I’ve been working up this theory on writing for blogs to support a presentation and possibly create a new revenue stream for us. So I thought I'd share my thinking with you guys see if anyone wants to contribute.
It’s about blogging - I'll share my thoughts on tweets later - and how brands should approach it in a more focused way
Right now brand blogging in the UK is in its infancy and because it’s cheap and quick and readership numbers are currently relatively small for most brand blogs, it gets treated with more contempt than this years BB contestants.
However, a quick glance across the pond will tell you that that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact a well-written, focused blog that serves and articulates a purpose, one that rewards readership can and does deliver a meaningful relationship that can be incredibly valuable to the brand.
But, this will not happen if you treat it as a freebie bolted-on to the main campaign because, well it’s cheap, trendy and so now, and that’s the kind of brand we are, so why not do it? Plus there’s a box here I have to tick, right next to the iphone app and the facebook widget. And, anyway, isn’t that what interns are for?
So the outcome is something that resembles a personal diary packed with minor milestones such as –
The sun is shining today, so why not go out and buy one of our new limited edition range of choc-ices. There are 3 to choose from lemon and lime, mango and multi-berry. Hurry and do let us know which one is your favourite. Yummy.
All written by someone who loves to replace full stops with :-) and can’t wait until a computer allows them to dot i’s with smiley faces.
The alternative to this, of course, is the dullard who thinks people love to read instruction manuals about products.
In short then, the kind of thing that no sane person can tolerate. And so a self-fulfilling prophecy that blogs aren’t important or effective.
And so, the next campaign gets the same blog treatment.
Now consider an alternative approach. Consider one where a blog is given a real purpose or positioning in a campaign, with a real benefit to consumers and is skilfully constructed and written by someone who understands narrative structure and the power of the written word.
What would that look like?
Well, I think a blog closely resembles two modern day narratives. Those of a reality TV show, like say, The Apprentice and that of a sitcom or soap.
How so, you say?
Well, a reality TV series is built around a script that is flexible enough to incorporate the unpredictable, the reality element, it doesn’t dictate the outcome but does add structure and order where there possibly isn’t any.
Characters are selected based on their personality traits and assigned a potential role in the series (the fool, the bitch, the quiet one who will flourish etc).
These roles are then clearly defined in the early stages and reaffirmed in subsequent episodes. So the dimwit character is edited to confirm his dimwittedness, the nasty bitch has only her bitchy acts included in the final edit and so on. Now established these characters can play their role in a pre-determined - albeit loosely plotted - script that has been drawn up from the beginning.
A manipulation of reality, but a reality none the less.
Having become familiar with the characters we the audience can sit back and enjoy the drama unfold, safe in the knowledge of who is who and how they will react in certain situations.
Not too dissimilar to characters in a sitcom or soap.
In this genre the characters have clearly defined personality traits that don’t change. It’s one of the few genres where this happens. Normally in a film or other drama, the lead character goes on a journey, a character-arc that changes him/her in some way forever. The workaholic at the beginning of the film discovers the importance of community and/or family. The idealist gets dealt a blow by fate preventing him from escaping his past and leaving him resigned to accept his lot etc.
But not so in the world of Soaps and Sitcoms. The reason they don’t change is because familiarity is what makes a soap a Soap, a sitcom a Sitcom. Dell Boy has to always chase the dream of being a millionaire, it’s that that determines the comedy. He can never become one nor can he change and discover less materialistic goals.
Likewise, Phil Mitchell of Albert Square is doomed to forever be the violent petty criminal he is. So, whatever situation he finds himself in he must act accordingly – not for him the enlightenment of learning the power of arbitration and peaceful compromise.
The reason both of these genres follow this path is because of why they are viewed and their relationship with the viewer.
They rely on repeat and frequent viewing, so they need to be consistent - people enjoy and need this familiarity, it allows them to build connections and feel a sense of loyalty to the characters.
And these character can’t be too complex and instead need to follow a simple human desire or personality trait because these genres also need to stand alone as pieces of entertainment and drama in their own right, so that infrequent or new views can easily grasp what is going on and quickly decide for themselves whether this is something for them.
What does all this sound like from a user experience, well to me, blogs.
So, before establishing a blog, define it’s role, define the narrative arc - what’s it’s purpose, what is it offering, what’s the story (know the beginning, middle and end). Establish who the characters are (people or product points) and what their role in the story is.
Oh and finally, give it to a writer. Someone that wants to write and who understands these things (which is why we have been quietly recruiting screenwriters, gag writers, comedy writers, journalists and novelists to write treatments and plot narratives for clients blogs).
Then you might have a blog that will attract considerable loyal readership who will engage and return to it time and time again and share their experience of it with others – much like a good Soap or Sitcom
If this does or doesn’t make sense, or you want to challenge it some more, or you fancy joining the writers’ database, feel free to get in touch.
And now, just for fun and as way of a thank you for getting to the end, a completely unrelated video clip, other than featuring Alan Sugar, I present Cassetteboys best