For the longest time, we have linked storytelling to Once upon a time and talking about business to Cold, objective, descriptive words. What about digital storytelling?
As important as it is to put a face to your business idea, it is just as important to have a story. A story your readers can relate to. Digital storytelling has become a real thing. More and more people have started to adapt the storytelling approach.
I have read a couple of blogs and you know what I found? They all have something in common. They all began their post by immersing the reader in a setting, so they feel they were physically there with them and not just reading another success story struggle.
I read two blogs that mentioned a kitchen setting. They and a said person are at the kitchen table discussing an idea for a simple tool and there was this another blog that discussed pricing strategies. This way these bloggers are immersing their audience in the setting with them to keep them hooked. Now, who wouldn’t want to be in the kitchen? That’s where all the food is.
Everyone has a story to tell, find yours and start with it. But always immerse the audience in your setting if not physically than emotionally. It is essential that they feel hooked to reach the end of the blog and share it with others.
Now, the way you tell your story entirely depends on you, your personality. However, it is advisable that you start your blog with an image, that way when the readers see the image, they’ll automatically start imagining it. The picture should be eye catchy but related to what your blog post is going to be about, of course.
The story could be as simple as you having an epiphany in the middle of the cereal aisle at the groceries, buying Froot Loops; about “what you want to do with your life” or it could be about your struggle of doing what you have to do, to get to do what you want to do.
You can incorporate a video into your post, you could either put the video first followed by a message. You can also have the message first and then add the video. Now, what could the video be? If you want to spice things up for your blog, it could be a song. Yes, a song. Or it could be a TV ad as long as it adds an extra element to the topic of your blog.
People like twists, they like surprise elements. You could consider getting that surprise element in your blog. The ‘Oh’ moment to keep the reader hooked. While I was reading one of the blogs recently, I came across the story of Scheherazade, it’s the story of 1001 Arabian Nights. It revolves around how she managed to get the king enticed with her stories and how the king found it impossible to kill her. The power of her storytelling was so good that he fell in love with her and they had their happily ever after. That’s the power of storytelling, my friend.
Don’t be a robot or a zombie. Please do not be that. Make sure you have a human touch to your blog even if you are talking business. Do not be cold, objective and descriptive. No one wants to read that.
If your business is about, let’s say, a bakery. Talk about what inspired you to open one. Talk about the people you met, the special event cakes you have baked for your customers. Events like birthdays, job promotions, proposals and anniversaries. Events people could relate to. Write what readers would relate to.
For advice, I got in touch with E Slody, a freelance writer and this is what he had to say-
Use more cats and lasers…just kidding. I like all the clutter out there. It’s like an ocean of junk good content uses to float on and get noticed. So how do we make good content that floats? Research and rewrites. Know something the other kids don’t and have your own way of addressing issues. I once did a documentary on Internet Servers. Not a sexy topic at all and easily dismissed. However, my teams hours of relentless research helped us uncover that inside these servers was the power of Internet Anonymity that was being used to harm and protect millions of people’s lives. Now that is something most people didn’t know about servers. And as we dug into it, we found some of these servers were being held in secret, underground nuclear bunkers free of government regulation or law. It’s was crazy and the more hours we spent digging into research the deeper the story got and the more we had to rethink the plot of the film. Research and rewrites made it happen and the film (The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet) was very successful. In short, to make standout content I use this simple rule: Somewhere in all that shit is a pony. Our job as writers/content creator is to dig it out. Find your pony.
Interact with your readers, go through your last posts’ comments section and address some of the comments that most of your readers are talking about. If you wish, you could also mention the readers’ story, with their permission, of course. Talk about a recent incident in your life that would make a great story, show yourself as a regular person, not a business entity that just wants to sell the product or services.
Topics, motives, ideas and business philosophy should be given a backseat in your post. Not thrown out of the car or even in the trunk, mind you. It just is there, so you can see them in your rearview mirror and still focus on the other things.
