makes Poo Pourri such a genius brand, it’s important to understand where the brand came from in the first place. At the top of the page, beneath a header titled “The Magic of Poo,” there’s an “About us” section (it’s called “The Story of Poo”). We must warn you, though, this “About us” is likely different than any you’ve ever seen.

It starts out innocent enough: the founder’s name is Suzy and she started the brand as the “first natural, truly effective solution to a universal problem.” In her words, “Poop happens, and it stinks!” She goes on to encourage you to “Take a shift!” and allow Poo Pourri to liberate you from “toxic thoughts and ingredients” because, hey, you’ve “got more important crap to worry about!”

Does this introduction have the six-year old inside of you giggling and blushing? Good, because we get the distinct feeling that that’s exactly what Suzy is going for. We’re willing to bet, however, that you’re also silently acknowledging that Suzy is indeed right. This is a universal problem.

And therein lies the first stroke of genius.

Since its inception, Poo-Pourri has sold more than 4 million products and that number only continues to climb. These products are neat little 2 – 4 oz spritz sprays, all natural with essential oils and no parabens or chemicals (which I personally love!), and start around $9.95 without shipping per bottle. The products even have cute little names, and the product descriptions themselves maintain the storytelling vibe.

poo pourri product

Even if you agree that nicely-packaged bathroom spray is a sensible idea, it still seems almost unbelievable that such a company should experience such runaway success.

It’s happening though, and the brand owes it all to storytelling. Something we talk a lot about (here, and here, for instance.)

How Poo Pourri Rocks Storytelling

Remember that embedded video on the main page of Poo~Pourri’s website? Well, they made a few original stories with the same lovely British redhead – 12, to be exact. Delight yourself in the crappiness of their entire channel, here.

Hilarious, right? Hilarious and slightly cringe-worthy, as well. The latter part owes largely to the fact that that video may be the single most daring and honest marketing video you’ve ever seen. Honesty is a theme that runs throughout the website.

From the unique section titled “Let’s Talk Crap” at the bottom of the home page (where you’ll also find the below “Hey Girl” gem) to the attractive product photos throughout the site, the brand’s home page manages to be hilarious, bawdy, and just sophisticated enough to pull it all off.

Hey Girl Meme

How does Poo~Pourri pull it off, though? And how do they take all of that storytelling and transform it into something that genuinely helps the brand make sales? The answer is that they use a series of tried and true marketing tactics that they infuse with their own individual flavor.

5 Marketing Lessons to Learn from the Storytelling Genius of Poo~Pourri

Here are the top 5 things we could all learn from Poo Pourri.

1. Know your audience

You’ve heard this before and you’ll hear it again but, come on, is there a brand out there that knows its audience better than Poo-Pourri? Doubtful. It’s clear from the get-go that Poo-Pourri is aimed at young, eco-conscious females everywhere that are having a hard time bucking the social norms associated with bathroom business.

If you need extra evidence of this, consider the video titled “Girls Don’t Poop.”

The video underlines the product’s quality by boasting that Poo-Pourri has more 5-star ratings on Amazon than the iPhone 5. It also offers a good-natured nudge at self-consciousness that generally surrounds bathroom visits. As Entrepreneur points out in their article on the company, “Everyone has a use for a spray that makes bathrooms smell fresh, but Poopourri did not target every Tom, Dick, and Harry.” Because of this, the brand is dominating while other bathroom spray brands are…stinking.

2. Be bold

If there’s one thing Poo-Pourri doesn’t do, it’s tread lightly. Phrases like “dirty little secret,” “tiny astronauts,” “chocolate éclair,” “intestinal cigar,” and “heaping dump” are prevalent throughout the brand’s advertisements.

And, yes, while we know that the majority of those phrases are enough to make you blush, they’re also bold. One of the best things this brand does is remove the timid language that often surrounds the topic of bathroom use. In doing so, they make the topic relatable and create an environment in which people can say, “Hey, yeah, I can totally relate. I’ll try this stuff out!” Unconventional? Yes. Brilliant? Absolutely.

3. Provide some comic relief

Let’s be honest, nobody really wants to talk about poop. But since Poo-Pourri does it in a funny, lighthearted way, it’s easier for customers to approach. Also, it’s infinitely obvious that whoever wrote the web copy for the company’s site had a great time doing it. This translates through to the reader and makes it easier for the customers to enjoy themselves on the page, translating into more sales and more brand engagement.

As a side note, let’s remember that, while Poo~Pourri is bawdy, a touch lewd, and very bold, it manages to balance those things with levels of professionalism, sophistication, and attention to detail that prevent it from ever coming close to unsaleable.

4. Be unique

What Poo Pourri is doing right now brings to mind what Dollar Shave Club has done in the last few years. While neither bathroom odor-maskers or razors are revolutionary products, both brands have managed to package and market their products in such a way that makes them seem so.

In the case of Dollar Shave Club, it’s ad copy that portrays the woes of people who don’t change their blade often enough. In the case of Poo~Pourri, it’s an all-natural product that comes packaged in a beautiful bottle that features a distinctly vintage appearance.

Reminiscent of high-class French toiletries, these little bottles instantly make customers feel like they’re holding an expensive and exclusive product. When a product looks great and performs even better, you can guarantee it’s going to be a hit with customers.

5. Own it

Throughout their website, Poo~Pourri continually says “Own your throne!” and they mean it. It’s evident, however, that the company takes that to heart. In addition to owning their thrones (as we assume they are) they’re also owning everything with the same flavorful style, from their brand message to their web copy. There’s not a piece of their website that feels boring, predictable, or pasteurized.

I think this is a huge key to their success across the board: they really, really commit to the level of storytelling they’ve exhibited. Which only means that someone over at Poo~Pourri is really, really, really, really… you get it… creative.

Everything is thoroughly, vibrantly on-brand, and it’s refreshing.

Take, for example, the social sharing buttons at the bottom of their home screen:

poo pourri

“Let me take a #shelfie,” “Ladies and gentleman, start your hot glue guns,” and “giveaways on giveaways on giveaways”? Of course I’m going to share that. Sharing that seems fun. How could I not share that?

Of course, that’s exactly the reaction those buttons are meant to produce and they do a fantastic job of it. Now, if those buttons had just featured the names of their respective social networks, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun and I wouldn’t be nearly as compelled to share.

Poo~Pourri knows that in order to stand out in the minds of your customers, you need to craft a unique and original brand message that pervades through every aspect of your marketing. They’ve done this and, frankly, we could all stand to learn a thing or two from them.

