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In this edition:

  • Coming soon to The Cutting Room
  • Nailing the first 3% of your content
  • Want to do a writer’s workshop?
  • A quote I know you’ve been misused
  • On-demand webinars outperform live
  • SEMRush correlates ranking factors

Let’s do this.

Is This Why Your Content Strategy Isn’t Getting More Executive Buy-In?

Count down to 2024-02-06T18:00:00.000Z

Does your content strategy feel like it’s always under attack?

Like, at any moment, an executive who’s been spending too much time reading LinkedIn bros, “how to do content” advice can swoop in and tear the whole thing apart?

In this episode of The Cutting Room, I’ll be talking with Devin Reed, the Head of Content at Clari, and former Head of Content at Gong, about what it takes to create a defensible content strategy built on a rock-solid foundation.

If you don’t know Devin, he’s:

👉 Scaled Gong’s brand and content from “$20M -> $X00M ARR”
👉 Grown his side hustle, The Reeder, into a six-figure business
👉 Advised some of the world’s most intriguing startups like Notion and Wiz

He also regularly shares his insights here and on his newsletter with over 12k subscribers.

In this episode we’ll discuss:
🔸 Why content leads often can’t defend their strategies
🔸 The dangers of trusting LinkedIn “thought-leaders”
🔸 How to get executive buy-in for big swing ideas

Devin is a powerhouse of content knowledge, so be sure to join us live for Q&A.

Join us live for free

Top of mind:

I’m an advocate for chaos.

I hate outlines too; editors expect paint-by-numbers and writers are too timid to color outside the lines.

You stare at the screen, fill in the blanks, make sure key phrases are sprinkled throughout and rinse, lather, repeat.

Is this really what you imagined writing for a living would look like?

But also… I love structure.

Just not the way most people talk about it.

What is the point of structure

See, we all have an internal storytelling clock.

That’s because, for thousands of years, stories have, for the most part, followed The Three Act Structure.

Setup, conflict, resolution.

This is how we’ve always heard stories, when something doesn’t happen within a certain timeframe or an element drags on for too long, something feels off. You get bored, anxious, or otherwise disengaged.

There’s a mathematical reason for this, and as a professional writer or editor, you need to know what that is. You must understand the rhythm and mechanics of story so well that you can keep a reader engaged, even on your worst day.

This is why in this series, we’re going to deconstruct the Three Act Structure, how it can extend into four, five, or even 16 acts, and most importantly, how it applies to B2B writing.

That said, let’s start at the very beginning.

Act 1 – pt 1: The Setup

The first act has the hardest job because it lays the foundation and plays a crucial role in determining whether or not this thing is worth our time.

If we follow the Save The Cat structure, Act 1 is broken up into 6 beats that come at very specific times in the larger story:

  • Setup (1-10%)
  • Opening Image (0-1%)
  • Theme Stated (5%)
  • The Catalyst (10%)
  • The Debate (10-20%)
  • Break into Two (20 – 25%)

A lot is happening in the first 25% of the story, so we’re going to break it down into even smaller pieces over the next few issues and hone in on very targeted areas so you can improve your practice.

By the end of our series on Act 1, my goal is to help you build rock-solid foundations that your readers/viewers/listeners will be hooked on and for you to create content so tight, it’ll make them late to their next meeting.

During The Setup, you must establish:

  • The Dramatic Question
  • The Hook
  • The Theme
  • The Characters
  • The Setting
  • The Ghost
  • The Lie
  • The Protagonist’s Want
  • The Forces of Antagonism

When done well, these elements are set up almost imperceptibly fast; typically within the first 2-3 minutes in a feature-length film, or generally speaking, the first 3-5% of the story.

My most favorite example of this comes from the most perfectly structured movie of all time…

Wreck-It Ralph.

In 45 seconds you learn:

✅ Setting: The story takes place in a videogame
✅ Character: The protagonist’s name is Ralph
✅ The Lie: He says he’s a bad guy with a temper.
✅ Forces of Antagonism: Extra-Personal – He’s considered a bad guy because he’s a wrecker in a game about fixing things Inner – he believes he is a bad guy.

In the next two and a half minutes, you learn:

✅ Ghost: Ralph’s been treated poorly for 30 years
✅ Want: He wants to be treated better
✅ Theme: Do labels define who a person is?
✅ Dramatic question: Can Ralph rise above his circumstances and prove that even though he’s a bad guy, he’s not a bad guy?

