It was an honour to chat with one of the co-writers of Shrek, Roger S.H. Schulman. In addition to his hugely successful writing career, Roger coaches writers, including people like me who are keen to improve their business writing and tell a story in their marketing.
One thing I was really keen to explore with Roger was how to create empathy in a business marketing story, given that the opportunity to do so is much more limited in a few lines of marketing copy than in a full-length movie. As entrepreneurs, we need to make sure our business communications are concise and effective, grabbing the attention and telling our business story in a way that stands out from the crowd.
To me, there's a gulf between the two disciplines of business writing and long-form screen-writing. How do we create empathy in such short marketing messages and cause someone to take the action we want them to take? The foundation of a great story is often pain, suffering and deep human emotion, but how do we transition from that to a practical framework that someone can apply to business communications when we want to write great marketing messages about our brand?
Roger was very illuminating on the topic, and for him, there is no gulf. "It's only a gulf in the mind", he told me. "If we aren't convinced ourselves by the words we are writing then we are never going to convince anyone else". The words that make up the business message, whether its an advert, a PowerPoint presentation or an eBook, need to be authentic and from the heart, just like the greatest novels and movie scripts.
Roger's sound advice is that we need to look at our writing and make sure that it represents our true feelings in some ways. If it does, it's successful.
Now that may not necessarily immediately translate into commercial success, but it's important as a communicator to write from the heart, otherwise, the message will never hit home. In truth, we can never know what the audience will make of our story, but as long as it is written honestly and with authenticity then it is successful writing. "Over time", he says, "you can feel it, knowing you are authentic. The rest is in the lap of the gods."
It came across loud and clear in our conversation that honesty and simplicity is a powerful differentiator when it comes to business communication. Whilst the hero in your business story might not be obvious, there's definitely one in there. Most likely the hero is the great piece of advice at the heart of your message or the news of a great service development that you're launching. Set the story up with an outline of what you do, talk about the issue that your development solves and how you tackled it, and highlight the benefits that your solution brings. That's the classic hero story - an adventure, a crisis and a victory.
It was a fascinating discussion. Find out more about Roger's work and courses at https://www.writercoach.net/