Marketing is constantly talking about creating stories and personalized content. This is not new, at least for those of us who make a living telling stories or work in helping others to tell theirs: we all constantly ask ourselves how to achieve it.
Here are some writer insights on how to emotionally appeal to our readers:
Beginning to write a text is often a dizzying, frightening task, the famous "fear of the blank page". We know what we want to tell but at the time of writing we freeze, unable to start. But from where should we start? From the beginning? But when does a story really start? We often find ourselves following the impulse to describe the story instead of telling it.
When we describe a story instead of telling it, we tend to write a kind of report that includes specific data, dates, locations, exhaustive descriptions of rooms that look like reports to be directed to the insurance company or statements in a lawsuit. Where were you on the afternoon of December 10th, 2004? How many chairs were around the dining table of your childhood? What statistics appear in the last Euromonitor report on consumer trends for 2019?
Describing a story takes us away as readers, it infects the reader with the writer's "fear of the blank page".
Instead of facing the soft surface of a lake where we want to dive, we face a concrete wall. Even when the story we want to write must include hard data –because we are writing an article and not a poem– there are ways to soften the experience, making it appealing and interesting.
Let’s say you have to talk about good and bad practices in homebanking or how different demographics approach this service. Instead of just giving the reference to statistics, introduce the subject with some good example pinned on real life. Maybe you can talk to friends who are not experts in the area and ask them how they feel when they use homebanking, or if they use it at all. And if they do, for what purpose.
In this way you will harvest a collection of real life stories that will surely appeal to other readers, making them feel close to your article, close to the experience. It will light up in their minds the thought of: “Oh, this happens to me, this is talking about my problems, I want to read more because it might help me solve my problems.”
Telling a story would be, for example, instead of saying that a client complained with a vendor at a bank office, reproducing the dialogue so that the reader can hear the voices of those characters and can imagine, thanks to the small details of the speech, who they are, how they are, what else they have to say. Look for small anecdotes, some you can find in forums or in the opinion of your clients expressed on social media. Everyday stories are the ones that resonate with readers, because they can relate quickly to the situation and understand it from their own experience: this enables empathy, and empathy is what keeps a reader engaged.
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Usually our approach to writing is to describe everything while caring not to leave out something relevant. And so, we carefully leave out the human part. What turns a particular story into a universal story that any reader can relate to are not the factual details, or the grammatically impeccable writing. It is the emotions that we arouse and that we generously share in our story, the sensory perceptions, the reflections, all that appeals to a person as a human being, no matter who that person is.
In the essay "The Little Voice of the World", the Argentine poet Diana Bellessi says: "Our task is not to go far, but to go close." She's addressing poets but also anyone who wants to write a story. Nowadays, marketing constantly talks about creating stories and personalizing content. This is not anything new, at least for those of us who make a living telling stories or work in helping others to tell theirs: we all constantly ask ourselves how to achieve it.
The answer is to approach stories personally, reclaiming our memories and being faithful to them instead of leading with cliches such as “Today, everything is a click away”.
When a reader starts reading an article that begins like that, she automatically “closes” her ears, simply because she has read it a thousand times, and the interest is lost.
They conclude that they will have more of what they had before: it is boring it, not thrilling. So, when tempted to start articles in that way, we should think twice about what we are really trying to say. We need to ask ourselves how we can exemplify our message. To write personally is not an easy task, it requires introspection and the difficult task of silencing what Bellessi calls in her essay "the high voices", the legitimized ones, the way of writing that needs to be unlearned in order to give rise to one's own voice. The one that remains attentive to detail, to the particularity, that is not afraid to say things that she has never read before, that does not really know if what she is writing is right or wrong, but trusts herself and is brave. This bravery comes from intelligence to detect those stories that are infinitely repeated as unique; and the sincerity behind being able to look at them with new and lively eyes in order to detect what these stories leave out, what they overshadow with their status of true.
A voice of one’s own trusts its criterion, its own perception of the world and that is what personalizes it; what makes it unique, because it comes from our unique experience of life. It brings us closer to our readers as people who feel and think. The paradox is that, just as our life is unique, emotions are not, and in that sense all lives are similar.
Personalizing means being able to narrate through that which unites us, not forgetting that we are talking to someone.
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