August 3

Copywriting Tips – John Carlton – How to Develop a Story


In this copywriting hotseat John Carlton discloses some simple steps we can take to develop a story in our copy:

John’s advice:

When we talk about stories that have a visceral impact, I want you to all become that uncle that has a story to tell on Thanksgiving. The best way to develop this thing is to start talking to people. Start talking to people, especially family, because they can’t get away. They have to sit there and listen to you. Start with short stories, just what happened to you.

Ed, did you fly here? What happened on your flight?

YouTube player

Ed: I was in line, and this girl next to me thought she recognized me from a poster she saw in her dormitory, she said it was a bachelorette party and she had this stripper that showed up and had posters of him, and I said ‘well, shit, it could have been me’, because I’ve done that before…and I had a twin brother, too, so we kind of took turns.

John: OK. Really. So it could have been you. Right there…that is a great opening. I wasn’t expecting that. Matt, you have a room, the concierge suite, here, what happened after you left the room, on the way down here?

Matt: I got lost. I got lost and had to ask a girl playing craps, and almost stayed and played.

John: Almost stayed and played craps? OK. That is the start of a story. Tom, what happened to you last night? Between checking in and getting your room.
Tom: Checking in, I decided to go outside, go for a walk and I ended up in the bookstore, talked to a couple of people along the way, see what Reno was like.
John: And what happened at the bookstore?

Tom: I was looking for some books, ran into a nice looking woman, we were talking business, how to start a business, got her phone number…

John: You dog! He also came back from the bookstore with the book by Gene Simmons of Kiss. Kevin? Did you drive here? You flew? What happened between landing at the airport and getting to the hotel?

Kevin: I wish I had some stories like these guys.

John: OK. Remember, egos are not here. That is the wrong answer. You do have a story. Just back up. This is really good, because a lot of times you guys are going to try to force the story…force the salesmanship or force the story. He was thinking…OK, what do I have for a story. These other guys didn’t have time to think…the story just came out. Just tell me. Just back up. What happened when you got off the plane and got over here?

Kevin: Got on the shuttle, ummm.

John: Was the shuttle on time, did you find it OK?

Kevin: Yes. There was an extremely overweight female driver, was real sweet. Sat across from a couple from Houston, started talking football, basketball…

John: OK, that’s fine, stop. Let’s back up. How did you feel, emotionally, when you were getting off the plane?

Kevin: I’d say it was almost a flatliner, because all I wanted to do was get to the hotel
John: That’s not true. Think about it. No one has flatline emotions until they are laid out on that marble slab. There was no excitement, no sense of anticipation? What does anticipation feel like?

Kevin: My heart rate goes up a little bit, I’m in a better mood, talkative to people.

John: What audience are you after?

Kevin: I’m after property and casualty insurance agencies.

John: That explains it. I was going to say you were an accountant.

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