The Story Train Broke Down Barely Out of the Station

Last time I spoke to you, I promised an update on the prospect I had identified.

My bad.

Maybe I didn’t update you all, because I was discouraged.

I called him, explained how impressed I was with his use of a hand-addressed envelope, and how I felt he’d missed an opportunity to try to tell me a story about his dealership in a way to differentiate it.

“Sure, I’ll listen,” he said.

My heart sank over the phone, because I could tell that this would go nowhere, and my suspicion was confirmed as I got material from the dealership of all kinds, with no rhyme or reason, including what I find as the most ridiculous of dealer games, the key with scratch off offer that you get in the mail.

So, long story short, I never went to meet him, as there is only one dealership in Vermont that “gets” stories, and he ain’t it.

So, as I regroup for the New Year, I decided to talk about something else for this blog post.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education talked about the fact that high school students apparently think more and more that Shakespeare and other playwrights are/were, in fact, novelists.

The writer found this a discouraging product of our digital age.

He missed the point.

Shakespeare’s works still matter, not just because audiences witness them on the stage (anyone who thinks theatre is lost on young people is clearly not familiar with the phenomenal success of “Hamilton”), but because of the timelessness of the STORIES inside them.

Regardless of tragic, comedic, or dynastic outcome, Shakespeare’s plays correspond to a kind of emotional encoding in all of us that makes us emotionally, rhythmically, and extra-rationally receptive to something that transforms us.

The best fund-raising letter I ever wrote was for a Florida theatre, and not just because I happen to be lucky enough to write plays.

Here’s what I said:

“We are not only the oldest theatre going tradition in the …area, we’re also the best entertainment deal in town, and you need us.

You need us to tell you stories, stories that transfix, that transform, that renew, one theatergoer at a time, and, as a result, save a community, part of a nation, a movement that helped raise up the Greatest Generation in the time of depression and war and still continues in all the theater halls great and small across this nation.

You need us.

You need the stories that grab you, shake you by your shoulders and refuse to let you go, stories that stay with you in moments of solitude in the last light of evening, remain with you in the first rays of dawn and give you hope to solve the problems, big and small, in your lives.”

This letter brought in twice the revenue the theater was expecting.

So, as I figure out how to find potential customers who are looking for me, it’s this story that I am telling you now and retelling myself that gives me the knowledge that Lars Nielsen Copywriting has great stories to tell.

You’re looking for me out there. I’ll find you yet.

All Aboard the Story Train!

All Aboard the Story Train!

You may have noticed, and if you didn’t, I’m going to point out something to you.

The tag line at the bottom of this post and at the top of my landing page on my website now say something different.

I’ve changed “Ultimate Effectiveness Copywriting” to “Your Stories Matter: Let Me Tell Them NOW!”

Does that mean I no longer think that my copy is the “ultimately effective” answer to your copywriting needs? No, I still think my copyrighting is that good. But, I realize that I needed to make my core practice as plain as I can that stories are the way EVERYONE has to think of their business expression.

I don’t care how many metrics you use to measure your business performance or how many statistics you think you need to prove your superior worth to current and prospective clients.

There’s a narrative in each and every business situation, and you need to find it, identify it, and turn it to your advantage. I can do that for you in a way no one else can.

So, I’m going to make a story out of this blog each and every time I post, so that you can see what I am thinking, where I am going, and what stories I HAVE TO TELL.

Story number 1: Yesterday, I got a letter, hand-addressed no less, from a local car dealer, wanting to sell me a vehicle.

I LIKE the fact it was hand-addressed.

I DON’T like that the he didn’t take advantage of telling me a story now that he had my attention.

Tomorrow, I’m going to call him and offer him my services.

I’ll tell you how the story turns out!!

In the meantime, if you need help telling YOUR stories, talk to me, because I can find your narrative and turn that narrative into an image-rich and unique tale.

Watch the closing doors as the story train leaves the station!

