(Brand Edge, October 2017)
It’s common knowledge that the attention span of the average person is shorter than ever. Some research says it’s even shorter than a goldfish. Advertisers have known this for decades, which resulted in the shorter, punchier ads of the modern era and now the text-heavy ads of the 20th century. The problem is this doesn’t just pertain to ads anymore; it’s all content, because content is just an ad for your message.
Everybody wants to get into micro-videos, infographics, and smaller social media posts. But that’s only part of the solution. You don’t need to make your big story smaller, you just need to find a better way to get people’s attention for it.
Long-Form Storytelling Is Here To Stay
The narrative still holds power. Brand storytelling is more important than ever, the problem is that brands do not evolve as fast as their audience. Speaking to your audience is one thing, but how do you bring people in who aren’t already invested?
People still have a hunger for long-form content – especially if it’s written, and search engines love long-form content – there’s just fewer chances to get them interested. Every year, people adapt to notice things they don’t want to see; format is not the issue. The desire to watch movies, read long articles, and immerse themselves into a piece of content is there. Now more than ever people need to know what they’re looking at is something they care about, and they will invest more time if they like what they see immediately.
What You Should Do: Don’t think about what the story is about, think about what the audience will get from it.
…But You Need To Help the Viewer to Vet Content
In screenwriting there’s this thing called the logline. The idea is that you need to summarize your whole movie into a single sentence, and if you can do that you have someone’s attention. It’s an elevator pitch for something bigger and better.
That’s essentially what a movie trailer is: it’s the person trying to vet the long-form content. News stories are the same the way they work with headlines. For the content you’re making – like advertisements – people aren’t looking for you most of the time, and they’re going to be vetting harder. You need to have a logline for what it is you want to deliver to them, like a pitch for your content. By the way, this is why so many shows release short clips of their long-form stuff.
You need to deliver the hard sell of your content very quickly and very effectively to maximize the people who are going to want to hear what you have to say. If you can’t do that, your content might not be good.
What You Should Do: Try to create your one-sentence summary before you start writing or even pick a title.
Change How You Think About Storytelling
Think about how you can convince people to want to hear your story, as if you had to convince someone to give you money since that’s how people treat what they pay attention to.
As businesses fully adapt storytelling to get a point across, we now need a third step: figure out how to summarize the best of it in a single sentence which can be expressed as a short promotional piece. The story sells the message, the pitch/logline sells the story.
Make it easy for the average person to vet your content, and start thinking about how your long-form media can be not only carved up into pieces, but delivered with the fastest impact. Now you can create a better v5 second video clip to promote a video, now you can create a proper social media post to promote a blog or book, now you can tackle how to get people excited about game footage.
What You Should Do: Think of it like this process: step 1 is pick your message, step 2 is conceptualize a story to tell it, step 3 is figure out how to summarize the originality and utility in one sentence, step 4 is make that sentence a standalone piece of content for promotion.