I now invite you to connect with your right brain and…get…creative!
Don’t be scared.
Even as a seasoned writer, when put on the spot to “come up with a great story” on the fly, I sometimes draw a blank at first and even feel a little inadequate at times; it’s natural!
When I first started working for Ydraw I watched the videos in awe and revered our creative directors and their brains that just spouted magical metaphors..all..the..time!
I haven’t watched one single video that doesn’t catch my attention and make me smile. I mean, a prison for husbands and boyfriends who buy bad gifts? Who comes up with that-that’s brilliant!! Lesa Thomas, I salute you…along with the rest of the Ydraw goldmine team of writers!
I found myself thinking “I just don’t have that kind of a brain!”
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m a talented writer. I’ve won several awards over the years and am on the verge of publishing a novel, but my primary background has been in memoir, honoring leaders and making people cry. But fun and quirky? That was fairly new territory for me.
Sometimes it can be harder to inspire genuine guttural laughter than warm fuzzies and tears with the written word. Many people (like me) are afraid of “trying too hard” and being that annoying person who gets crickets and eye rolls after a failed attempt at humor. There really is a fine line between being funny and being obnoxious.
Don’t let that stop you!
Creativity isn’t exclusive to advertising executives, fantasy writers, and comedians. The authors of Made to Stick say that creativity can be learned. I agree, and add that humor can be learned too. It just takes a little research, practice and following steps that have been proven to work.
When I took this job I took it with a staunch resolve to succeed! I did my research, asked a bunch of questions, dug into my existing bag of literary tricks and started utilizing tactics provided by my new cohorts, and guess what? With a little exercise and practice, I found out I really do have “that kind of a brain”.
I’m here to share some of those secrets along with other helpful hints to help you write a really great story that sells!
Where a selling story is more than just entertaining word vomit, I’m going to break the instructions into two posts. After all, I told you I’m here to tell you how to write a quality story to showcase your business. Where it isn’t as scary as it may sound and is definitely doable, it takes effort and a lot of strategic thought to write a really good marketing story.
This post will help you set the stage to strategic storytelling and provide structure; next week’s post will help you develop descriptive details to delight your audience and teach you how to access creativity you’ve had within you all along!
I love writing stories and believe in the process I’m about to share with you.
I just may give you homework!
1-Set Your Intentions Before You Set the Stage
Free thinking writing where you just let your brain go has it’s place and can be fun. Chances are, however, that you’re writing your story with a purpose in mind so save the expressive energy for a step later on down the line. It’s time to set your intentions and build a solid foundation.
Kimberly Smith provides 4 great suggestions to help you prepare to write your story in her book Once Upon a Marketing Message: How to Craft Stories that Sell.
I took her points and put my own spin on them. Most of these have already been addressed in other articles, but they are worth mentioning again.
1-Establish your goal. What do you want your audience to do after they watch your video? How will the video encourage them to do what you want them to do?
2-Understand your audience. Make sure you understand who you’re targeting and what kind of story would speak to them. Where it would be nice to be universally appealing, keep in mind you want to really connect with online “shoppers” who are looking for what you have but don’t know that they want your product or services yet. The target audience for Buffalo Wild Wings is slightly different than the target audience for The Cheesecake Factory. Both serve amazing food and both are wildly popular, but think about the atmosphere and experience at both places. They definitely draw in different crowds, even though some of the same people will frequent both places. They will just experience a different kind of dining at each place. Don’t just understand your audience in general but narrow it down and write a story to a specific “person” or avatar. Follow the steps in the article Script Writing 101: Know Your Audience to help there.
3-Know how you want your audience to feel. Do you want to get them discouraged about a problem so they will love the solution you have to offer? Do you want to pump them up and motivate them to embark on a new adventure or make a lifestyle change with your services? Do you want them to select your establishment as a place they will unwind after a long day or week when they’re overwhelmed with life? Figure out which emotion(s) you want to trigger during each phase of your story. How do you want them to feel and what is going to get them motivated to answer your call to action?