Conclusion

If you’d never heard of Poo~Pourri before this post, I trust your life has been changed. What’s more, I virtually guarantee that you’ll think of this brand the next time you use the bathroom. While this little company is still small compared to some of the scent-eliminating giants out there, it’s obvious that their brand message is set to take them far.

This is due in large part to the fact that the brand is just so dang good at storytelling. From their commercials to their web copy and everything in between, Poo~Pourri is a brand that you can’t forget and can’t help but identify with.

Need a creative pen for hire? Check out our creative writing services.

content in 2016

The Key to Memorable Content in 2016: How to Tell Your Best Story

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

J.R.R.Tolkien, The Hobbit, Gandalf speaking

content in 2016

What is “timeless” in our mind, as humans? What stays unforgotten, down through history?

The Bible. J.R.R.Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Leo Tolstoy. William Shakespeare. Emily Bronte.

These are familiar names that are correlated with stories. Some of the greatest stories, of all time, ever written. And you know what? Nearly 90% of us (I bet those of you reading this post) know those names.

That’s pretty incredible – they’ve stuck that well through years and years of history.

Let’s turn from the world of unforgettable authored storytelling and look at a few marketing stories. Some aren’t boring, luckily.

If you were to sit down right now and turn on the television, what would you see?

Far too many commercials. And all these commercials have one thing in common: a story.

Regardless of whether they’re advertising a drug or a new car, commercials are one of the most easily identifiable instances of storytelling in marketing today.

The best commercial is the best-told, most-shared story.

Take, for example, the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial of 2015:

At first glance, you wouldn’t think that a Clydesdale and a yellow Labrador puppy have much of anything to do with beer, but this commercial did storytelling so well that it went viral with emotional connections (some shed tears).

So what is it about these brands and, more specifically, how are they getting their consumers to relate, love and appreciate their story—and immediately gain that connection?

All with the use of a great story?

And will this grow a lot in 2016?

Let’s find out.

Storytelling & Content in 2016: Why The Brain Loves Stories

It goes without saying that storytelling in marketing wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is if our brains weren’t ravenous for stories. It’s been estimated that we spend roughly 1/3 of our lives daydreaming, which means we’re constantly searching for an entertaining tale. What’s more, we consume upwards of 100,000 digital words on a daily basis, mostly in the form of advertisements and web copy, and the majority of us (about 92%) want to be able to internalize those words as a story.

For an example of this, consider Budweiser again. What sounds more appealing to you, personally: a list of ingredients including water, barley malt, rice, and yeast or a “best friends” tale of a little dog and a big horse who found friendship on the Budweiser farm?

The answer is obvious.

Budweiser opted for story over facts because the human brain loves stories much more than it loves lists of boring details. In fact, it’s been proven that storytelling in advertising actually activates interactive portions of the brain. For example, if a person reads a list of facts, only the language center of the brain is activated. If a person hears a story, though, the language portion of the brain lights up alongside other portions of the brain that are connected to personal experience.

In other words, experiencing a story makes us feel a personal connection. This is why storytelling in advertising is so incredibly effective: when a brand can tell a story that triggers an emotional connection in the consumer (like Budweiser did when I cried at their advertisement), that story has a higher likelihood of being remembered. This is due in large part to the fact that the brain releases dopamine during intense storytelling experiences, and this, in turn, leads to sales and conversions down the road.

Storytelling also engages the phenomena of “mirroring” in the human brain, which means that people listening to a really great story will share emotions with other viewers, but also with the person telling the story. To put this another way: if you can tell a story that fully underlines how life-changing, unique, important, and special your product, good, or service is, consumers are likely to agree with you.

5 Tips for Finding The Pot of Gold (Your Story) With Content In 2016

If you’re unfamiliar with brand storytelling or you’re simply interested in getting better at it, there are five key things that you can do to outshine your competitors and ensure that your stories are ones that customers want to engage with. These will hold strong in 2016:

1) Get real

Would the Budweiser ad have been as moving if it featured, say, an intergalactic alien duo? Probably not. The reason for this is that regardless of where you are at this exact moment in your life, you can probably relate to the cuteness of a puppy, the bond between friends, and the love of pets better than you can relate to life in outer space.

In other words, the Budweiser ad works because it is authentic.

Over the past several years, authenticity in content marketing has risen to near-epic levels of importance. This is at least partially due to the fact that there are more than 80 million millennials living in the U.S. today and 43% of them rank authenticity as more important than content in everything from news to blogs. With that in mind, it’s clear that the hokey advertising blasts of the 1950s-60s are dead and that a new wave of advertising has entered the picture. Not only does this advertising have to tell a story, but it has to be an authentic story.

For an example aside from the Budweiser ad, consider Rand Fishkin. Founder of Moz and SEO guru extraordinaire, Fishkin has built an Internet empire and is widely regarded as one of the key influencers in the industry. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, Fishkin almost went bankrupt in the early years of his career and he talks about it openly in a 2011 blog post titled “Just Keep Going.” Now, why would a successful guy like Rand espouse on his near-catastrophic early failures? Because it happened, it is authentic, and it helps people connect with his brand in a real and personal way. When it comes to storytelling, it doesn’t get much better than that.

2) Let your personality shine

There are innumerable companies online trying to sell products, so what’s going to set you apart? It’s likely that the product you sell is also sold, in some form or another, by roughly 742,561 competitors and, in light of that, there’s virtually nothing more important than letting your personality inform your storytelling. Consider Dollar Shave Club for a moment, who is maybe one of the best examples of a company that’s done this exceedingly well.

Dollar Shave Club sells razors, which is nothing new. But the way they’ve gone about it is. In the beginning of the brand’s career, the brand raised $75 million to fend off big name competitors like Gillette. Since the 2012 launch of the company’s now-viral promotional video, starring founder and CEO Michael Dubin, the company has grown to account for 13.3 percent of all razor sales in the U.S., with a subscriber base of more than 2 million customers. Part of that success is certainly due to a great product, but a healthy portion of it is due to creative storytelling that brands the company as unique, quirky, and fresh.

3) Create characters your audience loves

In the days of old, people used to wait months to read serialized versions of novels, all because there was a character in the story that they related to on a personal level. It’s a very powerful thing for a brand to create characters their audience wants to connect with and doing this ensures not only that the brand will be remembered by consumers, but it will also be recommended by consumers.

Consider Progressive Insurance, for example, who has created Flo. Flo is portrayed by Stephanie Courtney. The character has her own Twitter and Facebook profiles and has appeared in upwards of 100 of the company’s commercials.

