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Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.

 

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Write. Rewrite. Edit. Rinse and Repeat.Do you rewrite what you’ve written? And then edit it? And then do some more editing. If not, you’re probably not telling your story as well as you could.

Here’s how Tom Coyne, who teaches creative writing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, put it in an article sent to me by a friend:

“Revision is what separates the pros from the part-timers. Non-writers have some imagination of a writer who sits at a typewriter, crossing out or adding a word every few pages, and finally writing The End and firing up a cigar. That’s a fiction no one will buy. Writers slog through draft after draft after draft after draft . . . being a real writer is more about being a real re-rewriter than anything else.”

Is writing hard? Here’s what Coyne says about that: “Of course it’s hard. It’s pounding your head on a granite countertop hard. It’s a soul-crushing, salvation-stealing, staring-into-the-abyss endeavor rife with rejection, self-loathing and unshakable self-doubt.”

Or, as the late journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler once put it: “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until beads of blood form on your forehead.”

Whether you’re writing your story yourself or have hired someone like me to write it for you, expect to go through some editing. Editing is a key part of writing.

And don’t be afraid to ask a professional writer you’ve hired to make changes. Sometimes people are reluctant to do that because they think they’ll hurt my feelings — or the feelings of whoever they’ve hired.

You’re not going to hurt my feelings. The goal is to get to the best version of your story. Editing and rewriting are part of that process. A good writer wants your feedback. If you’ve hired us, our job is to help you tell your story in a way that you’re happy with.

So, whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to write it for you, editing and rewriting are essential to getting to the best version of your story.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentences

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentences

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Use Short sentencesI love short sentences. You should, too. Why? Because they make your story easier to understand. And easier to remember.

According to the American Press Institute, reader comprehension is 100 percent if your sentences average eight words or fewer.

Double that to 20 words per sentence and comprehension drops to 80 percent.

By the time you get to 30 words a sentence, your audience will miss half of what you say.

So, keep your sentences short. Use short, simple words for the same reason.

And breaking long paragraphs into short ones adds more white space. That, too, makes what you write more readable.

One way to make your sentences shorter: Look for ways to turn commas into periods.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: More than one way to tell your story

Storytelling Tip: More than one way to tell your story

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: More than one way to tell your storyThere’s more than one way to tell your story. Which one’s the best? That depends. And it won’t always be the same.

I’ve watched three movies about Iwo Jima over the past couple weeks — two directed by Clint Eastwood and a 1949 movie starring John Wayne. I enjoyed all three. But they were all quite different.

Eastwood’s two movies tell the story of Iwo Jima from the opposing sides. Letters from Iwo Jima tells the story from the Japanese side. Flags of Our Fathers tells the story from the American side and focuses on the men brought back from Iwo Jima to the United States for a heroes’ tour to sell war bonds. The John Wayne movie, The Sands of Iwo Jima, is about a group of Marines sent to Iwo Jima. But the battle of Iwo Jima is almost incidental to that version.

If you’re like many of us, you have more than one audience for your story. And those audiences may have different reasons for being interested in what you do or sell.

That’s why it’s so important to understand your objective and your audience before telling your story. Because the way you tell it will be different depending on differences in who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredient

 

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredient

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: The missing ingredientA lot of people leave a key ingredient out when they’re telling their story: Preparation.

World-class athletes, actors, musicians and other performers all share one thing in common: They spend many, many hours studying, preparing and practicing before they step in front of the public to perform.

I’ve heard world-class musicians say they feel like they lose their edge if they miss even a day or two of practice. These are people who are among the best in the world at what they do. Are you better than that when it comes to telling your story? Me, neither.

Here are three questions you should always ask yourself as you prepare to tell your story:

  • What’s your objective? What do you want to happen as a result of telling your story? Do you want us to buy something, do something or believe something? What is it? Be specific.
  • Who’s your audience? Unless you corner the market on air so we all have to do business with you to breathe, the answer is not “everyone.” Be specific.
  • What’s your headline? What’s the one thing you want the rest of us to hear, understand and remember? Be able to say it in about 15 seconds or less.

If you’re putting your story into writing, your headline needs to be the focus of what you say. Your headline is what you want us to remember. Everything else is there to add texture and depth.

If you’re delivering your message in front of an audience, even if it’s an audience of one, you also need to practice, practice, practice. Practice until you can deliver your message so it doesn’t sound memorized or rehearsed.