4-Uncover what will elicit the feelings. Picture different scenarios where the desired emotions could be triggered. Keep them in mind as you write your story
2-Develop an Outline to Set the Stage
Kim Smith also provides the following suggested parts of your story. These are helpful as you organize a basic outline/timeline to build on.
1-Introduce the Characters You need a small cast including a main protagonist your audience can connect with as well as a challenger. Where your story will be about overcoming something, there needs to be a challenger whether it be another person, an illness, a natural disaster or creature from another planet..whatever..just come up with and introduce your hero and your challenger. At this point you should know your specific target audience or avatar, so create a character they can relate to.
2-Set the Scene Put your characters in a place your audience will understand. Are they at home, at work, in the jungle? Where are they going? Where will they end up?
3-Lay Down the Stakes Simply put, what is the problem and why must it be overcome?
4-Develop Some Drama This goes right along with laying down the stakes and understanding how you want your audience to feel. Create some dramatic events that will evoke desired emotions.
5-Resolve the Issues Resolve the issues (drama) realistically. Keep the story in mind and please, though you’re writing the story for a purpose, do NOT make it pitchy! You will lose credibility and possibly even lose your audience. This takes practice but it can be done. Look at other stories that have sold you and keep those in mind.
6-Wrap it Up We naturally like to see things resolved in the end. Now that Jimmy has his finances fixed or has lost 60 pounds, show him at a beach enjoying the fruits of his efforts. With Jenny’s newly found health, show her in running clothes with a race medal around her neck. Make sure you have a nice clean ending unless, of course, you want to leave a cliff hanger for a potential sequel…that can be good too!
3-Finalize Your Outline
Now that your strategy is set, clean it up into an outline of how it will go from start to finish. Don’t worry about perfecting it or having details quite yet, just make your outline clear and make sure your call to action is in focus.
Homework time! By next time have an outline typed up on a word document. Come back and I will give you tips on how to bring your outline to life in a selling story! Challenge issued but not required to read part 2. 😉
How Getting Your Audience Into a Story Can Increase Revenue
The weekend is almost here!
For most, weekends are times to relax and unwind from the day-to-day stresses that are part of a productive week. They are characterized by events, busier roads, packed restaurants, increased movie ticket sales and red box rentals.
One of the most popular activities is to sit in a cool dark theater and be consumed by actions on the big screen and surround sound.
What makes going to the movies so popular? Why do people line up, sometimes for hours, to sit and eat over-priced greasy food in a room full of strangers and spend about two hours watching something that is not real?
Because–everyone needs a break once in a while!
Taking a break is not only enjoyable but imperative to maintain a healthy life balance and mental state.
One of the best ways to take a break is to get lost in a story.
People are naturally drawn to stories because they provide a quick and easy temporary escape from pressing deadlines or situations.
Whiteboard storytelling is so attractive because it plays on the human tendency to pause and get wrapped up in a story.
Here are 7 reasons whiteboard storytelling can help you build your business.
1-Whiteboard Storytelling Gets Past the Infamous 9 Second Attention Span
How long is your attention span? Maybe a better question is, do you have a smart phone? Followed by “How long can you go without picking your smart phone up?”–be honest here.
I admit that unless I’m on a date with someone I really like, I will check or at least think about checking my iPhone at least every 45 minutes–and that’s only if I’m in the middle of something important like a work meeting or if I’m at a movie theater where I can subtly peek in my purse to see if something earth shattering has come across my tiny iPhone screen once or twice. Otherwise, it is conveniently at my side where I can be alerted the instant someone reaches out to me.
I think I can safely say I’m not alone in my iPhone dependence.
We live in a society where we are blessed to have access to almost any information we want in the palms of our hands. It’s a blessing but also a curse where we are constantly bombarded with so much, that we have become almost expert at weeding things out quickly.
In Jace Vernon’s article Today’s Double Down Audience he mentions that recent studies show online viewers have an attention span of 9 seconds! And that’s only if they come across something they find interesting enough to pause and actually take a real look.
Think about it. Think about how you scroll through your Facebook feed or Instagram, scanning what your thousands of friends find important at that particular moment and how you mechanically show your virtual approval with “likes”. Think about what goes through your head as you settle on a YouTube video to watch.