Flo Twitter Screenshot

While insurance companies may all blend together for consumers, it’s likely that even if people don’t remember Progressive’s name, they’re going to remember the company’s advertisements and, thanks to Flo’s quirky, relatable nature, they’re going to choose Progressive over a company with a less effective advertising persona.

To follow in Progressive’s footsteps, create characters that your target persona will relate to and root for. This enhances consumer bonds to your product and ensures that you’ll outshine your competition in 2016.

4) Give it structure

We all learned in middle school that every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This holds just as true for brand stories as it does for novels. In the beginning of a story, you should immediately establish the setting and characters. The middle should focus on the conflict that is central to the story. The end should offer a resolution. For a fantastic example of this, consider Amazon’s recent commercial advertising its “Prime” subscriber service.

The beginning of the commercial opens with the main characters (Jessie and his dog Flash). The middle of the commercial establishes the fact that Flash is in a cast and that he can’t romp with the other dogs and, frankly, that he feels a little embarrassed about his current state. The end of the commercial provides resolution when Jessie heads to Amazon Prime and orders a baby-wearing device (with free two-day shipping, of course) to tote Flash around in. The story is wrapped up in a neat little bow, the consumer is happy, and the value of Amazon Prime has been established through the structure of the advertisement.

5) Pace yourself

In storytelling as in life, it’s important to pace yourself and not give everything away at once. An effective storytelling campaign, much like an effective novel, is very careful to build and maintain a sense of tension. This keeps audiences wanting more and ensures that they’ll keep coming back to find out what happens next.

When a brand paces its storytelling effectively, it creates an environment in which the consumer is virtually embedded in the brand experiences. For a recent and timely example, consider the Christmas ads that Target has been running on television lately. The commercials are organized into Chapters (a nod to the novel) and tell the story of several children (all dressed in Target clothing) and Bullseye, the trademark Target dog, who go on an epic quest to light a huge Christmas tree for the enjoyment of the people.

 

Like the Advent calendars of yesteryear, this storytelling method provides excitement, fun, and anticipation for the consumer. After a consumer has viewed the commercial, he or she is directed to a special portion of Target’s website where the consumer can interact with a virtual storybook and access curated gift lists for kids of all ages.

 

Target Screenshot

 

In addition to promoting Target’s various products, this form of storytelling also borrows a bit from the epic adventure stories we all know and love. In this way, it makes audiences feel involved, excited, and linked to Target’s brand, while also helping people get into the Christmas spirit.

Find Your Story: Tell It

 From novels and movies to commercials and beyond, stories have always been deeply ingrained in the human experience and, when they’re good, they’ve always been one of our favorite ways to feel connection to other people.

Marketing has changed by leaps and bounds throughout the last several years and, today, the marketer who is the most likely to be successful is the one who can best establish an emotional connection with clients. One of the most sure-fire ways to do this is and has always been through brand storytelling.

While storytelling has existed as a marketing tactic for decades, storytelling in 2016 promises to be more colorful, more personal, more intriguing, and more exciting than ever. As customers move toward favoring brands that are authentic, innovative, reliable, and unique, marketers can stay ahead of the curve by following these tips on storytelling and ensuring that every piece of content your brand puts out engages your customers through effective, irresistible storytelling.

storytelling

The Art of Storytelling: Is Your Story Worth Talking About?

Anyone who has ever heard the story of Scheherazade (pictured in our featured image) knows that storytelling can be a lifesaving skill. In the tale, Scheherazade was destined for beheading by a bored and vengeful King. A skilled storyteller, however, Scheherazade managed to keep herself alive for 1,001 nights by telling the King stories. At the end of 1,001 nights, the King decided to spare her life and realized, in the process, that he had actually fallen in love with her.

For content marketers, the tale of Scheherazade is more than just entertaining – it’s a framework for success. Storytelling is one of the best ways for companies today to set themselves apart from the competition. Additionally, it is a fantastic way to reinforce company values and add interest to your products, goods and services.

In today’s world of competitive content marketing, the only way to truly be heard is to tell a story that is better than everyone else’s.

storytelling

What is Storytelling In Content Marketing?

For many communications professionals, storytelling may seem unrelated to business. With tools like traditional advertising and PPC ads under their belts, many marketers fail to see the value of storytelling, which is often regarded as a fanciful pastime.

Storytelling can be fairytales, yes, but it can also be the process of producing a human connection through great business writing. Whether you realize it or not, there is no successful product, business or site on the web today that doesn’t utilize storytelling in its content marketing. This is because storytelling is one of the most effective ways to spike customer interest and encourage increased interaction.

In order to purchase a product, a customer needs to feel a connection with that product. This only happens when they can see themselves using the product or when they fully understand what makes it special. This, in turn, only happens when the person creating the content for a given company is capable of telling a story that sucks customers in and keeps them interested.

A great story transcends traditional facts and figures and evokes a strong response from customers. Additionally, telling a great story helps to create “sticky” memories that remain with customers long after the story has ended.

Content marketing provides the ideal vessel for great storytelling and, when done correctly, it can easily help a company reinforce their values in the eyes of their customers. It can be difficult, however, for Type-A company mindsets to wrap their heads around the fact that something as seemingly “fluffy” as storytelling can actually help boost their business in large ways. Fortunately, we’re not making this up and the first step of telling a great story is simply finding out whether or not your story is worth telling in the first place.

The 4 Types of Stories Worth Telling

Whether or not you realize it, storytelling in content marketing is almost exactly like storytelling in novels or journalistic content. Stories, at their core, are archetypal and storytelling in content marketing is no different. The 4 types of stories that are worth telling in a content marketing setting are as follows:

1. The Origin Story

Where did your company come from? How was it born? Was there a colossal failure that leads to success? Telling your origin story helps customers find something to relate to within your company, which in turn helps them build loyalty. Customers love a shared mindset. Take Cory’s Cookies for example. With an origin story like that, how could you resist?

2. The Product Story

Why did you create the product? If you answer is “to make a bunch of money and add more consumer junk to the mainstream” you can bet you won’t be very successful. People want to know why your product is different and what inspired it. Canadian clothing manufacturer Lululemon tells their product story by including a “why we made this” segment in every product description on their website.

3. The Customer Story

How has your product affected the life of your customers? Why do they love it? What do they do with it? Potential customers look to existing customer reviews as a main source of information when making purchasing decisions, which means that by including the customer story in your marketing, you can help inspire confidence in your potential clients.