At the very end of his monologue, Ralph tucks himself into his pile of bricks, looks into the cozy apartment, and says,

“If I’m really honest with myself, I see Felix up there, getting patted on the back, people giving him pie, thanking him, and so happy to see him all the time, sometimes I think, man, it sure must be nice being the good guy.”

Combined, all of these elements create the Hook, and we’re invested in seeing Ralph embark on this journey.

Perfect I tell you.


But it’s not so simple in B2B writing, is it?

The average American adult reads non-fiction at roughly 238 words per minute.

By that standard, Act 1 alone would be ~833 words long.

In B2B, in a typical 1850-word article, we need to do it in 55 words or less; which means we need to prioritize.

Where should we start? The Dramatic Question & The Hook

K.M Weiland, author of “Structuring Your Novel” says this:

The dramatic question is the central element of uncertainty that drives your story. The moment it is asked, your story begins.

What you need to know about The Dramatic Question is that it is often not explicitly stated, but one you want the audience to ask themselves.

In Wreck-It Ralph, it’s the context in the opening – Ralph’s stump being moved, being treated poorly by the other members of the game, living in a dump, and appearing sad about the whole situation – that makes you ask if Ralph really is a bad guy.

The Hook on the other hand, is what gets the audience to ask the question.

And this doesn’t happen where you might think…

B2B authors typically make the mistake of thinking our stories begin with the opening line.

But the “Dramatic Question” in B2B is really asked at the point of discovery — which is most commonly the social media post, inbox, or search result.

Sometimes, the Dramatic Question is teased with a different question, like Rand Fishkin’s “Who Will Amplify This? And Why?”

In this case, The Dramatic Question is:

“What does Rand, a legendary industry-leader, say to people wanting to promote their work?”

Once you click on the piece, this is what you see:

✅Dramatic question: Why aren’t people clicking?
✅Characters: You and your audience
✅Setting: Your quiet digital marketing channels ✅The Ghost: Good work isn’t getting seen
✅Forces of Antagonism: Audience apathy ✅Character Want: More attention

All this in the first 44 words.

Sneak Preview: Act 1 pt. 2 – The Premise

In our next issue, we’ll do a further exploration of Act 1 and dig into the steps and elements we need to establish the overall premise and create a strong promise.

Here’s a snippet of what’s to come next:

“Rand then provides more context furthering the setup, and 742 words later (exactly 25.36% of the way in) he drops this bomb:

“Here’s the problem: most creators believe that high-quality work is the key to amplification.

It. Is. Not.”

After firmly establishing the premise, Rand makes the reader a promise and propels us into Act 2.”

Until next week…

Join us for a writer’s workshop

Starting in 2024, I’m hosting monthly writing workshops where we’ll explore the concepts discussed on the newsletter through the lens of your work.

Join me, and a group of your peers while I edit attendees’ work and discuss these in even more detail live.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • An overview of the concepts covered.
  • A live edit of 2-3 attendee submissions.
  • Live Q&A.

So, join us live if you want to zero in on these very specific areas, and the chance to have real hands-on application of these concepts.

Date: Wednesday, January 31st @ 1pm EST 2024

Cost: $500

Only 25 seats available.

Register now

What’s on our radar?

🤨 Do on-demand webinars outperform live?
📈 SEMRush cracks the code on ranking factors
🤯 How long does it take to convert from visitor to customer?​

Let’s get social

Much of my marketing philosophy is informed by my acting background.

Shlomo here breaks down some of Uta Hagen’s – one of the major influences on all of modern acting – principles for character development.

This is hugely influential in how we think about our readers/viewers/listeners and the environment they’re in when they consume our content.

From “The Vault”

The Vault is a collection of articles that have been edited by guest editors on The Cutting Room.

Look at raw drafts and see how editors from companies like, Calendly, Airtable, and more give their feedback in the doc.

Fio - This is the only time JTBD gets mentioned in the entire piece. Do people know what the acronym means? And why are there no further mentions?

In this edit, Dr. Fio Dosetto makes a very important point about setups that never get paid off.

Next week, we’re going to discuss set-ups and payoffs, but this article is a great example of how confusing things can be when you don’t pay a setup off.

Plus, Fio’s high-level feedback at the beginning of the piece is just 🤌

Want to be featured on The Cutting Room?

We’re looking for articles our guest editors can dig into on the stream.

Share your name or stay anonymous, either way, you’ll get edited by some of the best in the business.

Click on this link to submit an article to be edited on The Cutting Room

See you in the next one ✌️

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Tommy Walker | The Content Studio

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