Last year, I spoke to my son’s 3rd grade class about being a writer. During Q&A, one of the kids asked my favorite question: How do you become a writer?
I know that kids (or adults, for that matter) are expecting some grand, inspired answer. But the answer is so simple: You just write. That’s what I always tell them. Just write. Don’t wait for an invitation. Make it part of who you are by doing it.
I have a similar answer for organizations that ask how to become a content marketer: You just create content. There are, of course, many resources for doing it well (and I can recommend some, like this checklist for creating valuable content). But the first step is to claim your organization as a content marketer. No one is going to invite you: Take it on and make it part of your identity.
That’s an important message. But it’s actually not the “real” message I want to share. (I told you this was a trick blog post.)
The real message isn’t what I told you – but how I told you. I used my favorite storytelling technique: You can call it analogous narrative, associative storytelling or metaphor. I call it “one thing is not like the other.” You find your way into a topic by telling a seemingly unrelated story. Then, you relate it – and watch how your message connects with your audience.
My Kid is Part of a Multidisciplinary Team, Too
Let’s say I’m writing a blog post about my hospital’s multidisciplinary heart team. I want patients and potential patients to understand how this approach improves their care – and ultimately how it sets my hospital apart from the competitors down the road.
I can write a post that explains what “multidisciplinary” means, outlines how the team works and offers up the top 3 benefits. If you happen to be researching the benefits of a multidisciplinary team, you will probably read it. But otherwise, I’ve done very little to keep you engaged. And even if you do slog through all my bullet points, it’s highly unlikely you’ll remember much, because it’s essentially a bunch of facts.
What if instead, I started off by telling you about my son’s 4th grade football team?
I’d tell you about how this talented group of boys and girls spent a year in mediocrity, because they were all doing their own thing. They only started winning when they figured out how to work as a team. I’d tell you about Harrison’s uncanny ability to snap the ball perfectly every time – but it’s only perfect because Joe (our quarterback) knows where to be to receive it. Then when Joe hands it off to Gwyn, she knows exactly where to run. Gwyn is a track star and can run like the wind, but Brayden, an acrobat with a sixth sense, is always right there to block. So is Cam – in fact, he’s already way down field blocking. He’s small, but his wrestling experience has taught him how to use his size to his advantage.
Maybe I’d even take you inside a particularly tense moment of the last game of the season. Then, I would say: Each team member always had strong individual skills, like running, throwing, tackling, agility, speed and strength. But the outcome only started to change when they figured out how to combine those skills to yield the greatest benefit.
Then I would tell you how we do that with our heart team, too.
Not only have I engaged you in a more interesting way, I’ve primed your highly associative brain to light up its map of stories labeled “team stuff.” You already know why teams are good, because you have your own stories about teams. If I just hit you with facts, I’ve missed the chance to plot a point on your map.
People love information in the shape of a story. They especially love when you show them that everything connects. So, get out of your own head, go rogue on the editorial calendar for a week, and give “one thing is not like the other” a try.