This is the second part in a short series of screenwriting tips you can steal to increase engagement with your business content.
Long beginnings make audiences snooze.
When it comes to cinema, the reason film-goers will persevere with a dull opening is either out of curiosity or because they paid for their ticket and a large bucket of popcorn.
Unfortunately, your readers aren’t buying popcorn to read your blog. If you don’t grab them from the word go, you’ll suffer from the “shit, click” syndrome. Someone visits your blog, doesn’t like what they see and clicks through to another site.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States” – Henry Hill, Goodfellas
In Goodfellas, the opening shows Henry Hill driving at night, with a body in the trunk of his car.
Suddenly, the body wakes up.
A great example of a film thrusting the viewer into the action while simultaneously making a promise about the upcoming experience: this film will be shocking, violent and with plenty of black humour.
Great films (even ones with a slower-pace) start with a catalyst for action: a moment or point in time where the world of the hero is about to change. From this moment, the viewer has an expectation about the promise being made about the rest of the film.
How to steal this tip for your business content
Okay, so how can you put this to use in your business content without sticking a body in your trunk? No problem, follow these tips:
Avoid the lengthy background openings
Because of the way we were taught to write at school, it’s a natural desire to begin an article with background details about the subject you’re about to cover. It feels counter-intuitive, but reject this urge.
Let’s say you want to write an article about a case study of a customer. You might feel you need to se the scene by establishing the relationship you have with the client, how you came to do the case study etc etc.
Bank these details for now. I’m not saying they’re not important, they are, but there will be time later to include them, for your opening you need action and elements of interest to captivate your audience. For example:
5 changes to the routines of sales employees increased [company name]’s sales from 300 to 725 in just 30 days. Read on to find out how you can implement these same changes into your company.
Focus on your customer, not on your company
This is especially true if you’re writing an article about a piece of company news. How can it not be about the company right? Well, yes and no. you can still promote the work you do while making it about the customer, especially in the opening.
Here’s a tip – before writing, ask yourself: what is the one thing in your article that your customer would be excited to discover?
And I’m talking about sincere excitement. You can’t just say ‘I’m sure they’d be excited about how we just secured a new contract.’
Well, you can, but I’d take it one step further, why would a customer be excited about you getting a new contract? Because it’s social proof, it shows that you are seen favourably by another client who has trusted you, making it more likely for a new customer to trust you. So how could we open our article focused on our customer’s interests in this case?
Today there are increasing options for companies looking for European-based Laboratory Information Management Systems. Our latest contract in the UK means we can increase our presence in Europe and provide a competitive offer to companies previously frustrated by a lack of choice in management systems.
Manage the reader’s expectations
Within minutes of a great film, viewers should have a clear understanding of the premise. Will it be a battle of good and evil? Will it be a triumph of the underdog? Will it be action-packed, laugh-a-minute or thoughtful and poignant?
Do the same with your business content. Make your audience a promise about the upcoming experience.
At a very basic level, this can be as simple as telling your reader what they will discover:
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Remember, you have about 10 seconds to prove value to your reader when she visits your site. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure you have a strong, action-based, customer-focused opening. good luck!
Kevin Duncan says
I’m afraid I didn’t read the “Okay, so how can you put this to use in your business content without sticking a body in your trunk?” part quickly enough.
Yeah. This is bad.
Amy, if anyone asks, I was never here!
Amy Harrison says
Ah… I really need to remember to make those parts of the post pop out more. Still, sometimes you need to go to great lengths for your blog, am impressed with your commitment. 🙂
Kevin Duncan says
I debated changing my gravatar image to one where I am wearing an obviously-fake mustache (you know, as a disguise). So then, when I left you a new comment, you would see it and laugh.
But it seemed like a lot of effort for an inside joke only you would understand. Everyone else would think, “Ah…Kevin is wearing a strange mustache for some reason. Must be another one of his jokes I don’t get.”
That’s why I think movies will jump around in time. Drop you in the action, let you know it’s happened and then show you how they got there. Or (showing my age) James Garner’s (rest his soul) “Rockford Files” where the opening was a voice mail message from the potential client talking about robbery, murder, divorce…something juicy to foretell some theme of the episode.
Great post Amy, George Lucas didn’t have that huge Starfighter come across your right shoulder for nothing, you were in the Wars, and he wanted you to know it.
Amy Harrison says
Ha! Love the Starfighter example. Exactly, the viewer wants to feel like they are in the midst of what’s happening straight away. Online content is no different, considering the average person looks at around 2,800 web pages a month, they’re scanning for interest hooks, not unlike flipping through a huge number of tv channels! 🙂