4. The “What I Stand for Story”

Think about Apple’s wildly successful “Think Different” campaigns. Why were they such a runaway landslide of success? Because the marketing department of that company is and has always been great at extolling the virtues of exactly what the company stands for: end-to-end integration, beautiful products, seamless software, art and technology combined into one package. As a result, Apple has an absolute cult following of people who want to stand for those things, too.

Five Tips for Great Storytelling

In terms of execution, storytelling for content marketing and storytelling for book writing diverge slightly. Since content marketing storytelling is designed to invoke a response from customers, it follows a different set of guidelines than novel-based storytelling does. Incorporate these 5 tips for great storytelling in your content:

1. Give the Story a Message: As is true with other sectors of marketing, it is important to know whom you’re writing to and what you want to convey. In order to create great story, begin by asking yourself about your target audience. Are they young or old? What do they care about? Where do they live? What are the values experiences and concerns that they are most likely to connect with? How much money do they make? These questions will help you hone your statements to get right to the heart of your audience. Additionally, it will help you devise a moral and construct a story your target audience will love.

2. Include Your Experiences: We’ve all heard the saying “Write what you know” and storytelling in content marketing is no difference. In order to tell a great story, you need to mine your life experiences in order to pull the best example to illustrate your own message. People love vulnerability and by exposing your own hardships and truths, you make it easier for them to relate. Share a moment that your own poor decisions lead to ultimate success or how a failure translated into an important learning period. These things provide an important entry point to a great story and can go a long way toward making your content relatable and powerful.

3. Don’t be the Star: There is a difference between storytelling and ego and it’s possible to be helpful without being obnoxious. It’s a fine line, though, and the most important thing to remember in writing great stories is to avoid making yourself the star of the story. It’s fine to talk about your experiences, as mentioned in point #2, but you’ll want to avoid talking too much about yourself. Audiences don’t want to witness your ego, so keep your storytelling instructional, valuable and helpful without caving too much to self-congratulation.

4. Identify the Struggle: People are more likely to relate to your content if they feel like they can actually relate to your content. This means that you need to get inside of their heads and prove that you understand their struggle. In order to do that, place yourself in your reader’s shoes. What are they concerned about? What are their problems or fears? What is the conflict that drives them to change? Once you’ve established that, take some time to consider how you can cater to that and then tailor your stories to being your customer’s main partner in crime and including them in the journey to overcome the struggle.

5. Stay Simple: Content marketing is not the same thing as writing a novel and, as such, it’s a bit inappropriate to have 15 volumes meant to cover a single epic story. That said, it’s important to keep it simple. Less is more when it comes to storytelling in content marketing and a moving and compelling story doesn’t have to be an involved and drawn-out affair. Instead, write from the heart and prove to your audience that you can provide interesting, detailed content. This will help solidify your message and improve all facets of your marketing.

6. Practice: Storytelling takes time and not everyone can come out of the gate with a prize-winning tale. If you think you’ve got an important story to tell, practice with your friends and colleagues before you take it to your customers. This will give you a chance to perfect the art and hone the details before it truly matters. Great stories will easily go viral through word of mouth and shares, so it’s important to get it right before you get it out there. The return on a great story can be huge; so don’t be afraid to invest some time to perfecting the art before you present it to your customers.

Is Your Story Worth Telling?

Nowadays, customers are flooded with stories. Every television commercial, radio ad, piece of content and glossy magazine page seeks to tell a story. With that in mind, the key to great storytelling is simply to ask yourself if each piece of the story is useful and valuable.

When incorporating storytelling into your content marketing, it’s helpful to think of it as an introduction. When you meet a new person, you want to know where that person is from, what they do, what they love and what’s important to them. Determining which stories are worth telling in content marketing is no different. By telling your origin story, product story, customer story and “what I stand for” story, you can introduce your company to customers in a well-rounded and holistic way. This allows you to reach your audiences from a place of genuine interest and to touch their lives from a place of skill, excitement and helpfulness.

Remember, creative writers can sometimes be your best asset for increasing your storytelling power. We have some fantastic creative writers in our team – check out our creative writing!

How Creative Writing Has Changed the World for the Better

From Chaucer to Rowling, creative writing has often been the boon to our stressful, busy world.

It started as a way to maintain folklore tradition and tell us tales of knights in shining armor who brought whole countries together (King Arthur).

Excalibur! Forged when the world was young, and bird and beast and flower were one with man...

“Excalibur! Forged when the world was young, and bird and beast and flower were one with man…”  Excalibur (1981)

 

But creative writing has now become an absolutely powerful force for good. We see the wisdom of Gandalf and Baggins (Lord of the Rings)…

"You asked me to find the fourteenth member of this company and I have chosen Mr. Baggins."

“You asked me to find the fourteenth member of this company and I have chosen Mr. Baggins.”

…The humor of Bridget Jones, and the horror that only Stephen King (The Shining) can produce.

Whether you read or write a high fantasy novel or an epic crime drama, there will be an amazing impact. Creative writers of all types have brought about amazing results for the world and all they did was grab the nearest pen, typewriter, or computer and got down to writing.

I want to take a look at just how powerful creative writing has been for our society and just how it has changed the world for the better.

7 Amazing Instances of Creative Writing Impacting the World

Creative writing has been a huge part of making the world a better place. Here are some awesome instances of just how powerful it is.

1. It Captured Oral Tradition Giving Us Amazing Stories to Look Back At. When you think of creative writing, one of the first things many think of is the stories of the Brothers Grimm. They are dark and full of terrors, but those stories are also incredible for many reasons.

One reason these stories are so immensely powerful isn’t just because they provided us with great fairy tales that influenced our popular films, but they also captured history.

The Brothers Grimm traveled around, learning some of the popular folklore that was told in one way and one way only – orally. We all know how much impact those stories had (just look at all the Disney films we have).

A real fairy tale...

Preserved in time by the talents of a pen…

What would have happened if the Brothers Grimm hadn’t stored these stories? What would the world look like now? What a fascinating, and slightly terrifying thought to think. By writing down these creative folk stories, the Brothers Grimm opened a whole new world of creative possibility.

 2. Creative Writing Has Shown Immense Power in Physical Health. When the Brothers Grimm popularized creative literature, they probably didn’t realize what this would mean for the world.

A huge impact that all creative writing has had, no matter its age, genre, or format, is that of improving physical and mental health. There are so many amazing health benefits when you read creative literature, and that is a pretty awesome impact if you ask me.

When you write creatively, you can see some health benefits such as the ability to improve your memory and have a great format to release pent up emotions.

Reading creative literature also gives you immense health benefits including better cognition, relieving stress, and helping you sleep. That’s right, if you have a hard time sleeping, reading a good book might just be what you need.

