by Nancy E. Johnson
Looking for ways to spice up your communications? It’s time to dust off your copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and Harry Potter. Whether the scene of your story is Hogwarts or the executive boardroom of a financial services company, the storytelling toolkit of a novelist can help you wow your audience.
I attended an International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) presentation on Power Writing. Graham Galt, head of communications for Invesco, provided tips on how to make our writing more persuasive and engaging. Here are a few ideas he shared that I plan to use to make my own PR writing a page-turner.
Graham Galt of Invesco shares tips for making corporate writing more engaging.
#1 Harness the power of a good metaphor. Use imaginative language and illustrations that paint a picture in the reader’s mind. For example, if you want to convey the passage of time, you can say we fought two wars, 403 babies were born and 76 rows of crops were harvested. (This also shows another great rhetorical device known as the “rule of 3’s.”)
#2 Make interesting choices with language. Take your narrative from mundane to memorable. It’s easy to say “good luck” when you’re wishing someone well. But remember the unforgettable mandate from Star Wars: “May the force be with you.” Avoid clichés and find unique ways of saying things.
#3 Set up dramatic tension. In the best novels, the protagonist is on a quest to achieve something, but the antagonist stands in her way. That’s the tension that keeps readers breathless. Maybe your company is the protagonist fighting antagonists such as an economic downturn or flooding in Malaysia. Use that tension wisely to heighten the drama and stakes for your company or client.
#4 Focus on the big idea. In your favorite book, it’s the theme that drives the narrative. Maybe it’s good vs. evil or man vs. nature. Whether you’re writing a news release or an executive brief, find that overarching idea and make sure every piece of dialogue or narrative propels the story and that big idea.
#5 Make your audience think, feel and respond. Most companies have loads of data you can share with audiences. That’s the thinking part. But you want to connect on an emotional level through personal stories and “characters” who humanize the facts. Remember that people don’t respond to talking points and media briefs. So, don’t forget to engage the heart. Once your audience feels something through your writing, they’ll be more likely to act.