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The Long-Lost Art of Storytelling: Why Your Content Sucks and What to Do About It

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I am sitting here at the flashy Rio - Las Vegas amongst a cross section of ponytailed bikers, mommy bloggers, corporate types, nerdy podcasters, and bloggers from around the globe at BlogWorld. Two rows ahead of me sits an Australian motivational speaker looking to boost his sales through blogging and in my periphery is a PR agency rep networking away sourcing his next client with money signs in his pupils. Needless to say, the audience is equally vast as it is diverse to the naked eye. But, there was one common thread here: people want their stories to be heard.

Mashable reports that more than 150,000 unique domains are added each day, making the clout of the Internet diluted, vast, and a navigational black hole for bloggers, podcasters, webcasters, and Internet marketers. Though marketers and business people constantly hear that "content is king" and blogging is where you need to be -- the destination is clear, but how to get there is not. Ergo why I, and 2,000-some attendees are here.

Though the nomenclature of the session titles did not indicate this, common answer was met throughout the conference. Contrary to others' belief of typing blog posts until your fingers bleed and you get noticed, there might be a missing link to your content and blogging strategy that may get you or your business found in the diluted space of the Internet: be a storyteller.

Here's how to do it.

1) Stop taking about yourself: Guilty of this myself as a PR professional, often times our messages are self-serving. Blogs, web copy, and press releases run abound with self-serving content like new product developments, company appointments, and new hire announcements. We fail to engage visitors because our content is (for the most part) all egocentric. Equally as offensive as noted by many conference speakers is the "Dear diary" content.

Instead, provide engaging, relevant, and non-self-serving content. Guy Kawasaki, famed author and AllTop editor-in-chief said it best in Monday's keynote, "Follow the National Public Radio method -- feed good content 1000 times and the one time you want something people will be receptive to your pitch." (Referring to NPR's quarterly telethon that is widely successful.) Why does it work, you wonder? They are in business to inform and entertain, not to be a cash cow.

Net learn: If you want anyone other than your mom to read something, it can't be a diary or a used car salesperson... only your mother or nobody will read that.

2) Great storytelling is rarely chronological: Blame fairy tales with the "Once upon a time." San Francisco Chronicle avidly instructed attendees to avoid chronological ordering of your content. He suggests, "Start your post with a weird scene that you would not think ties into the actual key point of your article."

Net learn: Hook the readers first with an engaging and seemingly irrelevant intro; and then follow up with your supported key argument.

3) Make an explosive emotional impact: Jon Morrow, Associate Editor of CopyBlogger said it best in his session "The Anatomy of a 100,000 Visitor Blog Post": "Make people have a physical reaction to your post." Take for instance his 10,000-time Tweeted article "On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas" evoked a gamut of emotions from his readers from crying and screaming to throwing a laptop out of a window.

From the title alone, you could not even come close to inferring that he's a content marketing expert, but a life coach or Op-ed contributor. Within the title alone, he was able to perk your ears and appeal to your ethos - needless to say the body copy did the same... and ten fold.

Net learn: Plan what feeling you want your readers to have and hit it hard. Don't be afraid to offend, Polarization and evoking extreme feelings is what draws people in...repeatedly.

4) Stop "Puttin' on the Ritz": "Prose is frosting but not the cake - have a story to tell first then add the frosting" noted San Francisco Chronicle's Spud Hilton in a session titled "A Road Map to Storytelling: Writing that Turns Visitors into Loyal Visitors." He proceeded to instruct to take out those all-to-common superfluous adjectives and glitzy prose and get to the real meat of a story.

Net learn: Whether or not you are a journalist or a no-name blogger, your real meat and potatoes lies in the nouns and verbs, not the adjectives.

5) Reopen your English textbooks: A 300-word blog post should have the same structure as a thesis, dissertation, or a fictional book: first a lead, second the angle, and third a wrap up.

Net learn: With a well-defined backbone, you will not have a pointless article or blog post.

Ok got that? Now go out and be a storyteller first and a blogger or marketer second.

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