Entries Tagged 'Content marketing' ↓

Using Stories in Your Marketing

Stories are powerful.

They help you communicate emotions, concepts and the benefits in a depth that traditional sales writing can never achieve.

I could write for pages now desiccating why stories are so powerful, but I think the best way to show you their power is by showing you an example from one of the masters of storytelling.

John Lewis never fail to hit the spot. Every Christmas the marketing world is on their edge of its seat waiting for the retail giant’s latest advert. Their 2014 effort didn’t disappoint. I’m sure you were sat there with a tear in your eye as you watched the little boy and his penguin:


Why are stories so powerful?

Their power comes from the fact that we’ve grown up with them.

We are predisposed to listen to them, so they are a great way to get your personal brand out there.

If you’re not sure where to start, how about at the beginning?

Think about how you started in business. What’s your story?

This is mine:

After leaving school with a fist full of O and A levels, I didn’t have the belief in myself to go to University so I joined a high street bank on their Management Development Programme. I was there for 7 years before leaving to start a family.

Two children later I began to feel as though I needed more from life than just changing nappies and doing pre-school runs, but I still wanted to be a full time mum. Finally, after a lot of searching I found a home-based job for a charity that I could do during term time. For a couple of years it was great, but part of me still felt unfulfilled. The fact that I’d passed up university nagged me and, at the age of 31, I embarked on a 6 year BA(Hons) degree course in English Language and Literature with the Open University.

After a couple of years trying to study, work and care for my family I realised I couldn’t do it all so I gave up my job. I loved the study (although it was incredibly tough) and began to feel as though I was finally achieving something for myself. Then, one evening we went to a friend’s dinner party. I was sat next to a chap who turned to me and asked what I did. When I told him I was a full time mum and studying for a degree, he looked at me and said, “Oh, you don’t work?” and then turned to talk to the person the other side of him.

It was at that point that I vowed I would do something with my degree when I completed it. A couple of years later I graduated with First Class Honours. Still at a loss as to what I wanted to do, my husband suggested I start something up on my own. It wasn’t something I’d contemplated before, but when a local businessman asked me to do some writing for a web project he was working on, I realised that was what I wanted to do. I set up my first website, taught myself internet marketing and began Briar Copywriting.

That was 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back.


Marketing stories

Stories in your marketing great a buzz. They go further than just showing benefits and adding a call to action; a story helps you make a real connection with your customers, generating awareness of your product or service in a context that they can relate to.

An article in The Guardian looks at the scientific side of story telling. Jennifer Aaker (a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business) got her students to give a 1-minute pitch. Only 1 in 10 used a story with the others sticking to a more traditional approach with facts and figures. Afterwards, they were asked to write down what they remembered from the pitches:

  • 5% cited a statistic
  • 63% remembered the story

“Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories,” Aaker says. “A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.”

How to use story telling

Here are 5 tips to help you incorporate story telling into your marketing:

  1. Understand your audience – Ask them why they bought from you? What made them look for a solution? How they found your brand? What was their experience of working with you like?
  2. What are their emotional drivers? – Find out what they really care about
  3. Be authentic – Use real life stories from employees, customers and people from your industry
  4. Credibility – Data (facts and figures) combined with stories is very powerful
  5. User-generated content – A great way to explore different perspectives. Run a competition, create a hashtag or interview someone

When you come to create your next marketing piece try story telling and see what difference it makes.

Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd

Knowledge is Stifling Your Writing

This blog first appeared on Briar Copywriting‘s blog.

I have never encouraged anyone to write about his or her own business.

The quality of the marketing collateral you produce is key to your business’s success.

I know you’re sitting there reading this thinking yeah, right. You would say that, you’re a copywriter. Granted, that’s partly the reason because if I encouraged you all to write your own stuff I’d be out of a job, but that’s only a teeny-weeny part of my motivation.

Something strange happens when you run a business – you become knowledgeable. After a while you have come across just about every scenario you can think of, the information you have amassed is stifling your objectivity and you start to communicate less effectively.

No, really, you do.

Because everything about your business is like second nature to you, you begin to assume a certain level of knowledge in your audience.

