Many, many years ago, fresh out of college and working at my first job at a national magazine, I was tasked with writing a short bio for one of our monthly contributors.
I completely tanked. It was returned to me by my editor, covered in red ink, needing to be rewritten. I edited it and tanked again. By the time the bio was approved, the editor had practically written it for me. Now, many bios, press releases and articles later, I know what I wish I knew then:
Good storytelling leads to great writing. And good stories, and the people behind them, sell. Stories move your customer, create loyal followers, and hook your audience to pledge their allegiance to your brand.
Here, three tips to get your stories headed in the right direction:
Have you ever read a corporate website that is so dry and factual it nearly puts you to sleep? Conversely, have you read an "About Us" page that was so painstakingly detailed ("It started when I was born in a small town…, In college I studied…, then, 10 years after that project, we decided to…,") that you’re utterly confused by the second paragraph?
Streamlined relatability means you get to the point while touching on human nature.
Be succinct, but still incorporate real narratives into your stories. Accomplish something unimaginable? Overcame an impossible hardship? Overjoyed to find your passion? Tell us about it. These are evergreen ideas and emotions that will always resonate.
Do this now: Challenge yourself to tell your anecdotes in two to three sentences to stay on course.
If your new customer or new client met you in person after reading your website or blog, would there be a big disconnect between that and your personality?
Resist the urge to play it safe with a neutral writing style. Instead, showcase your personality and unique style by telling your story in your own voice, giving your audience a glimpse into the kind of person or brand you are.
Do this now: Stumped on how to embrace your voice on paper? Risk looking like a crazy person and actually say out loud the story you want to tell online. Record it with your smartphone. Transcribe it and then edit it a bit to round out any edges. Voila.
Getting to know your audience is an entirely different and extensive topic all on its own. But you have an idea of who’s reading your blog, who’s buying your product, and who’s forwarding your newsletter.
You know what industry they work in, why they look to you for advice, and perhaps most importantly, what their greatest challenges are. Use this in the stories you tell.
If you’re a career coach and you know that the biggest thing your customers want to know is how to land an interview, that should be reflected in the stories and advice you give.
If you sell clothing and young, professional, 20-something women are your demographic, create a blog series that offers fashion advice and tips for dressing well at work, outfits that take you from the desk to drinks, etc. Tell the stories they want and need to hear.
Do this now: Devote 30 minutes to getting to know your audience better. What are they reading? What do they comment most on? What’s their biggest challenge? Craft a blog post addressing what you’ve learned.
—Cristi Young is a New York City-based writer and the founder of No.2 Creative a branding firm that offers editorial content and strategies for companies looking to grow and refine their brands.
[Image: Flickr user Michael Whyte]