Marketing

The 3 essentials of powerful storytelling

Stop saying things worth ignoring
  • Rely on story structure to create engaging content.
  • Make yourself into a compelling character -- it's a proven formula.
  • Be personal when crafting content.

I heard a profound yet simple statement recently regarding storytelling, said by Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project. Nobody “wants to be a cookie-cutter because if all the snowman cookies are the same, how do you make any meaningful distinction?” You can’t.

So, what is the solution? She advocated embracing your true self, as opposed to trying to fit the traditional mold. Hence, for starters, the title of her blog is The Middle Finger Project.

You must admit, that is a bold statement in and of itself. Her main point, the only way you differentiate is to “stop saying things worth ignoring.”

Agents need to stop being cookie-cutters

This brings me to real estate. I see it every day. Agents are cookie-cutters. No differentiation. They send out one-size-fits-all newsletters, canned content, etc., that advises homeowners how to winterize their pipes, how to kill moss and how to check their crawl spaces for water.

But is any of that content interesting, entertaining or provocative? Is it personal to the agent? Does any of it build character?

Do any of these common homeowner tasks — routinely sent by agents — inspire greater thought or ambition from the reader? Is any of it so compelling that it can’t be ignored?

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The answer is no. It might be helpful to some, but it’s mundane. It’s boring. It’s easily ignored. Furthermore, it’s cookie-cutter — not personal — making the agent just another snowman cookie among the sea of other snowmen cookies.

Don’t be a parrot

This gets me to Ambirge’s point, “stop saying things worth ignoring.” The best way to do that is with story — but more importantly — structured story. So many agents have the ability to produce engaging content but have no idea how to harness that content into a compelling structure.

In their head, there exists this story. They want to tell it. But they have no idea how to tell it. No idea how to craft it or how to build characters.

They have no idea how to play out the role of the antagonist versus protagonist. Drama, conflict and resolution — the three act structure evades them.

Although many agents are great thinkers, without incorporating these story elements, the content they create — for newsletters, blogs, videos, etc. — ends up lifeless and easily ignored.

And, the fact is, your audience has a million things on their priority list. And now here’s you — just one more person vying for attention. So, like sending a spouse a one-size-fits-all anniversary gift or Valentine’s Day present, sending clients one-size-fits-all content is not well-received.

The main reason? No thought has been put into it. It’s not personal. There’s no storyline. There’s no structure. And if repeated, your meager effort becomes an annoyance.

How to create content that can’t be ignored

So, how do we create content that can’t be ignored? There are three strategies. But first, to prove the effectiveness of these strategies, let me share a story to demonstrate:

Chris Spivey is a former EMT and an agent in North Carolina. He caters his message to First Responders. He wrote me the other day with this update, after being invited to speak to the EMT and law enforcement community in his local market.

“I spoke to about 75 people this year [at the association’s monthly dinner]. I’m a terrible public speaker but got two big ovations. One was after I mentioned how honored I was to say that I’m getting close to $3,000 in donations to First Responders in the first year of the program and how much that means to me.

“The other was when I told them I had recently heard the question, with so much negative news about law enforcement, do I really want my name associated with law enforcement officers?

“I told them without a doubt that my answer was, ‘Absolutely.’ That got a big applause and, even a ‘hell yeah’ from an older gentleman.

“I told them I’ve been in their boots as a First Responder, so I know what it’s really like out there, how hard it is and how the majority of law enforcement officers do it the right way so now, more than ever, I needed to stand up and make it known that I’m with them and support them.

“Afterward, the president and treasurer told me they’d like for me to become an honorary member of their association. I told them I was humbled by that offer.”

Here are the three strategies to note:

1 . Know your audience

Spivey knew his audience. He was one of them. As a former EMT, he knew the pressures and stresses of the job intimately. Because he had walked in their shoes.

2 . Give the protagonist a purpose

In the book, “Creating Characters: How To Build Story People,” author Dwight Swain talks about the defining trait of a good character — he must care about something.

In Spivey’s case, the mission to donate to his former brethren is something he deeply cares about, which gives him a driving sense of purpose.

3 . Always have an antagonist

Spivey mentions the negative media attacks about law enforcement and reaffirms his authentic commitment to serve First Responders — his community’s true heroes — despite the “enemy’s” assault. In doing so, he’d created an us-versus-them storyline. One of the most proven storylines of all time.

Spivey’s story is an example of how to “stop saying things worth ignoring.” And it’s just a fact. Everything you do: getting clients, strengthening relationships, multiplying your business assets, etc. — 99 percent of the time, comes down to the stories you tell.

Stories are the true currency of our society. The content you create matters. So give it some proven structure to make it compelling.

Now, it’s time to write something that can’t be ignored.

Ryan Fletcher is the voice of reason at Agent Marketing Syndicate. You can follow him on Facebook or on his podcast on iTunes.

Email Ryan Fletcher.