In this issue:
- The foundation of all great endings
- Creating stunning character arcs
- How to make ChatGPT less robotic
- Kevin Indig edits an article
The Lie About Brand Storytelling People Don’t Want You to Believe
Building a brand voice is hard. Like, really hard.
Think about it.
You have to come up with a voice that represents everyone in your company, they have to buy into it, it has to be adapted to different channels, and be adopted by different people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
How do you do that, and how do you do that well?
That’s where Kevan Lee & Shannon Deep come in.
Kevan was the VP of Marketing at Buffer and Shannon’s built brands for billion-dollar tech companies.
Now they run Bonfire, their own branding agency that offers 1:1 consulting for individuals, advising for leaders and founders, and workshops for teams.
These two are some of the best in the business, so if you can make it live, I highly recommend you come and ask away.
Top of mind:
For thousands of years, stories have really only had 4 types of endings.
A satisfying ending occurs when there is a narrative consistency between the characters, their actions, and the outcomes based on their circumstances.
What makes endings unsatisfying in B2B content often starts with the opening paragraphs and even before the proverbial pen hits the paper.
There is a fundamental truth we need to accept before we ever write a single word…
Your reader is the protagonist.
We’re not writing about landing pages or customer success or user onboarding. Not really.
While the subjects are essential, they’re just the backdrop.
The heart of our narrative is the reader and the transformation that awaits them if they take action on our insights.
By making them the protagonists, we position ourselves as the sidekick, the tool, or secret weapon that helps them when they need it most.
If we treat our readers like the protagonists in any traditional story, to make them compelling, we need to know two things…
What does the protagonist want?
Wants are the external goals known to the character, are specific to them, and drive the plot forward.
Wants are what set the story in motion.
It’s the obstacles they encounter, the decisions they make, and the consequences that follow, that keep the story moving.
From “My shot” in Hamilton, to “Part of that world” in The Little Mermaid, musicals have it hard-coded for the protagonist to explicitly state their desire in the “I want” song.
B2B writers have it easy in this way. We know a lot about what people want.
We have tools that tell us how many times a month a phrase gets searched, what gets shared the most, and what people click on.
Why someone would click on “How to make a landing page” ‘couldn’t be any clearer.
Yet, even if that piece of content gives us everything we want, it can still feel hollow…
Why is that?
What does the protagonist need?
Needs are internal, often unknown to the character, universal to us all, and drive the character through their arc.
These needs are essential for a character’s inner growth, fulfillment, or healing.
Someone searching for “How to make a landing page” might want to know the basics, but what they need is to win the boss’s approval.
Someone might want to learn, “how to do user onboarding” but they need to stop burning cash with customer churn.
Needs are the unspoken “why” behind our actions.
We want to write better endings.
We need to sell more stuff to survive.
It’s the interplay between a character’s wants and needs that gives writing dimension.
A character may want something but need something entirely different.
A character’s want might be to fix a symptom and the need is far deeper than they realize.
A character may need something they can never get.
This is probably a lot deeper than you were bargaining for when you opened this email…
But I promise you, this is relevant on even the most granular level.
How you approach any subject, even in a singular blog post represents how the brand feels on that specific subject.
When I was at Shopify Plus, we took a hard stance that most brands didn’t need on-premise ecommerce software.
They didn’t need a ton of additional features, because those features led to extra development time, and added costs they didn’t need.
That 100% influenced how we’d approach common ecommerce subjects in our content calendar.
Wherever we showed up – on search engines, on social media, or in someone’s inbox – we’d address the topic in a way that discussed the reader’s wants and needs.
Every piece of media we created was an opportunity to get our reader nodding in agreement that what they wanted and what they needed weren’t the same, and because those needs were universal, piece by piece, we got enough people nodding in agreement, that we’d win the market over.
Honestly addressing the reader’s wants and needs means the difference between them going a click deeper into your website, or going back to wherever they came, potentially never to be seen or heard from again.
The four types of endings:
Image credit: Studio Binder
Which brings us back to the beginning…
If we want to write a satisfying ending, before we write a single word, we need to ask ourselves:
- What does the reader want?
- What does the reader need?
- What are their commonly held beliefs?
- What about that is right?
- What about that is wrong?
- What were they doing before they got here?
- What should do after they leave?
Content leads: Hard code this into your brief if you must.
These questions help you approach the piece from that “emotionally honest point of view” so many marketers talk about, and will march us to an ending where the reader will get one of the following four endings:
They get what they want and what they need.
They get what they need, but not what they want.
They don’t get what they want, but not what they need.
They get neither.
In graphic form:
In the next few emails, I’ll dig deeper into each of these four endings, and when and how to use them; starting with the “Sweet” ending.
For now, I will leave you with this…
Satisfying conclusions are about narrative consistency and are not contingent on your readers getting everything they want or need.
So long as you create with emotional honesty, playing with these four conclusions will build trust and keep things interesting for the reader, making them always hungry and coming back for more.
Thank you to our sponsor aHrefs
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What’s on our radar?
- 3 things to know about ending a story
- How to create stunning character arcs
- If your marketing mix doesn’t match up
- A media-led content strategy breakdown
- Ex-YouTube employee shares how to grow a YouTube channel
Let’s get social
As a heavy user of ChatGPT these days, there are definitely moments when the default responses get quite annoying.
This list of 13 custom commands that can be added to the default model make it way less so.
From “The Vault”
In Kevin Indig’s edit on this article titled “Biases in the Content Value Chain”, he points out the problem that happens with so many endings, in that they just… end.
It’s no surprise that as you read through the piece, it doesn’t do a great job at identifying the reader’s wants, needs, or biases.
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See you in the next one ✌️
Tommy Walker | The Content Studio