Lars Nielsen
Lars Nielsen Copywriting
Your Stories Matter: Let Me Tell Them NOW!
www.larsnielsencopywriting.com
lars@larsnielsencopywriting.com
802-485-8910

Copywriting: Arrival, Destination, and Purpose

No wind is favorable to sailor who knows not which harbor he is bound for.
-Seneca

Copywriting: Arrival, Destination, and Purpose

Unless you know something I don’t, we can all conclude that Seneca probably wasn’t a copywriter, though, goodness knows, his boss, Nero, could have used one. We can also conclude that Nero didn’t cause Seneca’s suicide because of he didn’t like Seneca’s unique selling proposition or have issues with his message consistency.

Humor aside, we should all be mindful of Seneca’s advice. Copy, content, and the higher purposes they serve all require ARRIVAL. Musical phrases, whether in Beethoven or the Beatles, need to get somewhere in order to ensure success. And, to give the reader an intuitive sense of “Ah…that’s it!” the copywriter and the cause he or she serves needs to know where the copy is meant to go, both in the short term sense, and in the long-term sense.

So, make sure your sails and oars are ready, stow all the provisions you need for the journey, but, most of all, figure out where you’re going. Hire a first class navigator for your marketing journey, Lars Nielsen Copywriting.

lars@larsnielencopywriting.com

www.larsnielsencopywriting.com

Lars Nielsen Copywriting
Ultimate Effectiveness Copywriting

Be Foxy With Copy!

Sir Isaiah Berlin, the one of the last century’s foremost intellectual historians, made the point, modeled on classical Greek thought, that, “The hedgehog knows one big thing; the fox knows many little things.”

While Berlin was making his image-laden point about totalitarian thought, in this post, I want to talk about how important a fox’s versatility is to approaching and writing effective copy.

Look, being versatile is crucial to communicating, period.  When I worked (or rather was underutilized) for ten years at a radio station group, supposedly writing commercials, but generally overlooked in the intellectual wasteland that is both radio administration, programming and its approach as a medium, one morning, I witnessed a crisis.

A lobbyist in a major health care trade group (ie lobbyist) was in the AM studio for an interview, and the talk show host was sick.  The station manager knew only one person in the organization (as much as he hated to admit it) had the communication and intellectual fluencies to interview this person with no prep.  Guess who?

And, I did, with no hesitation, no nervousness.  It was a superb interview, and afterwards, for the first and only time, the station manager who said either nothing or negative things to me in all the time he knew me, came running up to me and said, “That was amazing!”  Yeah, it was to him, but I expected nothing less of myself, ’cause I never lost faith in how foxy I was and am.

Am I blowing my own horn?  Sure…am I making larger points?  You bet!  Be flexible enough to try different approaches to content and the skill it takes to use it to build an architecture of persuasion that works.  In this case, I repurposed my knowledge and ability to communicate in written fashion to doing a big time interview.

If you need someone who can deepen your branding by effective message consistency, but invite different potential audiences inside that consistent core content through flexible leads and opens (and who doesn’t need THAT??), utilize a really foxy copywriter, Lars Nielsen, at Lars Nielsen Copywriting.

Lars Nielsen Copywriting,

Ultimate Influence Copywriting

www.larsnielsencopywriting.com

lars@larsnielsencopywriting.com

 

 

Why DO Stories Matter?

Why DO stories matter?

Today, I got an invitation to the Vermont Humanities Council 2015 Fall Conference, and the title of the Brochure poses the question, “Why Do Stories Matter?”

I got this brochure, because (commercial alert!), I am now offering a talk for the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau called, War and Peace (not about Tolstoy), concerning the American International Relations situation today, showing up in your catalog sometime after the latest revision, by end of September.

But, commercial aside, I am writing this post to answer the question, “Why do Stories Matter?”

Answer: Because we MAKE them matter.

When I am talking to undergraduates about international relations or talking to adult learners about history, EVERYTHING I say, all my material, whether I like it or not, is a narrative, a story.

Why should they care about that story?

When I talk to them, I make eye contact, I do my best to engage each one of them separately and make the aggregate weight of all those individual listeners make their investment in both the narrative and the learning experience rise.

When I write direct mail, I do the same things.

I write as if I am reaching out to a single person.

I have ways (no secrets here) of making eye contact on the printed page.

I illustrate deeper narratives with smaller stories both in person and in direct mail.

Sometimes, I indicate an end, when the end hasn’t come.

