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3 simple ways to build narrative into your listicle content now

In his recent blog, “The psychology of storytelling and how it can transform your marketing”, Ben explained how human beings are hardwired to enjoy stories.

Creating a narrative in your weekly or monthly finance blog might seem like an impossible task, especially if your article is in the form of a numbered list.

But there are some simple steps you can take – and some pitfalls to avoid – that can help you do just that.

The order you choose for your numbered list is key to the narrative you create

Numbered-list articles, or “listicles”, are a great way to get your important message across.

Not only do readers love headlines that promise “5 top tips…” or “10 of the best ways to…”, but they can also make your writing job easier.

Because structuring a listicle is simple, right? You just pick the important points you want to make and list them at random.

This might indeed work, up to a point.

But what about narrative? What story are you telling and do you even need to tell one? If not, how will you guide your reader along the journey of your blog?

Here are three important points to consider.

1. Be sure to tell a story with your title

Let’s say you want to write a list of things your clients should do before they retire. You sit down and write a headline:

“10 things to do before you retire”

That works fine, but let’s say you think again and opt for:

“10 important steps to take in the approach to your retirement”

Here, “approach” suggests not only movement but also direction of travel. This clearly defines the journey you will take your reader on, lending itself to a clear structure, and helping you to order the steps you list.

Or to put it another way, you now have a narrative.

2. Now fulfil the promise of your title by creating flow

Once you’ve promised a story in your blog headline, you need to deliver on it.

Let’s stick with our retirement article.

Rather than loosely connected suggestions of things to do before you retire, you now have 10 steps to take over several years and a natural flow.

Step #1 might be something for your readers to put in place while their retirement is still decades away. Step #2, meanwhile, might be a job for five years out. By step #10, your reader should be at, or very close to, their scheduled retirement date.

By taking extra time over your headline and, by extension, thinking carefully about the order of the points you make, you’ve taken your reader on a clearly signposted journey.

And this technique doesn’t just work for the finance articles you write.

3. You can take these lessons into your non-financial content too

Lifestyle pieces are a great way to increase client and prospect engagement, whether you cover health and wellbeing, travel and popular culture, or local interest.

You can still opt for a listicle format and the order you choose is still vital to telling a convincing and interesting story.

This time let’s say you’re looking to give your readers advice about getting better sleep.

You could choose:

“5 ways to get better sleep”

Consider, though, the impact of:

“5 reasons why preparing for a better night’s sleep begins the moment you wake up”

Your five points might be similar in both articles, but with the second choice, you have a narrative. You can guide your reader on a journey through their average working day, providing useful advice from morning through to nighttime.

Similarly, you might write about the “5 best pubs in Nottinghamshire”. Write about the “5 best pubs in Nottinghamshire according to TripAdvisor”, though, and you create a ready-made narrative. The “best” pub is listed last and your readers have a reason to keep reading.

Your order might be chronological, geographical, or even personal preference. All of these can work, as long as you’ve taken the time to consider the best option for the article you want to write.

Remember that a numbered list won’t always be the right choice

Your article won’t always lend itself to a listicle. You might have too few points, or the ones you have might overlap too heavily.

Start by re-examining your title. You might promise to educate your reader through a “How to…” article or use your headline to pose a question.

Here your narrative is different, and can usually be broken down into three stages:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Benefit

Start by explaining a problem that your client has now, and then provide a solution. It’s important that your solution not only fixes the problem but also leaves your reader better off than when they started. This is the benefit.

Be sure to use subheadings to signpost your reader. Someone who only scans your article should still be able to take away the key information.

Finally, if you’re creating a regular newsletter (and we strongly believe you should be), use a variety of article formats to keep things interesting. Match the heading you choose to the type of story you want to tell, and then check that your articles complement each other.

Get in touch

Stories are a crucial part of our shared cultural history and key to engaging your clients and prospects online. If you would like help crafting narratives in your content, contact us now.

Get in touch with us at or call 0115 8965 300.

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