Beyond Copywriting 101: Stories and More
So I'm hoping that, everybody, you've got your headline, you have got your opening, so you're ready to go. You feel confident that you've written something that your ideal reader's gonna be excited about. So let's talk about stories a little bit. We learn with stories. We remember things better when they're told in a story format. And we share stories. An example of this is you'll see that I'm up here with my three dogs, who I love so very much. I'm such a dog person. And I like to walk them. And when I was first walking them, my husband will tell you, that I used to come back in tears because they were pulling me like crazy and I had no control and it was an absolute mess. And then we got these things called A Gentle Leader. And you put them on the dog's face, and then they stay right beside you. You see how the one pulling, he doesn't have one on. The other two are right beside me in these Gentle Leaders. So, anytime somebody tells me that I have a problem walking my dogs or we're ta...
lking about our dogs and they say my dog pulls me all over the place and this happens a lot of times, that people say this to me. I will say: you have to get the Gentle Leader, let me tell you about this. Let me tell you how I used to cry when I would walk my dogs, because they're 100 pounds and they would pull me across the street and I would have no control over them. And then, we got this magical thing called the Gentle Leader and they started walking right beside me, without having to do anything else. It was like magic. And I tell this story to people, about this product. I have probably sold Gentle Leaders to a lot of people. Because I just share this story with them. So stories sell, they really do. When you use them in your blog posts, they sell. When you use them in your product descriptions, they sell. The Story Experiment. Okay, Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, they did this experiment where they bought a bunch of items at yard sales and flea markets, stuff that wasn't really significant in any way. They cost an average of $1.25 per object. They hired writers to write stories about each object. And listed the items on ebay. They sold $128.74 worth of objects for $3,612.51. Just by adding stories to these objects. That was it. They were able to sell $128 worth of stuff for $3,612. That shows you that stories are so powerful. They mean something, when you see, for instance, there was this photograph that I saw on Etsy. That this woman had taken and it was of this little lamb. And how they had the lamb, it was their neighbor's lamb and it was in the kitchen and it was eating all of this stuff, the story is what made me want to buy the photo. I loved the photo anyways, but it was the story that made me want to buy it. So, if there's a story, tell the story. If there are parts of the story that you can tell, even just pieces, even just a sentence or two, like we've talked about. Tell that, put it in there. With product descriptions and within your blog posts. We all enjoy stories, but we're not all good at writing stories, right? This is just like anything else that takes practice. You have to do it over and over and over again. And the more you do it, the better you're gonna get at it. And the more stories you read and the more you say hey look at this story in this blog post and how it's making me feel like this and how I want to leave a comment or how I want to check out this person's Etsy shop or how I want to buy photography from them or how I want to book a life-coaching session with them. It's the story. So pay attention to that, when you're reading them. Dissect them for what makes them really entertaining. What makes them feel like, this is a friend that's talking to me or I really feel like I can see this story. And one of the ways to do that is to show, don't tell. So when you're telling a story, you want people to be able to visualize it in their heads. So, instead of saying I was so angry, you could say my face flamed, turning a bright shade of tomato. I clinched by jaw and fists at the same time, ready for a fight. You can picture that happening, in your mind. Somebody's face turning a shade of tomato, them clinching their fists at their side, ready for a fight. So when you're telling stories, include details. And do it in a way that people can visualize it and picture it happening. It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice. And this comes from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. And I think that this is a great quote to share at this time because it's true. A lot of us don't give ourselves time to practice writing. Even though we use it in our businesses all the time. If you're writing sales copy, if you're writing product descriptions on a regular basis and you're saying to me well, but, April, I'm just gonna be blogging a little bit. You're still gonna be writing a lot, because you're writing product descriptions. So, oftentimes in our businesses, we need these tools more than we even think or realize. So write down the details. Details make a story come alive so that the reader can actually see it happening in her mind. Some examples, instead of saying a car, say the VW Beetle. Instead of saying flower, say the hot pink peony. You can picture it better, when somebody says flower, you don't picture something. When they say hot pink peony, you picture that in your mind. So just taking that, just using those details, can make a story come alive. Record details around you, from your life, in your stories. Remember how I had you do some homework from the last session where you were supposed to