And, of course, editing is also an important ingredient of any good story. What you leave out is as important as what you put in. Be ruthless when editing your material.

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Storytelling Tip: Leave them wanting more

 

Storytelling Tip: Leave them wanting more
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Leave them wanting moreThere’s an old show business adage that says you should leave them wanting more.

That’s good advice for telling your story, too.

Tell us what we need to know to understand what you’re talking about and grab our interest. But don’t try to answer every single question we may have.

If you try to answer every question every person will have, you’ll end up telling many of us more than we want to know, which means we’ll quit listening to your story before you’re done telling it. That’s usually means we’ve lost interest in what you have to say.

In show business, leaving your audience wanting more means they’ve had a good time. They’re more likely to come back. Or recommend your show to their friends.

It’s the same way when telling your story. If I’m interested enough to want to know more, I’m more likely to start a conversation with you. And then you can answer my questions without boring the people who don’t care about I want to know.

Telling your story shouldn’t be the end of our conversation. It should the catalyst that begins our conversation.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about

 

Storytelling Tip: Don’t assume your audience knows what you’re talking about
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Don't assume your audience knows what you're talking aboutHave you ever had this experience: You’re on Facebook and one of your friends has posted something like “That was a great experience,” a half dozen people have liked the post and a couple people have added congratulatory comments?

Did you feel like you came in at the middle of the story because you have no idea what your friend’s talking about — or whether all those likes and comments are just polite support or mean everyone but you knows what’s happening?

Or have you experienced this? You go to the local newspaper’s website to find out the score of yesterday’s game only to find a series of stories about the big plays or a controversial call but no score in sight. They assume you already know that.

People often assume everyone else knows something just because they know it.

Don’t leave your audience guessing when telling your story. Don’t assume they know something just because you do.

Jargon’s a common example. Terms widely used and understood within your company or industry may not mean anything to the rest of us. So, explain what you’re saying in terms the rest of us will understand.

Back in my days as a reporter, we always had to include at least a sentence or two designed to bring readers who missed yesterday’s paper up to speed when writing a second-day story. No matter how prominent the story, we were told to assume some readers wouldn’t know what had happened. So, each day’s update of a multi-day story had to be self-contained and explain anything a first-time reader would need to know to understand the story.

You don’t have to drown your audience in endless detail. But tell them what they need to know to understand what you’re saying — and why you’re saying it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery list

 

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery list
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Skip the grocery listWe’ve all experienced a version of this scenario: Your spouse or roommate asks you to pick up a couple things at the grocery store.

Then a couple more things get added. And another. And pretty soon you need to write them down to remember what you’re supposed to buy.

There’s a temptation to do the same thing when telling your story: One point becomes two or three. And then a few more get added on. Pretty soon, you’ve pushed so much information at your audience that there’s no way they can remember it all.

You’ve given your audience a grocery list. And they won’t remember it.

In his book Selling the Invisible, marketing expert Harry Beckwith offers this advice:

  • “Saying many things usually communicates nothing.”
  • “If you deliver two messages, most people will process just one of them — if that. Say one thing.”
  • “After you say one thing, repeat it again and again.”

That’s good advice. All I would add is this: Be able to say that one thing in 10 to 15 seconds. If it takes you longer than that, we won’t remember it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Start with your most important info

 

Storytelling Tip: Start with your most important info
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Start with your most important infoGrab our attention. Tell us your story. Wrap it up.

Welcome to the inverted pyramid that journalists learn about from the people who teach them how to write. Start with your most important information. Put the least important information at the bottom.

I’ve never understood why the pyramid’s inverted since that point at top always seems to be the pinnacle to me. But who am I to argue with all those journalists and the people who taught them to write?

Whichever way you turn your pyramid, here’s how it breaks down:

  • The Lead: Grab our attention with a lead that entices us to keep reading or listening. Make it brief. Include the who, what, where, when and why of your story. Include a hook to attract our attention.
  • The Body: Explain the details of your story. The body of your story fills in the details you promised to tell us about in your lead.
  • The Tail: Wrap it up with anything else you want us to know and/or a summary of the body of your story. Don’t wait until the end to make your main point or most of your audience won’t see it.

Starting with your most important information serves two purposes. A good lead grabs the attention of your audience. And by making your most important point first you’ve delivered your most important message to people who don’t read the rest of what you say.

