Ira Glass has a great series of videos on YouTube right now about what makes a good radio story. It made me think that the same rules apply with marketing, advertising, or anything where you want to capture people’s attention and imagination. So here is an adapted set of rules, from Ira’s advice.
Don’t use topic statement then facts (as in high school)
High School writing is all about setting the statement first that you are trying to prove, and then writing a set of points and giving information to support it. This is just about the least interesting way you can make up a story, or retain people’s attention. It is as if you are talking AT the people you are trying to sell to.
The main foundation of any great story is the anecdote. This is a sequence of actions, which could include some thoughts and ideas that flesh out the story. This is about having a train of actions that have a destination. In the video, Ira gives the example of getting out of bed. It is a series of events that are moving in one direction and propelling the story forward. Be surprising, meet great characters, tell an interesting story. In your marketing, this would be setting the scene for the problem your customers are having.
Use a question/problem in the beginning to set the scene
Raise a question from the beginning – set the bait from the very start by asking a question in a round about way. In the video Ira says “the room was eerily silent”. This asks the question, why is the room eerily silent, and the viewer hangs pays more attention wondering why. For example “Jane built a website, but the customers did not come” or “Paul has renovated his house, but his toilet is not flushing”.
Give people the answer to the problem as a moment of reflection.
Have a moment of reflection somewhere that rewards the viewer. Answer the problem with a specific solution that is unique and interesting. If you were a lawyer, you could say something like “We
Finding your interesting story is more than 50% of the battle.
Find the decent story, and work hard at finding it. 50% of what you do should be working through hundreds of possible stories to find the one that compels. Abandon work that doesn’t mean anything.
Maintain your story
You have to keep propping a story up to keep it interesting, because stories always try to become boring.
Use your normal voice/style.
Act like a human being, it will make things more interesting. Don’t try to be like people on TV or Radio. Don’t imitate people, be yourself.
The story is about your customers, not about you.
Make the story about other people, and bring yourself into the story infrequently. What is interesting is seeing how you interact with other people. Drama is people interacting. Drama makes things interesting.