split up the notebook into these different sections, well part of it is so that you can jot down these details. So that you can jot down stories but also details. And so that you remember them later, because often we don't. Like the bright red buttons on your hairdresser's coat. Or the way your grandmother smells like a combination of lavender and chamomile. Or the grit you felt in your mouth when eating uncleaned shrimp. (laughter) Writing down those details, getting them in that notebook, so you have them to go back to. I highly, highly, highly suggest it and recommend it. And once you start to do this, and you make it a habit, you're gonna notice details more and more often. You're gonna be using them in your stories more and more often and it's gonna make a big difference. So, next I want you to pick a story for your post. This is on page 47. So you've got your post, you've got your title, you've got your opening, pick a story that you can include within your post. And don't worry, there isn't a hot seat for this one. (laughter) However, I am gonna ask some of you if you'll just share a little bit about what story you might tell. What you might include. So what story could you include in that post? And again, it can be just a sentence that you include. It doesn't have to be something super long. Often, if I'm stuck, on how to start a post, I'll first think of are there any stories that relate really well to this that I might be able to include? It might not be how I start my post, but it usually will get those juices flowing and help me to really figure out what else to do and how to start it. And how to incorporate those details. An example of this is let's say you're writing about a jewelry line. You could share this story about your mom getting ready for New Year's Eve. And how you remember her showing you the necklace before she put it on and how it sparkled and how she twirled around in her dress afterwards. So, what kind of stories are you guys thinking about sharing in your posts? And you don't have to go into, you don't have to say word for word what the story is or how you would write it, but just give us an overview of really what the story would be. So usually my stories are more how I got the inspiration to make the thing, is that still what you think would count in this example? For the pinata thing, I thought, they make little miniature pinatas at the party store and I was like, oh I want to make a little miniature pinata. But I wanted to make sure if I was making a miniature pinata it would be really something, there would be a reason to destroy it and then I was like, oh, well if there was catnip in it, a cat would totally destroy this pinata. Absolutely, that counts (laughter) and that's great. And that's the kind of stuff that your customers would love to hear. Yeah, absolutely. Who else, what stories do we have that we're gonna share? Well, mine was about a Mother's Day gift so I would tell the story about how my mom would say every year that all she wants for Mother's Day is peace and quiet. And always thought that was so lame (laughter) until I became a mother and then I was like, yeah, oh my god, that would be so awesome, but that's never gonna happen. (laughter) That's a great story. Oh my goodness, that is the perfect story to include in your post, I love that so much. So make your mom something for Mother's Day, cause she's not getting peace and quiet. (laughter)
Absolutely, are we having anybody sharing online that wants to.. Yeah, a lot of people are chiming in with their ideas for stories but there's some challenges that people have when they're telling stories, now this one comes from Morbid Cafe and they're curious to know, their biggest challenge is the length of the story. They're afraid that their post could be too long if they're putting together an entire story and that could turn people off from reading. I know we talked a bit about breaking up our text and having more readable segments, but when is a story just too long for one blog post? Again, that's gonna depend on the length of your blog post normally, what your ideal reader is up for. If they're up for a long story and if it really makes sense. And if it's a really good one, then go ahead and tell the story. Because people are gonna read it, they're going to enjoy it. If it's a really good one. If it's not something where, let's say you write it out and you're like I could get rid of about 50% of this and it would still be the same. It would still give you the same effect, the same feeling, then get rid of 50% of it and still have that same feeling and being able to get that story across, if you feel like it's too long. However, if you feel like it's a really, really good one, then just use it, experiment. This is something I really think you should do, is experimenting with what your readers are up for and not up for. So try out a really long story, if you get a ton of comments and people are saying I love this so much, I want more of this. Then you know that they're loving it. If you don't get any comments, if people aren't sharing, then you know that this might be a little too long for my readers, but experiment with it. Have a little bit of fun with it. And know that I can, actually, a little bit more about Morbid Cafe, they actually are thinking about a new post about a new way to meditate, saying something like if you're like me and you're not into new-agey hippie stuff but you really like hearing about the benefits of meditation sort of along those lines, so, I could see that being a nice blog post. Yeah, now, April, I'm curious to know: what is your opinion on if you have a long story about