The death of long-form writing may be greatly exaggerated. But when it comes to distributing PR- and marketing-related content that your constituents will pay attention to (and maybe even share), “snackable” content is the most promising recipe for success.
For communicators, snackability has got to be your baseline when crafting written materials, what with the growth of social channels and mobile communications. The evolution of PR writing also reminds us of one of the tenets of journalism school: You have to kill your darlings, er, precious words, that you think should be in the story or article but, on closer examination, are probably better left on the cutting room floor.
Not for nothing are PR execs told often that if they want to boost the odds that their pitch will get a fair hearing, they must approach writing with a journalist’s mindset. Once you commit to wearing a journalist’s hat when you write, some of the other elements of creating compelling narrative should follow.
Foremost among these elements is including visual content that complements the text.
Creating a Compelling Narrative
- It takes a combination of good journalistic and creative writing skills to build compelling narratives.
- Think visually. The old adage of a picture telling a thousand words is true. With today’s information overload, visuals often break through the noise better than writing.
- Follow the journalistic practice of drawing from compelling story arcs—the phoenix rising from the ashes, David vs. Goliath, the ‘can they make it?’ story, or those with unexpected consequences. These are storylines that contain drama, and drama entertains.
- Take a page from your creative writing class (or from Nancy Duarte’s book “Resonate”) and leverage the power of “the hero’s journey.” Based on the psychology of Carl Jung and the mythology research of Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey reveals the basic structure of numerous stories, myths and movies.
- Think about breaking your story into separate chapters. Avoid the need to tell everyone everything all at once. I mentioned the work of visual storyteller Nancy Duarte above. In her latest book “Slidedocs,” she covers the new paradigm of shorter is better for business communications. A slidedoc is a document created using presentation software, where visuals and words unite to illustrate one clear point per page. Web and mobile communications have reconditioned people to prefer consuming information in small chunks, Duarte writes.
- Space limitations force a slidedoc’s author to condense material to its essence. Done correctly, this makes material clearer to the reader.
- Visualized ideas help the audience ‘see’ what you’re saying. When critical business decisions need to be made quickly, visually articulated concepts reduce the time to reach consensus.
- Consensus building is accomplished when people have time for discussion. After reading a slidedoc, people can gather to have conversations about it that create movement toward objectives.
- It is easier to understand material that’s been parsed, structured, and visualized. While storytelling has been around for thousands of years, new rules are starting to emerge. Since these are early days for many of the newer storytelling disciplines, don’t be afraid to experiment.
This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.