Who doesn’t love a good story?

With a title like that, I bet you’d expect me to tell you something heartwarming from the months when I lived in Europe? Or maybe you’d expect something hilarious, like the time a former coworker got her hand stuck in a mousetrap? While those things did actually happen and I definitely have a lot of good stories to share, that’s not where this is headed. Instead, I want to talk to you about storytelling.

From Screenwriting to Copywriting

Fun fact: I was a film major who studied screenwriting in college.
Another fun fact: If you have a skill, you could likely find a useful way to utilize it in an ad agency. Seriously, just shy of underwater basket-weaving, you can find a way to use most skills in advertising.

My film school background really helped me to appreciate the importance of storytelling. And, c’mon, it’s a tradition dating back to the beginning of time for a reason. Despite all people being fundamentally different, everyone can be reached through a well-told story with an emotional connection. These stories can be heartwarming, heartbreaking, and sometimes controversial. Think about it: How many people have cried while reading historical novels like The Story of My Life? Think of the people who have shed a tear watching The Notebook or Friday Night Lights. And then there are those people who cried when they saw that one scene in that one episode of “Mad Men” that one time. (Okay, fine, that last one may just be me…)

Image: Mad Men, AMC — “The Wheel” (2007)

Think of all of the people around the world who have never met, but who have been moved by the same words and images. People relate to shared experiences; this is as important in advertising as it is in filmmaking. How many times have you ignored an ad because it used sales-y language or because it just wasn’t all that memorable? 
Tell a story; people will pay attention.

Telling a story for your client or brand

While writing copy is a little bit different than screenwriting, the basic idea is the same: Create something that people will connect with and that helps to give your brand its own identity.

Brands have a history, a story, and a voice. You know that one manager who always tells you about a big company’s humble beginnings? Or do you remember that one activities director who gets a tear in her eye when she talks about how happy she is to work with her students every day? Use this. People know that they could go to a company looking for XYZ; what they don’t know is why they should choose one company over another. Give them a reason to choose you by humanizing your brand.

Tell the story people want to hear. Why has native advertising done so well? Why is visual content taking over social media? Even if people know that they’re being shown branded content, they’ll pay attention if it’s something that looks beautiful, has a memorable tagline, or stirs up some nostalgia. (Seriously, the best day of my social media life was when Mr. Owl of Tootsie Pop fame started following me on Twitter.)

Learn the rules of your craft… and then bend them a little bit. Look, I’m not saying you should try an abstract experimental art piece as part of your marketing strategy. But once you know the rules, you can figure out a way to bend them a bit to create innovative content. A rule I learned in screenwriting: Forget what you learned in your high school English class. You aren’t writing an essay, so forget the formality.

Remember that copy is one small piece of an entire puzzle. Okay, this may get lost on anyone that isn’t a Millennial, but bear with me here: Think of marketing in terms of Power Rangers. Sure, they’re cool as individuals… but think of how great it was when they came together to create Megazord. Pretty cool, right? Meet with your clients, meet with your team, and keep a constant stream of communication going. You could write the best copy or create the most beautiful video in the world, but if your site is slow or if no one sees this content in search or your website design is lacking, what’s the point? Teamwork makes the dream work, folks!

So go on and create some amazing content. Maybe you’ll get someone cheering you on, shedding a tear, or just retweeting your latest post. ;)