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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.

Storytelling Tip: You can’t convince everyone

 

Storytelling Tip: You can’t convince everyone
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: You can’t convince everyoneWhether you’re discussing politics, religion or why we should buy what you’re selling, you can’t convince everyone. And it’s usually a mistake to try.

Any time you’re trying to be persuasive, it’s a good idea to focus on:

  • Your supporters. They’re looking for reasons to help you.
  • The undecided. These are the people you’re trying to convince. If they’re interested in what you’re talking about, they’re looking for help in deciding what to do or believe. Focus most of your attention on this group because this is where your efforts are likely to have the biggest impact.
  • Persuadable skeptics/opponents. There usually are people who are skeptical or opposed to what you have to say, but are persuadable. It’s worth putting some effort into convincing them. But don’t spend all of your time with them. You’ll probably have to work hard for each convert. That time may be better spent trying to persuade the truly undecided.

And there’s almost always a group of people who simply aren’t buying what you’re selling. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to convince them. So, don’t try.

We all see the world through a lens that tells us we’re right about the things we believe. And most of us want to help the rest of the world find the truth we think we already know.

A common mistake is to keep adding more arguments to what we’re saying because we think we can convince even the diehard skeptics by making just one more point.

But adding too many arguments may actually turn off people who would have been persuaded to support you if you had made one less point. And time you spend trying to persuade the unpersuadable is time you’re not spending with the people who are persuadable.

Don’t waste your time trying to convince everyone. It’s a losing proposition.

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: Edit until you’re done. Then quit

 

Storytelling Tip: Edit until you’re done. Then quit
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: Edit until you’re done, then quitAs a foodie, I also like to cook. And my best creations in the kitchen inevitably are the ones where the recipe is: Add things until it tastes right. Then quit.

That’s how I approach editing: Edit until you’re done. Then quit.

How do you know when you’re done? Here are the tests I use to determine when I’m done:

  • Are there words, phrases or even paragraphs I can take out without interfering with what I’m trying to say? If the answer is yes, I’m not done editing. Edit until no matter how hard you try, anything you take out means not telling the story you want to tell.
  • Have you filled in all the holes? Will your readers have questions you haven’t answered? If there are, fill in those holes.
  • Have I told the story I want to tell? Or did I get sidetracked as I was writing and go done a different path? Do I need to go back and fix that? Or was the new path the right one?
  • Does it sound right? If it doesn’t sound quite right, there’s a change in there waiting to be made. It may take a little while to find it, but it’s there. And making what you’ve written sound right is important. Good writing has a natural rhythm.
  • Have you found all the typos? Are you sure? How hard have you looked? Typos have a knack for going unseen until after you’ve hit the print button. So, proof what you’ve read until you’re confident you’ve found all the typos. Then consider proofing it one more time.

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten rid of all the extra words, made it sound right and fixed all the typos, you’re done. Almost. If you have the luxury of doing so, put what you’ve written aside for a while. Go for a walk. Sleep on it. Do something else, whatever that is. Then come back to what you’ve written and read it over one more time.

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: Be a better editor to be a better writer

 

Storytelling Tip: Be a better editor to be a better writer
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: Be a better editor to be a better writerWant to be a better writer? Become a better editor.

Editing is an afterthought for many writers. But it’s an essential element of good writing.

Good editing can salvage bad writing. And it can make good writing really sparkle.

So, what does good editing look like? What are you trying to accomplish? Here are some things to look for when editing:

  • Trim the fat. Most of us use more words than we need when writing. Eliminating excess words, sentences or paragraphs is the single most effective way to improve your writing. Edit, edit, edit. Then edit some more. Be ruthless as you ferret out unneeded words and phrases.
  • Fill in the blanks. Editors are notorious for taking things out. It’s part of their job. But a good editor also looks for things that need to be added. Where are holes in the story? What questions will the reader have that aren’t answered? Fill in those blanks.
  • Put things in order. Does the story you’re editing flow in a logical sequence? If not, put things in order.
  • Tune it up. Good writing, like good music, has a rhythm to it. Listen to your writing as you’re editing it. If it doesn’t sound right, there’s an edit in there somewhere waiting to be made.
  • Correct the typos. Typos are the bane of every writer I know. A misspelled word, a missing word or a misused word will be distracting to your readers. And too many of these mistakes will destroy your credibility. An occasional typo is inevitable. But there’s no excuse for having a lot of them. One of my rules for myself: If I find a typo when proofing a document, I read the entire document again because I know there are still mistakes lurking within it.

To reiterate: Be a better editor to be a better writer. If you treat editing as nothing more than an afterthought, you’re not telling the best version of your story.

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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Jerry@JerryBrownPR.com | 303.594.8016