breaking it up into multiple blog posts. Is it ever a good idea to maybe leave it like a cliffhanger? And say like, oh, if you're really enjoying this story I'm gonna give you the second part next week or is that sort of a bad idea? Well, it can keep your readers in anticipation, however, I don't know how well that works for the internet. There are some people who, for instance, are writers and they'll publish one chapter at a time and that works really well. And their readers are waiting for the next chapter. So, again, that may be something that you want to experiment with and see if it's something that your readers get really excited about or something that they don't necessarily like as much. I find when I write that selecting a story is always difficult for me to do, I don't know why. It's like I have tons of stories to tell, but when I'm in that moment, it's difficult for me to say I want this particular story to go with this blog post. Example, with the water bottles, it's probably not the best story to illustrate that worksheet that I'm working on or that blog post that I'm working on, so I think that really speaks well to your list of stories that you maybe tell when you're with your friends or with your family, just out and about. Because I do have those stories that come up, but it's difficult for me to remember those, when I'm in the moment. So do you think that that would help you kind of break through and be able to pick the best story? Yes, I think so, 'cause when I write, I'm tending to write stories that just recently happened, versus stories that happened years and years ago, which are also good as well. So, a lot of my readers really enjoy is I've been doing a lot of traveling, I went to Argentina and I was thinking about a blog post and how I can really, kind of, dive into this trip to San Francisco. So I do a lot of the travel ones and that really resonates very well. And yes, and when you have something that does work really well with your audience, you want to do more and more of that.
Exactly. (laughs) Instead of writing about other stuff. Yeah, you want to see how much more of this can I include. And also if you're stuck with, I don't know which one to use I would make a list of all the stories that relate to that topic, and think about each one and then pick one. So that you've done a little brainstorming session with it. 'Cause I'm always just thinking of one single one, but that's a good idea to write a list of. And I bet you've got a lot of stories, being in the classroom for as long as you are. (laughter)
I tell those a lot, too. (laughs) And I've also read bloggers where they'll use the same story time and time again and it still works. There's nothing wrong with if you have a good story, there's a lot of different aspects to it. And it becomes, almost, like a part of your brand. If you're telling the same story over and over again, it becomes associated with your brand and becomes part of it. Like, Gilmore Girls, I talk about that a lot on Blacksburg Belle and I think people relate that because I get emails, I cannot tell you how many emails I get and sometimes it's just in the p.s.: p.s. I love Gilmore Girls too. (laughter) So, it's almost become something that people relate to my brand. So we've talked about this a little bit. And this is really important. Break up those big chunks of text. Because they're a huge turn off, they're very overwhelming. You want to break things up much more online than you would for print. Use headings, use subheadings, use bolding, lists, bullet points, whatever it is to break it up to make it look more manageable. Include a call to action, this is in your workbook on page 47, what do you want your readers to do? What's the next step? So they get done with your blog post, what now? Do you want them to read another blog post that's related? Do you want them to buy something from you? Do you want them to check out your shop? Do you want them to leave a comment? Do you want them to share your post on social media? Do you want them to come over and like your Facebook page? What do you want them to do? And this is actually, brings up a really good point. How many calls to action are appropriate, just one, two? One is best. Yeah, because people are busy. Hopefully when you include too many calls to action, people don't pick the one that you would really want them to do the most. And sometimes, they don't do any, because it's just so overwhelming that they just leave and go somewhere else. But if you ask them to do just one thing, and you want it to be clear and specific. If it's clear, people are much more likely to do it. If I say to my readers, you liked this you should follow me on Facebook because I'm doing a blog tour and I'm gonna be posting all of those links on Facebook, they're likely to come over and follow me on Facebook so that they get those links for the blog tour. Or whatever it is. Lots of times I encourage my readers to leave comments. Because I want them to feel like they're a part of the community, I want them to feel like they're a part of Blacksburg Belle. And I want them to continue the conversation. So a lot of times, that's my call to action. So it depends on your brand and business and what you want people to be doing. So what calls to action do you guys have for your posts? This post that you've been working on, you've got the headline, you've got the opening, the story, what's the call to action? Who wants to share? So mine'll be DIY or buy, 'cause it's going to be a DIY, but I'll have some that I've made, so if somebody likes the idea, but they don't want to do the work, they can buy it on my Etsy shop.