The great thing about this is that creative writing and literature doesn’t have to be one type of thing – it can be anything. It can be a comic book, a science fiction novel, the latest study, or a great nonfiction book.

3. A Simple Novella Can be a Letter to a Loved One. Another way that creative writing has made the world a better place is actually something rather small. But, as well all know, those small things add up to something major in the end.

Neil Gaiman is an amazing author with an impressive range of works including The Ocean at the End of the Lane. While this seems like a jaunt into urban fantasy, there is something much deeper. This story started out as a simple, small letter to his soon-to-be-wife, Amanda Palmer.

He wanted to make sure she knew things about him, and he wanted to share his life with her, and creative writing was what helped him achieve this. It ended up turning into an absolutely gorgeous novella, but his small action was something Amanda greatly appreciated.

It might not have made a worldwide impact, but a small gesture through creative writing can change someone’s world for the better. And Amanda experienced something that many of us would absolutely enjoy.

4. Creative Writing Might Send You to San Francisco with Flowers in Your Hair. When you look at the world of creative writing, there are so many facets. There are books, ad campaigns, music, and more.

The 1960s and 1970s were a powerful decade when it came to moving and emotional creative writing. The United States was at war with Viet Nam, with protestors calling for peace. America and the entire world were also on the cusp of major social change.

And music and creative writing had an important role to play.

We had songs about peace, encouraging people to avoid war and work together to meet a resolution without the shedding of blood. People marched singing these songs, hung around in large groups with these songs, and many were backdrops to some of the most intense and saddest moments in American history.

Not only did we have songs about peace, but we also had songs about racial problems around the world but specifically in America. We had books such as To Kill a Mockingbird that highlighted these problems and a speech no one will ever forget:

“I have a dream…”

5. Fiction and Creative Writing Help Create Literate Children and Adults. I’ll admit, when it comes to creative writing and literature, my go-to author is Neil Gaiman. He has great wisdom about creative writing and its importance and he often illustrates that importance himself.

In an article for The Guardian, Neil talks about the importance of creative writing, specifically that of fiction. He points out how fiction can improve someone’s life, no matter if they are reading to escape, learn, or have fun.

He believes, and rightly so, that with literature, we open the door to a healthy society as well as a more literate culture. Did you know that New York City gauged the prison growth rate off of the amount of 10 and 11-year-olds that couldn’t read?

Now, what does that say about the need for literacy? Quite a bit.

While Neil does point out that a literate society does not equal a crime-free one, there is an immense impact of literature, bettering the world.

Creative writing and reading gives people the chance to formulate their opinions and to learn about other views. There are many things a person can learn just by reading and fiction has long had an amazing impact on many readers.

6. Creative Writing Provides Powerful Ads that Cannot Be Ignored. Powerful creativity isn’t just something you see in books and music but is also amazingly powerful in the ad world.

On September 11th, 2001, America saw one of the worst terrorist attacks on their soil and the world felt the immense grief radiating out from New York City, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania. People everywhere were making tributes to the fallen on that day, and there was one particular ad that brought everyone to tears.

Budweiser paid a gorgeous tribute to those who died that day with a Super Bowl ad that only ran for a brief time.

The lovely America, captured in the Budweiser 9/11 tribute ad.

The lovely America, captured in the Budweiser 9/11 tribute ad.

Advertising has done more than just paying tribute; they’ve raised awareness for issues, focused on social change, and worked to bring people together.

One such ad is a Spanish advertisement that only children could fully see. It sent out a message that if a child was being abused, he or she could reach out.

This was met with a fanfare of those who thought it was great and criticism from those who didn’t know if it would work. Regardless, it was still a great, powerful ad.

7. A Simple Children’s Story Can be Immensely Complex. What do I mean with those contradicting words? Easy – Harry Potter, when looked at on the surface, is a simple children’s story, it has all the elements.

The talents of J.K. Rowling.

The talents of J.K. Rowling.

However, it is also immensely complex. Rowling dealt with many issues that children’s literature often didn’t, which could be a major reason why so many adults read it.

This series impacted the world amazingly by giving people something positive in a dark time. And it also brought about something great – literacy.

It inspired so many children to read, especially those who weren’t big readers. It brought about a love for reading, which really did impact the world for the better.

In addition, a 2003 article from the University of North Texas pointed out that it also helped create discussion between children and adults.

Never Be Afraid to Read and Write What You Want

Creative writing really has had an immense impact on the world, changing it for the better, hasn’t it? No matter what it is you are reading or writing, know that it is exactly what you need.

It might get you through a hard time in your life, encourage you to try new things, and if you’re a business owner, help you bring in new clients.

Creative writing is just another thing Express Writers offers, and our team can help you get something epic and creative that people will definitely enjoy.

 

Photo credits: The Telegraph (King Arthur), John Howe (Lord of the Rings), Goodreads (book cover, Grimm), Marshall.edu (Harry Potter book cover)

Content Storytelling

5 Easy Ways to Weave Beautiful Storytelling Into Your Content

Creating content that gets shared on different platforms at a fast pace can be a real challenge.

As social networking websites have developed into visual mediums par excellence, crafting eye-pleasing stories has become one of the most prominent conditions for entrepreneurial success on any market.

In a previous blog post, we introduced 10 foolproof methods to create strikingly beautiful content through storytelling and the most amazing visuals, proving that behind-the-scene photos, shareable pictures, DIY videos, infographics and small portions of reader-oriented, information-rich, clever written material represent the key ingredients of a winning formula for a memorable story.

These are the elements that make a good story truly great.

You may ask: why does it matter? Well, if you don’t like the idea of creating art for art’s sake, maybe you’ll choose to come up with a cohesive narrative after taking a closer look at recent statistics reflecting the importance of storytelling.

storytelling

How Do You Actually Build Buzz? The Answer May Lie In Storytelling

Maybe you’re not an innate storyteller. Perhaps when you tell your jokes, people scratch their heads and laughter almost never comes easy. Maybe you always have a hard time staying focused.

The bad news is that you have a long road ahead of you.

The good news is that the art and science of storytelling can be mastered.

Here’s a great way to get started:

  • Discover and explore the unique particularities of your product.
  • Find out how people could profit from these one-of-a-kind features and benefits.
  • Think outside the box and tell your story from a different perspective.

A Simple Pattern

When in doubt, follow Pixar’s Andrew Stanton word of advice “don’t give them 4, give them 2+2.” Provide the bait, and let them come to you. Reveal a common problem as a part of the context, describe a struggle, add ounce of mystery, an “aha” moment, a revelation and a sense of accomplishment, and your job is pretty much done for the day.

