Write eye-grabbing content that captivates from lede to CTA

Content that engages from pitch to sale

Capturing attention is one (very important!) thing; keeping that attention from lede to CTA is quite another. But the best headlines, keyword targeting and social media outreach won't make up for bland or just plain bad content.

Your audience's attention, tricky to catch, even trickier to keep, must be carefully guided from pitch to CTA.

But what's the best way of doing that? 

One tried, tested and true method is a good yarn.

From A to B

Storytelling is a marketing buzzword but it reflects a truth: stories are and have always been central to effective advertising.

For the marketer, stories achieve a number of extremely useful things:

- Value-defining: Wrapping up your brand's values in a neat bundle.
- Service-defining: Making your customer and clients aware of what you do in a way that won't send them to sleep.
- Calling-to-action: Bringing the customer or client to your call action in the best possible frame of mind.

Here's a brilliant recent example that the guardian ran a few years ago in which the classic three little pigs fable is reimagined in a modern setting. It begins with the horror of porcine on lupine violence and ends in riots and redemption. What’s emphasized is a core value of the guardian brand: capturing as many angles of a story as possible.

Stories are the best vehicles for communicating our values. This brilliant advert doesn’t simply list the guardian’s values - as if that would be convincing - it demonstrates them in action. It seduces, bends our ear, before the punch line, - ‘the whole picture’. Values and service wrapped up in one well-timed phrase.

Sonia Simone talks about the five things that every great marketing story needs: a hero, a goal, a conflict, a mentor, and a moral.

Who is the hero in this short tale? The advert cleverly expands the bounds of the original fable, pushing our sympathies from the wolf and then on to the pigs. Neither is the hero. Is the guardian, then, the hero? Not exactly. The guardian mediates, informs, analyses but the driver of the action is another figure: the guardian reader.

As Sonia Simone says "The biggest mistake businesses make is thinking that their business is the hero of the story".

The hero is the guardian reader, who reliably anticipates, even drives, the twists and turns of the story with his or her social media interaction. The guardian reports and reacts to these developments.

Of course the budget for this mix of live action and animation is well beyond the marketing means of most businesses.

A more attainable example was to be found on craiglist.

Selling the unsellable

This simple craiglist ad achieved something very difficult: it made a pair of second hand leather trousers exciting and appealing. The ad brought moderate fame to the author and lead to offers of work and other propositions(!). Several hundred thousand people – at least – viewed this simple advert. What made it so effective?

A killer opening line

‘You are bidding on a mistake.’ The last thing you expect from someone trying to sell you something is an admission like this, which essentially says: ‘don’t buy’. It’s arresting, it’s unexpected and of course it makes you want to read more – everything a good opening line should do.

The honesty continues as Sack spins a sad tale of the wrong trousers worn for the wrong girl. It’s an appeal to something universal – how we all do stupid things for the people we want desperately to impress.

The effect is to imbue a pair of second hand leather pants with a unique and desirable quality - the goal of every advert ever created.

And a great finish

They are size 34x34. I am no longer size 34x34. These pants are destined for someone else. Alas, it is now time to part ways. They are in excellent condition. Someone, somewhere, will look great in these pants. Please buy these leather pants.

More self-depreciation in the form of a very relatable anguish over an expanding waistline. The humorously plaintive call-to-action  please buy these leather pants  is the perfect finish for Sack's tale.

Plain speech

The voice Sack writes in is authentic – it’s not the anonymous, formal corporatese that characterizes much business communication. If you want to connect with your readers then jettison the bland buzzword in favour of a plainer, more direct and more personal mode of expression.

This is, as The Writer notes in a recent survery, a crucial element of connecting with your audience.

You have to take away the fetters of corporate-speak, talk like a real person and, most importantly, believe in the story you’re telling. 

This is also exactly what the guardian's three little pigs advert achieves. It uses the framework of simple, well-known and understood tale and a familiar visual language – courtroom scenes, a brief swat-team-esque action sequence – to elicit an emotional reaction. This is an advert with millions of views which still garners comments to this day.

What do you think? Have I missed a classic? Let me know in comments.

Image Courtesy of Rosino, flickr

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