Awesome, alright, Paige. Mine would be to leave a comment because I would love to know their little rituals and tricks that they do before an interview. Alright, okay, what else? I also would do DIY or you can go to my shop and buy the bracelet, if you don't have time or. Yes, and that also, that's good because that helps two different types of readers that you have. You have the reader that just wants to buy the product and then you also have the reader that wants to do it themselves. And so you are including something for both ideal readers right there in that call to action. And there's an interesting call to action from Debbie Nolan, she says share this post and be entered to win a pattern of your choice from my shop. So it's like rewarding them. Yeah, those contest posts or do this and you get entered into that, those can be really attractive and really engaging for people to get involved. I like to think of ways that I can get my readers more involved. What can I do to get them more excited about this? And also, sometimes, taking next steps for themselves. So sometimes it's not even about leaving a comment, it's about take this advice and put it into practice. So use this that I'm telling you how to develop your unique blogging voice and go do it. Go use this on a post that you have just written. And that was a call to action in one of my blog posts. So sometimes you want to help them reach some sort of benefit. So, you were saying, you said before you should only have maybe one specific call to action, 'cause what I usually tend to do is I have two sentences or two questions at the end of my blog post, I'll say now it's your turn, in the comments, one, share a story with me of dealing with too much clutter or too much junk and then, two, how are you now going to use this information to remove information from your course. So I always try to do two, I don't know if that's too much? 'Cause they're a little bit different but I like to have that engagement and get to know the readers on a personal level but then again, I also want them to take the information and go and implement it for their course, as well. Okay, so, you're saying that you want them to take an action to improve their course and you also want them to engage with the content and leave a comment? Okay, that's completely fine. Yeah, that's completely fine. Often, I will just say, leave a comment or go and do this for your business. Because it's obvious that the post has been written for you to go and improve your business and I also want to hear what you have to say. So, sometimes I will just decide on one. But sometimes I also do that, as well. You want to keep your readers on your site as long as possible by interlinking posts within posts. And this is how I have done it on my site, and this is one where I linked to a lot of posts. So I wanted to show it to you, all the places where you see the red circles and you see the green text, it means that I have linked to another post that I have written. So, for instance, it says I can't find my target market. Oh, by the way, what's a target market? And so if people don't know that, they're probably going to click on find my target market. Or I don't know how to price my products, help. They're gonna go to how to price my products. So, it's gonna keep people on your site longer. It's also good for SCL, but you want to keep people around and reading your stuff. So if you have related posts, link to them within your post. Avoid the lawyer trap and my husband's a lawyer, so I can say this. But, if you've ever read anything that lawyers write you know that they tend to use the most obscure words they can possibly find and the longest words and the most confusing language to just confuse the heck out of you. This is what you absolutely do not want to do. If you've ever read the fine print of something. You don't want to do this to your readers. You don't want them saying, can the person say this like a human, please? Because I don't get this. This also tends to fall into the professor trap. Which happens to us because we become experts at something and then we don't realize that they're people who don't understand what we're talking about. That's happened to me in this course already, where I was talking about an opt-in form and they asked wait a second, what's an opt-in form? So, I was making the assumption that people already knew what an opt-in form is, so remember that you're an expert at what you do, and most other people aren't, so use that beginner's language. And always edit, like we've said, edit then edit again. Do an edit as your ideal reader. So pretend like you are your ideal reader. You are in her shoes. And think that way. Where do you need more clarification? This can help you get out of that professor trap. What bores you, if you're your ideal reader? What excites you? What are the best parts, as your ideal reader? And then do an edit as if somebody that you admire will be reading it. And this suggestion came to me from Coral Lee and her website is Creative Womens Business and she put this as a comment on my post when I talked about developing your unique blogging voice. And she said, sometimes I will edit as if my super hero, the person I love or a celebrity is reading it. And it helps me to do my best writing. So, always edit, do edits as different people. Get into your ideal reader's shoes.