Don’t be afraid to connect with your audience over storytelling — here’s why.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Sujan Patel, the VP of Marketing at When I Work.
We all know a good storyteller. Whether it’s someone in your office, your dad, your high school English teacher, or Herman Melville, there has been a person in your life who’s been able to captivate you with a good story. So why don’t we see more compelling online content?
More often than not, blogs are something you can barely get through. It’s just endless blocks of content that say the same thing over and over. Maybe you have some great things to say yourself, but you’re just not able to connect with your audience—and now you’re losing them. The good news is: there’s hope.
Seinfeld held an audience for years with a “show about nothing.” So if you’ve got something great to say, there’s no reason you can’t get readers excited about it. But not all of us are natural-born storytellers. So I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my favorite tips that make any story a story worth sharing.
Storytelling 101: Know Your Audience
This very idea will inform every other tip in this article. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, your content can never be its best. Before putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard, ask yourself: “Who’s reading this stuff?”
When you can answer that, you’re ready to go. You’ll find yourself stopping short mid-sentence to rework verbiage, and changing anecdotes to make them really stand out. All of a sudden you’re not just trying to make a point, you’re trying to communicate.
It’s simple: You can talk about fire engines to a group of five-year-olds for just as long as you can mechanics, but you’re certainly going to pick and choose details differently for each audience. Believe it or not, the difference in adult audiences is just as extreme.
Drama: Present a Problem
Just like at the beginning of this post, it’s important that you let your reader know why it’s worth reading your blog. You’re presenting them with a problem, and presumably you’re going to fix it.
If I just began to talk about why stories are so great and why storytelling can be fun, you as the reader would have to do the hard work of applying it to your situation. Knowing in advance that I’m writing to bloggers looking to expand their audience helps me to present a clear problem that keeps you invested in the solution.
Storyboard: Chart a Path and Stick To It
Though you as the reader may not always know how one part of the story relates to another until later on, great stories don’t waste space. Once you’ve decided what your article is about, make sure that every paragraph relates back to the central idea or “story.” If it isn’t helpful to solving the problem, it might be worth throwing out all together.
Information: Numbers are Fun!
Just because you fell asleep during math class in high school, that doesn’t mean you can’t make statistics more interesting now. Great writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Kristof use facts and statistics to corroborate the emotional details of their stories, which can compel readers to really invest themselves in the content.
You can do the same! If you’re writing about great new software, show statistics about how that software has boosted other companies’ sales. While your sales pitch can be sweet, a few percentages can be the cherry on a good-news sundae.
Eye Candy: Keep the Visuals Coming
Without question, there has been more than one article you’ve perused just for the pictures—or clicked on because it just seemed to… stand out more than the rest. Good visuals that break up big blocks of text can be the perfect way to keep your audience engaged.
If an idea gets complicated or confusing, infographics and simple visual aides can, well, aide you in your explanation all the more.
Attention: Keep It Short & Sweet
Once you’ve made your point, don’t be afraid to move on—it doesn’t matter if it only takes one sentence.
Your Not-So Captive Audience: Leave Them Wanting More
People can click away from your blog at any point. You don’t need to have an exhaustive volume on any given subject you post. Write about what’s necessary and leave your audience craving more of what you can offer.
It’s just like going to a friend’s for dinner. Leave them looking forward to the next time, not sighing a deep breath that you’re finally gone.
Storytelling is an art, and it’s not one that you can master over night—but heeding these tips can be a great start in turning your next post into a hit. And the more you practice your craft, the easier it will become.
How do you hone your storytelling skills? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.