There’s something called StoryHow Pitch deck. They are like regular playing cards but they help individuals transform their ideas into meaningful stories. They’ll help you tell your story using business words.
If you inculcate the habit of digital storytelling there are good chances that you can get the readers in your favor rather than using logical terms, statements, and facts. We can’t complain because ever since the start of time we have been hardwired to believe that business talk means statistics, facts, and endless PPTs. Remember the never-ending PPT you had to make for your business class back in school?
Talking about stories seem like you are fictionalizing the truth and your business. But no, that is not the case anymore. Digital storytelling related to business has become a real thing over the years. People believe in connecting to the emotional side of individuals not just the logical aspect of their being.
Plan your post around a takeaway message. People always want something in return. If they are on your blog, reading it they want something in return. Now you can’t always be handing away gift cards. So, the valuable information it is.
But valuable information is already up there on the world wide web. What makes your blog stand out? Creativity, the way you put your point across. So, get your creative juices working, shake that left side of your brain and get working and if need be it, sign up for a digital storytelling workshop.
We have asked the veterans – What are the best practices that they follow in creative writing and if inspiration is what you are looking for then reading these will help. I promise.
What is the iterative process that a creative writer follows to come up with a great blog posts/story that the readers could relate to?
E Slody: For me, it’s knowing what your readers/followers want out of life. And I don’t mean the same old shtick they get every day from everyone else like kitten pics, political rants or “data” dumps. You have to be able to look inside their lives and know what they want, what drives them. Is it love, laughter, fear (yes some people want fear), comfort, facts or fiction. Everyone is looking for something so know what that is and offer it up in a new and entertaining way that is useful in some way or another. Don’t just pump facts and opinions. Make your readers feel something that is relevant to their lives. Once you do that they stop being readers and turn into followers because you have bonded with their lives. And don’t be afraid to call bullshit on yourself. If you wrote something and it doesn’t give you a tingle toss it out and start again.
Tyler Kuligowski: I want to be clear and state that the creative process for every writer is different. Though some writers may share similar methods or follow some form of written guidelines, the beginning process is not the same everyone. As for my process, it starts with a random thought. This thought, more often than naught, usually comes about at the most inopportune time. I’m talking about moments where I am in bed, ready to fall asleep and just as I shut my eyes a thought pops into my mind. It also occurs when I’m jogging through the neighbor, or at the dinner table, or when I’m on the toilet (it is said that a man’s toilet is a man’s throne and when a man sits on his throne he tends to think more than he should.), or playing a simple game of tug-of-war with my dog. I bring up these examples because it is never when I am staring at a blank sheet of paper that the initial thought occurs. It is when I am in the midst of something else and the distraction is far more appealing than the task at hand. It’s only when my mind begins to wander, that is when the creative process truly begins. And when this these thoughts strike me, they must register an emotion within me, so the best course of action is to grab my little notebook and write it down because it is just as easy to forget these thoughts as it is to be immersed in them.What’s written can be many different things altogether. It can be a few sentences, or a couplet, or just a list of words that I’ll have to go through later the next day.
Now, when I’ve written a couplet, usually my process of thinking is poetry, though that’s not always the case. Because during the writing process everything has the ability to change, style, story, tone, even the genre itself can be changed.
Once my idea is concrete I will create an ending first. It is not unusual for a writer to start somewhere other than the beginning. Many famous writers, who have created incredible worlds through books, have an idea of how their story ends before it begins (i.e. George R. R. Martin and J. K.Rowling). After a rough draft of the ending has been made, I then start to think about how many characters will be in the story. Once I’ve a got a number, I begin to work on characterizations, such as names, physical features, characters’ thought process and detailed background information.
Next, after character building, I work on scenery. Since I prefer to use real settings in my work, I will go to places near me or browse the internet for images that help me paint the scene with my words.
