A good story keeps a reader happy.
If you were reading a book you just didn’t feel connected to, what would you do?
I bet you’d put it down, possibly never to return to it again. It doesn’t matter if the ending was great, or if the writer had some really interesting points halfway through chapter 10 – if you can’t keep a reader going from beginning… to middle… to end, then all that hard work and interesting information has gone to waste.
The same applies to all content, including emails, blogs, newsletters and social. What makes your message important enough to read on? What’s the hook, the real point of intrigue? Tell us what happened from start to finish – and if the story isn’t good enough to do that, then it’s probably not worth talking about in the first place.
Your content needs to be a fairytale to draw the reader into your world, and it takes great skill and delicate writing to make every story sparkle. To celebrate National Storytelling Week (28th Jan-4th Feb), we asked writing experts to tell us why content needs to tell a great story, and how to do exactly that… read on.
Meri Chobanyan, Content Writer at Semrush, @ChobanyanMeri
“The key word for any content writer is ‘value’. How do you decipher whether your content contains value for your readers? The web content market has long been oversaturated with similar topics. That’s obvious since things people care about and are willing to read about aren’t that diversified. However, as a content writer, what you can do to stand out is to try and tell your story from a different angle. A different angle is what you can offer to your readers instead of rewriting the same story over and over again – when you make your content the one that has an original insight, that’s when you can be sure you’ve told a compelling story.”
Laura Demaude, Digital Content Executive at Extreme Creations, @bentotinderbox
“It’s the age of connectivity: in more ways than one. Not only are we more connected than ever before thanks to technology – emotively, we’re also seeing a mass influx of digital users wanting to connect with each other, ‘opening up’ and sharing their stories. Tweets, blogs, photos, posts and online journals and magazines – you name it – whatever virtual platform we’re given to showcase our lives and thoughts, we use. Our culture is obsessed with connecting, and to that end… obsessed with content.
There’s no reason why your brand shouldn’t play a part in this realm of the connection-obsessive – in fact, it really should. With attention spans down and interests veering more and more towards what emotionally binds us, by telling your stories, you’re given the chance to genuinely ‘hit home’ with others in a lasting way. Your content shows you’re a business that’s more than just the sum of its offering – you’re a business that knows its stuff. You’re a business that knows its readers. You’re a business that has a character, and is brave enough to show it. You’re so much more than meets the eye – so don’t let that story go untold.”
Mandy Menaker, Head of the PR and Brand Development for Shapr, @mandymenaker
“Your content needs to show, not sell. If you’re trying to explain why your product makes a difference or how it solves a problem, focus on finding user success stories or case studies to show the benefits of your service. These user stories should have a beginning, middle and end. The beginning should introduce the characters, the middle should explain the problem they are trying to solve, and the end should propose the solution – using your product – and demonstrate how doing so helped create a happy ending. Good content writes itself when you have interesting and specific stories to share!”
Susan Payton, The Story Strategist at The Business of Stories, @TheBizofStories
“A story is compelling when it connects with the audience and resonates with them. Emotions are powerful connectors in the brain and, as Mary Angelou said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
So how do you ensure your story will resonate? The most important thing, before you create any kind of story or content, is that you must know your audience and their story. What is going on for them, what is their problem and, even more importantly, how is having that unresolved problem making them feel? Really understanding who you are telling your story to, and what they want, will help you create content that will resonate with your audience.”
Adrian Nantchev, Managing Director, Potato in the Post LTD, @nantchev
“Stories keep people attached to and in touch with each other and the media. Whether you are a fictional writer, telling a story for a news article or sharing your story with others, your words build bridges to unexplored relationships between people.
In the world that we live in everyone can share their story, knowledge and experiences online. It no longer requires big budgets, production teams or international syndication to get your message, product or business around the world.
Creating content is about solving problems, and the more problems you can solve for other people the more you are rewarded. Whether this is through knowledge, information, advice, products or services, there is a story behind everything and everyone. You’ve just got to share it.”
And now for the magical ending…
Sensing a theme here? Your story might not have a Stephen King-grade plot, but you can still engage a reader and draw them into your world – regardless of the subject matter – if you can connect through your content.
Find a way to tell your story in a valuable way that will keep a reader hooked, whether that be through emotionally connecting to your audience or helping to solve their problems, and you will be one flick of a magic wand away from finishing your fairytale.
There will always be someone out there who will be interested and excited by what you have to say: you just need to find them and, when you do, make sure you keep them reading!