In the old days of lead type, newspaper reporters were told to put their least important information at the bottom of their stories because when a story had to be shortened the folks laying out the pages in the composing room started yanking lines of type from the bottom and worked their way up until the story fit the space available for it.

But there’s another reason for starting with your most important information. Surveys consistently show 85 percent or more of newspapers readers (if there are any left) skim headlines and read a sentence or two of the stories that interest them.

That’s how people read other information, too, particularly online. If you don’t make your main point right away, most of us will miss it.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Localize your story

 

Storytelling Tip: Localize your story
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Localize your storyFormer Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once famously said “All politics is local.”

All stories are local, too. So localize your story for your audience.

Local newspapers typically focus on local news. Pitch a story to a newspaper in Albuquerque and one of the first questions you’re likely to get is how your story affects Albuquerque. Pitch the same story in Omaha and the question changes to how your story affects Omaha.

If you happen to have a business that operates in more than one city, how to localize your story is easy and obvious. Focus your ads and other messages in each city for that city.

But how do you localize your story if you do business in just one place?

Localizing a story is about more than geography. It’s also about shared interests. Do you serve customers who are interested in what you do for different reasons? Then tell your story differently for each group of customers.

Until you know who your audience is, you don’t know how to tell your story. Or where to tell it.

If you want to reach golfers,  talk to reporters who write for golfers. Do you want to reach senior citizens? Teachers? An ethnic or professional group? In each case, you’ll want to tell your story differently — and in different venues.

You can also “localize” your story by finding an exotic angle. For example, the Seattle Times carried a story some years ago about a Seattle-based chain of coffee stores opening its first store in Tokyo. The story had a local angle because the company was based in Seattle. But it was also interesting because of the exotic appeal of having a store in Tokyo. And travel magazines are all about news from exotic places you might want to visit.

Localizing your story is just one more way of saying you should make your story interesting to your audience. If you want us to pay attention to your story, don’t make it about you. Make it about how you can do something for us and why we should care.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interesting

 

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interesting
Today’s tip from JerryBrownPR’s storytelling tips on the Experience Pros Radio Show

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Consultant
www.JerryBrownPR.com

Storytelling Tip: Turn your blank screen into something interestingWhen you start writing, you inevitably find yourself looking at a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen. The trick to good writing is to turn that blank space into something interesting.

I’ve been writing for a living for 50 years. I tell people writing is easy. And numerous writers back me up on that.

For example, the late journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler said: “Writing is easy. You just sit staring at a blank piece of paper until beads of blood form on your forehead.”

Ernest Hemingway felt much the same way: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

After all these years, I find that facing a blank screen can still be intimidating. I’m not alone in feeling that way. So, how do you turn that blank space into something interesting without losing too much of that stuff Fowler and Hemingway mentioned?

Here are some things I do fill in that blank space:

  • Know what you want to say. If you find yourself stuck in front of a blank screen, ask yourself this simple question: What do I want to say? If you can, have a conversation with yourself or a friend out loud. What do you want to say? Just say it even if it sounds silly, trite or a bit crude. Then focus on putting what you want to say on your blank paper or screen. You can go back and tidy it up later. That part’s called editing.
  • Talk on paper. You know how to tell your stories. You do it every day in conversations with friends, family and even with strangers. Writing is just another way of telling your story. Write it the way you would say it if you were talking to your friends. Or, as novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard put it: “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
  • Say what you mean. We live in a world where we’re expected to be politically correct. One downside is that we sometimes avoid saying what we mean because we’re busy trying to avoid saying anything that might be controversial. Tact is a good thing. Be tactful. But say what you mean. It’ll be more interesting than the bland platitudes you’re tempted to use instead.
  • Leave out the boring stuff. Elmore Leonard said his secret to good writing was to “leave out the parts that people skip.” How do you do that? If it’s not essential to your story and if it doesn’t tell the rest of us something we’ll want to know, you probably can leave it out. That’s what your delete key is for: Getting rid of the boring stuff.

It’s like I said at the beginning: Writing is easy. I’ve been known to lie sometimes. But that shouldn’t stop you from telling your story by just saying what you want to say.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist. He specializes in helping clients develop the content they need to tell their stories. He also helps them develop strategies for getting their stories heard, understood and remembered. And he provides media training and presentation coaching for clients who need to tell their stories to reporters or in front of an audience. 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.

Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show on KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archived tips.

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