Misery Loves Company: Engaging Readers Through Story

October 10, 2014
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Written by Tim Wells

You’ve just landed your first paid blog post gig. Congratulations! It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that somebody is willing to pay you to write about their product. Now comes the hard part. Not only do you have to write that post, making sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the brand’s list of do’s and don’ts, but you also need to make sure your post stands out from the crowd, while still adhering to the campaign rules.

Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. It’s actually easier than it sounds.

Solve a problem, make a friend.

Too many times, content creators (a fancy term for us bloggers) get hung up on selling the product or service that we’re writing about. Brands employ their own marketing divisions to handle their advertising. When a brand forms a partnership with the blogging community, they’re doing so because they know that personal testimonials hold a lot more weight with the average consumer than a dozen television commercials. People are much more likely to invest in a product that their trusted friends and relatives have benefited from.

Your testimonial is your sales pitch. And it’s an effective one. Barring impulse purchases, people usually buy a product to meet an existing need. If necessity is the mother of invention, then frustration is the mother of commerce. If you can communicate to your readers how a particular product will make their daily lives easier, you’ll not only be doing your job as a brand ambassador, you’ll be converting readers of your site into loyal community members who value your opinion.

One of my favorite examples of this is from Summer Davis’ The Dirty Floor Diaries. Summer wrote a post for Eureka that highlighted the everyday benefits of the product. The video she made for the campaign was personal, informational, and honest:

When in doubt, make ‘em laugh.

Earlier this year, I was selected to be a part of the Collective Bias K-Y Valentine’s Day Date Night campaign. My initial reaction, upon being selected, was something along the lines of, “Woohoo!” This was quickly followed by, “What. Have. I. Done?” With the realization of what a sensitive post this was going to be, came a sense of panic. How was I going to do the brand justice while still writing something tasteful for my readers? Could I even pull that off?

Then it hit me. My situation was actually pretty funny. I know this because my friends and family were laughing at my hand-wringing and agonizing over how to approach the post. This told me two things: I needed better friends, and I could leverage humor to accomplish the task at hand. I wrote the post from the perspective of a romance-challenged husband. The pictures in my post reflected this theme:

Not Romantic #KYdatenight #ad #cbias

The post was well-received, both by my readers and by my campaign leader. In the process, I learned a valuable lesson and boosted my confidence.

Misery loves company.

In the end, you are a person, writing to other people. People with similar needs, desires, and struggles. Telling a personal, relatable story is far more engaging than simply rattling off product specs and press release bullet points.

Don’t sell the product. Sell your story.

Tim Wells is a husband, father of four, blogger, gamer, and geek, though not necessarily in that order. Tim began writing about his family’s misadventures in 2008 while on a cross-country road trip, and expanded the subject matter to include brand PR and reviews when he created Review Dad, in 2013. Tweet him at@ReviewDadMedia.

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