This is the simplest pattern that you can follow to create buzz around your brand through a well-rounded story.

Five Key Strategies to Apply to Support Your Storytelling Efforts

Here’s how the human brain works: it is hard-wired to retain stories, rather than storing facts and figures for a long period of time.

A recent study mentioned by The Guardian indicates that 63% of the test subjects from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business remembered the story shared by one of their teachers, while only 5% of the respondents cited a statistic extracted from the presentation.

In this context, it’s safe to say that these days, you either have something interesting to say, or you stay silent and go home; this appears to be the unspoken rule that all company owners have to follow on their way to the top.

In this particular set of circumstances, storytelling represents the most effective strategy that brands can put to good use to grow rapidly, naturally and risk-free.

Carefully chosen strings of words can help you gain and maintain the attention, interest and loyalty of a highly selective audience.

Assuming that you are determined to give this approach a try, you may want to get inspired by checking out the five methods to weave premium storytelling in your content, listed below.

1. When Reality Isn’t All That Exciting, Rely on Fiction to Bond with Your Readers

Repeat Hakuna Matata a few times and everyone will smile.

Repeat Hakuna Matata a few times.

At this point, you are fully aware of the fact that storytelling is a safe bet for your marketing plan. Using the right narrative, you can highlight the realness of your brand, underline the remarkable benefits of your products and separate yourself from your competitors, while also informing, educating and entertaining your readers.

 

This is what stories do: they keep your prospects engaged and let them know who you are, without giving them the impression that you’re trying really hard to sell them something. This sounds like a lot of fun, but what can you do when you have very few things to brag about, simply because your business venture is fairly new and you have very little experience in your industry? In this case, let your imagination run free, push the creativity pedal through the floor and create a work of fiction reflecting your grand vision, values and purpose in business.

This approach will help you keep your readers on your side, even when you have no other ways to convince them that your product is worthy of their time and money. Stimulate your visitors to exercise their imagination and come up with scenarios that could bring them closer to your product or service. Here’s an example reflecting the style and type of hooks that you should recreate to bring (and keep) your public into your world. “Imagine that you’re a busy entrepreneur striving to cultivate his bond with his audience. What if someone whom you know and trust would tell you that quality content is the secret element that could fuel your support your communication with the people who matter to you the most?

2. Explore the Enormous Power of Customer Testimonials

Fiction is a great option for startups, but as time goes by, you may get different other opportunities to perfect your storytelling skills and capture the attention of your potential clients.

Your products are literally flying off the shelves. People buy them on impulse, offer you positive feedback and recommend them in their circle of friends.

Why not use this favorable context to your best advantage?

Encourage feedback through the calls to action included in your captivating story.

Kindly ask your readers to craft their own short stories, revolving around their past experiences with your brand. This strategy can get you very far for two reasons. First of all, most people are self-centered and deeply in love with companies enabling them to step into the spotlight. Secondly, customer testimonials are a gold mine for any business, simply because they help their users build credibility and trust. Prospects don’t want to be the first ones to try a product (especially if it’s not free). By showing them that your goods have already been tested and vetted by a large segment of buyers, you give them another good reason to respond to your CTAs.

3. Use Firsthand Experienced As the Catalyst of Your Story

As a Forbes article points out, the ideal story has the power to get individuals in the right state. This trance represents the end result of a physical, emotional and mental process. Your tale emanates a mix of contagious energy and positive feelings, allowing you targeted audience to become a part of your story and pick up on your joy, values, beliefs and enthusiasm.

However, in order to make this work your written material has to display a strong sense of authenticity. In other words, you have to be able to convince your readers that the story happened as you tell it.

Turn yourself into a credible witness by achieving the perfect balance between facts and fiction.

Use hard numbers to support your claims and avoid hypes at all costs.

4. Organize a Brainstorming Session

Assuming that you’ve already crafted a few good stories based on fiction and the feedback that you’ve received from your past clients, what other option could you explore to become a more inspired storyteller?

Here’s an idea: why don’t you ask your team members to support your narrative?

Sometimes, some of the best content ideas come from the people who have already interacted with your brand; who know what you stand for and can resonate with the type of message that you’re trying to send to your clientele. Therefore, rely on the contribution of those who have learned the features and benefits of your products by heart and ask them to tell you how they feel about what you have to offer. How would they rate and recommend your services? What are the best attributes of your goods? What makes your business stand out from the crowd? This valuable input can help you refine your speech and create some of the most believable characters for your next stories.

5. Turn Yourself into the Leading Character That Your Audience Could Resonate With

batman storytelling

Who wouldn’t want to be Christian Bale, billionaire, aka Batman… Amiright?

While establishing a dialog with the members of your team (and various other people in your circle who understand your struggle and are connected with your brand/products on a certain level) is always a good idea, it is extremely important to maintain your own voice.

Employ the “dine and dash” tactic when it comes to collecting and inventorying material for your next piece. Listen to what coworkers and past clients have to say about your merchandise, but don’t hesitate to create one or more alter egos, turn them into the ideal buying personas and convert them into the leading characters of your story.

You can elaborate the most accurate version of the buyer persona based on key elements (location, age, gender, interests, education level, job title and so on) and personalize it using your own experience, insight into your market and your clients’ product use.

The Key to an Interactive Experience through Storytelling Opens All Doors

Through storytelling, you can highlight the elements that you have in common with every other person on this planet.

We are all different, and yet we tend to respond to a wide range of stimuli in a similar manner.

We laugh when we’re happy.

We cry when we’re sad and we frown when we feel frustrated, confused or displeased.

And we trust, love, and appreciate stories and characters that we relate to… which means we’re more likely to buy.

Going beyond the mere act of communicating information, a good story creates creditable characters, sends a powerful message and feeds the empathy and interest of a grand audience.

There are several ways in which you could weave beautiful, compelling storytelling in your content, according to your aspirations, possibilities and creative vision. To make the best choice and come up with a cohesive narrative revolving around your authenticity, spotless reputation, popularity and overall greatness, let a team of professional content creators write and tell your success story.

 

Photo Credits

Featured photo: Canva created with iStockphoto, Stock photo © Valeriy Lebedev. Courtesy batman.wikia.com; Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

What Fantasy Literature Can Teach You About Great Storytelling For Your Content Marketing

Content marketing is absolutely incredible when you use a story in it. A storyline gives you the ability to create excellent content whether you are writing blogs, landing pages, product descriptions, and more. You can then send out this content, and convert people into leads, helping to grow your business and make it epic in whatever your industry is.

