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by Harry Gardiner on 10th July 2013
Hi there. My name’s Harry Gardiner, and today I’m going to talk to you about effective storytelling. So pull up a chair and let’s get started. Everyone loves a good story, whether it’s from a friend, something that you read online, or from one of your favourite books. Understanding how to craft a good story and get the group involved in your tale is the key to creating effective and worthwhile content. So today I’ve put together four helpful tips about effective storytelling.
My first tip is understanding your audience. Understanding who you’re writing for and who’s reading your content is key to crafting worthwhile content that people will actually want to read. You wouldn’t read Game of Thrones to a bunch of nursery school children, and the same applies for online. If you go to an SEO website, you wouldn’t expect to read a film review and vice versa. Understand your target audience, and stick with them.
If you’re unsure of who you’re writing for, or if you’re writing for a larger audience, you can always use plenty of tools to find out more. Followerwonk, for example, is a great Twitter tool that lets you analyze your followers and find similar influences. Google Analytics is a fantastic tool that lets you do plenty with your website. Far too much to go into now, but if you get a chance, check it out.
My second point is theme and structure. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. If you go off on multiple tangents, with lots of different plot points and different themes, people are going to get kind of confused. It’s best to stick to a simple structure to make the most effective stories. ‘Beginning, middle, and end’, or ‘problem, journey of discovery, solution’. That way your audience can follow the story along much easier.
Your story doesn’t have to ramble on either. Some of the best stories are short and concise. Saying that, if you do have a long story, make sure you get your point across. You can use subheadings to help your users navigate the content and break up the pieces of the content itself. Subheadings act as a springboard, much like chapters in a book. They introduce the next part of information.
My third point is emotive content. Using emotive content can help you elicit the necessary reactions and emotions from your audience. Big brands do this every day. Jewellery companies use this kind of thing to make us feel want and need towards their products. Charities, on the other side of the spectrum, they use this kind of advertising to make us feel empathy and sadness. Every now and again, [they use] shame.
Using rich content is an entire art in itself, and it’s far too much to go into now. But some of the kings of emotive content are Pixar, and looking at them can help you understand how to better your content yourself. They’ve been crafting amazing, emotional stories for years now, and over time they’ve built up a bank of guidelines that they follow when creating great stories. One of the favourite points they point out is to understand why the story needs to be told. If you can find that driver to push the story out there, you’ll suddenly understand the heart of the story. If you’ve watched a Pixar film before and haven’t come close to shedding a tear, then chances are you’re probably a robot. So these points are well worth checking out if you want to improve your storytelling skills.
My fourth and final point is staying on brand. If you’re writing for a brand or a product, it’s important the content you create reflects the brand values and tone of voice. For example, Taco Bell are renowned for their casual, laid-back Twitter attitude. They’re also quite cheeky online. This works well because it reflects their brand attitude and what we all think about their brand. But if the White House started cracking jokes on Twitter, people would be kind of confused. They’d probably enjoy it, but kind of confused nonetheless. Having a different tone of voice from your brand can be confusing and off-putting for your audience, and can put off possible clients and existing customers. So it’s necessary that you stick to your tone of voice.
The same applies for yourself, though. If you’re writing for yourself, you’ve got to remember that you are your own brand. If you’re creating spammy content and shoving terrible negativity out there, chances are it’s going to catch up with you. The secrecy that comes with hiding behind a keyboard is slowly being washed away with the rise of the authorship profile. What you write and the content you create will affect what people think of you and reflect on yourself as well.
So those are my four tips, but feel free to share yours below. If you’ve got any advice for great storytelling, please let me know in the comment section below. Thank you for watching.