How to tell a story

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool.  Get it right and it can mean the difference between a new customer and simply being ignored.

There’s nothing new about storytelling – we all enjoy a good tale – but when you’re trying to win that next bit of business it’s too easy just to push out the dull facts about your product or business whilst ignoring the interesting story that lies beneath.

Tell a story and draw your readers in. Let them feel they know a bit about you. Give them something to care about. Why? Because it is human, and a far more captivating read. People ultimately love to follow a narrative and identify with characters. People remember what they care about and bond with.

It’s no coincidence that the best copywriters are great storytellers. They’ve refined the art of burrowing out the fascinating angle and retelling your message in a way to draw in the reader.

So as a storyteller who’s told a fair few tales in their time (see below) here are some quick pointers to make your story engaging.

Don’t beat about the bush

There is an art to storytelling. Forget spoiler alerts, usually you give it all you’ve got in the first few lines.

Sometimes you can use what is called a “drop intro” and warm your audience up, gradually unfolding your story with the punchline three or four paragraphs in, but this can be risky. People are busy and my advice really is to get your message across as soon as possible. Your headline needs to pack a punch and grab their attention, and the intro (the first paragraph) needs to give your strongest pitch. If that’s all your audience/readers have time for, at least they’ve got the key facts.

What makes news? It’s the unusual and it’s proximity.how to tell a story

The unusual: Disaster, scandal and major mishap make the front page, while run-of-the-mill “good news” hardly features in the media. The fact that something predictable is happening as expected isn’t news because it lacks that human, eyebrow-raising quality.

Looking at your story, it’s about setting out what makes you a bit special. What unusual benefits can you offer your clients? (This could range from opening on a Saturday morning when nobody else in the area does, to winning first prize for your product in a national competition.)

Proximity: Take a story about someone falling off an elephant and breaking their leg. You will only be interested if they are famous (the Pope, or Prince Charles, for example) or you know them well.  Either of these cases is a bit of news you’re likely to pass on to friends or family; a similar misfortune befalling a random person 300 miles away is of no interest whatsoever.

When it comes to your story, the same applies. You’re more likely to gain business either:

  1. via word-of-mouth locally, because you have a great product, service or deal and you’re easy to reach.
  1. or because you create an affinity with your audience. If they understand how much you care about what you do and how it has helped others (whether that’s selling insurance or catering a wedding) they’re more likely to buy even if they’re geographically further away.

Call in expert guidance

With a 20-year track record working on Fleet Street newspapers I’ve covered a huge gamut of stories from a hijack to political scandals, celebrity news and even the death of Princess Diana. I’ve worked at Westminster, going to 10 Downing Street every day for briefings; I’ve been a foreign correspondent in Paris; and I’ve edited the Daily Mail’s foreign coverage, commissioning and editing stories from a network of correspondents around the globe.

What sets you apart?

I can help you work out what your story is: what sets you apart from the competition, what makes you shine and what will spark the interest of your target customers. We can work together to draw out the hidden nuggets: information that you may take for granted but that can fascinate and impress your audience.

Contact me at Editing Edge to get your story told.