While developing a story in your content marketing is super awesome, it can be difficult, especially when you are running out of inspiration. I want to take a look at how you can actually gain some amazing content marketing inspiration from one of the leading genres in the fiction world, and one of my favorite genres to pick a book to read – fantasy.

Fantasy is a Leading Genre For a Reason

All you have to do is go to any bookstore or cinema and you can tell the constant theme in entertainment – fantasy. The fantasy genre has been around for quite some time with J. R. R. Tolkien being a huge influence, and “father,” of the genre. Fantasy is a genre that encompasses more than just trolls, orcs, and elves fighting a great evil. You have boy wizards fighting dark lords, a young man finding out he is from the land of faerie and falling in love with a star, and a whole realm fighting each other over a throne made of iron swords. You can even have fantastical elements set in large cityscapes, stories that mix fantasy and horror, and a lot more when you look for a fantasy story.

This wide range of topics and the ability to feel like good will win out over evil is often a huge draw to this genre, and it provides us with a unique take on content marketing. I want to take a look at how you can learn from fantasy to create epic, out of this world content that your clients are sure to love.

7 Great Lessons You Can Learn from the Genre

“Wait. My business isn’t in Middle Earth and we definitely don’t have any fairies flying around, so how will fantasy help?” Glad you asked! Here are some great ways I feel that fantasy can inspire your content, helping you create something absolutely incredible.

1. Give People Something Great that Fights Something Evil. When it comes to fantasy stories, you know the classic aspect that will be part of most any story whether old or new – the battle between good and evil. This is something that many people really enjoy about fantasy literature, and can be great for escaping when things get a little too overwhelming, especially when good wins in the end. But how can the classic good versus evil inspire your content? While you don’t have to go the direct route of fantasy, you can still give your clients this good and evil battle, helping them know how to win.

When you write your content, whether blogs, product descriptions, or anything else, you can give you clients a common problem and answer it with your product or services. For example, if you know that social media is the way to go when it comes to content marketing, you might find it hard to follow suit. Social media can be troublesome for many people, and if you don’t use it right, you won’t be able to get the outcome you desire. What would the answer to that be? Hiring a social media manager. When I write social media blogs, I give people a common social media problem, and I always answer what they can do when it comes to creating an effective strategy with an excellent solution. Therefore, I show people the “evil” side but then illustrate how good will win in the end, giving them a top of the line social media strategy.

2. Connect With Reader Emotions and Create Something Powerful. Fantasy does something that many genres aim to reach, but they don’t quite reach the mark of fantasy. So many fantasy stories are absolutely powerful and they connect with the reader’s emotions. This creates an amazing connection between the reader and the book, which leaves a major impact on their minds. Just think of your favorite fantasy story. How well do you connect with it? How do you feel when it is time to reread it? That feeling is what you want to happen with your content and you can do so by connecting with your clients and readers’ emotions.

Connecting with emotions is a powerful way to create content that converts, and help make your business an absolute success. You can create content that reaches emotions perfectly when you research your client base. You will know what they want to see, and also what makes them laugh, cry, or get angry. When you know this, you can write amazingly effective blogs and landing pages that will convince them to continue using your site and eventually buy your products.

3. Fantasy Tells Many Stories to Create the Major One. As you can see with fantasy, storytelling is amazingly powerful. People love stories, and this can make it a great aspect for your content marketing campaign. When you create a story, you are able to follow point two, and connect to the emotions of your client base, as well as visitors. Telling a story with your content isn’t as difficult as it may seem, however, so don’t let that worry stop you. Debbie Williams at Content Marketing Institute even gives some excellent questions you can ask to help you create powerful stories with your content, no matter your industry.

 

4. Create Evergreen Content for Something Familiar.

Lord-Of-the-Rings-Cover

Photo courtesy Lord of the Rings.net. 

The Lord of the Rings was and is, a huge influence on the genre, and you can see it in most pieces of fantasy literature you read. It is always wonderful to read something that is familiar, which is one of the reasons many people choose fantasy literature when they want to escape. How should this influence your content? Well, this is a great example of evergreen content as common fantasy tropes aren’t something that will ever go out of style. Evergreen content gives you the chance to write on familiar topics with your own flair while creating something that is going to last for a long time. Just look at how exciting the stories in The Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter still are! Start creating some evergreen content to help drive views and engagement throughout the next few months and years.

 

5. Reality is a Great Basis for Something Incredible. A top content tip that I see regularly, and completely agree with, is writing on something that is happening in your industry. Writing on the reality, or news, can be a great way to create exciting, new content for your readers. In fact, even basing your content on past items can really help amp it up and make something your clients want to read. All you have to do is look at Game of Thrones to see how basing content on reality can create something stunning and epic. George R. R. Martin has regularly stated that he based the non-White Walker and dragon parts of his story on medieval history. Just take a look at this excellent video that details the similarities between Game of Thrones and a huge part of history – The Wars of the Roses.

 

6. It is Fully Possible to Stand Out in a Sea of Similar Stories. As you can tell, standing out in the fantasy genre can be pretty difficult. However, it is absolutely possible for authors to stand out, creating something unique and powerful for fantasy fans. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and author Neil Gaiman are great examples of this. How should this inspire you? Simply put, it can be daunting writing unique content where there are so many pieces that are similar to what you want to write. However, you can easily write content that stands out by understanding what your audience wants as well as letting clients see things going on in your business through photos and behind-the-scenes elements.

7. Your Content Can Connect Readers with Each Other. One of the many great things about fantasy is how it connects readers with hundreds and thousands (and millions) of others. How many people felt and feel the excitement when Harry Potter is told he is a wizard? How many cry (or epically freak out) over the deaths of beloved characters? We all feel this community when watching a show, film, or reading a book, and it can be such an amazing feeling. You can add a sense of community to your content, helping to promote engagement with clients. You don’t need to go the way of George R. R. Martin, but by giving your clients a sense of community by encouraging discussion, you can help them all feel like they are connected in some amazing way.

 

Double Double, Toil and Trouble

Do you want to make some wicked content that generates amazing leads for your business? Then just follow some of these inspiring aspects of fantasy literature to influence your content marketing campaign! What if you have a hard time creating content, you wonder? Never fear! Express Writers is here to swoop in on our awesome content dragon and save the day with fiery, epic content that is sure to spice up your website.

Take a look at our content marketing services to see just how we can help you create the fairest, most worthy content in all the land!

