According to Teresa Schmedding, the managing editor at Rotary International, if you are trying to sell a product or idea to a potential customer, one of the best ways to engage the audience is to weave a narrative story into what you promoting.
At the 2017 ACES national conference, Schmedding provided insight into why narrative writing is so powerful, tips on how to better compose a piece of this nature and what a narrative is.
This taste of writing has key elements to it. The parts include a beginning, middle, end, compelling plot, character, conflict, climax, and a conclusion. These are all basic components to a decent story. But it's very different from journalistic writing such as a breaking news story.
The breaking news story takes the shape of an inverted pyramid. There is a lead along with events unfolding from the most important to the least important.
Mending together a narrative is the polar opposite. In a narrative, the best is saved for last. The juicy part is not revealed until the very end. Schmedding stressed that in this kind of set up, the writer is using characters to tell the story. They are the driving force of the tale and they are followed from the beginning to end. The story unfolds through the character and their actions.
You can also use the characters so that they tell the story instead of you. By doing this, the reader feels more connected to the character, therefore packing a greater punch. Also, since the character is the one telling the story of whatever you are marketing, the reader feels more at ease. They do not feel as if they have a relentless sales associate breathing down their neck, pushing a product. Instead, the reader is informed first hand about how your brand has impacted the buyer.
Tying into the next point, provoking emotions from readers and getting them to feel a certain way after reading the story means you have hit the nail on the head. Making the audience feel sympathy or inspiration would be examples of what the writer might aim to accomplish.
“Narrative writing creates the right pictures and emotions in our brain," Schmedding said.
Facts and feelings are strategically blended. In the presentation, there was an example by Nike. The company was advertising one of its products called “FlyEase.” The story told the journey of two characters. During the story, there were many pivotal scenes that spoke about the ups and down that the two shared and how Nike played a role of influence for the better in their lives. Through sculpting the writing in this manner, Nike successfully evoked the emotions of the reader. They felt inspired by FlyEase. Before they knew it, the reader had converted into a customer due to their urge to go buy the product.
Narrative writing is a technique that should be used once in awhile. Companies need to respect the reader's time, as these stories can take up a 1,000 to 2,000 word count. Also, reading too many narrative pieces fails in offering variety. People might get tired of your content.
Another tip given in the session is to never lie. The composer must remain truthful to the events that unfold throughout the scenes. They must tell the characters' story just as it happened. If you catch yourself over exaggerating a detail or dulling a detail, the best thing to do is to not use that story at all.
Above all, narratives take time to work. It is a something that builds the trust between the brand and customer over a great period of time. However, once the bond between the buyer and seller is set into place, the strategy is near bulletproof.
Brittany Bhulai is the president of the Valencia Voice at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, and a member of the student newsroom at the 2017 ACES national conference.