Sometimes, I don’t say anything at all.

You have to invest, as a creator, to get those listening, or reading, to invest.

And, when your audience, seen, or unseen, invest…that’s when the real close can do its best work…in other words, the PAYOFF.

If you want an architect for your house of persuasion, contact me, Lars Nielsen and Lars Nielsen
Copywriting, and get Ultimate Influence Copywriting.

lars@larsnielsencopywriting.com
www.larsnielsencopywriting.com

The Presidential Season, Content, and Cadence

Content and Cadence and Yes We Can

Folks-It’s coming; no, it’s here.

The Presidential Season, with all its weirdness has begun.

So, now I’m going to ask you a question that you make think is unrelated:
What do composers and speechwriters share in common?

They both need to balance the interplay on the one hand between elements of content, whether pitch for musicians or text for writers and on the other hand, elements of duration, rhythm for musicians, cadence for Speechwriters.

What happens when one element or the other needs to govern in a particular creative situation?

In the late Renaissance, composers, particularly those active in the fledgling art form of opera, decided that the rhythmic elements of speech had to take precedence over concerns of pitch. This philosophy, self-consciously harking back to the dramatic arts of the ancient Greek stage, was known as “Prima Practica”.

If text and cadence are two perpendiculars, what sort of horizontal can unite them to make a brilliant speech?

Well, consider two, an inviting silence, and the human mind of the audience.

If you’ve ever been in a situation of observing speaker and audience, neither element is happy with silence. It’s thought of as the equivalent of “dead air” in radio.

But the skillful speaker uses silence to crucial effect. He or she does the same thing with the human mind of each member of the audience.

Since the speaker knows the audience abhors a vacuum, they are more than willing, with the right cue, to help provide the totality that their minds demand.

The most visible example of this horizontal between the perpendiculars of speaker and audience are Barack Obama’s “Yes, We Can” answers from the audience.

Which do you think are more important, the questions he asks, or the call and the fact of repetitive and empowering response?

He’ll take the rhythm of the response every time over the content of the questions he’s asking.

Prima Practica, alive and well in the 21st century world of politics. Who will use this to best advantage in the race ahead?

Stay tuned, and remember, if you need someone who can put content into the most effective cadence for you, look to Lars Nielsen Copywriting….Ultimate Effectiveness Copywriting.

If in Doubt, Go Long

What if I told you that, in this frenetic, splintered-consciousness, fractional attention-span world, the greatest gift you can give someone is SOMETHING THAT TAKES A RIDICULOUSLY LONG TIME?

What?

(No, I’m NOT talking about the perhaps first thing that comes into your mind. Though that wouldn’t be a bad example.)
No, I’m talking about my ancestral-tugging phenomenon of Scandinavian TV.

What long-form, direct mail persuasion is to pitches for your money and support, Scandinavian television drama is to the emotional intelligence most needy for maximum stimulation and satisfaction.

Think about unique television programs like The Bridge. While Borgen is, to some degree, tied to the hour-long structure of a self-contained hour long episodic drama (and none the worst for that), The Bridge, with its insistence that you are a prisoner of the jailer of your own mind, poised on the brink of knowing a great deal, but not enough when it comes to solving the murder of the strange discovery right on the bridge border between Denmark and Sweden.

(I know, I know, The Wire does all this just as well.)

And you love it.

Why? Because the writers make you a promise:

“Be patient, pay attention, and you will enjoy the best drama you have ever seen.”
In a way, the writers and creators of this drama employ the time-honored tradition of radio commercials. Assuming that your commercials are frequent enough, you simply use the formula of AIDA. Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

The creators of The Bridge get your Attention from the first few moments of the series.

They keep your Interest through complex, interesting, surprising characters and not just issues of crime, but social issues as well.

They whet your Desire to know more and more with compelling subplots that have no apparent connection to the initial action, yet you trust them to make a connection and you wait for it.

Finally, they urge you to the Action of ‘buying their product”, sticking with it to the end, because the sales pitch is just too damn effective to pass up. In fact, you made the buying decision in the first few minutes, but you kept reaffirming that decision, on every possible emotional and intellectual level, episode after episode.

