Human-interest trumps all and a good story arc holds it together
Troy Media – by Doug Lacombe
All I really needed to know about content marketing, I learned in kindergarten – specifically during story time.
Whether it’s a fairy tale or a fable, a parable or a poem, the structure tends to follow a certain pattern.
Content marketing is now at the heart of all marketing, especially social media, and adopting such a structure in business writing would go a long way to making corporate material more palatable, even enjoyable and compelling.
In his book Write a Novel and Get It Published, author Nigel Watts’ reviews the eight-point story arc:
- The quest
- Critical choice
Think Cinderella, where she goes from cleaning floors and being humiliated by stepsisters, to taking her rightful place in society, resolving the whole tale by forgiving her cruel stepsisters.
Corporate types would do well to learn Watts’ eight-point arc, if for no other reason than to move away from homogenized, tortured corporate speak that no one responds well to.
Let’s say you are opening a new plant somewhere. Your PR department or agency is probably already cooking up some dry boilerplate crap you should be ashamed of. Here’s a sample I just plucked off the wire (made anonymous to protect the guilty):
The XYZ Group Inc. today announced the opening of a new Main Street location in AnyTown, Ontario. This location will operate as a full repair facility, as well as a customer service center. The XYZ Group now owns and operates 12 locations in the AnyTown market and 14 total in Ontario. The new facility will operate under the XYZ trade name and is approximately 3,600 square feet in size.”
Shoot me now.
Applying the eight point story arc, that abomination could be rewritten something like this:
AnyTown, Ontario has not seen a lot of construction lately, but neighbors in the area have been buzzing about all the work going on at the new XYZ plant. Longtime resident 72-year-old Hank Miller is particularly enthused about the arrival of XYZ. “My Dad used to take me to the XYZ plant when I was a kid,” says Hank. “We’d get the parts we needed then go back to the farm and fix the tractor.”
“There was always a stop for ice cream,” notes Hank, grinning.
Hank was so fond of XYZ and those ice cream trips with his Dad he has been collecting XYZ paraphernalia ever since.
XYZ president Bob Bigshot first found out about the collection thanks to a YouTube video made by Hank’s grandson, Little Hank.
“I just couldn’t believe the connection this man had with XYZ,” said Bob. “And how he shared it with his grandson. It really shows what roots we have in these communities.”
Bob was so impressed with Hank’s collection and Little Hank’s touching video tribute to his grandpa that he approached them for permission to use the video in the grand opening advertising. Then he offered Hank a job.
“I wasn’t looking for work at age 72,” chuckled Hank. “But when he said I could greet people, show off my collection and give the kids free ice cream, well, that just brought it all back for me. Who could say no?”
XYZ will open its new plant in AnyTown next Tuesday. Details and ice cream flavours are at www.HankOpensXYZ.com – bring your camera and your appetite, and thanks for welcoming us to your neighborhood.
OK, slightly saccharine, but you get the idea – human-interest trumps all and a good story arc holds it together.
Everything you need to produce compelling content you learned in kindergarten. Grab your milk and cookies, sit down and pound out a few good human-interest stories before naptime.
Your audience and your boss will thank you for it.
Doug Lacombe is a social media speaker and strategist with social media agency communicatto. Find him on Twitter at @dblacombe.