Archive for stories

How to Make Social Proof Work for You


When writing on the web about your services or products, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of testimonials and client reviews. Social proof is such a strong persuasion trigger you shouldn’t limit these comments to just a page, but have them scattered throughout your web and blog pages.

Know what works best for your content marketing strategies, especially when creating a website or blog, introducing yourself, a new product, or special promotion.

In my previous post, Social Proof: Why It’s So Important, I reported on research that showed travel destinations with client recommendations and photos of the reviewer were selected 20 percent more than destinations with no review.

But not all recommendations (and ratings) will yield the same results. According to Dr. Susan Weinschenk, in her book Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click: Read More→

Tips to Get Your Business Newsletter Read

eNewsletter 10 TEALDoes anyone read your business e-newsletter?  How do you get your clients and prospects to open that email? In a previous post, I asked if you were sending a holiday newsletter for your business. Here are a few timeless tips to help you get your newsletter read.

Grab Attention with a Compelling Subject Line and Headline

Remember that the singular purpose of a subject line is to get readers to open the mail. The purpose of the headline is to get people to start reading. That’s it.

Research has found that the most compelling subject and headlines cater to:

  1. The three greatest human goals: to make or save time, effort or money
  2. The three greatest human desires: lust, greed or comfort
  3. The three greatest human teasers: curiosity, scarcity or controversy

Read More→

The Scariest Blog: No Personality

Scariest Blog PostWhat’s the scariest blog post you have ever read?  For me it’s a blog or website without any personality.

Storytelling and personalization is the key piece in content marketing as I see it. People are good at writing about what they know. They aren’t as good about expressing who they are and why they do what they do.

If you’re not writing real stories, your content – on your blog, in your newsletter, on your web pages – runs the risk of being boring. You may be excited about what you do as a professional, but your clients will get bored or overwhelmed if you just throw information at them.

What’s your back-story? Read More→

How to Write an Ebook as Good as a TED Talk

Write-a-bookWhat if you could write an expert ebook using the same riveting tactics used by speakers that earn them millions of views?

I’ve been viewing some fascinating videos on, scanning them for tips on how to write a good story. And I’ve read How To Deliver a TED Talk, by Jeremy Donovan.

At some point in your professional career, you’ll likely be inspired to write and publish a book, whether for potential customers, colleagues or to spread your message to a global audience. Your ability to persuade others through  written words will contribute greatly to your book publishing success.

What can we learn from TED Talks about writing an expert ebook? Here are a few key elements from Donovan’s book: Read More→

Content Marketing: Stories are Key

If you want your content marketing messages to be remembered, you must engage the emotional memories of your readers. Memory formation happens in two ways:

1.  You say or do something that makes an emotional connection.

2.  Something happens that closely resembles a previously established emotional connection.

What results is a neural network of associations that get triggered by a hot-button stimulus. Everything we retain in memory is because it’s gained an emotional place in our brain. At some point, something was important enough because it was emotional. That’s what hot-buttons are… we feel as if someone has poked us.

As a content marketing professional, you have words and visuals in your quiver of tools. How do you poke someone and push their hot buttons?

Stories are key. Negative stories can get people’s attention, but can also leave a negative aftertaste, if not followed by positive stories. I’ve talked about this before, and here’s a graph to illustrate this: Read More→

Business Blog Writing and Content Marketing:
Come on, light my fire!

Why is content marketing and persuasion so difficult, and what can you do to set people on fire? When it comes to writing content for a business blog, most professionals start from their point of view. Of course, who wouldn’t?

We’ve got a state-of-the-art 128-bit secure site, offering the best rates on the Web.”

While this business understands that its customers want security and low prices when ordering services online, they fail to ignite passion or spark action in readers.

Stories of real people connect with readers in a way that data and words on a screen can’t. In his best-selling book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, published in 1997 by Harper-Collins, master screenwriter Robert McKee argues that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living—not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.”

There are two ways to persuade people.

The first is by using conventional marketing rhetoric, which is what most professionals use. It’s an intellectual process  in which you write, “Here’s our company’s biggest advantage, and here is what you need to do.” You build your case by giving statistics and facts and quotes from authorities. But there are two problems with this rational approach.

First, the people you’re talking to have their own set of experiences. While you’re trying to persuade them, they are arguing with you in their heads. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are inspired to act by emotions.

The other way to persuade people—a more powerful way—is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story.

In a story, you not only weave in a lot of information, but you also arouse your reader’s emotions and energy.

Persuading with a story is hard. It demands vivid insight and storytelling skill to present an idea that packs enough emotional power to be memorable.

In the sample quote I used about a “128-bit secure site,” wouldn’t it be more interesting if the business blogged about a client who had a bad experience using an unsecured website? Or, better yet, what if they featured a video clip of a client who saved “X” amount of dollars by coming to them instead?

Stories connect us to what really matters most in ways that rhetoric and facts can’t.