For me, describing a place, in my own words, allows the reader to make a better connection with the story.Knowing that the written place is real can be satisfying for many readers, including myself. Once I have all three of these points, I begin writing out the first draft of my story. Starting from the beginning, then middle and finally adding in the ending. Once the first draft is completed I start editing. First looking at grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Then I move on to what details can be deleted, such as setting, character information, dialogue (if it has any) and any other details that don’t serve a purpose for the story. Lastly, I will go over the style, tone, voice, and diction of my draft. Editing is a constant process of deleting and adding anything that deems necessary to their work.When the draft is finished, I allow a small group of people to read it. This group of people is around four or five people and are trusted to give me the full weight of their critiques. They will send them back to me and I will begin redrafting, using the same editing process along with their critiques. Generally, the editing process goes through four to five drafts before being ready to post. The process of creation is difficult. Sometimes it can take months or even years. There will be constant blocks on the mind and will. There are times where I have had to take some extreme criticism too. But being able to push past it all and continue writing is what makes a writer great. Dedication and determination are what makes a story great. That is the process of what me, as a writer, must go through.
Coleen Bradley: The root of all that I am seeking, and is now seeking me. It is the soul, yes soul, responsibility I feel as a writer. Finding the human truth or insight that drives connection. For the past twenty years, as an advertising Copywriter, this was my method to sell. Anything. From Imported beer promising to increase your barstool cache to moisturizer, strongly suggesting immortality. The victory, only felt, when sales-spiked-PDF’s pinged in my inbox.
One day, that feeling of accomplishment was replaced by dread. My next to, next to, the corner office became a battleground. Inside my body. Suffocating my brain. This wasn’t the story I was here to tell. Admitting that, as well as, addressing the well-dressed skeletons in my closet was suicide. For my ego. For my family. For the on-set-stories with celebrities and pseudo-artists, including myself. My body finally collapsed. My mind needed focus not focus groups. It’s taken 16-months and 4 days, to make a life edit.
Removing myself from my own life, to accept help for P.T.S.D, Depression, Sexual Abuse and Panic Disorder was my new campaign. The tagline would be, Words lie. The body doesn’t. You can’t add flourishes or adjectives to beautify tragedy held inside the amygdala. The memories must not be suffocated, rather come to the surface to be healed. That’s why I put down the Blackberry and pressed the play button.
To find truth in the messy, ugly, shameful and daunting process. So, I may be of service to this world. It has not made me popular, nor do I want it to be. It has made me become fearlessly accountable and morally rich. What is On Brand for me, I ask? How far am I willing to go, to tell this story? If it is so, I share it. And as the files upload each morning, I thank the universe for going ahead of me, to guide my plot twist, with integrity. I am not selling anything, I am the product. That’s the truth.
Jake Dubs: When it comes to my personal blog, my process is probably a bit different than other blogs. Each of my posts is short, to-the-point, and obsessed with shining a light on a single piece of everyday minutiae and the overlooked items/customs/scientific facts/people that make up our world. So my process consists of identifying those things (the more pedestrian, the better) and then crafting a sentiment in a unique and humorous voice (filled with swear-words and complete awe) that obsesses over what I’m writing about. Hopefully, the humor and surprise of my posts will make my readers stop and think about each subject in a way they never have.
For all writers in general, I think the focus is a key early part of the process. Because focus will help ground whatever it is you’re writing about. The focus will free you to go far and wide because the reader will always know where home base is and what the main purpose of the article is. The focus is what readers are after because these days if readers are going to devote even a single minute of our time (let alone a whole hour) we want to know what we’re spending our time on is going to give us something that will benefit our lives. The best way to get there is to develop focus and never lose sight of the main thrust of what it is you want to say.
Rayn Hawkings: It’s a tough one to answer, but as for something that I do; I keep up and understand the most current trends of Pop-Culture. Also, I focus and try to apply the “hero’s journey” to what I write as most people can relate; even commercials to an extent are presented in as a hero’s journey. There is a ‘Call to Action’ in everything.