As a result you start answering questions your customers don’t want to know about and you find it impossible to effectively and clearly respond to their genuine questions because you automatically assume they have a greater understanding than they really do.

Just think about it; how many times has your kid come to you asking for help with their homework? They’ve told you want they’re studying and the question they need to answer, but because you have a higher level of knowledge than them, you immediately launch into an answer that brings in all sorts of other facts that they haven’t even learnt yet leaving them more confused than before.

The same thing happens when you try to write your marketing materials. Rather than starting at the base level and building on knowledge, you immediately launch in to a complex and convoluted answer that just confuses.

Because it’s hard for you to believe that someone else doesn’t have the same knowledge level as you, you become a hopeless communicator. It happens to everyone, no matter what field they are in.

Overcoming your knowledge block

The main problem with your knowledge block is that once the information is in your head you can’t get rid of it. You can’t suddenly decide to “unknow” stuff, so you have to find a way to suppress your knowledge.

For some that’s like dumbing down what they know, but it’s not. It’s an effective way of clearly getting your message across to your audience.

When first meeting with a new client, I always tell them to treat me like a customer – they mustn’t assume I know anything. In fact, even if I’ve written for the same industry before my knowledge level is zero because I don’t know their business.

Even then I usually end up stopping them and asking them to clarify something because they’ve used a term or language that’s confusing or assumes a certain level of knowledge that neither I nor their customer has.

The best way to avoid this trap is to get someone else (a professional copywriter) to create your copy for you. But if you insist on doing it yourself make sure you follow these steps:

  1. Write down what you want to say
  2. Review it to make sure it is aimed at your customer, highlighting benefits, and not about you and your company
  3. Review it again and simplify the language and remove any jargon
  4. Get someone not connected with your business to read it to see if they understand what you’re saying and whether it would make them buy/get in touch etc.
  5. If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board and start again
  6. Keep going until you write something that’s simple, clear, engaging and compelling

Despite what you may think, writing marketing copy is not easy. If it were copywriters, like me, wouldn’t exist.

Over Half of the UK’s Ad Spend is on Digital

The UK is the 1st country to spend more than half of it’s Ad spend on digital.

GroupM carried out the research, which showed that in 2015, £1 or very £2 spent on advertising will go to digital online media.

Apparently, it can be directly linked to our smartphone culture. According to Adam Smith of GroupM:

“The British are the most enthusiastic online shoppers in the world in terms of spend per head. And there has always been a high level of credit and debit card use [online]. On top of that Britons have rapidly embraced smartphone and tablet use, all of which has fuelled where advertisers spend their money.”

How will this affect your business?

With more and more people using mobile technology for shopping, it’s essential you have a responsive web presence that works across all devices.

Plus, your online content has to be red hot.

How do you do that?

  • Your website must be focused on your customers
  • Benefits and USPs must be highlighted
  • You must offer a simple buying process

Above all, your content marketing must be your top priority.

People will only find you if you deliver consistently high quality content that’s focused on your customers’ needs.


Your customers are interested in getting the best for themselves. They’re not interested in you, only what you can do for them.

That ‘s why it’s essential you separate yourself from your business when writing. Your articles aren’t sale pitches; they should be informative, relevant and be beneficial to your reader.

In simple terms, to make sure your business stays one step ahead:

  1. Invest in making your digital marketing as strong as possible
  2. Make sure everything is written for your customer


Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting

The Length of Content Marketing – how long should your blogs be?

Tape measure

You know you need content.

You know it must be genuine, interesting and relevant to your audience.

You know it takes time to create.

But do you know how long your blogs and articles should be?

If you do could you let me know?

There is no definitive right or wrong answer (there’s a surprise) and the decision about how long your article or post will be will depend on your subject matter and audience.

Short vs long

In the world of marketing, long copy has always out performed short. But does the same go for blogging?

If you opt for a long article you must make sure your message remains strong throughout, draws your reader in and keeps their attention and that it’s subject matter is relevant.

If you fail on any of these counts people won’t read your stuff.

