Today's post is by my friend and former co-worker, Hudson Phillips. Though he's continuing our series on content marketing, he's bringing us a whole, new slant on the topic that you might not have heard before. You see, Hudson's a filmmaker.
While you may not be making movies about your nonprofit or social enterprise anytime soon, you do need to learn to tell the story of your organization in a compelling manner. And a great way to share your story isn't just once a year at a big, annual event. It's over and over again, in small ways, on your website, blog, emails, and social media. This is the cornerstone of your content marketing, and the thing that makes you utterly unique.
So, grab some popcorn and chocolate covered almonds (or substitute your personal fav), and learn to how screenwriting can help you better communicate your brand's story.
When we get cut off in traffic and storm into work ready to complain about it, we become expert storytellers. We establish the setting, we build the tension, and we arrive at the resolution. So when it comes to telling the story of our brand, why does it get so complicated?
The problem, I think, lies in knowing TOO MUCH. The more details that are swirling around in your head, the more difficult it becomes to hone in on the most important parts of your story. When telling your cut-off-in-traffic epic, do you go into the details of what color the “villain’s” car was? Do you go into your “back story” about styling your hair differently that morning? No. Because you have a point to get across (probably something like, “Can you believe that guy!”) and only the details that help further that point matter.
I wear a lot of hats between a marketing day job, a screenwriting gig by night, and running my own writing organization. But what surprises and thrills me is how often these worlds cross over. All of the above jobs require storytelling, and one of the greatest things I did as a marketer was start to apply my knowledge as a screenwriter.
The one key skill of a screenwriter over, say, a novelist, is screenwriters have to be brief. While a novelist can tell a story over hundreds of pages and a dozen hours, screenwriters have about an hour and a half (or 100 pages of script) to tell a full story. This requires some tips and tricks to stay on task. We don’t have the time or space to veer off into tangents.
That’s why when I sit down to write a script, I start with a logline. A logline is one or two sentences that sum up your story. Think of it as how you would quickly describe a movie you just saw to a friend.
The point of a logline is to better understand the story you want to tell. It becomes your story compass. When you start to get bogged down in all the details, your logline is what helps you find “north.”
A great logline covers three things: WHO the story is about, what their GOAL is, and what OBSTACLES they face along the way.
For instance, the logline for the film Jurassic Park might be: “A rag-tag group of scientists struggle to escape a remote island park whose main attractions—genetically restored dinosaurs—have been set loose by a power failure.”
For Indiana Jones, the logline could be: “A swashbuckling archeologist seeks to find the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can use its supernatural power to take over the world.”
You may have a tough time translating the word “swashbuckling” to your own company’s logline. I get it. So how do you apply this to your own organization? Start by asking three questions:
1. WHO is your story about?
The hero of your story is not you—it’s your clients, customers, or donors. They are the ones on a journey, and it’s your job to help them realize their goal. (And hopefully you’ve got the expertise because you’ve been on the journey, survived, and come back to tell about it.) Really try to hone in on your target audience and make it personal and unique. (Hint: your hero is not “everyone”—not even “everyone with money”). Think back to when you were at their stage in the journey and empathize with that moment to best understand them.
For my writing organization, ScriptBlast, it’s not just an organization for writers, it’s an organization for struggling writers who are learning how to navigate the rollercoaster of rejection and failure that all writers face. And I can best understand where these writers are coming from because I’ve been there, too.
2. What is their GOAL?
What do your donors/customers/clients want? Where do they want to be five years from now? What do their “before” and “after” pictures look like? Hopefully your organization has a clear path of getting your clients to their goal. (If not, you might want to add that service!)
The goal for any amateur writer is to become a professional writer. The problem is, unfortunately, most amateurs give up after their first taste of rejection! ScriptBlast exists in order to help writers get over these bumps through empathy, encouragement, and resources to help them a long the way.
3. What are the OBSTACLES standing in their way?
What is the biggest struggle for your audience? What’s getting in the way of their goals? How are you helping them overcome it? These are the kinds of answers that come only from experience. What expertise do you offer and how can you empathize with them?
At ScriptBlast, we recognize that failure and rejection are a regular part of a writer’s life. They get bad feedback, they get turned down by an agent or a manger, they have their film deal fall through, maybe they even have their movie made, but it turns out terribly and not what they envisioned. The obstacles are never-ending for a writer and if they don’t learn how to navigate it early on, they’ll burn out quickly.
So . . . the logline for ScriptBlast might be: We give struggling screenwriters the motivation and resources they need to become professional, working writers as they face the emotional ups and downs of failure and rejection.
Okay, now that you know how to create a compelling logline, what exactly do you do with it? Do you just post it above your desk and hope for the best, or is it something you can actually use in your daily grind?
Here are three, practical uses:
1. A logline gives you a clear path for your website.
Struggling with writing marketing copy for your landing page or home page? Cut and paste your logline! It's a perfect hook that tells your audience exactly what you do and what problem you can help them solve.
2. A logline gives you a checklist for social media.
When you’re creating weekly content like a blog or social media posts, your logline acts as a guide. Before scheduling out your posts, you can ask yourself “does this support my logline or take away from it?” A logline helps keep all of your content focused and your messaging clear.
3. A logline gives you an elevator pitch for investors.
You’re probably already familiar with the term elevator pitch—reducing the mission of your company to a short enough time-span that it can be explained in a brief, elevator ride. A logline gives you a script for your elevator pitch. Memorize it. Have it ready to go next time you happen upon an investor or potential client/customer/donor and need to get your story across before the instrumental version of The Girl from Ipanema finishes.
Now, take a moment to write your own logline. I’d love to see examples in the comments below!
Read the other posts in this series:
Hudson Phillips is a designer, screenwriter, and producer living in Atlanta, Ga. His first produced feature film, This World Alone, will be released in 2018. As founder of the organization ScriptBlast, he cultivates community and creates resources to help screenwriters navigate their careers. He also produces and co-hosts the podcast Four Friends Fight About Film.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.