The oldest story written down is said to be an epic poem based on the rule of King Gilgamesh of Sumerian Uruk (modern-day Iraq), written over 1,000 years before Homer’s The Odyssey.
Another contender, the so-called Pyramid Texts, were carved into subterranean pyramid walls and are believed to date from a similar period.
May was National Share-a-Story Month.
This isn’t the right platform to share the travails of a 2,700 BC monarch or to decode ancient Egyptian texts. Nor would I claim that these are the stories your clients most want to hear.
But stories are important. They’re hardwired into our culture and telling a story with your web content is crucial to getting your clients engaged.
Whether you’re writing an informative, topical piece, an evergreen guide to tax, or a case study based on a recent client success, the arc of the story you tell will determine how your clients feel when they come away from your website.
British novelist John Gardner once said there are only two types of story: ‘Man goes on a journey’ and ‘Stranger comes to town.’
Author Christopher Brooker used the philosophy of Carl Yung to compose his own list, coming up with seven basic archetypes.
And in 2018, researchers plumped for six stories, said to encompass the history of storytelling. They included ‘rags to riches’, ‘Cinderella,’ and ‘man in a hole.’
Thankfully, when writing for your clients, you’ll probably only be dealing with one of these.
‘Man in a hole’
The author Kurt Vonnegut described the basic story arcs in a 1995 lecture, drawing on a chalkboard to illustrate his point. The ‘man in a hole’ arc tracks a character as they get into trouble and then get out of it again (“people love that story, they never get sick of it!”).
It looks like this, where G is ‘good fortune’, I is ‘ill fortune’, B is ‘beginning’ and E is ‘end’:
Examples of the ‘man in a hole’ arc from film and literature include The Godfather, Blade Runner, and Pride and Prejudice and it can be broken down into three stages: character enjoys a normal life, the character is beset by a problem, character overcomes the problem.
In terms of the blog content you’ll be writing, this can be more easily stated as ‘problem’, ‘solution’, and ‘benefit’.
You’ll confront your clients with a problem, show them how to overcome it, and leave them to reap the benefit.
Charlotte recently looked at ‘6 types of blog headline to grab attention’ and they included using a numbered list, providing a ‘how-to’, and posing a question. Examples might include:
- 5 reasons why you need a financial plan
- How to leave money to the next generation
- Have you saved enough money for your retirement?
In each case, you’re asking your client to acknowledge a problem, possibly one they didn’t previously know they had.
‘I wasn’t aware I needed a financial plan, but there are five reasons why I do’. ‘I don’t know how to leave money to my children’. ‘Do I have enough money to retire?’
This is the downward arc on our simple story graph. You’re not setting out to scare your client, just acknowledge a potential problem. One to which you have the solution.
This is the crux of your story. It’s the ‘five reasons why’, the ‘how to’ or the answer to the question. It’s the start of the upward trend in your story as you help your client to understand the solution to their problem.
Whether it’s a numbered list, a timeline from now to retirement, or a simple phone call, provide your solution and the arc begins to rise, ending above the starting point: Your client will be better off after you’ve provided your solution than they were at the start.
This is where you describe the benefit to your client:
- Maybe they now have a financial plan in place and can work towards their dream retirement?
- Have they discovered – with your help – how to pass wealth onto their children?
- Do they now have peace of mind that they are able to retire? Maybe even sooner than they thought?
The benefit will raise your client’s arc above their starting point, providing a solution to their problem that has a real-life impact.
Not only have they got out of the hole, but they’re also better off than they were before.
Stories are a crucial part of our cultural history and a great way to engage your clients, providing content that takes them on a journey.
You might already know the stories you want to tell, but if you need help, then call us at the Yardstick Agency.
We can tell the stories that matter to your clients, on your behalf, leaving you free to get on with the daily business of providing advice and planning.
Want to know more about how Yardstick’s team of content writers could help you? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300.