Enough With the “Ten Best” Blog Posts: Give Me a Great Story

A client recently told me, when I suggested he start blogging to build his consulting practice, that he was reluctant to do so. Most bloggers, he said, just write anything that comes to their heads. He was concerned that if he started blogging, he’d just “dumb down” his subject matter.

Though I strongly disagree with his premise, and we’re in the midst of an ongoing conversation about the strategy and craft of blogging, he also has a point.

A lot of blogs ramble, a lot of writing lacks strategic focus and many bloggers could use a good editor.

There is plenty of excellent content online about how to avoid that. Copyblogger Media has built a highly successful business teaching how to write effective blogs that help you sell your product or service. I’ve learned a great deal from them and recommend their free Copywriting 101 course for anyone new to blogging or who needs to sharpen their focus and improve their style.

Formulaic + Predictable = Boring + Not Worth Reading
At the same time, however, I think my client is onto a deeper problem with the current state of blogging. Among more experienced bloggers, I find a lot of writing has become so formulaic that it’s boring and predictable.

Yes, lists work. Yes, there is a fine art to writing effective headlines that compel your reader to open your post. Yes, chunking your copy into shorter paragraphs with smart subheads that make the post easy to skim is essential for busy, time-pressed readers.

Still, I think we can do much better. After all, marketing is essentially all about telling a good, true story. So why not apply key elements of fiction writing—story arc, the telling detail, dialogue, scenes, voice, prose rhythm, character development—to our blog stories?

Art and Craft of Fiction Writing + Blog Format = Great, Compelling Stories
Look at how the field of journalism has evolved over the past few decades to encompass the genre of narrative nonfiction (pioneered by writers like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, John McPhee and Tracy Kidder), reporting that tells nonfiction stories with the art and skill of a novelist. Why can’t blogs tell great, compelling marketing stories with the art and skill of a short-short story writer?

I’d rather read a great story that truly demonstrates the value of your work over another list of ten “bests” any day. Both, if well-crafted with a strategic focus, will undoubtedly capture your ideal client’s attention—with one major difference: The list will keep them skimming for a minute or two; the story will stick with them after they go offline.

I’ll have more to say about how to apply the art and craft of fiction writing to marketing blogs in future posts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the best examples of storytelling on marketing blogs that you’ve come across? What made them work for you?

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