Justin Rubner

Posts Tagged ‘chimp attack’

The Essence of Fine Writing is…

In copywriting on 02/22/2009 at 5:54 pm

Good storytelling.

This AP story is what everyone should strive for. It tells–it shows actually–in riveting detail what medics witnessed following the horrible chimp attack last week in Connecticut.

storytelling-bookThe lead doesn’t say the victim’s hands were damaged. Rather, it says her hands “looked as if they were wrecked by a machine.” Her face wasn’t just bloodied. All the blood “obscured whatever parts were left.” These visceral images appear–they sear– in our heads. Much more than a normal, boring hard news lead. Another reader told me it “read like a fine novel.”

The storytelling doesn’t end at the lead, though. The reporter places you, the reader, at the scene. And despite the content, it’s not sensationalistic.

Web copy, sales letters, press releases, Op-Eds, news stories. Good storytelling still applies.

I know what you’re probably thinking. The story, about a violent animal attack, tells itself; everyday news stories and marketing copy can’t read like this.


We can all tell better stories.

Don’t say the legislators were tired after spending hours debating a bill. Tell readers how one representative held her head in her hands out of frustration. How another senator’s normally neat hair was disheveled. Make readers feel as if they’re there.

Don’t say your software provides analytics solutions. Tell prospects how it can help…in real language. Give real-world examples. Anecdotes. Make them understand, without having them work at it, how your technology can change their businesses.

Unfortunately, very little marketing and PR copy outside of advertising does this. Even worse, not much more news copy does this either.

I wish I could go to companies’ websites and not have to work to figure out what they do. Ditto for press releases. Good storytelling can solve this.

ap1I also wish I could go to my local newspaper everyday and read fine writing like this AP story, whether it’s an animal attack, a hostile corporate takeover or a battle at the state capitol.

We all know most newspaper writing is boring. However, I remember when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a series of blogs in the first person from its war correspondent during the Iraqi invasion. His frank observations had me going to his blog routinely. For a few minutes everyday, I was in Iraq. That is what newspapers can do, in part, to save themselves.

Actually, it’s what they must do.

We all know how competitive it is right now in the business world. Good writing is a powerful weapon to differentiate yourself from the masses. All too often, we fall into the trap of trying to sound like our competition.

Further, we all know the tremendous challenges the news business faces. Metro dailies nationwide are cutting back. Some are downright closing. The AJC, for example, just reported it was folding its business section into the A section and combining three Sunday sections into one.

We can talk all day about emerging media business models. And newspapers can brag all day about their scoops. But powerful writing like this AP story–writing that’s alive–is what keeps ‘em coming back.

And prevents them from going to your competitors.


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