The art of storytelling in copywriting

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When recently writing an article about how storyboarding can be a powerful tool in eLearning, it reminded me that storytelling can be hugely effective in copywriting in general.

According to Ronald Neef of zerys.com; “A successful content marketing copywriter has the ability to take a business, service or product description and turn it into a story that engages the readers in the action so that they become emotionally invested in the outcome.  If you’re able to do this, your writing will convert what would otherwise be vague recollections about information into memorable stories.”

Naturally it would be easy to advise that simply writing a gripping story will draw clients or customers to your business or product. However, while writing the next Harry Potter would make great fiction, it takes a little bit more focus to drive people towards a brand.

Define your audience

As a copywriter, you need to know who your content will be aimed at before you even start typing.

If you are writing on behalf of a client, ask if they have a customer profile. If they do, you should already have a broad idea in mind about the target audience you’ll be writing for.

The profile should give you an overview of what the customer will be searching for when they read your content. As a result, you can then tailor your story and the language you’d use to drive them towards your client’s website or product that will meet their needs.

Furthermore, a detailed profile can then help decide the best way for customers to find your content through channels they’re most likely to use, whether it may be online through social media, search engines, or print media with an article or press release.

Include key messages

Communicating key messages is a vital element in PR, and copywriting is no exception. Writing a great story can engage an audience, however it should be based around your client’s three or four key messages.

Debbie Wetherhead at prsay.com defines key messages as:

  • The takeaway, master narrative, elevator pitch; essence of what you want to communicate
  • What’s needed to engage people
  • Bite-sized summations that articulate: what you do, what you stand for, how you are different and what value you bring to stakeholders

Ultimately, your story should always come back to the key messages and be an example of how your client meets their criteria. Having key messages should also make your content consistent with the rest of your client’s media communications.


As with any story, you’ll need to structure it with a beginning, middle and an ending.

The beginning should set the scene. From a business perspective this could be a challenge or problem that a customer was experiencing, and how they came to your client for help.

The middle of the story will outline how your client acknowledged the problem and worked towards solving it. The end will, of course, be the happy ending for the customer where they see tangible benefits from using your client’s product or service.

Lorraine Thompson compares this narrative arc to the classic dramatic structure – the Hero’s journey. She says; “It allows your audience to project themselves—consciously or unconsciously—into the story, solve problems, relieve stress and return triumphant to family and community.”

Make your story believable

Real stories work better – readers will trust stories that are genuine and that they can relate to.

This is why some of the best stories for promoting a product or business are case studies; real examples of how a customer has been helped.

By seeing the personal story of how someone has been fulfilled by a product or service, other potential customers can see how they may be helped too. A case study can add warmth to written content, describing how customers felt and giving them a voice rather than simply listing profit margins and analytical data that a reader may forget.

When thinking about possible case studies to use, always remember your target audience. The best cases should be ones that potential customers can relate to within their own industry.

For further tips and advice about storytelling within copywriting, please feel free to give me a call on 07738077516 or email david@contentnortheast.co.uk.

Five tips for writing an effective press release

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One of the best ways to promote a business is by making the news.

A well-written press release can be a great way of getting a positive story about your business published, reaching your target market in the process. Here are five tips that will help you make that happen.

Make sure your press release is newsworthy

Your press release needs to cover a subject or story that people will be interested in reading. Ultimately, this is the main criteria that a journalist will be looking for when your press release lands in their inbox.

Good subjects tend to be employee successes and achievements, such as a member of staff going the extra mile to help a customer. Long service and notable retirements also tend to make good copy. From a company perspective, recruitment drives, record profits and innovations are of interest.

Any human interest story involving the company would be a good angle to cover. This would be something that most people would be interested in seeing rather than a memo full of corporate jargon that will most likely ignored by a journalist.

Tailor your press releases

It’s worth researching the publications you’ll be sending your press release out to. For example, trade magazines are more likely to respond to stories outlining record profits or growth, whereas a local newspaper should be more interested in human interest stories.

There are crossover opportunities though, such as business pages in the local paper. It may be a case of finding out who the correct editor is for a particular section, and researching the type of stories they normally publish.

Gather as much information as possible

The basics of reporting involve finding out WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY. This will be no different for a press release, so make a journalist’s job easier by including all the information they’ll need to publish your story.

You’ll need to include full names, addresses, ages, dates and times of events, and job titles. Including high resolution photographs will also help your chances of being published, so they should be fully captioned with names and ages of people pictured too.

Structure your press release like a news article

News articles are usually written using the inverted pyramid structure, and your press release should be too.

The first paragraph contains a general overview of what the story is about, and should only be a sentence or two. The second and third paragraphs expand the story by giving a more full description of the details, containing the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY.

Further paragraphs will contain quotes from company personnel and/or the subject of the story, with less important details and background information at the end. To signify the story is over, type ENDS below the final line.

Try to write the press release in a style as close to the target publication as possible. The less work a journalist needs to do on a story, the more likely it is to be published as you intend it with your key messages intact.

Include notes for the editor

State the company name at the top of the page, with a brief header stating what the press release is about.

At the bottom, include a ‘notes to editor’ section that gives background information about the company and any possible leads a reporter could follow up. These can be interview opportunities, press conferences or related future events.

Finally, email over your press release and photographs/sources to the publication’s editor or journalist. Don’t feel the need to follow up the email, unless there’s something you’d genuinely like to add to the story. Editors won’t appreciate being hassled and it may harm your chances of being published!

For further tips and advice about press releases, please feel free to give me a call on 07738077516 or email david@contentnortheast.co.uk.