Guy Bommarito: I don’t know. But then, I’m not your typical blogger because I don’t really try to write a story that someone else can relate to. So for me, the process is no process. I write what I’m thinking about. If someone wants to read it, fine. If they don’t, I’m cool with that too. I’m not out to build an audience. I just have things on my mind that I want to put down in writing — for the record, so to speak — and so that’s what I do. Sometimes I get 50 readers. Sometimes, thousands. I suppose if generating an audience was my goal, I’d write more Reddit-type headlines like “The ten biggest lies advertising creatives tell themselves” or “Proof that digital advertising gives you worms.”
In an era where there is so much content out there, what’s your advice for writers to get more online attention?
A few months ago, I read a great satirical piece in McSweeney’s where the author claimed to have finally “caught up” on every piece of pop culture everyone was talking about. He had read all the articles and blog posts, seen all the movies and TV shows, listened to all the albums. It was funny because this is obviously a ridiculous notion and something we’re all dealing with more and more. It is absurd how much content is out there right now (add in Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and it gets patently insane), and someone who writes for a living is competing with every single bit of it.
There’s no magic bullet recipe for breaking through all of this craziness. But to me, there are three main things that can help increase your chances that what you’re writing will give readers “the feels” enough to love it, and then compound the effect by sharing it.
1. Focus: Something I touched on earlier. The best way to get to simplicity and to create something someone will connect with is to develop focus. Focus will make people want to spend time with your content and turn you into a superstar.
2. Utility: What’s in it for me? What will I, as a reader, get out of this? How will spending time with this piece of content ultimately make my life better, happier, more full of knowledge, more full of fun, more full of something I am missing? No matter what we write, it should be useful to the audience, whether that comes in the form of learning something new, discovering an insightful way of thinking, or just experiencing good old-fashioned entertainment. When writing, your reader should always be front and center, and everything you write should be in service to her. She is the queen bee empress overlord. You are her servant. A wise writer will never forget that.
3. Unique voice: I put this one last because to me, it’s the most important. You can be super focused and give your readers some sort of utility, but all that will be short-lived if you’re not communicating it in a way that’s uniquely and memorably you. Readers are humans. They want to know they’re reading something written by a fellow human, someone with thoughts and feelings and a history and a unique way of seeing the world that is real and relevant and flawed and full of surprises. Writing that way will make your readers nod their head and think to themselves, “I like this person. They feel like an interesting/funny/ridiculous/brave/insert-awesome-attribute-here friend.” Those are the types of writers you and I want to spend our time with. Because those are the types of writers every reader wants to spend their time with.
A great example of someone who accomplishes all three of these things is Tim Urban, the author of my favorite blog, Wait But Why. Tim will often write posts that are tens of thousands of words long, often on a diverse variety of subjects. But because each is so focused, because each provides some sort of utility (by teaching me something and being hilarious all at once), and because each is written in Tim’s uniquely human and humorous voice (and includes his famous crude stick-figure comics), he manages to break through and create content millions of people spend time with each month, often for hours on end. These days, that is more impressive than it’s ever been.
Rayn Hawkings: I study Pop-Culture and the political trends of modern-day society. I also practice every day by just writing whatever comes out, as sometimes the most amazing stories come from a few lines of words that didn’t seem to mean anything at the time.
Guy Bommarito: Don’t be just another bigger blogger with an opinion. Write what’s important to you. Be interesting. Be entertaining. And write headlines that are so compelling no one can resist clicking on them.
In conclusion, digital storytelling is just not ‘Once upon a time’ and “Happily ever after. The end.” anymore. Let readers have takeaways from your blog and fill your blog up with examples. Let your blog be a dark horse. Did you think of the Katy Perry’s song when I mentioned ‘Dark Horse’ or was it just me?