Chris is the Head of Operations and a Growth Marketer at Lean Labs who enjoys strategizing and writing content that drives results. When not typing away, Chris is exploring nature with his two daughters, wife, and dogs.
While so many companies fight to multiply their content production, there's a proven tactic that can separate you from the pack.
You see, mass-producing content is becoming the norm. The SERPs are saturated with content created just to steal someone's attention, but they're not delivering value. People are getting tired of it. They're conducting searches that yield no actual results.
Rather than following that approach, we can show you a simple but effective way to capture a user's attention with value, not false promises in the noise.
How To Use Showing and Telling To Amplify Your Marketing Message
It's time for show and tell to enter your life again.
If images of your high school English teacher tearing apart your homework with a red pen just flashed across your mind, take a minute to steady your heart rate. We understand.
If you care about your writing, you'll have an emotional connection to it. The sad truth is that nowadays, a lot of content is produced without anyone actually caring about what's written. The writer isn't pouring their heart and soul into the work to provide readers with the best content they can find. Instead, they're writing in hopes that it'll drive a sale. And if it doesn't, they've written five other mediocre pieces that could.
This doesn't have to be your approach. If you can master the art of showing and telling, your brand stands a better chance at capturing an audience than any competitors that refuse to make an effort.
Showing vs. Telling
There are distinct reasons to use both showing and telling. Unlike the quote above, you don't need to avoid the telling aspect, you just need to understand when it's effective.
Skillful writers evoke emotions by illustrating the desired outcome of the sentence. It drives the reader to their own conclusions. Take a sentence like, "Marketers who care about their audience focus on delivering the best content they can." Someone reading that sentence can connect the dots themselves. "I want to show I care about my audience, so I should deliver the best content I can."
If the sentence were to say, "To show you care about your audience, deliver the best content you can," it would generally be less effective because it's taken as an instruction, not guidance.
If you want someone to take direct action, telling is a powerful tool. Telling is what gets readers to act based on the emotions you've evoked by showing them what's at stake.
Using these together is what makes your content ultra-powerful. The hook and story you present fit into the show aspect, but then you deliver an offer that tells them what to do next. And while there will always be minor variances on how you do this, there's no argument about how useful it can be.
And what makes mastering this even better, is that once you have a piece of content that does a great job showing and telling, you can repurpose the piece. This increases your content's mileage. It gives you other ways to use that imagery and engage your audience.
Methods of Showing
“When describing nature, a writer should seize upon small details, arranging them so that the reader will see an image in his mind after he closes his eyes. For instance: you will capture the truth of a moonlit night if you'll write that a gleam like starlight shone from the pieces of a broken bottle, and then the dark, plump shadow of a dog or wolf appeared. You will bring life to nature only if you don't shrink from similes that liken its activities to those of humankind."
Showing involves creating imagery. Like Chekhov says above, you want to paint the scene so that the reader can visualize everything on their own. Yes, most content in marketing won't need an illustration like he describes. However, the concept stands. Depending on your industry, it may be difficult to imagine a scenario where you can do this, but it's actually easier than you think.
Russell Brunson recommends using the "It's kind of like" method. This involves you creating a metaphor that people can better relate to. One of the examples he uses is from his experience with the Keto diet. Someone explained the scientific terms: betahydroxybutarate, ketoacidosis, ketones. It was difficult to understand, so he asked the person to change how they explained it.
This time, they compared it to a fire. When your body burns carbohydrates, it's like kindling. It goes up fast but then burns out fast. With keto, fat can turn into ketones where it burns like a heavy log, slow and constant.
The explanation is very specific and makes the concept easier to understand.
Methods of Telling
"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." —Gen. Patton
Telling is the method most people want to use. It comes more naturally because you don't need to get as creative for your audience. You're telling them exactly as it is.
This is useful for when you need to inform your audience on something specific. Technical pieces are the common place for telling, especially when they require the exacts steps to be followed. For example, "If your computer is showing this error message, open the command prompt and..."
Nearly every piece of content uses at least one bit of telling, even if the author is exceptional at showing. This is found in the CTA.
Text like "download now," or "join our team" are directions given to the users. They're used when you want them to take a specific action. And, if you were doing a good job showing them, getting them interested in what's at stake, they'll be more likely to engage with that CTA.
You should use telling when you don't want your audience to consider other options. Giving them a chance to come to their own conclusions can sometimes work against you depending on the viewer's background and how they interpret your content. If you tell them exactly what to do, you'll have a better chance of engaging the right people.
Delivering A Message That Resonates
Becoming a master of showing and telling won't happen overnight. It requires deliberate practice over countless articles. But if you work at it, you'll find a mental system that lets your creativity flourish. Then you can deliver the next step and wow your readers with the one-two punch.
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