An Argument For Story-Based Communications (Part One): Show Don’t Tell

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[Read Part Two of this post here.] 

[Read Part Three of this post here.] 

If you’ve ever taken a creative writing course, you’ve been instructed to ‘show, don’t tell.’ This same advice should apply to marketers, who are tasked with making the product or person they are presenting interesting, relevant, and memorable to potential consumers or clients. Unfortunately, marketers loooove to tell, tell, tell.

But the idea is to make a big splash with total economy, because nobody pays more than a moment’s attention to anything in this era of information-glut. And there is no more economic and elegant vehicle for capturing attention, maintaining interest, and creating memories than the good, old-fashioned well-told story.

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September 11, 2014

5 Ways the Listicle Cuts Up The Food For Your Precious Baby Brains

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Many internet-based writers, especially those on the journalistic end of the spectrum, are having their little hearts just about broken by how ravenously hungry content-consumers are for the dreaded listicle. Many a complex, nuanced issue is being drawn and quartered—bulleted!—by this link-baiting practice. But as with most developments that annoy idealistic people, I’m convinced that the list-formatted article is evidence of an efficiency-seeking instinct at work in the Homo sapiens brain. In other words, yup, the listicle reigns because the listicle works.

Maria Konnikova wrote a great article in the New Yorker about why our brains slurp up these things. Cheeky lady, she titles her piece ‘A List of Reasons That Our Brains Love Lists’ and then writes in meaty, untitled, and undifferentiated paragraphs. I forgave her and read it. Now I’m listicling it, because I care about your weary, hungry brains. Here goes:

1. Our brains like our information pre-sorted, with a lot of the analysis completed and plainly presented (cuz of efficiency, duh).

2. The list format allows us, from the outset, to estimate how much time it will take us to read an article.

3. Our eyes are rigged to quickly pick out differences, and often numbers in a title are that little bit of difference that will make our brains pause and focus.

4. We process information spatially; that is, we can remember information that is broken up, numbered, bulleted, or in some way visually differentiated.

5. The task of choosing is an ongoing, stressful, unpleasant burden, and anything that makes choosing quicker (such as the memory of how easy it was to read that last listicle and how satisfied you felt to have actually read a complete ‘article’) is like a salve to our chafed little prefrontal lobes.

Konnikova tacks a gentle school-marmish chiding at the end of her very informative non-listicle. She acknowledges that the listicle is pretty much perfectly suited to our modern information-seeking needs

‘as long as we realize that our fast-food information diet is necessarily limited in content and nuance, and thus unlikely to contain the nutritional value of the more in-depth analysis of traditional articles that rely on paragraphs, not bullet points.’

It’s an interesting and terribly supportable position, but I wonder sometimes if the trend towards less depth and more breadth in our knowledge-gathering is really such a disaster. Does knowing a little more about lots of things necessarily portend some kind of intellectual or cognitive downward spiral? For example, shouldn’t brains that tend to pick out patterns and create useful and inspired things as a result of their sprawling investigations be able to take in as much information as possible? For some minds, quantity is quality.

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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April 17, 2014

Teen Reporter Asks, “Does It Work?”

I am a nerdy and excitable student for all time. I will never stop being jazzed about my findings. I will always ask an inordinate amount of questions and come off as an overgrown teen reporter. The universe has given me a press pass.

I recently created a writing/editing/ghostwriting/multimedia services company called Salvo Communications. As I contemplated what I could offer clients, I realized that I had zero interest in producing work that wasn’t designed to produce measurable results within a big picture plan. I come from a non-profit background where I was involved with raising funds to create clean water projects all over the world. It doesn’t get much more goal-oriented or big picture than that, so I suppose I’ve been a bit ruined. 

Being the perpetual student that I am, I lately find myself engaged in lots of research about what is productive and strategic in the realms of marketing, communications, and information sharing. But I really do apply the same litmus to just about everything else I am involved with or care about– that elegant question, ‘does it work?’ So there’s really no limit to the topics I could be touching on here, but the themes of function, efficiency, and big picture thinking will link them. In theory.

 It’s possible my findings will be useful to folks working in similar fields. There may even be listicles and infographics! You never know…

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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April 4, 2014