Now think about how you would react to a video set up as a story. Chances are you do pause.
Then you see a hand quickly drawing a concerned looking man and you wonder what he’s worried about. You watch intently as the hand draws a house on the screen..and then…FLAMES coming out of the house! OH NO!! You feel anxious for this poor cartoon man as you sit glued to the screen long enough to see that happily, in the end, the angst on his face is replaced with peace and satisfaction because ABCD Insurance had his home repaired without a hitch.
Your attention span went from 9 seconds to about 90 because you got involved in a story.
2-Stories Distract Us From Noise Around Us.
I just illustrated this point a little with the man and the burning house. Your focus was on learning the outcome of the firey disaster despite other things that are always in the background or just a click away. You were distracted from those distractions long enough to zero in on one story.
Author Jonathan Gottschall wrote, “The human mind is a wanderer by nature. The daydream is the mind’s default state.”
Stories help us focus on one thing and, in most cases, we enjoy it! The mind can still be in that “default state” and sometimes even learn something in the process when it is drawn into a Once Upon a Time kind of setting.
It’s human nature to appreciate being taken away from our distractions and escape into a story. Even a sad or frightening tale is enough to temporarily remove us from our current reality and give our brains a break from all the other noise that is constantly present.
3-The Brain Connects with Patterns, Pictures, and Stories
With so much information being thrown at us to process, the human brain copes by using past experiences to categorize things into little boxes that it can understand and relate to. One way it does this is by connecting patterns, pictures and stories to the new information provided.
In one of Ydraw’s favorite references, the book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath provide two different explanations of what a pomelo is on page 53 to illustrate how people use past experience to understand new information.
“Explanation 1: A pomelo is the largest citrus fruit. The rind is very thick but soft and easy to peel away. The resulting fruit has a light yellow to coral pink flesh and can vary from juicy to slightly dry and from seductively spicy-sweet to tangy and tart.”
“Explanation 2: A pomelo is basically a supersized grapefruit with a very thick and soft rind”
Chances are you’ve never tried a pomelo. Explanation 1 is very detailed, but “spicy-sweet” could describe anything from sweet and sour chicken to cinnamon bears to, what it is really similar to which is a grapefruit. With Explanation 2, you have a better idea of what to expect when you prepare to bite into a refreshing and tangy pomelo–because chances are very high that you’ve actually tried a grapefruit before.
With this example, you are able to take something you’re familiar with to better understand something you aren’t.
A primary goal of your whiteboard video is to get your audience to see themselves successfully utilizing your product or service.
Where on average, you have 30 seconds to 2 minutes to get your point across, you don’t have the luxury of putting in all the nitty gritty details necessary to do justice to what you are trying to promote.
Give your audience metaphors or situations they can relate to so you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
With whiteboard storytelling, you can portray a scenario general yet specific enough that your target audience can use past experiences to see and themselves in the story you present. Mission 1.. accomplished!
4-Stories Appeal to Senses and Emotions
Imagine a video like this:
Scene 1: A triangle tent is drawn and then a campfire next to it. Dark blue pops onto the screen around a bright yellow crescent moon and a couple stars. The soundtrack is crickets, the crackle of fire and distant singing to an out of tune guitar.
Scene 2: A griddle is drawn with two strips of bacon and two eggs sunny side up. The soundtrack is sizzling and popping and a faint sound of a brook in the background.
What did you experience when you read that?
Could you smell the bacon cooking and did it make your stomach growl? Could you smell the pine trees, crackling fire and taste marshmallow from the s’mores you consumed before curling up on the cold hard ground? Could you smell the nylon tent mixed with bug spray?
Did your heart lift and sink because your Grandpa John, may he rest in peace, loved to sing around the campfire and play his guitar that was never in tune? Did you feel the cool mountain air, the warmth of the rising sun and a rush of freedom that came from being away from the office for a few days?
My guess is, even just reading the scenes helped you experience some sort of flashback or emotion. I did while writing it! Though I just explained a fraction of a story, it is set up in a way where the mind can fill in the blanks with past memories and experience. The escape into a story already exists right there!
