Your Story:

How long is too long?

How long is too long?

It’s a popular belief that nobody reads anymore. That our short attention spans only have time for the brief content in text messages and tweets… Tell that to all the Harry Potter fans out there who voraciously read more than 4000 pages of seven seriously thick books they just couldn’t put down.

Clearly, if the tale being told is good enough-if it’s gripping and compelling, unique and extraordinary-people will read it. The same is true for your marketing content. If you’ve ever uttered the phrase “Well, people just don’t read” after a marketing promo flopped, it’s time to look at the quality of your content.

Direct Mail Proves Longer is Better

Consider direct mail. In test after test, long form direct mail outperforms shorter copy in terms of ROI. Some classic direct mail letters are 16 pages long; a few are more than 50! A captive audience craves information to help them get emotionally and logically involved in whatever youíre selling.

You need time to build trust and connect with your audience-things not easily achieved in a few pictures or bullet points.

No matter what type of piece you are developing, take a nod from direct mail. At its core, direct mail is one person communicating something of value to just one other person. The sender typically conveys the message in a friendly, conversational tone of voice. And the recipient, who might be opposed to receiving a sales message, is immediately disarmed by the intimate nature of this person-to-person storytelling.

How to Tell a Good Long Story

Don’t be afraid to write long copy for white papers, newsletters, your website, and other marketing pieces.

But before you do, take a moment to think about each human being you’re communicating with.

What might you say in the headline to get their attention? What pain point are they experiencing that you can solve? What value do you offer that will make their life better? What do they need from you?

Next define your story (and don’t do this until after you’ve completed the audience analysis). What are the most illustrative, compelling details from your annual conference, a recent webinar, a local event, or your organization’s founding that you could share to draw people to you? What epic successes or failures can you use to resonate with your base?

Show, Don’t Tell: How to Get Read

Once you’ve defined your audience values and your story, it’s time to write in a way that gets read. (Take a gander at our newsletter on strategic storytelling for a few ways you can accomplish this.) A good place to start is to use the same language you would use around the campfire-intimate, familiar, authentic words other human beings can understand and relate to.

Adopt the motto “Show, don’t tell.” Engage your members with colorful details and descriptions, real names and places, numbers and data, or even the weather. Create suspense by not revealing all at once. Paint a picture so vivid your members feel like they’re reading the next Harry Potter.

Yes, actual images tend to boost audience engagement and improve response rates. But they canít do all the work to tell the twists, turns and gripping details of your unique story. You need copy, and lots of it.

The End of It

Not producing long content means you run the risk of alienating your audience. You might be omitting key information that will help them get to know you and connect with you. If you don’t tell your entire story, your base simply can’t be inspired by it.

Don’t let a the myth that “nobody reads” determine the length of your content.

Instead, tell your story vividly and completely and see how long it turns out to be. Then sit back and wait for your inbox to fill with messages from your engaged audience begging for more interaction with you.

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