Content Marketing from the Inside Out

In your opinion, what’s the single biggest factor that builds credibility and trust in content marketing? To me, it’s personality.

Readers and viewers want to feel a human connection. They need personal stories about people and about you. It doesn’t matter what form the stories come in.

We’ve come a long way from the days when ad men (and they were usually men) could represent products or services with snappy jingles and cute copy.  Online marketing today includes plenty of content in all forms, all of which communicate personality through stories:

  • Web pages
  • Blogs
  • E-newsletters
  • Social media profiles and updates
  • E-books, white papers and digital downloads
  • Video clips
  • Webinars

Some companies have personality through characters like the Aflac duck and the Geico gekko. Did you know they have their own Facebook pages?

Others use their company president like Razerguy for Razer and Ben & Jerry’s founders. Some use their customers:  Dove uses women and Old Spice uses men.

Obviously, if you’re an independent professional such as a doctor, psychologist, any kind of health professional seeking clients, you’ve got to have your own personality in your content marketing to stand out from all the others. Same for lawyers, authors, speakers. Yet how many professionals share their personal stories on the Web? Read More→

Content Marketing with Stories: Why We Tell Lies…

Telling stories is a fundamental part of good content marketing. Stories have so much marketing clout, they make it possible for little businesses to compete with the big guys.

Since stories are fundamental to the way our brains work, why don’t we tell more stories?

Why doesn’t every piece of online content we write use narrative to give a specific example of real people using our products and services or whatever it is we want to influence?

Here’s my guess: most people don’t think their stories are good enough. They don’t think they have a personal story to tell that’s worthy of people’s attention. Or, here’s a wild guess:

“Oh, I’m not sure my story is typical of the way other people think or act… I’m just different, maybe a little weird.”

Let me tell you a story about that. When I was first working online, all my web copy was as official and business-like as I could make it. I tried to hide the fact that I was not long out of graduate school and was sole-proprietor of a writing service with only 6-month’s Internet experience.

I was embarrassed. I thought the others online were computer wizards and knew secret coding language I didn’t. Never mind it was 1999 and many others had relatively little Internet experience as well.

So I didn’t tell much of a compelling story at all. I avoided getting personal. I believed that my writing products would sell themselves.

I struggled with my online marketing for years. It wasn’t until 2004 when I started blogging that I began to use story. I began telling it as it is, for me.

The difference was enormous. I suppose I had an “overnight success,” based on the number of people added to my marketing list (ten times as many), number of clients and amount of money coming in.

My story changed. I started speaking at conferences and I was able to tell people about the pivotal moments that made a big difference: blogging changed my life and exploded my business. As a small business, I was competing with much larger enterprises with staff and budgets. Read More→

Content Marketing Tips: Get Your Stories Straight

Good content marketing requires good storytelling. Fortunately, the human brain is a story-creating machine. In our lives, we take whatever happens and impose logic and chronology upon it. Consider these common phrases:

  • Everything happens for a reason
  • One door closes and another one opens
  • More will be revealed
  • Things happen in threes

People have a hard time accepting the randomness of life. We refuse chaos and can’t stand unanswered questions. So we make things up.

Stories impose meaning on chaos and organize and give context to our sensory experiences. In effect, we create our own reality. In fact, our stories matter more than what actually happens to us.

So if we’re making it up anyway, why not edit and rewrite your stories so that they inspire the actions you want? This was a theme in the wonderful book by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility.

I’m interested in the stories we tell ourselves, and how that affects the online content we write for our businesses. When you tell a story about your business, about your clients, and about yourself, you impose your version of the story upon your readers. You also reveal your values and purpose. Read More→

Content Marketing with Stories: Better than Facts

Good stories are what make a blog interesting and fun to read. More importantly, if you’re trying to influence people to buy into your ideas and ultimately your business, there is evidence that stories work better than facts.

A 2007 study by Jennifer Edson Escalas, a marketing researcher at Vanderbilt University, found that people had more positive reactions to advertisements that were presented in a story form than to ads that were factually straightforward about the products.

In another study, when information was labeled as fact, it was subjected to critical analysis. Apparently humans have a tendency to want to make factual information wrong, compared with information labeled as a story, which people accept more easily.

In his book Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin writes, “People just aren’t that good at remembering facts. When people do remember facts, it’s almost always in context.” The way to put facts into context is to transfer them through the use of story. A story is all about context.

So if you’re a professional with a blog, or writing content for your web pages or e-newsletter, what kinds of stories should you be writing? On a blog, it’s easier to do since it’s a personal communication tool. It’s easy to share client experiences and stories about the work you do.

I’ve written extensively about how to craft blog posts, and given you some outlines and templates for structuring blog posts. Most of them center on writing about how to solve a problem for your readers. The best way to gain attention and engage readers is through storytelling.

Here are some ideas for triggering stories: Read More→