Storytelling in detail that appeals to the senses will almost always conjure some kind of emotion. Senses and emotion go hand in hand. For example, when I hear the song “Return to Pooh Corner” or smell Irish Spring soap I instantly get teary-eyed because those things trigger subconscious memories of my dad who died when I was young.
People buy into things that trigger the right emotions.
Narratives are everywhere–and as a marketer, that’s a very good thing–since narratives that appeal to the senses and emotions really do sell!
5-Storytelling Influences People’s Actions
In most cases, if someone stops on a video, they are curious about something in the description (so you better use the right key words and title–more on that another day). They are watching your video to help them make a decision, generally about putting their money and/or time into something new.
Reason 5 is a compact way of reminding you that when people hear stories that trigger emotions they will act one way or another whether it be clicking off your video or clicking the link under your video for more information.
Keep the story interesting enough that they will want to know more and ACT on your call to action.
6-Facts Tell Stories Sell
You’ve got seven seconds to sell your audience on watching more of your video. This is not the time to bog them down with facts–start with a story!
By now you should have an idea in mind of what kinds of characters and what your basic plot will be for your video.
You’re not even close to being done..
Seriously–you need more than one “story” in your video.
What I mean is that besides the main narrative, you also need sub-stories, like a line about how your business started. You definitely need testimonials from outsiders who briefly share their experiences with your company. Testimonials are like mini one liner autobiographies.
Don’t go overboard but definitely, add more for your audience to chew on with a mini “story” or two.
Save your bulleted facts for your website; let your stories sell you and your business.
7-People Like to Share Stories—So Why Not Your Video?
Finally, another primary goal is for your video to get watched..and get watched a lot!
People love to share stories, particularly if those stories make them smile, laugh, or shock them.
Where word of mouth is the most trusted form of advertising, make sure your video story is the caliber that your audience will want to spread the word about by sharing your video.
In closing, I just want to remind you that whiteboard storytelling can be fun! Stretch your brain and come up with relatable stories that will keep your audience captivated and give them a great and lasting impression of you and your company.
I just gave you the WHY of using whiteboard storytelling; check in next week for tips on HOW you do it!
Thank you for your time. I hope these 7 Reasons Whiteboard Storytelling Builds Business have given you something to think about as your business continues to grow!
In 1944, two psychologists made a brief animated movie. Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel’s movie was part of a study entitled “An Experimental Study of Apparent Behavior,” and consisted of two triangles, a dot, and a box:
These inanimate objects moved around the screen and “interacted” with each other. When test subjects were asked to describe the actions of the triangles, dot, and box they explained what they saw in terms of a story.
“Oh, that one is a bully!”
“They’re fighting over the girl.”
“Oh no! The dot is trapped!”
Please understand, this simple animated black and white movie didn’t have music, didn’t have voices or sound effects—it was simply two triangles, a dot, and a box. Yet the only way to explain what the viewers were watching, each resorted to giving the objects personalities and telling a story!
“Results from a dozen prominent cognitive scientists and developmental psychologists have confirmed that human minds do rely on stories and on story architecture as the primary roadmap for understanding, making sense of, remembering our lives—as well as countless experiences and narratives along the way,” reports Kendall Haven, in his book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. He continues, “In our enlightened, literate, scientific, rational, advanced world, it is still story structure that lies at the core of human mental functioning.”
Stories are the most efficient and effective structural vehicles to use if you need to motivate, teach and communicate factual, conceptual, and tacit information (that’s stuff that has to do with attitudes, beliefs, values, and expectations).
For example, your product isn’t “just a desk lamp,” look at what Pixar did with their desk lamp!
Tell a story! Problem – Solution. A day in the life of… How it was before your product or service and how much better it is now. Here’s a Problem – Solution examle:
This is a brief animation we did for the National Safety Council for their campaign about “listening to your car”:
The takeaway is this: the next time your organization needs to provide employee orientation or training, or explain how your mousetrap is better than all other mousetraps, start with a story!