The Power of Story: Telling Compelling Stories to Boost your Copywriting
Have you ever been told a story that kept you on the edge of your seat? Perhaps you heard a story that moved you to tears, or one that moved you to action.
Stories have a special ability to tap into our memories and make us feel connected to others.
How does storytelling apply to copywriting?
Great copywriters know how to tell a compelling story. If you are seeking to improve your copywriting through storytelling, you can find the answers here.
How exactly does storytelling connect to copywriting?
You may be questioning whether you really need to tell a story in your copy, or what kind of story you’re supposed to tell. Not all copy involves the art of storytelling, but storytelling can be used to generate compelling copy.
All experienced copywriters will tell you that your audience should feel a personal connection to what you’ve written. Quality copy sticks in a reader’s mind and makes them feel strongly enough about the topic to take immediate action.
One strategy copywriters can use to evoke those strong feelings in their audience is storytelling.
Understand the basics of good storytelling and you can create copy that utilizes story to connect with your readers. The benefits will show immediately!
The basics of a story
Every story has a basic outline you’ll want to follow when you get started. It may seem simple, but never forget that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end!
Here is a more detailed outline you can follow:
Starting Point: Begin the story and set the scene—it doesn’t need to take long! Who is in this story and what relevant details does the audience need to know about them?
Story tilt: Once you’ve established the platform of the story, tell the tilt of the story, or the thing that happens that begins to change everything.
Cascading events: Now that the initial tilt has happened, detail the subsequent events that happen because of it. Build and build until…
Climax: Something important happens that shifts everything!
Now that new events have changed things, where are we? Establish the new reality.
This basic story structure is just a starting point. You can use it to map out a story you want to tell. If you’re telling a short story, you don’t need to hit on every point. The key is to show how the person in the story started in one place and then ended in a different place.
What makes a story compelling?
We often think that the most compelling stories are ones with extreme plot twists, thrilling chases, and devastating revelations. In reality, any story, no matter how small, can be compelling as long as it incorporates some element of change.
No one wants to hear about stories where people stay the same and nothing happens. They want to hear about characters overcoming challenge to reach new heights, characters making discoveries that change the world, or characters finding love in places that seemed hopeless.
All of these themes are about significant and meaningful change. Audiences are moved when they witness change, and feel empowered to make change in their own lives.
Although these themes seem bold and big, remember that you don’t need to write the next great novel with your copy. You can tell simple, short stories that incorporate meaningful change and your readers will connect just the same.
The story doesn’t have to be personal
Stories told in copywriting don’t have to be personal, and in most cases they shouldn’t be. As copywriters we are encouraged not to insert our own personalities into our copy, and this is an important rule to follow.
However, just because you can’t share personal perspective doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story. Develop a character that your audience may connect with. It often helps if the character shares qualities with your average audience member.
Next, share how this character was changed through a meaningful event. Your readers will connect with the narrative and feel compelled to action.
A great example of a company that uses storytelling in their marketing is Nike.
Nike creates contracts with famous athletes and then tells their stories in advertisements. The athletes are shown working hard, overcoming challenge, and competing to win.
Viewers look on with rapt attention and feel connected to the athletes. The athletes are regular people, just like them. The compelling stories creates intrigue. Audience members are more likely to trust Nike as a brand and seek out their products.
Use specific details to interest your audience
Even stories that depict change can be missing some key elements. Take, for example, this simple one-sentence story: “Joe was unhappy, but he bought new shoes and now he’s happy.”
What is lacking in this story? How could it be told in a more compelling way? The key to telling good stories is incorporating specific details.
Take some time to paint a picture with your story. The more clear it is, the more powerful it is. Let’s say you are developing an ad for a local business.
Include details about the business, such as how long it’s been in the community, the feeling patrons get when they walk in the door, or how many unique products they sell.
Then tell a story for your readers to connect to. Perhaps the business has been around 80 years and passed down 3 generations of a local family. After a recent fire in the community, the business owners have hope that they will rebuild, and they ask the neighbors to support them.
Details give your audience information that they can latch onto and remember. The more specific details you can incorporate in your story, the more you can hook in your audience and have them remember what you’ve written.
Using storytelling to make your copywriting more compelling
Now that you’re familiar with the storytelling basics, it’s time to apply it to your copywriting. As you brainstorm in preparation of writing, search for a story you could tell that the audience will connect with.
Keep it simple to start. Make sure that your story is relevant to your product. The story should give the audience a new way of looking at the product. A good story will intrigue the reader and then give subtle hints at what the reader could do to take action.
The following sections give more tips on how you can seamlessly incorporate storytelling into your copywriting.
Make a connection to the value of what you’re promoting, not just the feature
It may seem difficult at first to find a story that feels relevant to your topic.
For example, if you’re trying to persuade your audience to purchase toothpaste, at first it may seem that the only stories you can tell are about dentists and cavities. But if you focus on the value of what you’re promoting, not just the feature, you will find new options.
Figure out the value of what you’re writing about. If you’re writing about toothpaste the value of that product is health and a joyful smile. Instead of focusing on the feature (the toothpaste itself) focus on the value of it.
Now, can’t you imagine it being a lot easier to think of stories about smiles and health, rather than about toothpaste? If you identify the value of your product you can generate many more story ideas. Plus, those stories are far more likely to be meaningful and universal, connecting to broader audiences.
Set your audience at ease with your story
If you’re trying to write compelling copy, you want your audience to feel energized and motivated by the time they’re done reading. If you tell a story with your copy, make sure that you generate that energy at the end of it with a positive ending.
Not all stories you tell with your copy need to be 100% happy and carefree. Many of the best stories incorporate sadness. But be sure to end with a note of hope and positive thinking. You should never leave your audience feeling sad or concerned. If you do, they won’t take action!
Now go tell that story!
Now you are ready to try out storytelling in your copywriting. Although it may seem daunting at first, storytelling is a fun way to get creative with your copy and make connections to your audience.
If you’re feeling stuck with your copywriting and need more direction to make it compelling, try taking an online class at the San Francisco School of Copywriting.
Through the SF School of Copywriting you will find several other tools to help you improve your copy. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, dedicating time to refine your craft will benefit your copywriting career.