They build an architecture of persuasion, and you moved into their house without hesitation.

That’s what good direct mail and long-form copy do.

If you want to learn how to make direct mail and long-form copy work for you, talk to me.

SPORTS AS NARRATIVE

SPORTS AS NARRATIVE

Friends, EVERYTHING IS NARRATIVE, EVERYTHING IS STORY.

I was reminded of this truth today when, in Happy Father’s Day conversations with my sons, we talked about sports. We agreed that people watch sports for more than the pure athleticism involved.

They watch because the phenomenon of sports is all about narrative, all about stories.

A “play by play” announcer narrates the game on television, “analysts” dissect those plays, finding smaller stories inside the bigger one(s), and, in between games, sports writers and fans Bridge the gap from one game to the net with their own opinions about what happened in the last game and what they think will happen in the next one.

People don’t care about the score, they care about outcome in a bigger sense, who is injured but comes back to save a team, who is playing well, who is playing poorly, who is switching teams, and so on. Winning isn’t a score, it’s an overarching story.

If you’re not telling a story to your prospects or customers when you write to them, you are losing your chance to make th3e emotional connection you need to make with them to convince their emotional buying decision. Once you’ve done that, give them the rational basis to justify that basic emotion.

Lars Nielsen Copywriting stands ready to help write YOUR story!!

 

Meditation on Fruitvale Station

In my last post, I made the point that ALL writing, is persuasive.

Today, I saw “Fruitvale Station”, and it’s a terrific movie.  If you haven’t seen it yet, do so.

Without trying to “spoil” the movie for those who haven’t seen it, as you might imagine, it makes use of a handheld camera.

The handheld camera brings an intimacy to the movie, crucially increasing the intimacy between the characters and the audience.

But if the movie’s overall content was not compelling, the handheld camera’s use would have been limited to proximity rather than intimacy.

The same is true of writing.  If the core message of writing is not compelling, then the architecture of persuasion will lack intimacy, despite skillful delivery.

If you have a compelling message, and you want someone to give it an architecture that delivers intimacy, give me a try.

Lars Nielsen Copywriting

Ultimate Influence Copywriting

www.larsnielsencopywriting.com

lars@larsnielsencopywriting.com

 

 

 

Pervasive Writing Persuasion

Pervasive Writing Persuasion

Last night, I was having dinner with my talented, beautiful, and, oh, so, smart wife, and something occurred to me that I hadn’t put together until now.

I’d found a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question.

What do all the forms of writing I do, plays, poetry, fiction, liturgy, fundraising, academic essays, no matter what their topic, no matter what their format, no matter what kind of writing, have in common?

They all, in some way, attempt to persuade the reader.

An essay has a thesis, or argument.

A play or piece of fiction has an “arc”, or a climax, when a protagonist commits herself or himself and cannot turn back persuading that main character AS WELL AS the audience to commit.

A poem has a central or conclusive image or set of images that conclusively ENGAGE the reader, persuading them of the poem’s truth and/or worth.

And, most importantly to make readers grapple and engage with their pieces, copywriters, must   utilize an architecture of persuasion, with a lead, a body, and a close.

Copywriters insert a “secret sauce” into the open to get and keep a prospect’s attention and put him or her on the road to persuasion.

Copywriters know they have a sentence or two at most to persuade a prospect to make a right-brain, story-based decision on whether or not to buy something.  IF the prospect makes that commitment, the copy, somewhere in the “body”, helps that prospect rationalize the non-rational buying decision.

The close switches back, with urgency, and sometimes, an intended delay, to the non-rational appeal, and, “click”, if done right, the structure unlocks and locks a prospect into the intended room of “persuasion” of his or her own accord.

Since I straddle a number of worlds, I find that writers talented in either creative or academic writing spheres do not trust commercial/marketing/copywriting, considering it little more than “hype” or somehow “dishonest”.  My point is that persuasion has many venues and these kinds of writing have more in common that you might think.

If you want a real fund-raising expert who knows how to take the arts of cadence and image from the world of creative writing and translate them into commercial artistry, talk to me.

Until next time.

Lars Nielsen

Lars Nielsen Copywriting

Ultimate Influence Copywriting.