It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are a FTSE 100 or a Sole Trader. Everyone uses copy as part of their content marketing, whether was sales copy, marketing copy it really doesn’t matter. What is important is that the copy is working for you in the way you desired – does it tell your story the way you want?

Looking back since the start of the year, we have been involved in a large Government regeneration project, a Government joint venture launch and a whole host of other work. The work has been varied going from, social media campaigns, management and strategy planning and writing to copywriting, storytelling, event management and project management.

As you can see from that list, we really have been busy!

Now, I didn’t start writing this to talk about the work we have been doing but while I was thinking about it, it got me pondering. Does the content we use, tell the right story?

Storytelling has become very important for both private and public sector organisations.

Content now has to be compelling, engaging and encapsulating. Creating a desire in readers to do just that, continue reading. Let’s not forget your content is also fighting against more stories than ever before.

So how do we do it? I hear you ask.

Well, in all honesty, there is no right or wrong way but there are some key principles you can use when writing your story but first and foremost, a very good place to start is to ensure your story is original and truly reflects, you and your brand.

Where to begin?

The best copywriters in the world are those who are curious about life, read a great deal, have many hobbies, like to travel, have a variety of skills, get bored and then look for other skills to master.’

– Mr Joseph Sugarcane

Now I really like this quote and it made me think, do you have to be a specific type of person to write great content?

No. I don’t believe you do. Look at the quote above, everything that Joseph lists is not something you are born with, but is, in fact, something each and every one of us can do.

I would say travel can sometimes be the hardest on that list, but in reality how hard is it to jump in your car, or on a bus or train. It’s not. But it’s easy to say we can’t travel.

A nice example of this is when I was already on holiday, I jumped in the car and decided to take a random drive because I wanted to see more of the country outside of the tourist areas. Something most people don’t even consider. But with all that natural beauty only a couple of hours away by car – why not!?

Anyway, I stumbled on a stunning little seaside town. It had some of the most gorgeous views I’ve seen and the sea was as warm as a bath. While I wandered round this little town, stopping for ice cream, I suddenly realised I would have missed out on all of this natural beauty if I didn’t have this need inside of me to see more of the world than is immediately presented.

I digress…back to copywriting and actually that little anecdote plays an important role, I sat and thought how I could best share this so decided to blog about it and guess what? It was one of the most successful blog’s I wrote.

I think the most important one is to be curious and ask questions. Asking questions gives you more of an understanding and a better chance of telling the right story…

What is the right story and how?

It’s easy to sit there and think right I need to write or tell a story.

However in fact what you want to do is create your narrative – not a story in its traditional sense.

A narrative is an account of connected events. For them to be connected, this means there must be a flow to the story.

Here are our top tips to help you create that flow.

1. Know and captivate your audience

The first part of this comes directly from the Joseph Sugarcane quote above. In order to know your audience, you have to ask as many questions, do as much research and test your story with your audience.

In order to captivate your audience, you need to display your personality. There are so many stories out there, how are you going to differentiate?

People won’t read your content because it’s spell checked and grammatically correct.

People read your content because they resonate with your personality and values.

Write copy like you are speaking directly to your target audience.

How do they speak? How do they like to be spoken to? (back to part 1 of this)

If you are talking to technical experts, your copy might need to be academic or a bit more formal, but if you are speaking to someone who has a problem and the solution is your product or service, your copy shouldn’t sound like a conference presentation.

2. Promote readability with short and broken sentences

Yes, that’s right. Broken sentences.

I know in school we were all told not to use broken sentences as it is not correct English. Which is correct if you are writing in a more academic setting. However content marketing is different. Content needs to be easy to read. Your readers don’t want to make an effort to read your content.

Short sentences are much easier to read than long, walls of text.

You will also often see sentences starting with and, but etc. it doesn’t matter. If it is easier to read, you have more chance of it being read.

3. Tiny details breathe life into your story

The tiny details are the ones that bring the story to life. They are what allow you to show instead of tell.

Again this links back to the Sugarcane quote above, ask questions, find out more information than you need.

To illustrate this, I’d like to take a look at a classic piece of marketing by Mr David Ogilvy.

While writing an ad for Rolls-Royce, Ogilvy spent three weeks doing nothing more than reading about the car. That research process, although tedious, allowed him to find the one magic detail he needed to craft a headline that has lived on in advertising lore ever since:

At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.

David Ogilvy said, “[The ad] ran in two newspapers and two magazines, at a cost of $25,000. The following year, Ford based their multimillion dollar campaign on the claim that their car was even quieter than a Rolls.”

Now, do you think any of the following captivate as much as the copy chosen?

  • The Rolls-Royce allows you to go fast and still hear yourself think.
  • The noise level of the Rolls-Royce at 60 miles an hour is lower than any other car at 60 miles an hour.
  • The Rolls-Royce is the quietest car I’ve ever driven.

You’re right, none of them sounds as good.

And so it goes with storytelling. The underwater mass of Hemingway’s iceberg only becomes clear when the tiny details provide shreds of evidence that it might exist.

4. Keep it simple

If you have to get across quite heavy content, break any and all complex information or details into bite-size chunks.

Remember, you want to engage your readers in your story, not test their patience by including every technical detail possible.

It may sound backwards but put yourself in the eyes of the audience, would you read what you have written? If you wouldn’t, simplify it further.

5. Write multiple drafts

Whilst having to write multiple drafts may take you back to school, believe me, it is worth it.

Did you ever wonder why you always had to submit the first draft in school? Well it’s normally because first drafts are crap. Don’t believe me?

The first draft of anything is shit.

– Ernest Hemingway

See, I told you.

In an ideal world, write multiple drafts and get someone to give you feedback. You could even try writing multiple versions and get feedback on which reads the best.

To wrap it up

As I said at the start there is no right or wrong way to do storytelling for content marketing, but the tips above should help you start creating content that is compelling, engaging and encapsulating.

If you only take one thing away from this, then please let that be to keep your personality strong and coherent throughout all of your content.

One thing is for certain, content marketing and storytelling is here to stay.