6 Incredible Ways You Can Create Content Worthy of BBC’s Sherlock

Storytelling is an excellent tool to use in your content marketing strategy, giving your brand personality and connecting you with readers. It can help boost your content and shares, but just how can you go about telling a story with your content? Where can you get excellent inspiration?

In this blog, I want to look at the BBC’s Sherlock series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as everyone’s favorite consulting detective and Martin Freeman as his loveable friend, John Watson. (If you’ve yet to watch this incredible series, it is available on Netflix and on DVD/BluRay.)

Let’s take a look at some great lessons you can learn!

How BBC’s Sherlock Wins at Storytelling

Since BBC’s Sherlock is such a great resource for storytelling, I am going to look at what you can learn for your copywriting. These are some amazing things the show does, and it can help your content incredibly.

1. It Utilizes Excellent Story Symmetry. Symmetry is a great part of storytelling and can make a story more impactful. This could be whether in the framing on a TV show like Sherlock or a Stanley Kubrick flick. However, Sherlock illustrates symmetry not only in filming but also within the story. When we get to the end of the first episode of season 1, we see John Watson taking things into his own hands, willingly saving Sherlock’s life. He could have been caught and even charged with a crime, but his friend was more important than his criminal record. When we get to the third episode of season three, the same thing happens, only this time it is Sherlock saving John in a similar fashion. He knew he would get caught and punished, but he wanted to protect his friend, knowing Watson would do, and has done, the same for him.

While you don’t have to create a symmetrical story like this, using symmetry in your posting can help to bring about consistency. Symmetry is soothing to many people and if you create symmetrical content, you could see more engagement and shares. You can create symmetrical copy with your writing or you can create images or videos that utilize it. Either way, it can help you stand out and make you look incredibly professional.

2. The Writers Utilize Emotion to Draw in Viewers. If you watch any season of Sherlock, you know that it can be an emotional roller coaster. What do you mean Moriarty did that and why is Sherlock listening to him? Who is this Magnussen and why is he threatening John and Mary? Whatever happens, people feel the anger, excitement, and sometimes extreme sadness due to the storytelling by the writers of Sherlock. One of the most intense episodes, The Reichenbach Fall, connected with many viewers and created a huge stir online. It still has an impact, even if you’ve watched it multiple times. 

Using emotion in your content can be a great way to draw in readers and convert visitors into leads. You can focus on a variety of emotions whether they are happy, sad, upsetting, or even cause anger. Always remember when dealing with emotions to do so respectfully, especially if you are going to write content on something people are angry about. Emotions can help you connect with your audience while also giving your brand a personal voice both on social media and within your copywriting. 

3. We See What Sherlock Sees. The show lets us in on what Sherlock sees by going over a person’s body or items and highlighting aspects with words. We learn that someone owns a dog, has a wife in labor, and more just from Sherlock’s glance. When this happens, we are all transported into being Sherlock. This is a great way to connect watchers with the show and help them feel like they are part of it. Breaking the wall between viewers and a show isn’t always recommended in television, film, or stage productions, but many BBC shows, like Doctor Who and Sherlock break it. When it is broken well, people can really engage with the story. Just think, if you’ve watched Doctor Who, how terrifying is it that the Weeping Angles are still stone because you the watcher are staring at them?

You can break that wall easily with your copy, and it isn’t as touch and go as it is with TV or stage. A great way to break it is to write in first or second person and ask your readers direct questions. It can be a rhetorical question like I did above about the creepiness of the Weeping Angels, or it can be an open-ended question that gives your readers the ability to answer with their own opinions and questions. Let people in on what you’re writing to build a great connection and relationship with them. Writing in something like second person can be a great way to draw your audience in and help them connect with your content.

4. The Show Repurposes the Original Stories to Create Something New. Sherlock is one huge example of just how you can repurpose a story and create more for further content. The show has a lot of great source material to work with due to the many stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the writers always make sure to create something incredible and unique. If they followed the typical storylines we all have memorized (see: The Hound of the Baskervilles) then it would quickly become a boring show. However, the writers make each episode different, adding their own twists to each and repurposing the content effectively to create a powerful story.

You can do something similar with your content by repurposing your other blogs and copy to create something new and impactful. You can use your older content to help build a story and create storytelling  that will connect with your readers while still using your existing copy. Repurpose content to see just how powerful it can become and how many clients and readers you are able to reach out to when you do this. 

5. Sherlock Gives Us More Content Than Most TV Shows. With Sherlock, the BBC gives you a lot of content for a TV show, which encourages people to watch even more. It can be a bit of a letdown when you start a show and realize that, while it might be on air for an hour, you only get 45 minutes of content. This can make people give up on a TV show, especially if it doesn’t have a captivating story like Sherlock. This show would probably be just as successful if it were only 45 minutes, but something that really sticks out to fans is the fact that we get a full hour and a half of content. This helps to immerse watchers and get them into the show more than a shorter series. While we only get three episodes, we get a lot of content per episode.

Your readers and clients are taking time out of their day to come to your website and read your content, and if you don’t provide them with enough, they could leave. However, if you provide them with more content than what they’re expecting, you can give them a great surprise and make them happy that they took time out of their busy days. You can give them a variety of content types or give them something free for taking the time to look at your site. Whatever you choose to do, you can help build confidence in your content and business by giving them more than they expected.

6. The Show Uses Visuals to Create a Huge Impact. If you take some time to watch Sherlock, you will notice that the showrunners don’t just focus on the written story but visuals as well. This is what helps make the stories even more powerful than they were on paper and any watcher can get easily immersed in the story when watching. The directors frame the shots gorgeously, and they focus on important details within the story, even if we don’t know what they are yet. In addition to simple images of streets and clues, the visuals of the actors acting out some of the most emotional scenes adds such an impact. Whether you are laughing at Sherlock’s attempts to surprise John or watching John cry with horror, you feel the intensity because of what you see.

According to Susan Kusinitz, at HubSpot, visuals are an important aspect of content and if you want to create something powerful, you need to make sure you utilize them. You don’t need to go quite the route of Sherlock, but if you film high-quality videos, share great images, and create infographics, you can connect with your audience quickly and easily. When you are crafting your content, don’t leave out the incredibly important visual aspects.

Did You Miss Me: Don’t Miss Using Sherlock for Great Content Inspiration 

As you can see, there is a lot of inspiration to glean from this show, helping you create powerful, impactful stories for your readers. If you need guidance to create epic storytelling content or would like experts to craft it, then look no further than Express Writers. We have some of the top writers who can create excellent story pieces for your content, as well as create different impactful content types by using similar aspects that the BBC uses for Sherlock. Don’t hesitate to contact us to see how we can help!