But there is something else that should be added to that list and that’s the reader’s attention span.

Personally speaking, I prefer short posts and articles.


Simply because I get bored easily.

It’s rare for me to find a blog that’s over 600 words that I will actually read through from start to finish. I prefer my information in short, entertaining chunks that I can read quickly.

I guess that’s why most of my blog posts are short.

By my reckoning I can’t be the only person in the world that thinks this way, so what I write should appeal to a fairly large audience.

Long blogs attract more comments

Do they? Not sure, that’s just a guess.

Mind you, if you think about it, long articles probably do attract more comments.

If you’re writing 700+ words you can formulate arguments for or against a particular question. This kind of writing will evoke an emotional response in the reader – who will either be in your camp or behind enemy lines.

Therefore, if written well, your readers will be more inclined to comment and put their own viewpoint forward.

But if you write a short post that concentrates on a particular feature (so in my line it could be about website copywriting, email content, newsletters, SEO etc.), the reader will take that information away with them and use it and may be less inclined to comment (unless of course they disagree with you).

I guess what it comes down to is:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What do you want to get out of your blogging?

A good idea to make sure you cover all bases is to mix up your posts – have some long, some short, infographics, videos etc., so you provide something for everyone.

It’s not enough just to churn out the same old, same old week after week. A bit of variety will keep your audience entertained and help attract a wide spectrum of readers.

Over to you

What are your thoughts on this?

Are you a long or short fan?

Leave a comment below.

Why Content, Social and SEO Marketing Should Be One Strategy

One strategy?

Surely they’re three different disciplines, aren’t they?

If you believe that, you may be experiencing issues with all three.

Taking content marketing first, how did you get started with that? I’m guessing it was a blog.

When you started out online, everyone and their dog were telling you that you had to have a blog. So, never one to turn down advice, you set one up and started churning out articles.

Probably, after a month or so of regular posting, you found your ideas drying up. Not only that, but you realised no one was really engaging with you. Perhaps one or two comments were posted and one or two people shared the odd post, but there certainly wasn’t the flood you’d expected. Demoralised, you gave up.

Sound familiar?

The mistake you made was viewing your content marketing, social and SEO strategies as three separate entities. They’re not. They must all work together if they are to survive.

Three cornered marketing

Have you noticed that old school SEO is no longer effective? Gone are the days when SEO companies could achieve fantastic rankings by building a few links here and there. Today, SEO is content driven. It’s all about feeding Google the high quality content it craves.

In the same way, your social media strategy is nothing without great content. If you don’t have anything to share people aren’t going to follow or engage with you.

Content, social and SEO strategy

Planning your content

With high quality content being the driving force behind your marketing strategy, it’s essential you plan what you’re writing carefully.

As with your web copy, brochures and other marketing materials it’s important you understand the audience you are reaching out to and, most importantly, what problem they want solving.

Only then can you be sure your content will resonate with them and lead to the sharing, engagement and traffic generation you want.

Of course, there are millions of blog posts published every day, so yours has to stand out.

A great way to make sure yours is head and shoulders above everyone else’s is to search the keywords you want to write about and see what your competitors are saying about the subject. Then all you have to do is write something that’s better than theirs.

But I’m not just talking about churning out a flurry of 500 word articles. You must produce linkable assets; content that people will see as authoritative work, that they’ll share and talk about.

A great way to do this is to create something longer than the average post that also cites other relevant work within your niche. Not only will this enhance your readers’ experience, it will also boost its chances of being shared.


Well, take a note of all the experts and external material you’ve cited and email them (or contact via social media) to tell they you’ve included them in your piece, asking them to share it with their audiences.

Once published you’ve also got to do some promotion. Share it with your social audience through all the channels you use. Plus, if you’re part of any forums or groups (such as LinkedIn groups), push it out to them too.

It’s not enough just to write something, publish it and hope for the best. Your three-pronged content marketing strategy is something that must be worked at. If you want people to read what you’re putting out make sure it’s written well, it’s relevant to your audience and that you’ve done everything you can to encourage people to share it.

Only then will you have a strategy that drives your business forward.

Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd.